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Asclepias – Wikipedia

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**Botanical Characteristics of Asclepias:**
– Asclepias flowers are complex and comparable to orchids.
– The flowers have a gynostegium surrounded by a corona with a hood-and-horn structure.
Pollination occurs through pollinia attaching to flower-visiting insects.
– Large-bodied hymenopterans are the main pollinators.
– Seeds are produced in follicles with silky hairs for wind dispersal.

**Ecological Importance of Milkweeds:**
– Milkweeds serve as nectar sources for native bees and insects.
– Monarch butterflies rely on milkweeds as larval food.
– Milkweeds have defenses against herbivores such as toxins and latex.
– Some milkweed species reduce the impact of parasites on monarch butterflies.
– Newer milkweed species grow faster and may outpace caterpillar consumption.

**Monarch Butterfly Conservation and Milkweeds:**
– Asclepias leaves are food for monarch butterfly larvae.
– Milkweeds are used in butterfly gardening and monarch waystations.
– Planting non-native milkweed species can disrupt migration patterns.
– Monarch larvae on tropical milkweed show reduced migratory development.
– Growing native milkweed species is recommended for monarch conservation.

**Uses and Properties of Milkweed:**
– Milkweed stems were historically used for cords, strings, and ropes.
– Milkweed floss is buoyant, water-repellent, and oil-absorbent.
– Some milkweed species contain cardiac glycoside poisons.
– Milkweed floss is gathered mainly in Canada for thermal and acoustic insulation.
– Milkweed latex was explored as a source of natural rubber during World War II.

**Historical Significance and Conservation Efforts:**
– Milkweed has been used for centuries for various medicinal, everyday, and military purposes.
– Milkweed can be promoted as a plant-based alternative to down.
– Commercial growth of milkweed for various uses could impact the environment.
– Various programs and initiatives focus on conserving milkweed and monarch butterflies.
– Milkweed plays a significant role in the ecosystem and requires conservation efforts.

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