The species of milkweed native to western North America! It has evolved alongside our Monarch butterflies and is part of a crucial stage in their life cycle. This perennial plant is a self-fertile hermaphroditic plant that is in flower from June to August and has seeds that ripen in September. It is pollinated by Bees and insects. The milkweed plant provides all the nourishment the monarch caterpillar needs to metamorphose into a monarch butterfly. Without the milkweed, the caterpillar cannot complete metamorphosis.
It is best to plant showy milkweed in sun or partial shade. It prefers well-drained sandy or loamy soils and an area where slugs are not present, as they pose a threat to the plant. Showy milkweed is not a plant that you should transplant very often, it does not appreciate root disturbance so should be planted into a lasting location when the plant is young.
Not only is the showy milkweed a fantastic species to plant to attract monarch butterflies, it is also a practical plant to humans as it has a variety of edible and medicinal uses. The flower buds can be eaten raw or cooked and tastes like peas. The young shoots and leaves can substitute for asparagus when cooked. The flowers can be boiled into a syrup or eaten raw. Just avoid constantly eating the root, as it can be poisonous in large quantities.
The latex of the plant can be applied once a day for a couple weeks and will cure your warts. The latex can also be used to treat sores, cuts and ringworm. The root can be chewed to treat stomach aches and some coughs. A poultice of the roots can also be applied to rheumatic joints to provide some relief.
When the plant has died down in the fall, fibers can be extracted from the bark and used in twine, coarse cloth and paper. The floss from the seed can be used to stuff pillows or mixed with fibers to make cloth. Seed floss is also used in life jackets as it is water repellent and can also be used to mop up oil spills. Not only is this plant very useful- it will also turn your garden into a beautiful butterfly sanctuary!