Friday, August 06, 2010

It is Parachute Seed Time!

Well, fall is creeping up on us. The butterfly weed has lost its brilliant orange flowers and now has gone to fruit. If you remember last year we had a wonderful population of milkweed bugs eating these plants. Wait! Look carefully below.

I have enlarged a section of the photo below. You can see the nymphs eating the interior of the seed pods.

The butterfly weed is a fine member of the milkweed family. The seed pods are the most recognizable feature of milkweeds; they are green, elliptical shaped and about 1-4 inches in length with a pointed tip; inside, they contain myriad seeds with silky parachute-like attachments. Another easily recognizable characteristic of the milkweed is the profuse, milky white sap that flows from any broken part.

In World War II, children in the United States were encouraged to collect milkweed pods and turn them in to the government, where the fluffy silk was used to stuff life vests and flying suits. The silk was especially good because of its exceptional buoyancy and lightweight. Also in World War II, because of the shortage of natural rubber, scientists in the United States tried to turn common milkweed’s latex into a rubber like substitute.

As you know, Monarch butterflies are particularly attracted to the flowers of the common milkweed and other milkweed relatives.

In Hindu mythology, relatives of the common milkweed were considered to be the king of plants; it was believed that the creating god was under the influence of milkweed juice when he created the universe.


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