My Writing


By:  Mary Ellen Carmody 


Hi Folks – I’m Asclepias syriaca otherwise known as the Common Milkweed along with couple other aliases, Butterfly Flower, Silkweed, Silky Swallow-wort and Virginia Silkweed. Most of my varieties are toxic to vertebrate herbivores. Just in case you are having a brain fade, a vertebrate herbivore is an animal with a backbone that only eats plants.  Sheep, cattle, rabbits, zebras, donkeys and goats are some examples. I am also a perennial herb and I grow from a deep rhizome.   Wow, that’s a mouthful isn’t it?  But I bet there are a few more things you didn’t know about me. 

I can be a pretty plant as I have blooms that range from faded light pink to reddish purple and the scent of my flowers is quite pleasing.  My height will range from two to six feet on a central stem.  From this central stem my dull green leaves grow.

 Also I’m not just another weed. Without me the Monarch Butterfly cannot exist.  That my friends, is because the Monarch lays and attaches its egg to the underside of one of my leaves whIn about 3 to 5 days the tiny wormlike larva emerges.  The Monarch caterpillar (after it hatches from its egg) eats my leaves which is its sole source of food other than when it molts it eats its old skin.  As it eats my leaves is ingests the toxins in my leaves and stems.  This makes the larvae and adult butterflies toxic to many predators. The caterpillar completes the transformation to a beautiful butterfly in about two weeks.  As you can see the Monarch butterfly cannot survive without me.  Now the sad part of this is that across the United States I am being cut down to make way for modern stuff, like parking lots and apartment buildings which is why I encourage you to plant me and let me spread. 

My family name is  Asclepiadaceae, from Asklepios, the Greek god medicine and healing.   And along with being the sole food for the Monarch Butterfly I have been used in many other ways.  For example,   my tough fibers that can be used for making cords and ropes and weaving coarse cloth.  Early Americans used my young shoots, flower buds, immature fruits and roots for a vegetable after they boiled them.  Although I understand I tasted quite bland. 

Medicinally the Cherokee, Iroquois and Rappahannock used my sap for warts, ringworm and bee stings along with many other ailments. 

But that’s only part of my story.  Google me and you will see that my family is spread all over the states east of the Rockies.




If I could have a time machine, I would go back to that Friday night in September 1959 after the Golden Bears vs. Union Endicott Tigers football game it was a down-to-the last field goal and at the final seconds my Bears won. Afterwards everybody who was anybody headed to the Skylark Diner for hamburgers and fries 

All the popular kids were there in their own cliques. I didn’t belong to any one of those special groups, unless you could call the marching bank a clique. But I went anyway; hope that “he” would be there. Nobody knows how I felt about him, not my best friend, not my diary, and definitely not him.

As I walked into the diner, loud cheers and our victory song echoed from the back room. All the seats were taken, except for the one next to “him.” I slid into the chair and tried not to look. I didn’t want him to see the secret that I was sure spoke in neon across my face.

“Hi, Tex” he said. (Tex was a nickname I picked up when I was in a school play) The band did a great job.  Say, after all that marching your must be hungry How “bout a burger and fries. It will be my treat.”

I flushed It would be all over school tomorrow that I was making eyes at Pat. My secret crush wouldn’t be a secret anymore.

“Sounds good to me.” I said, trying not to stutter. My hands couldn’t be still, my foot tapped. I was actually going to have to eat in front of Pat. 

We were taught “dating etiquette” in gym and Home Economics, but we hadn’t covered eating front of “the one” yet. The teachers had gone through what they considered important manners like sitting up straight, what conversation to have, or avoid, and how to act like a lady but we hadn’t covered the actual eating part yet.

My burger and fries arrived at the same time at his. At least he had to eat at the same time and hopefully wouldn’t notice me, particularly if I got ketchup on my band uniform.

After we finished eating our chatter lagged. Kids started to leave, so I figured I would go too. Just as I pushed my chair back Pat turned to me “Hey, let me walk you home it’s getting late.”

My legs almost collapsed. The dinner had turned into sort of a date No way would I turn him down Pat walked me home, his arm around my shoulder As we approached my doorstep, I wished I lived further away.

We dated on and off for the next year until we went to college and drifted apart. But I will never forget that fateful night at the diner when my secret love walked me home.

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