Similar Seedcases

by Carl Strang

Both the well-known common milkweed and the less familiar dogbane develop their seeds in similar pods. Most botanists place them in separate, if closely related plant families. In winter, with its parachute-bearing seeds scattered to the winds, common milkweed looks like this:

When flowering, it had the following appearance.

Dogbane’s flowers look a little different.

The flowers produce similar pods with similar seeds, but the pods are very long and narrow, resembling handlebar mustaches.

Stems of both these plants are the source of excellent fibers for making string and rope. Nets and other objects made with dogbane string are so resistant to decay that they sometimes are found in archeological sites. The plants themselves are poisonous, though some parts of milkweed plants can be made edible with the proper, several-step treatment.

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