Plant Study of Milkweed
Asclepias syriaca

by Barbara Schuster
2003 Practitioner Training Attendee

Editor's Note: this has been slightly

edited from the original version.

Plant description
How the various parts relate to each other and the whole plant
Environment in which the plant grows
The four elements
Plant growth through the four seasons
Form, gesture, signature
Botanical plant family
Daily and seasonal cycles
Fragrance and color
Texture and taste
Relationship to the insect world
Medicinal and nutritional use
Folklore and mythology
Artistic perception

Plant description

Leaf and stem | Root | Flower | Pods | Seeds

I am beginning this plant study on approximately July 10, 2003, near my home at the outskirts of Ottawa, Canada.

At this point in time, what do I see?

I am observing an assembly of 5 Milkweed plants, not yet in bloom, at various stages of growth. The plants are knee- to hip-high, having a single straight stem that may lean slightly in one direction, depending on the position of the plant.

The leaves are oblong (oval), pointed and up to 22 cm long and 10 cm wide. The stem of each leaf is up to 2 cm long. They are arranged in opposite pairs, the leaves in the middle of the plant being the longest and broadest, each pair sitting at a right angle to the previous one. There is an approximately 49 cm distance between each level, depending on the general height of the whole pant. The distance always decreases towards the top.

The stem is up to 2 cm in diameter at the bottom, and up to 1/2 cm close to the top. The first leaf nodes appear approx. 6 cm above ground. The first 2 or 3 nodes often do not carry leaves. Whether the leaves have fallen off or were never there, I do not know. Even in young plants, the second and third nodes—counted from the bottom—have only one leaf instead of a pair.

The shape of the leaves varies slightly as one moves up the plant: the bottom leaves are smaller and slightly rounder than the subsequent leaves. The middle leaves are the longest and broadest. The top leaves become smaller again, but are even more elongated.

Most axils carry the start of a new growth.

The posture of the leaves is as follows: they seem to give the impression of stretching outwards on a horizontal plane, however they slightly droop, forming kind of a slight bow. Towards the top of the plant, the leaves assume fist a straight horizontal, then a slightly upward position.

At the top of a plant in pre-bloom stage, the leaves get smaller, narrow, the second pair (from the top) sitting inside the third, becoming successively smaller and more upright. The youngest pair of leaves form almost a U-shape. The last two leaves are fully upright and in alignment with the stem.

The whole plant is hairy, although one must look very closely in order to notice. The bottom part of the leaves looks and feels velvety, and one notices the hair; applying a magnifying glass however, one discovers fewer, very fine hairs even on the top of the leaves.

The pattern of the leaf veins stands out clearly and is rather simple. The leaves are not indented, only slightly pointed. From the centre vein which becomes narrower towards the tip smaller "side veins" branch out in oblique parallels at an angle of approximately 30 degrees, about 1 cm apart. At about 1 cm distance from the outer border of the leaf they come together and form something like a parallel inner border or line. At the bottom (underneath) of the leaf, the veins protrude.

Leaf and stem colouring

The leaves are of a deep green colour on the top, of a silvery green underneath. The veins vary from yellow to deep purple. On the bottom of the leaf, the veins are very pale in colour. The stem is green but can become almost purple. Generally, it tends to become purple on the side exposed to the southern sun, but it is not always restricted to that.

The root

The root is white and stalk-like (a rhizome). I have dug out one not fully-grown plant and found the root to be narrowing towards the bottom and about 12 cm long. However, Milkweeds seem to have a quite developed root system, particularly the mature plants. Also, they have a mother plant with the deepest root that sends out underground runners. If one wishes to eradicate Milkweed in a particular spot, one must eradicate the mother plant. (J. Sanders, p. 114)

At the end of August, a young plant is coming out of the ground near the plant I have been observing. I do not imagine that this plant has sprung from a seed this late in the season. It must have sprung from an underground runner.

If one breaks the root or the stem, a white juice, the “milk,” oozes out. The same happens when one crushes the veins of the leaves, however if one breaks the leaf where there are no distinct veins, no milk comes out. The milk leaves a slightly sticky feeling on the hands. Milk also comes out of the lower stalks.

