When you think of milkweed plants, you always think of Monarch butterflies. But I remember when my mother would tell us how she, as a young woman during WWII, collected milkweed pods for the war effort. The fluff from the milkweed seeds was buoyant, so it was used to stuff the life preservers used by airplane pilots. Of course that was many years ago, but time has a way of circling back and today entrepreneurs are finding more ways to use the milkweed plant.
According to the USDA Plants Database, “people have used milkweed for fiber, food, and medicine all over the United States and southern Canada.”
The Old Farmer’s Almanac lists past uses for “paper-making, textiles, and lubricants, and as a substitute for fossil fuels and rubber”…. and “in current research, a chemical extracted from the seed is being tested as a pesticide for nematodes.”
Today its floss is being used for hypoallergenic filler for high-end pillows, comforters and jacket linings, and the unsaturated oil in its seed is being researched for use as a base material for sunscreen, cosmetics and skin- and hair-care products, including moisturizers and conditioners. In the future, this UV-absorbent base material could also be tailored for use in epoxies, paints and other industrial applications. (ScienceDaily)
The Canadian company Protec Style uses milkweed fiber from pods and seeds to absorb oil spills. “The hollow fibers of the milkweed plant, paired with its wax coating, allows it to attract and absorb oil very efficiently. Milkweed floss can absorb five times more than polypropylene, which is a petroleum derivative fiber. (VPR)
Monarch Joint Venture
Monarch Joint Venture is running a series on More Than Monarchs to explore the many ways Monarch habitat can make a difference. To learn more about Monarchs habitat with Monarch Joint Venture, join here.