Why I Chose the Name Milkweed for my Store
The milkweed plant supports the monarch butterfly. The caterpillar needs the milkweed plant for its initial nourishment, and the female monarch will only lay its eggs on the milkweed plant. The continual expansion of human housing and development has reduced the habitat for milkweed, which is why the existence of the monarch butterfly is also threatened. Much like the monarch, that goes through its mysterious metamorphosis, the milkweed plant also goes through a number of stages, from leafy vine to beautiful wildflower to fulfill its destiny as a supporter of the monarch, and other insects. I want my store to cultivate this type of metamorphosis within my customers by stimulating a desire to heal, to learn, to create, and to help. An awareness of the importance of the milkweed plant is improving around the world, partly because of the many organizations working to improve the milkweed habitat and thereby the monarch habitat. One such organization is the Monarch Joint Venture (monarchjointventure.org)
When you break down the word milkweed, you get two words that I really like. Milk, which is usually associated with something that nurtures life and abundance, and Weed, which is often associated with something wild or untamed. I consider myself a combination of these ideas. I try to be nurturing, but I think I’m also a little unconventional or untamed. I hope my store, Milkweed, provides that experience and encourages people to cultivate both the nurturing and the untamed aspects of their personalities. I don’t consider a weed a negative thing, but milkweed, the plant, has been maligned for years as a landscaping nuisance. Many things that seem valueless, can have value, depending on our perspective. My store’s goal is to celebrate health, harmony, mindfulness, sustainability and creativity for everyone and everything equally.
Milkweed has mythological significance. Common milkweed’s scientific name is asclepias syriaca, which is associated with Asclepius, the god of medicine in Greek Mythology. According to this myth, “Asklepios was raised by the centaur Kheiron (Chiron) who instructed him in the art of medicine. He grew so skilled in the craft that he was able to restore the dead to life. This was a crime against the natural order and so Zeus destroyed him with a thunderbolt” (theoi.com). Without much evidence of milkweed’s medicinal uses, it’s hard to see the connection between milkweed and a Greek god, but it’s interesting that during the scientific naming of plants, milkweed somehow became associated with Asklepios, the god of medicine. There must be more to the story.
Through the ages, milkweed has been used for many things, from fiber to medicine. Although, we don’t suggest anyone starts using milkweed for medicine, ancient people have used it for various physical ailments, from warts to pleurisy. The floss has also been used by many cultures for many purposes. According to a book I carry in the store, Cattail Moonshine and Milkweed Medicine, during World War 2, we used milkweed floss in life jackets because we couldn’t get access to the kapok tree. There are current companies that use the floss in down jackets and comforters, and one company is working on an oil spill cleanup product that uses parts of the milkweed plant. Parts of the plant have also been used as food by native cultures, and I had a customer tell me recently that he and his wife eat the green milkweed pods after carefully boiling them in three changes of water. He said they taste a little like asparagus. Again, we don’t recommend ingesting any part of the milkweed plant. Through history, the milkweed plant has been appreciated for various reasons, and I hope that modern society will once again see its value. My store, Milkweed, is all about appreciating and protecting the natural world through sustainable practices.