Species Detail

Asclepias syriaca L.
common milkweed

Scientific Name:  
Asclepias syriaca L.
Common Name:  
common milkweed
Myaamia Name:  
Food, Material, Customs
Harvest Seasons:  
Wet Prairie grasslands with flooding
Growth Forms:  

Myaamia Archival Sources  
Asclepias syriaca L.
Reference Source Reference Type Archival Data Comments
Olds, Julie, Olds, Dustin and Dani Tippman 1999 Related Info  the Chippewa word for A. syriaca was recorded as
Gleason, H.A. & Cronquist, A. 1991 Description  grows clonally into patches of several to many stout stems, 1-2 m high; mostly unbranched; hairy; leaves thick; elliptic to ovate; soft-hairy beneath, 10-15 cm in length; acute; petioles 5-15 mm; umbels often numerous; terminal and lateral; compactly many-flowered spheric; peduncles 3-10 cm; corolla pink to nearly green; hoods pale purple; somewhat divergent surpassing the gynostegium; the lateral margins with a prominent; sharp triangular lobe near the middle; horns short; inflexed; fruit erect on deflexed pedicels; tomentose with soft conic nobs
No Reference Specified Description  flowering from June to August; fruiting from July to frost
Dunn, J.P. 1919 Use - Food  shoots eaten as greens; prepared much as asparagus; flower buds cooked in soup;
Rafert, S. 1978, August 10 Use - Food  buds eaten. Wash harvested buds well and chop up. Boil them; pour off water; parboil it and cook until tender; then pour off most of water; then add bacon. Then sprinkle flour over it and stir it. Eva always made it into rivlins; which is using fine flour and milk or water; cooking it a bit after adding the flour. Or just add vinegar and salt to taste; not pepper Interview with Swan Hunter and Eva Bossley –
Shoemaker, G. 2003, April 27 Use - Food/Medicinal  Interviews with Gary Shoemaker –
Rafert, S. 1989, August 24-25 Use - Food  p. 90-91 –
Rafert, S. 1978, August 10 Use - Food  Swan Hunter liked eating milkweed; and his father did too. Eva also mentioned wanting to get some and knowing where. Swan says he had some plants to harvest. Eva froze some. Interview with Swan Hunter and Eva Bossley –
Miley, P. 2003, June 6-7 Use - Food  the center; tender leaves and shoot part; of the top of the plant [possibly the new flower buds] and cook it. Interview with Phyllis Miley –
Rafert, S. 1992 Use - Medicinal  milky sap used to treat warts p. 43 –
Walker, H., David, J., Dagenet, K., & Walker, M. 2004, June 2 Use - Food  eaten as greens Interview with Howard Walker; Judy Davis; Ken Dagenet and Mildred Walker –
No Reference Specified Use - Food  sap used as chewing gum Interview with George Strack –
Olds, Julie, Olds, Dustin and Dani Tippman 1999 Use - Medicinal  general use.
Tippman, D. 1999, November 11 Use - Food  eaten. Jim Strack and his family did not eat milkweed but he knew people that did Interview with Jim Strack –
No Reference Specified Use - Unknown 
Dunn, J.P. Circa 1900 Use - Unknown  laninji
Tippman, D. 2005, February 27 Use - Food/Medicinal  young shoots; top four leaves of stems; and flower buds are gathered; cooked and eaten. Sap used to remove moles Interview with Dani Tippman and Mary Strack Swenda, –
Gonella, M.P. 2003-2005 Use - Medicinal  sap used to remove warts Interview with George Dorin –
Dunn, J.P. 1902 Use - Food  from Dunn 1902 pages from his field journal January 17th, 1902;
Baldwin, D 1997, August Horticultural Info  the young shoots with four leaves or less are harvested in early spring Interview with Lora Siders –
Rafert, S. 1978, August 10 Horticultural Info  Interview of Swan Hunter and Eva Bossley –
Rafert, S. 1989, August 24-25 Horticultural Info  Interview with Lamoine Marks –
Gonella, M.P. 2003-2005 Horticultural Info  Mildred Walkers mother-in-law; Rebbeca M. Stitt Walker; brought seeds of common milkweed from Indiana and planted them in her garden in Oklahoma Quapaw area for harvesting and eating as greens. Other women in the neighborhood also harvested milkweed for eating; and when Mildred returned one time as an adult to her old home and Rebeccas old garden; the milkweed had been harvested; presumably by the old friends of Rebecca Interview with Mildred Walker –
Gonella, M.P. 2003-2005 Horticultural Info  Mildred Walker remarked that the young shoots and leaves of common milkweed they harvested for eating were fuzzier and narrower than the ones we harvested during a language camp outing Gonellas note: Some variation in leaf width and fuzziness does occur between individual plants and areas. She also picked a very young dogbane Apocynum cannabinum shoot and said it was a milkweed and was eaten as greens Gonellas note: This species has narrower leaves; not necessarily fuzzier; but has milky sap and looks very similar to common milkweed shoots--it may have been called a milkweed at this stage due to its similar look; milky sap; and purposes identical to common milkweed Interview with Mildred Walker –
