What was once packed neatly into pods is now dispersed among open meadows and barren lots. Floss, or fluff, from the common milkweed plant (Asclepias syriaca) is shown here, separated from its seeds.
Though too brittle for spinning, the floss was used as fill for life jackets during World War II, substituting fibers from kapok (produced from the tropical tree, Ceiba pentandra).
Pillows stuffed with milkweed floss can be made or purchased, though a blend with down or feathers may yield best results.
And as a side note, while peeking into milkweed pods north of Pittsburgh not too long ago, I was surprised to find several frozen ticks within each pod. If you ever decide to harvest a few seeds before a freeze, thoroughly inspect before bringing any inside the house.
February 21, 2015 at 7:30 PM
Life jackets, huh? At times I see so much around here maybe I’ll make a raft! I once got to see a Cherokee Indian target-shoot (very accurately at 10 m) with a blowpipe dart that needed the fluff from milkweed (or thistle?) pods to fly. They wrapped the butt end of hardwood splinters spirally with cordage to secure the fluffies against the dart shaft. The blowpipe itself was a hollow reed.
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February 24, 2015 at 2:12 PM
Wow, that’s fairly impressive! Definitely surpasses my skills using the milkweed plant, which are generally limited to harvesting, preparing, and eating! It is something to strive for though! Thanks for sharing that experience.