|COMMON MILKWEED FLOWER|
|SHINLEAF IN FLOWER|
Wednesday, 8:00 AM. 57 degrees, wind NNE, light. The sky is clear except for a bank of clouds in the SW. The barometer is up and the humidity down, a wonderful morning.
The common milkweed, Asclepias syriacus, is oddly beautiful and very fragrant in flower and its seed pods are considered very decorative, both before opening and when open and exposing the silky seeds, which float away on the breeze when ripe. The common name refers to its milky sap, and its genus name refers to Asclepias, the Greek god of medicine, as the milkweeds have been used since ancient times and in many cultures in folk medicine, since they have emetic and purgative properties. I don’t believe they are used much presently in modern Western herbal medicine. It is also a fiber plant, and the silky seed covering, known as kapok, once was important in stuffing pillows and for life preservers. Linnaeus mistakenly assumed it was an oriental plant, thus the species name syriacus. Of perhaps greatest importance and interest today is its use by monarch butterfly caterpillars as an obligatory host, the only plant they can feed upon. No milkweed, no monarch butterflies. Common milkweed is native throughout much of temperate North America in fields, roadsides and waste lands.
Shinleaf, Pyrola rotundifolia, in the heath family (Ericaceae) is blooming. It is minute but pretty, a plant of woods and bogs. The Pyrola genus is also known as wintergreen, and several species of wintergreen are well known as medicinal plants (think wintergreen salve) and the shinleaf is reputed to have strong curative powers for the healing of bleeding wounds, both internal and external. It also contains methyl salicilate, the main component of aspirin. Some of the wintergreens are often assigned the genus synonym Gaultheria.