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Asclepias fruticosa

   (Family: Apocynaceae)
Afrikaans: Melkbos, tontelbos English: Milkweed, wild cotton, swan plant  EDIT
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Plant Type: EDIT  Shrub
Height: 2m
Spread: 2m
Special properties:
  Drought Resistant (heavy)
  Has Medicinal Uses
Rarity Status:
Preferred rainfall: Winter
Preferred position:
Full Sun
Tolerated soil:  
  Sand (coarse texture, drains easily),
Loam (gritty, moist, and retains water easily),
Clay (fine texture, holds a lot of water)
Biome: Grassland
Flowering time EDIT
x x x                 x
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Flower colours
Flower shape
Flower type
  It attracts butterflies (Monarch and Swallowtail), but also crab spiders, ladybugs, bees, wasps, ants and moths.
  Flower info
  Axillary umbels of 5 to 10 creamy white flowers; lobed and reflexed corolla around laterally flattened corona lobes
Leaf shape EDIT
Leaf margin
Leaf type
Leaf arrangement
Leaf texture Smooth
Bark / Stem type
  Leaf info EDIT
  Simple, lanceolate to linear, alternate, glabrous, light green; margin entire, apex sharply pointed
Fruit type EDIT
Fruit colour
Fruit size Length: 50mm   Width: 75mm
Seed colour
  Seed info EDIT
  Narrowly egg-shaped (i.e. ovoid) and slightly curved (i.e. falcate) fruit that gradually taper to a short, curved beak.Inflated green and later light brown, papery pod or follicle; short bristly hair cover the outer surface; dark seeds have silvery cotton wool-like attachments that facilitate wind distribution
Description EDIT
This is a small evergreen perennial erect, multi-stemmed shrublet of up to 2m in height.
All parts of the plant produce a white, milky latex when broken.
Syn. Gomphocarpus fruticosus
Growing EDIT
It can have a large deep root system once it becomes established and is then difficult to eradicate from gardens.
Distribution EDIT
This plant is indigenous and occurs practically all over South Africa. It has become a weed in disturbed places such as roadsides and abandoned fields.
History EDIT
During World War II, the regular material used to stuff life jackets was in short supply, so milkweed floss was called for as a substitute—it is about six times more buoyant than cork!
Carl Linnaeus named the genus after Asclepius, the Greek god of healing, because of the many folk-medicinal uses for the milkweed plants.
Mainly the leaves, but sometimes also the roots are used medicinally. The dried leaves are finely ground and used as snuff, not only for headache, but also to treat tuberculosis and as an emetic to strengthen the body.

The roots are reported to relieve stomach pain and a general ache in the body.

Ecology EDIT
The plant is quite toxic because it produces a group of toxins known as cardenolides. The poisonous cardienolides protect the plant against herbivores. However, some animals are capable of eating the plant without ill effects. Thus the Monarch caterpillar (Danaus chrysippus) is among a select few creatures able to graze on the leaves of the milkweed. It manages to sequester and store the poisons, so that the butterfly into which it develops is protected from predators. The female Monarch butterfly lays her eggs on the underside of leaves, where they hatch in about 5 days; the young caterpillar chews its way out of the egg, usually eating the shell as its first meal.
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  • Ben-Erik van Wyk, (2005), Medicinal Plants of South Africa ,Briza Publications  


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