The flower

I then proceed to observe the plant coming into bloom, which happens approximately a week from my initial observation, around the third week of July.

The initial formation of the flower heads can already be observed in plants not fully grown, when they are still knee high. This formation appears between the very small vertical leaves at the top of the plant as a single or multiple pea-size bud, with a broccoli-type surface, and green in color.

As the buds are growing they change color, first becoming yellow, then dark purple. When one can observe different flowering stages on the same plant, the blossoms on the lower levels are the furthest advanced. In a plant in bloom approximately the 8th - 12th " floors" ("floor" meaning level of opposite leaf pair, are bearing flowers.)

The flower formation is as follows:

The flower head grows out of a narrow stalk, about 4 cm long, which usually grows between a pair of leaves. This stalk sometimes carries a very small narrow leaf. At the end of this stalk sit numerous (40-50) shorter (2-3 cm) and thinner stalks, each bearing one flower at the end. Also, at the point where the main stalk ends and the individual flower stalks begin, there is a circular assembly of tiny finely pointed leaves, approximately 12 cm in length and 1 mm in width. In a developed plant, this whole assembly (cluster) looks like a ball or sphere, similar to those formed by fireworks.

Editor's Note: This photograph and the Milkweed flower photographs below are of Aesclepius cordifolia, the species of Milkweed used for the FES essence.

Up to now, the description of the Milkweed has been easy!

When the buds are still unopened, they are 1/2 cm in diameter, deep purple in colour and show 5 sepals, which look like a direct continuation of the last mentioned tiny leaves. They are just a little bit wider.

Now the bud opens and the difficulty in describing begins. In an open bud, the purple petals fold backwards and are completely reversed. They are about 1 cm long, 4 mm wide and grow together half way from the bottom. Like the rest of the plant, they are covered with fine hair, particularly on the outside.
The tips of the sepals and the tips of the petals are not aligned but alternate in position.

Above the ring of reversed petals sits the corona, looking like a crown of a second set of petals. They are arranged in a circle, point upwards and look like petals that have been folded forward at the bottom. The are called petaloid appendages (Wayne's Word )—hoods to be more precise—and are attached to the filament of each stamen. The tips of these hoods are again in line with the sepals. Out of the middle of these hoods grows a tiny horn, the tip of the horn resting on the stigmatic disc in the centre.

The crown is light pink or whitish in colour, the horns are again a bit darker.

The stigmatic disc is a unique configuration of the Milkweed. It grows out of two pistils which have been fused (not discernable with the naked eye) and bear a large 5-lobed stigma. It looks like a five-pointed star, where the points have been rounded off. The anthers and the stigma(ta) are fused. The anthers sit in the inner "corners" of this star and are darker in color (purplish) than the stigma. Between the anthers and also fused with the stigmatic disc sit the corpusculi, which are filled with pollen from the anthers. Each corpusculum (which is dark brown) is linked with its neighbouring anther through an arm, called a translator. I feel I need a translator to make this description intelligible! Underneath each corpusculum sits a stigmatic slit. The insects slide into this slit when landing on the Milkweed.

I would not have been able to identify what I see with the naked eye or even with a magnifying glass, had it not been for the enlarged design available to me (Wayne's Word ). While I still cannot discern every detail, I now know what it is that I do see.

The inside of the blossom is very hard to make out, even with a magnifying glass. However, when one opens a blossom, one sees 2 ovaries, bearing the same shape in miniature as the eventual pods. When one attempts to open them to see what is inside, they prove to be amazingly tough.

The pods

The pods start developing in mid- to late-July. When looking for pod-bearing plants, I discovered several which had pods that are slightly deformed. From a distance, I they looked like crumpled green leaves. Looking closer, they turn out to be pods—bigger, baggier, without the textured surface of a normally-developed pod. Sometimes, in a normal plant, one sees leaves that are folding up longitudinally, particularly towards the top of the plant. They look as if they wanted to change into pods. In both cases, the metamorphosis from leave to pod is quite clearly indicated.

When pods develop from the flower cluster, the stem on which the cluster was sitting becomes firm and dark. From the dozens of smaller flower stems, only two remain. All the others whither and fall. Before they have completely fallen off, the 2 carpels start to swell. The sepals are still very clearly visible at this point. The pods develop almost always in pairs. They always point upwards.

