Friday, July 3, 2009


I've often wondered, as I travel around the lake, if there are a myriad of names for water's many surfaces. White caps and smooth as glass come to mind, but perhaps one must be a sailor to know.

From The Farmer's Assistant:

"MILKWEED (Ascleiiiaa Syriaca.) Under Greens, we have mentioned the young stalks ot this plant, as an article of food. The plant is also called silkweed, on account of the pod it produces, which contains a vegetable silk. This, adhering to the seeds, is calculated to waft them by the winds in every direction.

This plant has been considered as a troublesome weed, in much of the northern parts of this State ; but perhaps the use which may be made of the pods, of the leaves, and of the milk of the plant, may be found much more than sufficient to counterbalance any inconvenience to be suffered from it.

We will first point out the use made of the pods, in France, as communicated by Mr. Genet:

' The silky substance collected from that plant (says he) is used in France, with great advantage, and is cultivated under the name ot houatte or wading. They card it, spin it, and manufacture it into velvets, cloth, and hose, with or without the intermixture of cotton or silk.

' It is also used for wading to stuff quilts and counterpanes; and for that purpose it is far preferable to cotton, being warmer and lighter. To card it by itself, they expose it in bags to the steam of water; but, mixed with silk or cotton, it does not require the intervention of the steam, to be made into rolls and spun. The velvets and other textures made of that vegetable silk, which I have seen in Europe, resembled, if not exceled, the brilliancy ot the silk; and, with proper mordants, had received the most elegant coloring.'

Mr. Genet subsequently adds: ' I have been informed that a French Gentleman, who attends the Dyers' department of the manufactory of Mr. Lynch, at Rome, has discovered that the leaves of the asclepias, and probably of all the apocinums, were an excellent substitute for the woad.'

See Woad.

' Dr. Low, of Albany, has also observed, that the.milky juices of the asclepias were equal, if not superior, in many respects, to the opium extracted from the white poppy.'

Thus it appears that this plant affords food, clothing, medicine, and matter for coloring. Probably its cultivation may yet be found a matter of considerable importance.

We have also seen the pods gathered, as a substitute for feathers, in making beds. We believe they might be most advantageously mixed with feathers, for that purpose."

The Mild-Weed Babies

Dainty milk-weed babies
Wrapped in cradles green,
Rocked by Mother Nature,
Fed by hands unseen.

Brown coats have the darlings,
Slips of milky white,
And wings—but that's a secret,—
They're folded out of sight.

The cradles grow so narrow,
What will the babies do?
They'll only grow the faster
And look up towards the blue.

And now they've found the secret,
They're flying through the air,
They've left the cradles empty,—
Do milk-weed babies care?

- Language Lessons

Nicholson, John. The Farmer's Assistant. Philadelphia, 1820. 232. Web. Google Book Search. 1 Jul 2009.

Wisely, John Benjamin; Griswold, Sarah E. Language Lessons. Chicago, Boston, 1906. Web. Google Book Search. 1 July 2009.


  1. I absolutely LOVE today's post! Your lake photo is stunning and the milk weed babies poem is precious-makes me want to illustrate it! I did not know that milkweed possessed medicinal qualities of the opiate variety; I start stalking the milkweeds about this time of year looking for monarch butterfly chrysalises... it's been a few years since I've found one but maybe this will be my lucky summer!
    wishing you a happy 4th,

  2. Oh thank you! :-) Milk-Weed Babies is so sweet, isn't it?

    Well, it's time to try to get together some posts. The rains have returned and it's tough getting out with the camera. I will try between raindrops but it looks like I'll need to dig through the archives here.

    Good luck with the Monarchs. I was just reading up on them and will be on the lookout down here as well.