27 October 2008

The joy of milkweed seeds

One of the pleasures of youth (or of adulthood when you don't care what people think) is to shake milkweed pods and watch the fluff fly away. The photos above were taken at the Pheasant Branch Conservatory last week.

For the eternally pragmatic-minded there are some other aspects to consider. The milkweed floss itself has excellent insulation properties (actually better than goosedown). In the 1860s, residents of Salem used milkweed as mattress filling, and during WWII, when Japan cut off the supply of kapok, a nationwide drive collected millions of pounds of milkweed for the manufacture of Mae West lifejackets. There have been modern attempts to farm milkweed and process the down, and instructions are available at Mother Earth News to make your own milkweed down jacket.

Blogged for my Aunt Charlotte, who during WWII was one of thousands of schoolchildren who harvested milkweed from the barnyard and took bagfuls to school for the "Two bags save one life" program.

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