We're excited to be offering seeds for this very special milkweed species for the first time this year. Our seed was produced by Lesley Juel and Andy Query of Quel Ranch in Garden City, Idaho, members of the inspirational Snake River Seed Cooperative.
Here's what Lesley has to say about showy milkweed: "Native to North America [from the Pacific coast east to Michigan], this milkweed species is a favorite of many pollinators including butterflies, hummingbirds, and many bees. It's particularly important to monarch butterflies, as plants in the Asclepias genus are the only plants on which they lay their eggs. Plants grow 2-6 feet tall, with thick stems, broad leaves, and dusty pink flowers. In Garden City, Idaho we've seen many butterflies on our milkweed, including Tiger Swallowtails, Grey Hairstreaks, Viceroys, Painted Ladies, but no Monarchs... we keep hoping and watching for them!"
People have long used perennial milkweed plants for fiber, food, and medicine. The young shoots, stems, flower buds, flowers, and immature fruits of showy milkweed can be eaten raw or boiled as a vegetable, and there's a long history of this use by by indigenous peoples on this continent. The USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service published a helpful report on this species which stated the following: "The most common use for the plant among tribes of California was as cordage, and the sticky white sap was also made into a type of chewing gum by heating it until it became solid, and mixing it with salmon fat or deer grease. The sap of showy milkweed was used by some desert tribes to heal sores and cuts, and to cure warts and ringworm. The ripe seeds were ground and made into a salve for sores. Seeds were boiled and the liquid used to draw the venom from rattlesnake bites. Tea made from the rhizomes was a remedy for measles or coughs. It was also used as a wash to cure rheumatism. The rhizomes, mashed with water, were used as a poultice to reduce swelling. Stem fibers of milkweed are used by Native Americans to make course cloth, string, cords, and ropes. At Zuni, NM, [Zuni Pueblo,] the silky seed floss is spun into yarn and woven into a special fabric for dancers. Hybrids of A. speciosa and A. syriaca are being tested for commercial seed floss production as a hypo-allergenic substitute for goose down."