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Is Milkweed Poisonous? Plus 3 Easy Steps For How To Grow Milkweed

Milkweed Flower Scent

Is Milkweed Poisonous?

The short answer is yes according to Poison.org and other sources, however various peoples have learned how to harvest and process milkweed flower into something useful or beautiful.

But historically, milkweed has played an important role for humans as well. Pillows and mattresses have been stuffed with milkweed silk for centuries. Although potentially poisonous, the plant has been used for medicinal purposes as well. Many indigenous tribes applied milkweed sap for wart removal and chewed its roots to treat dysentery. It was also used in salves and infusions to treat swelling, rashes, coughs, fevers and asthma. Milkweed was even added to dishes for flavor, or to thicken soups—although special care was needed in the identification and preparation of the plant, to avoid its toxicity.

Fragrance of Butterfly flower: The essence of my childhood

When I was a child I used to love playing in a forgotten field by my home in the Finger Lakes region of NY State. In late June it was common milkweed season, scientifically known as (Asclepias syriaca), and it was so much fun to break off milkweed stems and watch the sticky latex milk drip out. I would put the sticky milk on my bug bites and it made them almost magically feel better. Later I learned that it was likely a placebo effect, as there is no evidence it actually helps.

Even though I am sure the flowers were just as wonderfully fragrant then as they are now….I don’t remember myself as a child noticing the fragrance as it traveled on the warm breezes of early summer the same way I notice it now in this later season of my life.

It was just a few years ago when I was in my “perfumer madness phase”  that I questioned why….why why why hasn’t anyone tried to capture the amazing aroma of milkweed flowers? After all they are softer than lilac, headier than stock and sweeter…and wilder than the wild rose itself.

My First Artisan Crafted Milkweed Perfume

Handmade Adirondack Milkweed Flower Perfume
Scent Perfume made with real milkweed flower.

With this idea, in 2017 I picked a gallon jar of fragrant milkweed flowers and covered them with perfumers alcohol made from grapes. After a month I was pleased to discover that I had easily captured a noticeable amount of the beautiful silkweed flower essence. This became the base of what I believe to be one of the first artisan crafted milkweed perfumes.

A few other secret ingredients were added which of course, I cannot mention by name…but let me just say that they enhanced the milkweed tincture and I felt very proud of my first attempt at making the perfume.

Adirondack Artisan Milkweed Blossom perfume

Adirondack Artisan Milkweed Blossom perfume is artful blends of Milkweed essences gathered from local forests, rivers and fields of the Adirondack Fragrance & Flavor Farm which are then processed by aged old traditional craftsmanship methods and enhancing it with modern methods. These gifts of the great north woods are then artfully blended, aged, and beautifully packaged for all to enjoy!

There are so many interesting stories to tell about the plant that I would like you to know.  I hope that the next time you drive by and catch a whiff of these amazing weeds, you will know that their wisdom and purpose has evolved over millennia into something very special indeed!  

Milkweed Flower Scent Hand-Poured Candles

Adirondack Milkweed Flower Scented Candles are a artful blends of Milkweed essences gathered from local forests, rivers and fields of the Adirondack Fragrance & Flavor Farm which are then processed by aged old traditional craftsmanship methods and enhancing it with modern methods. These gifts of the great north woods are then artfully blended, aged, and beautifully packaged for all to enjoy!

There are so many interesting stories to tell about the plants that I would like you to know.  I hope that the next time you drive by and catch a whiff of these amazing weeds, you will know that their wisdom and purpose has evolved over millennia into something very special indeed!

Butterfly Flower

Milkweed Flower
Flowering Milk Weed

Leaning slightly towards one direction, these single stem high-hip plants have oval and pointed leaves  which can be 10 cm wide and 22 cm long, with the 2 cm length of the stem and 2 cm in diameter at the  bottom. Each leaf arranged in the opposite pair is sitting at a right angle to the previous one, with the middle leaf of the plant being the longest and broadest. The distance between these pairs decreases as they move up.

The bottom leaves being smaller and rounder than the other one’s, the shapes of the leaves vary from one another as we move from bottom to above. 

The Milkweed Plant Flower Antonymy

Starting from the top of the plant, a single or multiple pea-size bud, green colored, with broccoli type surfaced formation of flower heads and buds appear on the top of the plant knee high. Their color changes from yellow to dark purple.

Growing in the pairs of leaves, 4 cm long, the head of the flower grows out of a narrow stalk which carries a small leaf. Each stalk has multiple shorter and thinner stalks, with each end containing a flower. 

At the end of the main stalk contains a cluster of tiny pointed leaves which look like a ball or sphere.

With the tips of the petals not being aligned but in an alternate position, the open bud contains purple petals folded backwards and reversed, sitting at the corona which looks like a crown having 1 cm in length and 4mm in width covered in fine hairs from outside.

They are called petaloid appendages. Out of the middle of these hoods grows a tiny horn, the tip of the horn resting on the stigmatic disc in the center. The crown is light pink or whitish in color, the horns are again a bit darker.

Are You Looking For Free Milkweed Seeds?

First, THANK YOU FOR GROWING THE BUTTERFLY FLOWER! 🌱🐛

If you are interested in receiving seeds please add a note to your order of any milkweed product and we’ll send them along with you order.

