July 5, 2010

Milkweed Flowers

We are having a week of true summer weather: bright sun with the 3 'H's, hazy hot and humid. But it's delightful, and perfect weather for a dip in the pond and a laze with a book on the lounge under the backyard tree. The air is heightening the sweetness of the days with an overarching scent coming from the blooming milkweed in the fields. When I first noticed this perfume years ago it took me some time to trace it to the common milkweed popping up in fields throughout the area. Sometimes the scent is so intense, as on a humid evening, that it is almost sickly sweet. I bring some in the house even though it droops on being cut––even after searing the sap-dripping stem––because I love to have that smell indoors.

The flowers have a marvelous way of emerging from small round buds: the buds peel back in five pieces, revealing the center of the flower, which if I understand the interesting Wikipedia entry are anthers, not petals. They are complex little structures and lovely when you look at them closely. Later to come are the pods with their milkweed silk and seeds, which I photographed last fall and you can see here and here. But right now, I'm enjoying the perfumed air of early summer, courtesy of the milkweed.


  1. I love this post on the milkweed! Yes, the smell is intoxicating. They are an incredible flower, often overlooked. When I first came to Vermont I was part of a dying group and we did milkweed, gathering huge bundles, and throwing them in a even more huge pot over an outdoor fire. It made a lovely earthy yellow green on our fresh spun wool.

  2. Maggie, thanks for the dyeing story; I didn't know that milkweed was also a dye plant, along with its other virtues.