Tuesday, September 29, 2009
Varied Uses of Milkweed
As I drove home from work yesterday, I went past a ditch bank in Harrisville grown over with milkweed; their pods bursting open and fluffy seeds spilling out. It brought back such a rush of childhood memories. For several summers (from about 7-10 years old) my friends and I had a 'fort' in a canal with old elm trees hanging over it. Of course we had to endure the difficulty and inconvenience of having our fort uninhabitable whenever water was turned into that ditch and for a few muddy days after each irrigation turn. But when it was dry, that ditch was a fun place to hang out. One of the best things was the milkweeds that grew there. We discovered a multitude of uses for milkweed. At first, we just enjoyed those large pink/purple flowers of early summer, then we watched the tiny pods begin to develop. Then came the wonder of watching the stripped caterpillars climb into place leaving holes in the fuzzy leaves where they stopped to snack. The adventure of seeing them spin their cocoons where they hung down from the largest leaves and eventually the butterflies which emerged to sit and sip on the fading flowers. As the pods became larger they could be split into two sections and used as small cups to hold sand, pebbles, seeds, marbles, etc. Later in the summer the milkweed seeds were a blast to play with. Who needed bubbles when you had milkweed fluff to blow into the wind and watch them whisked in whatever direction the breeze would carry them. We made up stories about fairies and princesses since each seed looks like a little head and the downy part like a lacy ballgown. We would play at our make-believe games for hours. Another great thing about milkweed, is the gooey, white sap you find when you break the stock. We found this made the best glue. We pasted leaves together we brought paper and stuck up our drawings on the tree trunks and fence posts along the ditch. Would you ever believe that a common weed could bring out such discovery, creativity and imagination?