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A milkweed follicle releasing its seeds.

A milkweed follicle releasing its seeds. (Photo: @JuneStoyer)

Asclepias L. (1753), the milkweeds, is a genus of herbaceous perennial, dicotyledonous plants that contains over 140 known species. It previously belonged to the family Asclepiadaceae, but this is now classified as the subfamily Asclepiadoideae of the dogbane family Apocynaceae.

Carl Linnaeus named the genus after Asclepius, the Greek god of healing, because of the many folk-medicinal uses for the milkweed plants.

Asclepias species produce their seeds in follicles. The seeds, which are arranged in overlapping rows, have white, silky, filament-like hairs known as pappus, silk, or floss. The follicles ripen and split open, and the seeds, each carried by several dried pappi, are blown by the wind.


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