At the early stage, the pod is oval in shape and about twice as long as it is wide. It is silvery-green and is covered with fine silvery hair, thin indentations running from the bottom to the tip. The surface usually is rough-textured, sort of prickly. At the end of July, the largest pods are about 4-1/2 cm long.

They are soft to touch, yet firm, almost like soft, firm flesh. The rest of the plant is drying up somewhat, the leaves are getting darker, parts of them can be very dry or eaten away.

I continue my detailed observation on August 12. I open pods of various sizes, the largest measuring 12 cm in length, 3 cm in width. I open first a small pod. I see 3 layers of skin, the outermost being silvery green and very thin, the second layer thicker and darker green, the 3rd layer midgreen, soft, and finely textured. All layers contain milk. In the middle is baby silk.

When I open a larger pod, 7 cm long, the 3 outer layers that looked like separate skins have become one skin. The middle layer, which was the darkest and thickest in the previous stage has become sponge-like, being held by the outer two and connecting them. Is this sponge-like structure a transformation of the leaf-veins?

The seeds

At this stage, the seeds are already clearly formed. Their shape and positioning are in line with the pod: head down, silky hair pointing upward. The seeds are 4 mm long and the flat hair tufts 2 cm long. The hair is humid and stuck together like hair on a baby's head. The seed is almost white, the hair is silky, silvery-white.

The seeds are arranged around a central structure that has almost the same shape as the pods, but is somewhat flat—almost white and soft. This "central structure" is attached to the pod at the top and the bottom, and on one side—the side where the pod has a longitudinal indentation and opens most easily. There are skin-like protrusions coming out of this structure into which the seeds are packed in alternating positions. The seeds have a flat narrow border; the middle is thicker.

The whole pod, when opened, strikes me in its similarity to a cob of corn: the seed packed around a cob-like structure, the silk on top, the pod shell almost like a corn leaf.

The last stage of documented observation takes place on August 28. The plants seem outwardly still. Not many visible changes have taken place within the last 2 weeks. The leaves appear drier, having lost some of their luster, and some are befallen by fungus. The pods have not changed much in appearance. They are just starting to take on a brown colouring, starting from the seam.

Upon opening them, I notice that the seeds are changing colour. First they become greenish, then turning reddish-brown, starting from the skin-like border that surrounds the seeds.

The whole assembly of seeds around the core structure feels moist and supple. If one bends it, the seeds unfold and come somewhat apart. The silky hair is still moist and sticks together. After about an hour, the silk has become dry. It is of an indescribable softness, softer than any silk I remember touching. If one pulls it between one's fingers, the hair tufts open up, first to the side like a small duvet feather, then in all directions. The individual hairs are immeasurably thin.

How the various parts
relate to each other and the whole plant

When I looked at the Milkweed in the past, it was a mystery to me how one could ever tell from those simple oblong leaves that any child could draw, what intricate flowers would ever develop on this plant. Today, the connection seems quite simple and obvious. One can find the oblong form of the leaves from the bottom to the top of the plant. The leaves are proportionally wider at the bottom of the stem, increasing in size and becoming more elongated, then becoming ever narrower to towards the top. One finds tiny, elongated, narrow leaves on the stalk of the flower head, then and the bottom of the inflorescence. The sepals and hoods also show the oblong form very clearly. I cannot trace the leaf shape in stamen and pistil, because of the unusual configuration and minuscule size of the parts. However, they reappear very clearly again in the oblong and pointed form of the seedpod.

In regards to the root, I have only seen one root of a young plant. It certainly has an elongated shape. Each stem (plant) has one rhizome.

I am not sure whether the stem and the pairs of leaves growing out of the stem bear a correlation to the organisation of main vein and side-veins within one leaf.

Other patterns in the relation of the parts to the whole are repetition and alternation. The repetition is seen in the leaf growth along the central axis in opposite pairs, so that the tips of each pair of leaves are always between the tips of the leaves of the preceding pair. This is repeated in the flower. Each set of organs sepals, petals, hood, horns, anthers is organized in a way that its tips sit between the tips of the preceding and following organs.

