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milkweed

milkweed, common name for members of the Asclepiadaceae, a family of mostly perennial herbs and shrubs characterized by milky sap, a tuft of silky hairs attached to the seed (for wind distribution), and (usually) a climbing habit. Forms of this primarily tropical family are especially abundant in South America and in Africa, where many are succulents. Only a few genera are temperate; those species native to the United States are mostly of the genus Asclepias, the milkweeds, or silkweeds. The common milkweed, a plentiful roadside and field plant of the eastern and central states, is A. syriaca. A number of western species are poisonous to livestock, especially sheep. The milkweeds have been utilized as food (particularly the young shoots and buds), masticatory, medicament, and fiber. Some species yield an excellent bast fiber, like flax, but are difficult to cultivate and refine. The readily obtainable seed hairs from wild plants were sometimes used as a rather inferior substitute for kapok. Several species have been examined as potential sources of natural rubber; Palay rubber comes from a species of Crypostegia native to Madagascar. Among the milkweeds grown as ornamentals, the showy-blossomed butterfly weed or pleurisy root (A. tuberosa), native to the United States, was eaten by the Native Americans for lung and throat ailments. Hoya is an Old World genus that includes the wax plant (H. carnosa), a tropical climbing shrub cultivated as a pot plant for its fleshy leaves and fragrant waxy flowers. The milkweed family is classified in the division Magnoliophyta, class Magnoliopsida, order Gentianales.

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milkweed

milk·weed / ˈmilkˌwēd/ • n. 1. a herbaceous American plant (genus Asclepias, family Asclepiadaceae) with milky sap. Some kinds attract butterflies, some yield a variety of useful products, and some are grown as ornamentals. 2. (also milkweed butterfly) another term for monarch (sense 2).

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milkweed

milkweed See ASCLEPIAS.

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"milkweed." A Dictionary of Plant Sciences. . Encyclopedia.com. 22 Sep. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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Milkweed

MILKWEED

MILKWEED , plant of the Euphorbiaceae family. Many genera comprising scores of species are found in Israel. Attempts have been made to identify them with plants mentioned in the Bible, but such attempts are without foundation. One plant mentioned in the Mishnah belongs to the Asclepiadaceae family: the Calotropis procera, the mishnaic Petilat ha-Midbar ("desert wick," Shab. 2:1). It is a shrub growing in the salt Jordan valley and the Arabah. It has large leaves and its fruit is like a big lemon, but instead of juice it contains many seeds enveloped in shining silky fibers. These are used for making cushions, and wicks too can be prepared from them, but since the oil does not rise well in the fiber its use for the Sabbath lamp is forbidden (Shab. ibid.). The popular name of the fruit is "Sodom apple," which has no connection with "the vine of Sodom" (Deut. 32:32). Milkweed is mentioned by Josephus (Wars, 4:484) who points out that this fruit of Sodom appears edible but on being opened turns to dust. The reference is to the seeds, which have hairy adhesions by which they are broadcast.

bibliography:

Loew, Flora, 1 (1928), 282f.; J. Feliks, Olam ha-Ẓome'aẓ ha-Mikra'i (19683), 82. add. bibliography: Feliks, Ha-Tzome'aḥ, 131.

[Jehuda Feliks]

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