Gonella, M.P. 2003-2005 Horticultural Info  Dani Tippman learned from her mother; Mary Strack Swenda; to harvest one out of every four milkweed stems Interview with Dani Tippman and Mary Strack Swenda –
Gonella, M.P. 2003-2005 Horticultural Info  a milkweed harvesting trip was part of the language camp in June 2004; when the milkweed had both young shoots and taller stems for harvest. Mildred Walker; Howard Walker; Daryl Baldwin and many other tribal members participated in this late spring harvesting Interview with Dani Tippman –
N/A 1998-2006 Horticultural Info  cases of poisoning have been recorded from livestock feeding on leaves and stems; but usually these plants remain untouched in pastures p. 6 –
Botanical Sources  
Asclepias syriaca L.
Reference Source Notes Data Comments
Gleason, H.A. & Cronquist, A. 1991   occurs in fields; meadows and roadsides in eastern and western Miami lands
Steyermark, J.A. 1963   occurs in open fields; woods; waste ground; along roadsides and railroads
No Reference Specified   abundant weed in pastures; prairies; old fields
Steyermark, J.A. 1963   red milkweed beetle Tetraopes tetraoophthalmus feeds almost entirely on this species of milkweed; its life cycle often restricted to one plant
No Reference Specified   the bast fiber quality varies greatly depending on soil type; climate; amount of rainfall; and other environmental factors
No Reference Specified   the area around Miami; OK and KS; at the time of Miami relocation was all tallgrass prairie; where the buffalo and fire kept the forest limited to river bottoms. The buffalo only went through a particular area about once a year; probably following early spring shoots of prairie plants north as spring progressed. Common milkweed plants wouldve persisted well in this annual; early spring disturbance; and Miami harvesting of this disturbance would mimic the disturbance caused by buffalo p. 35 –
No Reference Specified   the root used by Forest Potawatomi as an undetermined medicine
Related Sources  
Asclepias syriaca L.
Reference Source Notes Data Comments
McPherson, Alan and Sue McPherson. 1977   Mildred Walker has consistently described two milkweed species being used as greens; one being slender and growing in wetter areas with white flowers and another bigger and more robust and fuzzy. When in the field with her she said that young shoots of Asclepias syriaca is the regular one that was gathered; she remembers them being fuzzier p. 165 –
No Reference Specified   fibers in stem used for cordage, similar in use to dogbane stem fibers
No Reference Specified   flowers and buds used in soups.
No Reference Specified   the root used by Ojibway as a undetermined female medicine; fresh flowers and tips of shoots in soups; gather and dry flowers and use in soup in winter; use the milk along with milk of Canada Hawkweed to put on a deer call
No Reference Specified   common milkweed has been used by Delaware in burden strap; drum string
Whitford, A. C. 1941   fish nets made of milkweed fibers by Cherokee
Whitford, A. C. 1941   Shawnee collected this plant
Clark, J.E. 1993   the Miami did not eat the shoots of a smaller species of Asclepias; called the white-flowered milkweed [Squaw milkweed] which they called lemontehsa. They considered the small shoots; or pups of this species to be poisonous.
Dunn, J.P. Circa 1900   fibers from the common milkweed were widely used by most tribes within the plants geographic distribution. Objects were made in part of whole using common milkweed fibers; including a Sauk and Fox bag; a Delaware drum string; a Kickapoo ball of string and a fish net by the prehistoric cave and rock-shelter dwellers of Ohio
Whitford, A. C. 1941   dried roots of Asclepias tuberosa Butterfly milkweed in small doses 1-3 gm reduces arterial tension by depressing heart action and causes diaphoresis and increases diuresis. It is also an expectorant; and be a slight tonic; mild laxative; carminative; diuretic; and an emetic in large doses
Coulter, S 1932   young shoots of other milkweed species have been noted as food of Canadian Indians; beginning as early as the 18th century. Use of young flower buds and pods as food by Native Americans in recent times has also been documented for the Zuni; Blackfoot; Cheyenne; Rio Grande Pueblo at Jemez; Tarahumar; Tewa; Kiowa; White Mountain Apache and Hopi. Often; pods were cooked with meat; in an attempt to soften the meat by action of a compound in the pods that caused tenderizing. There are some reports of Native American groups eating butterfly milkweed; Asclepias tuberosa; tubers; although these are treated by contemporary researchers as poisonous. Numerous species were used by numerous tribes for the bast stem fibers for cordage; ropes; basketry and netting in historic times. p. 10 –
Cheatam, S. & Johston, M.C. 2002   McPherson wrote; p. 30-33 –