FREE SEEDS Q & A

What species?
Free Milkweed Seeds are either native or exotic. Use this tool to find your native milkweeds. Our free seeds are asclepias syriaca variety so please plant in a native area.

How many?

You will receive one gram of Free Milkweed Seeds or less. Most Free Milkweed Seeds are packets of one gram. Well over one hundred seeds is typical. On some occasions I may send out Free Milkweed Seeds that are hard to find monarch host plants or packed in a 20/25 seed packet. Those packets have less than a gram of seeds.

Will Free Milkweed Seeds Save The Monarchs?
Yes! Whether you purchase milkweed, grow your own milkweed or get Free Milkweed Seeds from this website. Milkweed definitely contributes to monarch butterflies in a positive way. Please note: Free Milkweed Seeds are intended to be grown in your garden. Do not use Free Milkweed Seeds to re-wild public land. Locally native species can be found on the Milkweed Map.

Three Steps on How To Grow Milkweed From Seeds For Use In Milkweed Flower Perfume

Milkweed seed can be planted directly in soil, or started indoors. You can sow milkweed seeds by scattering them on the soil surface 1/4-1/2 inch apart, and then cover them with about 1/4 inch of additional soil. Water the area frequently after planting until plants become established. Many species need to be vernalized (cold treated) before planting. Vernalized seeds can be planted in the spring after the danger of frost has passed. Non-vernalized seeds can be planted in the fall, and nature will provide the cold treatment. See Monarch Watch’s milkweed propagation guide for further recommendations, information on vernalization and instructions for starting milkweed seeds indoors.

Step 1 Germinating, Growing and Transplanting

Milkweed seedlings can be started indoors in a greenhouse or under artificial lighting and then transplanted outdoors after the average date of last frost. If seeds are started indoors, allow 4-8 weeks growing time before transplanting. Plastic flats can be used to start the seeds. Fill the flats with a soil mix suitable for seedlings (most potting mixes are), thoroughly soak the soil, and let the excess water drain. Sow the seeds by scattering them on the soil surface 1/4-1/2 inch apart, and then cover with about 1/4 inch of additional soil mix. Gently mist the soil surface with water to dampen the additional soil mix that has been added. In an effort to improve germination rates, many gardeners place the seeds in packets made from paper towels and soak them in warm water for 24 hours prior to planting. This method seems to work especially well for seeds of species that require stratification.

After the seeds are sown in the flats, cover each flat with a clear plastic cover or a plastic bag to keep the seeds from drying out while germinating. Then, place the flat under grow lights, in a warm sunny window, or in a greenhouse. Most seeds will germinate in 7-10 days if the flats are maintained at 75˚F. After the seeds have germinated, remove the plastic covering from the flats. Once the seedlings have emerged, the soil should be kept moist by watering the flat from the bottom. You can water from the bottom by placing the flat in a sink or a larger flat filled with 2 inches of water until moisture appears on the soil surface. The soil should be kept moist but some care is needed to keep the seedlings from getting too wet – such conditions contribute to fungal growth that can kill the young seedlings (“damping off”). Thinning (see below) can reduce damping off.

The plants are ready to be transplanted when they are about 3-6 inches in height. Before transplanting, acclimate the plants to outdoor conditions for a few days by placing them in a sheltered location during the day and then bringing them indoors at night. The seedlings should be planted 6-24 inches apart depending on the species (check the back of your seed packets for information). Newly transplanted plants should be watered frequently. Add mulch around the seedlings soon after planting. The mulch holds in the moisture and minimizes the growth of competing weeds. The seedlings should be fertilized 2-3 times during the growing season if using water-soluble fertilizer or once a season if you utilize a granulated time-release formulation.

Step 2 Planting Milkweed

Milkweed seeds can be sown outdoors after the danger of frost has passed. Refer to the seed packets for special instructions on sowing the seeds. Keep in mind that seeds have a range of soil temperatures at which they will germinate. Also, remember that under sunny conditions the soil temperatures can be much higher in the daytime than the ambient air temperatures you experience. Plant the seeds early since those planted late in the season may not germinate because of high temperatures. In addition, new seedlings from late plantings can “dry off” before they are even noticed. Asclepias incarnata (swamp milkweed) and A. syriaca (common milkweed) germinate poorly at high temperatures (>85˚F). However, other species such as A. curassavica (tropical milkweed) and Cynanchum laeve (blue vine) germinate well at these temperatures. Germination outdoors depends on soil moisture and temperature and could take several weeks if conditions are not ideal.

Step 3 Harvest and Storage of Milkweed Seeds

The timing of the collection of milkweed pods or seeds is critical. Mature pods are those that are within a day or two of opening. If you squeeze the pods and they don’t open easily, they usually do not contain mature brown seeds. Seeds well into the process of browning and hardening will germinate when planted the next season. Pale or white seeds should be not collected. Freshly collected pods dry should be dried in an open area with good air circulation. Once the pods are thoroughly dry, the seeds can be separated from the coma, or silk-like ballooning material, by hand. Separation of seeds can also be accomplished by stripping the seeds and coma from the pods into a paper bag. Shake the contents of the bag vigorously to separate the seeds from the coma and then cut a small hole in a corner of the bottom of the bag and shake out the seeds. Store dried seeds in a cool, dry place protected from mice and insects – a plastic bag (reclosable) or other container in the refrigerator works well.

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