Flower of the Month |Asclepias

Why couldn’t they have just stuck with Asclepias as the name? It sounds like it could be the title of an obscure little latin pop song from the seventies or something that Jamie XX and Floating Points open a DJ set with. Instead of course, we get its common name: the milkweed. Thanks for making us instantly think of the milky sap (gross) it omits, flower-namers.

It stings even more because the asclepias actually produce some of the most bonafide amazing flowers out there - they’re amongst the most complex in the plant kingdom, comparable to orchids in that respect. Reverse facing petals, hybrid stamen, hoods and horns… Honestly, take a peek inside the bunchy structures of an asclepias and you’ll forget all about its milky sap (again, gross).

Asclepias is also notable for its practical uses too: most notably, its been grown commercially as a hypoallergenic filling for pillows since 2007, and its fibres are also used to clean up oil spills. There have also been various attempts (with varying degrees of success) to harness its properties over the years for a load of weird and wonderful uses - from Native Americans using its nectar as a form of sweetener to Germans and Americans alike attempting to harness the latex qualities of its sap for rubber production during WW2. As always we focus on the plant in relation to us selfish humans, but what’s actually really nice about the milkweed is how it acts as a good samaritan in its own natural habitat. As well as repelling pests from encroaching on other nearby plants, its leaves are the only food source of the monarch butterfly larvae and a few other species of those beautifully fluttery insects. Maybe you're not so gross after all, asclepias.

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