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Asclepias incarnata is in the milkweed family (Asclepiadaceae) and is native to parts of Canada and the US. 'Incarnata' was likely included in the botanical name because it means flesh-coloured or flushed with pink, which describes the colour of swamp milkweed flowers. The Pueblo harvested fibers from this plant and used them to make fishing line and sewing thread. Roots of swamp milkweed were used in the treatment of various ailments.
Distinguishing Features: Swamp milkweed can be distinguished from similar milkweeds by its (typically) pink-flowered umbels positioned at the tops of the plant stalks relatively narrow leaves, and moist habitat. It is also much taller than other milkweeds usually reaching heights of over 1 metre (3').
Flowers: Round clusters (umbels) of light pink flowers grow near the top of plant or at the top of brached stems. The flower colours may vary from near white to pink to lilac, and are pleasant smelling. Flowers consist of 5, downward-pointing petals and a 5-part central crown that are dull pink to deep pinkish-purple. Flowers are about 5 mm (1/4”) wide. They typically form small clusters of between 10 to 20 flowers. Swamp milkweed flowers anywhere from June to September depending on location.
Leaves: The opposite leaves are up to 15 cm (6") long and 4 cm (1½") across, although they are more typically half that. They are narrowly lanceolate or oblong-lanceolate in shape, smooth along their margins, and glabrous. Upper leaf surfaces are medium to dark green, although they can become yellowish green or pale green due to bright sunlight and hot dry conditions. The leaves are either sessile or their bases clasp the stems.The leaves have a tendency to become more broad in shape in response to shady conditions.
Height: Swamp milkweed grows anywhere from 30 to 150 cm (12 to 60”) high. Stems are erect, stout, (some may branch) and have few, if any, hairs.
Habitat: Swamp milkweed habitats include open to partially shaded areas in swamps, thickets, moist black soil prairies, low areas along rivers and ponds, fens, marshes, and drainage ditches. It can be found in both high quality and degraded habitats. Swamp milkweed grows (in Canada) from Manitoba to the east coast and in most continental states with the exception of west coast states.
Edible parts: All parts considered edible must be cooked. Unopened flower buds, young shoots and young seed pods (harvested when 3 to 4 cm long) can be consumed in small quantities and ONLY if cooked. The flower clusters can be boiled down to make a sugary syrup.
Other name: Rose Milkweed.
Similar plants: Milkweed.
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