There is no spiraling movement in this plant; there is alternation between two positions.

Environments in which the plant grows

The plant is a wild plant, although it can be cultivated.

The plants I am observing grow near Ottawa, Canada. The soil here is sandy or loamy, the climate continental with temperatures reaching + 35 C in a relatively short summer and -30 C in the winter. The region has almost zero elevation, and rather flat. However, the Milkweed grows throughout North America.

A brief look at the larger environment where the Milkweed can be found: The common Milkweed can be found from "Saskatchewan to New Brunswick; south to Georgia, west through Tennessee, to Kansas and Iowa." (Field Guide, p. 251).
Various species of Milkweed are widely distributed in tropical and subtropical regions, including Africa and India. Some of them grow in rocky environments and some in a swampy habitat. The Milkweed is visited by various insects, but has a special relationship to the Monarch butterfly. Its leaves are the sole food of the Monarch caterpillar.

The four elements

Earth — The plant is solidly anchored in the soil. Considering the connectedness of the root system stemming from the mother plant, one can consider it firmly anchored in the Earth. The plant itself is of medium firmness and sturdiness.

Water — The common Milkweed lives in an environment that can be dry or humid. Some species, like the Swamp Milkweed, tolerate a moist and watery environment. It seems to tolerate a lot of water, but not necessarily need it. The plant is named after its "water", namely the milky juice it contains in all its parts. Young plants are softer and seem more moist than full-grown plants. The pods are soft and moist, but not mushy or diffuse. As the summer progresses and the pods ripen, a drying-up takes place.

Air — The plant lives where there is lots of air circulating—that is in rather open spaces—never in the deep of the wood. The air element seems to live mostly in the flower. The 50 or so flowers on one flower-head hang loosely and sway in the wind. When in bloom, the smell is very strong and carried by the wind, but penetrates the air even without much wind. Even a single blossom exudes a noticeable sweet smell. The plant propagates mainly through the air element. The light white fluff is at home in the air like fish—in water.

Fire — The plant blooms only in the hottest time of the year. It tolerates great heat. The colors are warm—pink to deep purple—and the sweetness and strength of the scent have a mildly fiery quality about them, unlike, for example, the scent of the apple blossom.

I would say that the air element is very strong, the water is medium to very strong, fire is medium to strong, and earth medium to strong. The plant is adaptable in how strongly it expresses the elements apart from air.

How the plant grows through the four seasons

First of all, the Milkweed is an annual. Here where I live, the very first growth of plants starts in May. I started noticing the Milkweed in June, which is still very much part of spring. It comes into full bloom in July, the hottest month of the year. That is when the scent appears. I am not sure when the root system is at the peak of its growth.

As summer moves on, one can see an abundance of Milkweed plants that are not in bloom and bear no pods. Plants that grow too late to reach the budding stage on time form no buds, unlike many other plants in the vicinity.

In the winter, one can see dried stalks and dried pods which sometimes "survive" into the next year.

So far, the characteristics during the cycle of the year are: softness and growth in spring; growth, flowering, color, scent, and visitation by insects in summer; pods and white fluffs carried by the wind in the fall; dark, dried stalks in the winter.

It seems that the four elements are quite evenly or at least flexibly represented in this plant. Light and air are a must; in regard to water and earth, it seems to have flexibility.

Form, gesture, signature

I see several gestures combined in this plant: first of all, the uprightness. The Milkweed grows on a single, erect stem. At the same time, it does not reach the extreme uprightness of the Mullein plant.

Another gesture, I would call “spreading squareness.” The leaves establish themselves in a square pattern on the plant. If one looks at the plant from above, particularly in a pre-bloom stage, the leaves are arranged in a form of an even cross or an x. In a way, the Milkweed "plants itself squarely." This spreading gesture does not arise through multiple outward branching, but through the sheer size of the leaves, filling the space horizontally around the single axis. (Seeing it growing amongst other plants, it stands out because of the size of its leaves that continue all along the stem. There is no plant around that has as big leaves except the Mullein, but in the Mullein, the leaves are not spread all along the stem as they are in the Milkweed. In the top half of the plant, roundness, or sphere-shape is added. The squareness loses some of it predominance as more round clusters of flowers appear, and the leaves are getting smaller. As I look at the sketch, I am asking myself whether the primal leaf-shape of the plant is not repeated in the overall form. So, the third gesture would be the sphere.

