Swamp Milkweed

Swamp Milkweed
Swamp Milkweed. Asclepias incarnata.
Apocynaceae, the dogbane family, formerly in asclepiadaceae, the milkweed family.

Plant: Tall, sometimes branching stalks with many narrow leaves, topped by flat clusters of small pink flowers.
Flowers: Pink, 1/4"-3/8", with five recurved petals surrounding a central, raised, five-segmented crown, and five stamens. Organized in a flat to rounded cluster, 2"-4" across, composed of umbels, several of which may be may be arranged as a corymb. The arrangement of the petals, the raised central crown, and stamens is common to all the milkweeds and very distinctive.
Leaves: Opposite, simple, narrowly ovate to lanceolate, to 4", with smooth margins.
Fruit: Distinctive vase-shaped pod 2"-4", borne upright on top of plant, eventually splitting open to release seeds with long silky hairs.
Blooming: June-August
Habitat: Swamps, shorelines and wet meadows.

Comments: This milkweed is very attractive to butterflies and other insects. The monarch butterfly caterpillar feeds exclusively on milkweeds, more frequently on the common milkweed, and accumulates toxins that make the adult butterfly unpalatable to birds. All milkweeds have the typical milky juice, a latex that dries to a gummy solid, and clogs the mouthparts of insects not specifically adapted to eat it. This species is somewhat less milky than others. Despite these defenses, milkweeds are edible. The unexpanded shoots, and very young leaves can be cooked in two waters and eaten as a potherb, as can the unopened flower buds. The firm pods of the common milkweed can also be cooked and eaten. The pods of this species are supposedly not so good. It has been reported that milkweed flowers, gathered in the early morning when wet with dew, can be pressed to obtain a sweet liquid that can be concentrated to obtain a sugary substance. This sounds laborious, not to mention a waste of a beautiful wildflower with this variety. It is also reported that if sufficient of the dried sap is collected, perhaps by breaking the leaves or nicking the stem, it can be used as chewing gum.

Where to find it: Widely scattered around the shores of the pond, most commonly at the west end.