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.
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.
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