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A beautiful hardy herbaceous perennial, Milkweed is native to the Prairies and eastern North America, common from Canada southwards. It is often called Butterfly Weed or Butterfly Flower.
Growing up to 3 feet tall, with tresses of bright orange-red flowers blooming from early summer to early autumn, pleurisy root makes a great ornamental plant in any garden. It attracts many butterflies, including Monarchs, abundant bees, and other pollinators.
Plants prefer regularly watered sand or gravel soils (i.e. well drained), with full sun, although they can grow in light woodland/semi-shaded areas. They’ll survive in low-fertility areas and will happily grow amongst grasses. Milkweed is hardy from Zones 3 to 9.
The seed is a cold-soil germinator. If not being sown in the early spring, then it is recommended to pre-treat the seeds in the refrigerator (not the freezer) for 2-3 weeks before sowing warm. Germination is relatively fast and moderate.
Pleurisy is a deep growing, tap-rooted plant so seeds are best-sown in-situ, in the garden bed, although seedlings and young plants will transplant, provided it’s done with much love and care. Plants are best spaced at least 2 feet apart.
The tough taproot has a turpentine-like odour. Either fresh or dried, it can be made into a low-dose tea or tincture for treating a variety of lung conditions. Its specific action on the lungs makes it valuable in treating pleurisy, a painful inflammation of the membrane surrounding the lungs. It helps to alleviate the pain, eases difficulty in breathing and subdues inflammation. Overall, it has a mild tonic effect on the pulmonary system.
First Nations chewed the root to treat a variety of lung ailments and boiled the root to aid in cases of diarrhea. A root poultice can be used for treating bruises, swellings, and rheumatism.
The seed floss is extremely water repellent and is used to stuff pillows or mixed with other fibrers to make cloth. The floss has even been used to mop up oil spills at sea.