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Useful Temperate Plants

Asclepias californica

Greene

Apocynaceae

+ Synonyms

Acerates tomentosa Torr.

Gomphocarpus tomentosus (Torr.) A.Gray

Gomphocarpus torreyi J.F.Macbr.

Common Name: California Milkweed

Asclepias californica
Flowers and leaves
Photograph by: Keir Morse; CalPhotos
Creative Commons License
Asclepias californica Asclepias californica Asclepias californica

General Information

Asclepias californica is an erect, herbaceous perennial plant producing a cluster of unbranched or branching near the base stems 20 - 90cm tall[
908
Title
Annals of the Missouri Botanical Garden Vol. 41
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.biodiversitylibrary.org
Publisher
Missouri Botanical Garden; St. Louis.
Year
1954
ISBN
 
Description
A botanical publication, it contains an article on the genus Tachigali. It can be downloaded from the Internet.
].
The plant has been harvested from the wild for local use as a food and medicine; it is also a potential source of rubber. Like most, if not all Asclepias species, the plants are likely to have been utilized for foods and other materials by the native North American tribes. See Asclepias syriaca for some idea of these potential uses[
K
Title
Plants for a Future
Author
Ken Fern
Description
Notes from observations, tasting etc at Plants For A Future and on field trips.
].

Known Hazards

Although no specific reports have been seen for this species, many, if not all, members of this genus contain toxic resinoids, alkaloids and cardiac glycosides. They are only toxic if eaten in large quantities, causing vomiting, stupor, weakness and spasma[
274
Title
Illustrated Flora of North Central Texas
Publication
 
Author
Diggs, Jnr. G.M.; Lipscomb. B. L. & O'Kennon. R. J
Website
http://artemis.austincollege.edu/acad/bio/gdiggs/NCTXpdf.htm
Publisher
Botanical Research Institute, Texas.
Year
1999
ISBN
1-889878-01-4
Description
An excellent flora, which is also available on-line.
,
293
Title
Poisonous Plants of North Carolina
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/hort/consumer/poison/poison.htm
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent concise but comprehensive guide to toxic plants that grow in N. Carolina. It lists even those plants that are of very low toxicity, including several well-known food plants such as carrots and potatoes.
].
The plants are usually avoided by grazing animals[
274
Title
Illustrated Flora of North Central Texas
Publication
 
Author
Diggs, Jnr. G.M.; Lipscomb. B. L. & O'Kennon. R. J
Website
http://artemis.austincollege.edu/acad/bio/gdiggs/NCTXpdf.htm
Publisher
Botanical Research Institute, Texas.
Year
1999
ISBN
1-889878-01-4
Description
An excellent flora, which is also available on-line.
].

Botanical References

71
Title
A California Flora.
Publication
 
Author
Munz P.A. & Keck D.D.
Publisher
University of California Press; Los Angeles
Year
1959
ISBN
-
Description
An excellent flora but no pictures. Not for the casual reader.
,
908
Title
Annals of the Missouri Botanical Garden Vol. 41
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.biodiversitylibrary.org
Publisher
Missouri Botanical Garden; St. Louis.
Year
1954
ISBN
 
Description
A botanical publication, it contains an article on the genus Tachigali. It can be downloaded from the Internet.

Range

South-western N. America - California, Baja California.

Habitat

Dry slopes; at elevations below 2,200 metres in California[
71
Title
A California Flora.
Publication
 
Author
Munz P.A. & Keck D.D.
Publisher
University of California Press; Los Angeles
Year
1959
ISBN
-
Description
An excellent flora but no pictures. Not for the casual reader.
]. Flats, dry clearings, grassy hillsides, brushy slopes[
908
Title
Annals of the Missouri Botanical Garden Vol. 41
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.biodiversitylibrary.org
Publisher
Missouri Botanical Garden; St. Louis.
Year
1954
ISBN
 
Description
A botanical publication, it contains an article on the genus Tachigali. It can be downloaded from the Internet.
].

Properties

Edibility Rating *  *
Medicinal Rating *  *
Other Uses Rating *
HabitPerennial
Height0.45 m
PollinatorsBees, Insects, Lepidoptera
Cultivation StatusWild

Cultivation Details

Asclepias californica is a plant of dry Mediterranean climates with hot summers and cool or even cold winters and most precipitation falling in the cooler months. Outside of this type of climate, the plant will require a well-drained soil and hot summers, with some protection in cold winters, if it is to thive. This protection can often be applied as a mulch, though it would need to be removed before new growth begins in the spring otherwise slug damage is very likely to occur[
K
Title
Plants for a Future
Author
Ken Fern
Description
Notes from observations, tasting etc at Plants For A Future and on field trips.
].
Prefers a well-drained light rich or peaty soil[
1
Title
RHS Dictionary of Plants plus Supplement. 1956
Publication
 
Author
F. Chittendon.
Publisher
Oxford University Press
Year
1951
ISBN
-
Description
Comprehensive listing of species and how to grow them. Somewhat outdated, it has been replaced in 1992 by a new dictionary (see [200]).
,
200
Title
The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992.
Publication
 
Author
Huxley. A.
Publisher
MacMillan Press
Year
1992
ISBN
0-333-47494-5
Description
Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of silly mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed.
]. Succeeds in poor soils.
Many members of this genus seem to be particularly prone to damage by slugs. The young growth in spring is especially vulnerable, but older growth is also attacked and even well-established plants have been destroyed in wet years[
K
Title
Plants for a Future
Author
Ken Fern
Description
Notes from observations, tasting etc at Plants For A Future and on field trips.
].
Plants resent root disturbance and are best planted into their final positions whilst small[
134
Title
Growing from Seed. Volume 2.
Publication
 