These three gestures—the upright, the cross, the sphere—with the vertical gesture being the dominant one, are very straight, simple and clear. The gesture of the flower is somewhat more intricate.

The three primal flower forms—bell, cup and star—all seem to be present. The five-pointed star can be seen in sepals, petals and corona. The cup appears—reversed—in the reversed petals. The corona is like a miniature arrangement of five tiny cups, holding the nectar and forming one larger cup in the crown-like arrangement (corona). And because all these cups can either point downwards or upwards, they can assume bell-like character. Thus, star, cup and bell all seem to be present, with the star-shape dominating.

Another pattern or gesture seen throughout the plant is that of alternation. Starting in the phyllotaxis, it continues via sepals, petals, hoods, anthers, corpusculi right into the "gut" of the flower.

The Milkweed seems to be able to pack much variety and complexity into its seeming simplicity.

Botanical plant family

The Common Milkweed belongs to the Asclepiadaceae (from Aeskulap, the Greek God of healing). Some of the species growing in eastern North America are Swamp Milkweed, Butterfly Weed and White Milkweed. (Field Guide, p. 350) The Common Milkweed is original to North America. Members of this family grow in various parts of the world, mainly tropical and subtropical regions. There are supposed to be about 250 genera and 2,000 species. I have not found another plant known to me of this family. These plants seem to be very specialized in their pollinization procedures, have milky sap, a strong odor, and many medicinal uses.

Daily and seasonal cycles

I have not been able to observe a diurnal cycle in this plant. Not all the buds open at once, however; they seem to be open all day. The initial bud-forming process has to occur early in the year. Plants that spring up later will grow, but have no buds.

Fragrance and color

There is adaptability in the color of the Common Milkweed; it ranges from off-white to dark purple. The dark red-purple is deep, but not exuberant. The bud grows through stages of green, yellowish, dark purple to pinkish-white. The leaves are deep green, with either yellow or purple central veins. The root is white. There can be variation within the same plant or plants growing close by each other. However, the fragrance (this is the word to use!) is distinctive and seems to be common to most species.

The milk, which seems to be contained in every part of the plant, is pure white. The silky hair is shiny white. The fragrance is intense, sweet, but not overwhelming; it is by far the strongest smelling plant in the environment, even stronger than the Sweet Clovers. One is nourished by the smell and wants to take it in as one may wish to take in a beautiful sight. The smell takes one out of oneself, but at the same time lets one come to one's senses. The fragrance smells nourishing and the sap looks nourishing. The roots have an earthy, herbal smell.

Texture, taste

The texture of the leaf is firm, but not hard; the surface soft, particularly on the underneath side.

The milk has a creamy texture and little taste. The leaves have no distinct taste (they taste like grass), the roots have a carrot/turnip/beet-like flavor, but weaker. They taste as if they could be cooked and eaten. The milk has a creamy feel to it when tasted. The flower tastes as it smells, but not as strong. The texture of the seed-hair is very soft and extremely thin, yet it is almost impossible to rip the hairs when pulling them! Again, the Milkweed can show an unsuspected toughness.

Relationship to the insect world

The Milkweed is visited by many insects, but it has a special relationship to the Monarch butterfly. The Milkweed leaves are the sole food of the Monarch caterpillar. The very special sap of the Milkweed contains cardiac glycosides, similar to Foxglove, which make the Monarch unpalatable if not downright poisonous to predators. Birds will vomit if they ingest Monarchs full of milk. (Sanders, p.114).

The pollinization is very specialized: when the insects land, their feet often get stuck in the stigmatic slit, which acts as a landing site. Then pollen mass is pulled out from the adjacent anthers and deposited on other plants. (Sanders and Wayne's Word ) This is no problem for the Monarch, but sometimes other insects get their legs caught in the slit or get otherwise stuck in the milky glue-like sap and die. Ants can get stuck because their feet pierce the green flesh and then get held by the glue-like sap (Sanders, p.114). I have observed ants crawling freely, but a bee having problems freeing itself.

