- Scarlet milkweed
Asclepias curassavica L.
Asclepias : Carl Linnaeus named the genus after Asclepius, the Greek god of healing, because of the many folk-medicinal uses for the milkweed plants - curassavica: from Curaçao in the West Indies.
Asclepias curassavica is an erect, glabrous, perennial (sometimes annual) herb or subshrub, 30 to 120 cm tall, woody at the base and with a milky sap throughout. The elliptic-lanceolate leaves are opposite and entire. The plant is recognizable by its orange and red flowered-inflorescences and by its erect spindle-shaped follicles splitting lengthwise on one side to release numerous seeds. These are equipped with silky hairs and are dispersed by wind over long distances.
Cotyledons about 8-9 x 5 mm. Petiole bases joined by a line or scar extending across the stem. Petioles and stems produce a milky exudate. xx
At the tenth leaf stage: leaves elliptic, apex acute, base attenuate, stipules small, about 0.8-1.0 mm long.
An erect, glabrous, perennial (sometimes annual) herb or subshrub, with a woody base; 30 to 120 cm tall, with a milky sap throughout.
Stems simple or with few branches, smooth, round, dull green or suffused with dull red with milky sap.
Leaves opposite, entire, shortly petioled, elliptic-lanceolate, 6-15 cm x 1-3 cm, apex acute to acuminate, base narrowed. Petiole bases joined by a line of white hairs along a scar extending across the twig.
Inflorescences of axillary and terminal, pedunculate simple umbels, with 4-15 long-pedicellate flowers in each umbel.
Flowers perfect, radial symmetry or irregularly shaped, bright red or orange with yellow centers; sepals 5, deeply divided, reflexed, green; petals 5, linear, base united into a fused corolla; corolla lobes red, reflexed, oblong, shaped with inwardly curved horns; stamens 5, anthers with two pollen sacs; pollen aggregates into masses called pollinia or pollen sacs; style filaments united; pistil 20 carpelled. Calyx persistent at the base of the fruit.
Fruit a pair of dry, dehiscent, spindle-shaped follicles, 5 to 15 cm long, many-seeded, splitting lengthwise on one side at maturity.
The reddish-brown seeds are flat, ovate, minutely ridged and very light, 4-6 mm x 2-2.4 mm. They bear fine silky hairs 2-4 cm long. Their margin is completely encircled by by a narrow wing.
Asclepias curassavica is a perennial plant that blooms all throughout the year. Its very light seeds are scattered by the wind over long distances. The entire plant contains toxic white latex, as many representatives of the family Apocynaceae. It contains principles acting on the heart (especially the seeds) and alkaloids that induce vomiting.
This plant has no specific requirements as to soil type ; it is very drought resistant as most plants with latex and needs full sun to thrive, but can adapt to partially shaded exposure. Grows in disturbed places such as roadsides and streams.
Native of tropical and subtropical America.
-(AdvenPac) Blanfort, V., Desmoulins, F., Prosperi, J., Le Bourgeois, T., Guiglion, R., and Grard, P. (2010). AdvenPaC V.1.0 : Adventices et plantes à conflit d'intérêt des Pâturages de Nouvelle-Calédonie. Montpellier, France, IAC, Cirad.
|Scarlet milkweed||English||Foxcroft, 2003|