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Purple Milkweed (Asclepias purpurascens)

Common Name Latin Name Plant Family
Purple Milkweed
Asclepias purpurascens

The following uses have been recorded for A. speciosa, it is fairly safe to assume they can also be applied to this closely related species[K].

A good quality tough fibre is obtained from the bark[92, 99]. It is used in twine, coarse cloth, paper etc[92, 99]. The fibre is 10 – 45mm long[189]. It is easily harvested in late autumn, after the plants have died down, by simply pulling it off the dead stems[168, 169]. When making paper, the stems can be retted by leaving them in the ground until they are dry in the winter or they can be harvested in late summer, the leaves removed and the stems steamed to remove the fibre[189]. The stems are then cooked for two hours with lye and pounded with mallets[189]. The paper colour varies from white to creamy green depending on how the paper is made[189]. If the stems are used in the summer the latex will often find its way onto the fibres and is hard to remove[189].

The seed floss is used to stuff pillows etc or is mixed with other fibres to make cloth[168, 169]. It is a Kapok substitute, used in Life Jackets or as a stuffing material[169]. It is very water repellent. The floss has also been used to mop up oil spills at sea.

Rubber can be made from latex contained in the leaves and the stems[57, 92, 112]. The yield is up to 3%[112].

Pods contain an oil and a wax which are of potential importance.

A green dye is obtained from the flowers and leaves combined[168].

  • Medicinal Use

    The latex is used as a cure for warts[168].

  • Edible Use

    The following uses have been recorded for A. speciosa, it is fairly safe to assume they can also be applied to this closely related species[K].

    Flower buds – raw or cooked[61, 92]. Tasting somewhat like peas[85].

    Young shoots and leaves – cooked[46, 61, 62, 92, 95]. An asparagus substitute[85, 183]. They should not be eaten raw[85].

    Tips of older shoots are cooked like spinach[85, 183].

    Young seed pods, 3 – 4 cm long, cooked. Very appetizing[85].

    Flower clusters can be boiled down to make a sugary syrup[85] or they can be eaten raw[161, 183].

    Seed – raw[161].

    A chewing gum can be made from the latex contained in the stem and leaves[46, 61, 92, 183].

    Root[183].No further details.

  • Cautionary Notes

    Although no specific reports have been seen for this species, many, if not all, members of this genus contain toxic resinoids, alkaloids and cardiac glycosides[274]. They are usually avoided by grazing animals[274].

Cultivation & Habitat

Seed – best sown in a greenhouse as soon as it is ripe in the autumn or in late winter[134, 169]. We have also had good results from sowing the seed in the greenhouse in early spring[K], though stored seed might need 2 – 3 weeks cold stratification[134]. Germination usually takes place in 1 – 3 months at 18¡c[134]. As soon as the seedlings are large enough to handle, prick them out into individual pots and grow them on in the greenhouse for their first winter. Plant out when they are in active growth in late spring or early summer and give them some protection from slugs until they are growing away strongly. Division in spring. With great care since the plant resents root disturbance. Pot the divisions up and place them in a lightly shaded position in the greenhouse until they are growing away strongly, then plant them out in the summer, giving them some protection from slugs until they are established.. Basal cuttings in late spring. Use shoots about 10cm long with as much of their white underground stem as possible. Pot them up individually and place them in a lightly shaded position in a greenhouse until they are rooting and growing actively. If the plants grow sufficiently, they can be put into their permanent positions in the summer, otherwise keep them in the greenhouse until the following spring and when they are in active growth plant them out into their permanent positions. Give them some protection from slugs until they are established.
Prefers a well-drained light rich or peaty soil and a sunny position[1, 134, 200]. A very ornamental plant[1], it is closely related to A. speciosa[200]. Many members of this genus seem to be particularly prone to damage by slugs. The young growth in spring is especially vulnerable, but older growth is also attacked and even well-established plants have been destroyed in wet years[K]. Plants resent root disturbance and are best planted into their final positions whilst small[134]. The flower of many members of this genus can trap insects between its anther cells, the struggles of the insect in escaping ensure the pollination of the plant[207].
Eastern N. America – South Dakota to Minnesota, south to Tennessee.

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*None of the information on this website qualifies as professional medical advice. Take only what resonates with your heart and use your own personal responsibility for what’s best for you. For more information [brackets] [000], see bibliography.