Asclepiadaceae / Milkweed
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Historical Lore: Despite it's toxicity the very young shoots and leaves and the newly formed seedpods can be eaten if boiled in two or three waters discarding these to remove the toxins and bitterness before cooking. The young shoots are sometimes referred to as Wild Asparagus. There are accounts of sugar being made by pressing fresh flowers and cooking down the juice.
The silky down of the seeds has been used to fill bedding and life jackets and was once thought to have a future as a commercial fiber. The fiber from the stems was also used much like Indian Hemp, Apocynum cannabinum.
Medical Uses: The down of the seed has been used to dress wounds and
the latex like sap applied to various skin eruptions. There are several accounts of the root along with the root of Jack in the Pulpit, Arisaema triphyllum being used by Native American women to
prevent conception. A root tea has been used by various tribes as a diuretic, expectarant and for any number of medical
conditions including respiratory conditions, joint pain and digestive problems. Warning:This plant, especially the
root is considered toxic!
One of the best general guides to wildflowers of the North Eastern and North Central United States. Newcomb's key is an excellent, simple method for identifying plants. Newcomb has drawings for almost every plant mentioned that are excellent aids to identifying the species. Though only the more common plants are covered this is often the first book I pick up when trying to identify a wildflower.
This is perhaps the best of many field guides covering this region. Featuring 446 excellent color photographs (located with the text) and mentioning as similar to those illustrated are another 800 or so species for a total coverage of over 1,200 species. The start of each family section includes line drawings of some of the species showing important features. The text includes the usual description, bloom season, range, habitat and additionally includes information such as medical uses and lore and how the species was named. This is the official field guide of the Tennessee Native Plant Society.
Angiosperms / Flowering Plants
Dicots / Two Seed Leaves