About Poke Milkweed: The elegant, tall stalks and drooping flowers of poke milkweed can be found in woodland areas across the eastern portion of the United States and Canada. In 1753, eminent botanist Carl Linnaeus gave this native wildflower its Latin genus name, Asclepias. Asclepias, the name of the legendary Greek representation of medicine and healing, is especially appropriate since this plant formerly had numerous medicinal uses. At one time, the silk from the seed pods was spun for fabric or used for stuffing pillows; in World War II, school children gathered the silk to provide a cheap filling for soldiers’ life jackets. Commercial attempts to make use of this abundant plant included the manufacture of paper, fabric, lubricant, fuel, and rubber; eventually these became impractical and were abandoned. In the wild, the flowers attract flocks of butterflies and their larvae; butterflies are immune to the plant’s poison, and actually become rather poisonous themselves as protection from predators.
Poke Milkweed Germination: In late fall, direct sow just below the surface in partial to full shade and rich soil. Plant three seeds together every 18-24 inches. Germination will take place in the spring, after the last frost. When the seedlings appear, thin to the strongest plant; seedlings usually do not survive transplanting, since they resent any disturbance of their roots. For spring planting, mix the seeds with moist sand and refrigerate for 30 days before direct sowing.
Growing Poke Milkweed Seeds: Since this plant prefers moist soil, occasional watering may be necessary. The flowers of Poke Milkweed attract bees and butterflies, especially monarch butterflies. This plant will reseed itself, but volunteer plants can easily be removed if not wanted.
Harvesting Poke Milkweed: Poke Milkweed makes a striking cut flower. Cut the stems long, choosing flowers that have just opened. Keep in mind that the milky sap is mildly toxic and can irritate the skin.
Saving Poke Milkweed Seeds: After the plant finishes flowering, 3-4” narrow pods will form. Be sure to harvest the pods before they split and the silky fluff carries the seeds away on the wind. As soon as the seeds inside the pod ripen to their mature brown color, remove the pods and spread them out to dry. Split open the pods and take out the silky seed material. Remove the fluff from the seeds. Store the seeds in a cool, dry place.
Detailed Poke Milkweed Info: Origin: US Native Other Common Names: Tall Milkweed Duration: Perennial Bloom Time: Summer Height: 48-72 inches Spacing: 18-24 inches Light: Part Shade to Woodland Soil Moisture: Moist USDA Zone: 3a-11 Seeds Per Oz: 3,000 Produces tall stalks with pointed, 6-8” oval green leaves and drooping clusters of small white flowers.