Nature’s Notebook

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Photo for species Asclepias_speciosa

The plant fibers of showy milkweed, along with other species of milkweed, have been used to make cordage by Native Americans. Also, during World War II, the long, silky hairs found on the seeds in the seed pods were used as filler for aviation life jackets.

Photo Credit:
© Robert Tatina, USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database/USDA SCS. 1989. Midwest wetland flora: Field office illustrated guide to plant species. Midwest National Technical Center, Lincoln.

Asclepias speciosa

showy milkweed
What does this species look like?
What does this species look like?: 

Showy milkweed is an erect, perennial, herbaceous plant growing 18 to 48 inches tall, sometimes spreading by underground, creeping stems. Its small, pink to purplish-red flowers have both male and female parts, and are grouped into showy, round clusters. The flowers are pollinated by insects and wind.

Showy milkweed is found in well-drained pastures, meadows, and wet prairies, along streamsides, ditches, and riparian zones, foothills, and moist roadsides, and in waste areas.

Where is this species found?
States & Provinces: 
AB, AZ, BC, CA, CO, IA, ID, IL, KS, MB, MI, MN, MT, ND, NE, NM, NV, OK, OR, SD, SK, TX, UT, WA, WI, WY
Which phenophases should I observe?
Leaves

Do you see...?

Initial growth
New growth of the plant is visible after a period of no growth (winter or drought), either from above-ground buds with green tips, or new green or white shoots breaking through the soil surface. Growth is considered "initial" on each bud or shoot until the first leaf has fully unfolded. For seedlings, "initial" growth includes the presence of the one or two small, round or elongated leaves (cotyledons) before the first true leaf has unfolded.

Leaves
One or more live, fully unfolded leaves are visible on the plant. For seedlings, consider only true leaves and do not count the one or two small, round or elongated leaves (cotyledons) that are found on the stem almost immediately after the seedling germinates. Do not include fully dried or dead leaves.

Flowers

Do you see...?

Flowers or flower buds
One or more fresh open or unopened flowers or flower buds are visible on the plant. Include flower buds or inflorescences that are swelling or expanding, but do not include those that are tightly closed and not actively growing (dormant). Also do not include wilted or dried flowers.

How many flowers and flower buds are present? For species in which individual flowers are clustered in flower heads, spikes or catkins (inflorescences), simply estimate the number of flower heads, spikes or catkins and not the number of individual flowers.

Less than 3;3 to 10;11 to 100;101 to 1,000;More than 1,000

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Open flowers
One or more open, fresh flowers are visible on the plant. Flowers are considered "open" when the reproductive parts (male stamens or female pistils) are visible between or within unfolded or open flower parts (petals, floral tubes or sepals). Do not include wilted or dried flowers.

What percentage of all fresh flowers (buds plus unopened plus open) on the plant are open? For species in which individual flowers are clustered in flower heads, spikes or catkins (inflorescences), estimate the percentage of all individual flowers that are open.

Less than 5%;5-24%;25-49%;50-74%;75-94%;95% or more

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Fruits

Do you see...?

Fruits
One or more fruits are visible on the plant. For Asclepias speciosa, the fruit is large and pod-like and changes from green to tan or brown and splits open to expose seeds with fluff. Do not include empty fruits that have already dropped all of their seeds.

How many fruits are present?

Less than 3;3 to 10;11 to 100;101 to 1,000;More than 1,000

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Ripe fruits
One or more ripe fruits are visible on the plant. For Asclepias speciosa, a fruit is considered ripe when it has turned tan or brown and has split open to expose seeds with fluff. Do not include empty fruits that have already dropped all of their seeds.

What percentage of all fruits (unripe plus ripe) on the plant are ripe?

Less than 5%;5-24%;25-49%;50-74%;75-94%;95% or more

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Recent fruit or seed drop
One or more mature fruits or seeds have dropped or been removed from the plant since your last visit. Do not include obviously immature fruits that have dropped before ripening, such as in a heavy rain or wind, or empty fruits that had long ago dropped all of their seeds but remained on the plant.

How many mature fruits have dropped seeds or have completely dropped or been removed from the plant since your last visit?

Less than 3;3 to 10;11 to 100;101 to 1,000;More than 1,000

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