Author
Rice. G. (Editor)
Publisher
Thompson and Morgan.
Year
1988
ISBN
-
Description
Very readable magazine with lots of information on propagation. An interesting article on Ensete ventricosum.
].
The flower of many members of this genus can trap insects between its anther cells - the struggles of the insect in escaping (especially bees and wasps) pulls with it the pollinium (sacs of pollen) which are then transported to the next flower and deposited there, ensuring pollination of the flower[
207
Title
The History and Folklore of North American Wild Flowers.
Publication
 
Author
Coffey. T.
Publisher
Facts on File.
Year
1993
ISBN
0-8160-2624-6
Description
A nice read, lots of information on plant uses.
,
908
Title
Annals of the Missouri Botanical Garden Vol. 41
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.biodiversitylibrary.org
Publisher
Missouri Botanical Garden; St. Louis.
Year
1954
ISBN
 
Description
A botanical publication, it contains an article on the genus Tachigali. It can be downloaded from the Internet.
].

Edible Uses

The milky sap of the plant can be boiled until thick and then chewed like chewing gum[
257
Title
Native American Ethnobotany
Publication
 
Author
Moerman. D.
Publisher
Timber Press. Oregon.
Year
1998
ISBN
0-88192-453-9
Description
Very comprehensive but terse guide to the native uses of plants. Excellent bibliography, fully referenced to each plant, giving a pathway to further information. Not for the casual reader.
].

The leaves can be roasted and then chewed[
257
Title
Native American Ethnobotany
Publication
 
Author
Moerman. D.
Publisher
Timber Press. Oregon.
Year
1998
ISBN
0-88192-453-9
Description
Very comprehensive but terse guide to the native uses of plants. Excellent bibliography, fully referenced to each plant, giving a pathway to further information. Not for the casual reader.
].
One recipe suggests you parboil the leaves or young shoots for three minutes, then discard the bitter water and replace with clean boiling water. (Cold water tends to fix the bitterness.) You can repeat this process p to three times to fully leach any bitterness (and many of the nutrients[
K
Title
Plants for a Future
Author
Ken Fern
Description
Notes from observations, tasting etc at Plants For A Future and on field trips.
]), then cook the leaves for 15 minutes before seasoning them. A pinch of soda can be added during cooking to break down the fibe and improve flavour[
293
Title
Poisonous Plants of North Carolina
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/hort/consumer/poison/poison.htm
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent concise but comprehensive guide to toxic plants that grow in N. Carolina. It lists even those plants that are of very low toxicity, including several well-known food plants such as carrots and potatoes.
].

Medicinal

The dried and powdered plant can be applied to spider bites[
257
Title
Native American Ethnobotany
Publication
 
Author
Moerman. D.
Publisher
Timber Press. Oregon.
Year
1998
ISBN
0-88192-453-9
Description
Very comprehensive but terse guide to the native uses of plants. Excellent bibliography, fully referenced to each plant, giving a pathway to further information. Not for the casual reader.
].

Other Uses

Rubber can be made from latex contained in the stems and leaves[
112
Title
A Summary of the Literature on Milkweeds (Asclepias spp) and their utilization.
Publication
USDA Bibliographical Bulletin No. 2
Author
Whiting. A. G.
Publisher
USDA; Washington
Year
1943
ISBN
 
Description
A technical paper covering the many uses of the genus Asclepias.
].

Propagation

Seed - best sown in a greenhouse as soon as it is ripe in the autumn or in late winter[
134
Title
Growing from Seed. Volume 2.
Publication
 
Author
Rice. G. (Editor)
Publisher
Thompson and Morgan.
Year
1988
ISBN
-
Description
Very readable magazine with lots of information on propagation. An interesting article on Ensete ventricosum.
,
169
Title
A Weavers Garden
Publication
 
Author
Buchanan. R.
Publisher
McGraw-Hill Contemporary
Year
1987
ISBN
0934026289
Description
Covers all aspects of growing your own clothes, from fibre plants to dyes.
]. We have also had good results from sowing the seed in the greenhouse in early spring[
K
Title
Plants for a Future
Author
Ken Fern
Description
Notes from observations, tasting etc at Plants For A Future and on field trips.
], though stored seed might need 2 - 3 weeks cold stratification[
134
Title
Growing from Seed. Volume 2.
Publication
 
Author
Rice. G. (Editor)
Publisher
Thompson and Morgan.
Year
1988
ISBN
-
Description
Very readable magazine with lots of information on propagation. An interesting article on Ensete ventricosum.
]. Germination usually takes place in 1 - 3 months at 18°c[
134
Title
Growing from Seed. Volume 2.
Publication
 
Author
Rice. G. (Editor)
Publisher
Thompson and Morgan.
Year
1988
ISBN
-
Description
Very readable magazine with lots of information on propagation. An interesting article on Ensete ventricosum.
]. As soon as the seedlings are large enough to handle, prick them out into individual pots and grow them on in the greenhouse for their first winter. Plant out when they are in active growth in late spring or early summer and give them some protection from slugs until they are growing away strongly.
Division in spring. With great care since the plant resents root disturbance. Pot the divisions up and place them in a lightly shaded position in the greenhouse until they are growing away strongly, then plant them out in the summer, giving them some protection from slugs until they are established..
Basal cuttings in late spring. Use shoots about 10cm long with as much of their white underground stem as possible. Pot them up individually and place them in a lightly shaded position in a greenhouse until they are rooting and growing actively. If the plants grow sufficiently, they can be put into their permanent positions in the summer, otherwise keep them in the greenhouse until the following spring and when they are in active growth plant them out into their permanent positions. Give them some protection from slugs until they are established.
Cite as: Temperate Plants Database, Ken Fern. temperate.theferns.info. 2018-10-16. <temperate.theferns.info/plant/Asclepias+californica>

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