My Favorite Weed

I know what you’re thinking.   My favorite weed.  Me-a child of the 60’s.

Well nothing could be further from the truth.   Yes, I dressed like a hippie and listened to all that psychedelic music.  But weed?  Nope, never tried it.

My mother would have killed me.

The weed I have always been enchanted with, obsessed with, in love with is none other than the lowly milkweed. Asclepias.

As a child, I was fascinated by the milkweed pods.  Inside each pod were feathery seeds which floated on the wind when released.  I didn’t even care that the stems and outer parts of the milkweed was sticky and gooey and all that goo was hard to remove from my hands.  I just loved popping open the pods and releasing the fairy-like, wispy seeds into the air.   They were magical.   It was like blowing on a dandelion after it has gone to seed.   The seeds tickled my nose and then wafted away.

magical milkweed seeds

magical milkweed seeds

When I got older I discovered how magical milkweeds actually were.   The milky, ooey, gooey, sap that covered my hands is toxic when ingested.  (No wonder my mother made me wash my hands all the time).  But here’s the best part.  Monarch butterflies ingest the sap from the milkweed and are somehow able to chemically infuse their wings and exoskeletons with the toxins.  This makes them toxic to some of their predators.  It also makes them taste incredibly bad.  A survival tactic thanks to Mother Nature and her infinite wisdom.

photo credit: kidzone

photo credit: kidzone

My fascination with milkweeds has lasted over 50 years.  They are harder to find nowadays.  Most farmers tear out fencerows where the milkweeds would thrive.  Pesticides, which are helpful to farmers who raise grain crops, have eliminated much of the milkweed population.  This just makes the magic stronger for me.   What I used to find when outside playing, now I have to search for.

The search takes me down backroads and woodsy areas, not a bad place to hang out.  Here are some I found a few miles down the road from our farm in a neglected fence row



milkweed pods

milkweed pods


About Life in the 50's and beyond...

Welcome to Life in the 50's and 60's and beyond .... where I write about my childhood memories, music of the 60's and about life in the country. I am a mother, grandmother, farmer's wife, business owner, and retired teacher.
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18 Responses to My Favorite Weed

  1. I remember playing with the milkweed pods when I was a kid! I have seeds but they aren’t recommended for growing in the western part of Canada. Have you seen the Imax movie, the Flight of the Butterflies: It shows the 3 stages of butterflies that fly to Mexico and it shows the pesticides that you speak of. I would love to grow them here ..


  2. Weeds are just misunderstood wildflowers! Actually, milkweed is essential for the survival of Monarch butterflies (the caterpillars ONLY eat milkweed!) and there’s a movement on across North America to increase milkweed habitat (see: for more info) If we don’t do something soon about the situation, the future of Monarchs is seriously threatened!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. What a neat post. I think Asclepias are my favorite weed too.


  4. Hi Ruth! All we really had to play with in summers were our bikes. Everything else was nature, and I, too, loved milkweed! Cattails were a close second. I had no idea they were toxic. I haven’t seen one in person in years. Hope you are well and enjoying that new kitchen!


  5. I didn’t even know what milkweed looked like, I learned a few things today. Thanks.


  6. We have milkweed growing for the butterflies. I forgot about the joy of it until my daughter started pulling open the pods. I love them, too. I am also weirdly fond of creeping Charlie, despite the fact that I have to pull tons of it up all the time! It has a very unique scent.


  7. LB says:

    As a Girl Scout in the 70s we made Christmas decorations out of them. Had no idea they were toxic! I wonder if our leaders knew?


    • I have used it for crafts, too. Used to spray paint the dried pods (I have some upstairs drying out) I think it’s more toxic for small creatures and probably not dangerous for humans. Various varieties have different toxicities…. (is that a word?)


  8. Maxi says:

    Fascinating facts about the milkweed, Ruth. Especially about the butterfly. Nature’s toy for an innocent child … lovely.
    blessings ~ maxi


  9. Caddo says:

    This was fascinating, Ruth–they are lovely indeed; I didn’t realize they were toxic. God bless you BIG–love, sis Caddo


  10. maesprose says:

    I love them too! Great post.


  11. i love these weeds as well, though i’ve not seem them in years.. i’d forgotten about the boat-like ‘vessel’ that holds those magical seeds! i also dodged the other ‘weed’ – never felt the need for it…

    great post! thanks for transporting me back to the usa via this post!



  12. cyclingrandma says:

    Great title! I liked milkweeds and also that weed way back– stopped during college and no interest despite invitations from my daughter to join her now and then.


  13. As a child, I used to play with ‘milkweed’ too. I have no idea what it was called and it looks somewhat similar to your photo except the ones we had from years back in Malaysia (I have never seen them anymore) were more brownish and grew on a stalk. We would pulled the feathery part and blew them in the air. It was nice sweet innocence, a young child’s plaything. Thank you for bringing back my childhood memories. 🙂


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