When one observes the patterning on the leaves of the Monarch, one can see a certain similarity to the vein pattern on the leaves. This similarity is quite clear and astounding. The black lines on the butterfly wings are similar to the veins on the leaf. Both are bordered by a narrower rim, black and white in the Monarch, green and lacking large veins in the leaf. Also, the Monarch has a yellowish colouring underneath a deep brown-red on the surface. Similarly, the Milkweed goes from yellow to purple.

Medicinal and nutritional use

J. Kloss notes that Milkweed is emetic (produces vomiting) purgative, diuretic (increasing secretion and flow of urine, and tonic (invigorating and strengthening). It may be used for asthma, stomach troubles and scrofulous conditions in the blood and is also effective for gallstones. (P. 284) A. Hutchens references it as being diaphoretic (producing perspiration). The American Indians used it for inflammatory rheumatism. It is still used for rheumatism, as well as dyspepsia (Hutchens, p.135).

Warts can be healed by a topical application of the milk. This use was confirmed by Deborah Cohen, participant of the 2003 Practitioner's Intensive, who has used it this way.

Homeopathic uses (Hutchens, p. 135) include: bronchitis, catarrhal fever, dropsy, dysmenorrhea, hay fever, headache, indigestion, influenza, pleurisy (inflammation of the lung sack) rheumatism, uremia, uterine pains.

Additional medicinal uses, according to Jack Sanders, were for typhoid fever, and inflammation of lungs. The root, according to Culpepper (Sanders), acted as a counter-poison for other poisons.

The sticky layer formed by the juice on the skin made it useful as an instant bandage.

The cardiac glycosides (that are better known from the Foxglove) can be used medicinally. They activate the action of the heart muscle after heart failure. Hopi mothers are said to have used a kind of Milkweed to stimulate milk flow when nursing.

This substance has also been used in ancient times to poison arrows. It also induces vomiting in birds that eat the Monarch butterfly. (J.S.)

Food use (J. Sanders, p.113): Chewing gum was made from the boiled sap. The tender shoots were eaten like asparagus. Flower heads were boiled and used to make a type of sugar. The Chippewas stewed the flowers and ate them like jam. The Sioux boiled the young seed pods and ate them with buffalo meat. The Esclepian is supposed have used it as a meat tenderizer. The young pods can be eaten like Okra.

When reading the various recipes, it stands out that the exact procedure must be followed to make the plant into good food (i.e., right moment of harvesting, using the right procedure in boiling, etc.)

Other uses (Sanders): Milkweed has long been used for stuffing pillows. The silky hairs from the pods where used for this. It was used likewise for stuffing mattresses. During World War II, the silk was used as a substitute for kapok, and lining for outfits. Paper and cheap muslin were also made from the stalks. Particularly, Swamp Milkweed fiber is very strong. Rubber was made from the latex.

American Indians used the fiber (from the plant, not the seed pod) for ropes and fishing nets (Hutchens, p. 135).

It seems that the Milkweed is a very versatile plant. The medicinal uses tend to be more activating than sedating, as well as effective in overcoming infections.

Folklore and mythology

The name of the Milkweed, asclepias, derives from the Greek God Aeskulap, the god of healing. Asklepios, bearer of a serpent-entwined staff and son of Apollo, was such a skilled healer that he was said to be able to raise the dead.

I have found only one mythological indication regarding the quality of the Milkweed, and this comes from India. It therefore does not directly apply to the common Milkweed, but to an Indian member of the family, Asclepias acida. This was called the Soma plant in Indian mythology. Soma was a divine drink, and the home of the Soma plant was fabled to be in heaven. The God Indra is said to have created the universe when under the influence of Soma (Grieve).

All this is directly in line with what we have already learned about this plant.

Rudolf Steiner indicates that human milk reaches the will forces of the infant, and animal milk is a food stuff that keeps man in balance between the spiritual and the material, unites him with the terrestrial without chaining him to it. The Old Testament speaks of the land of milk and honey. Honey again is linked to the ego-forces of the human being (Steiner, p. 21).

Milkweed as a flower essence is used to raise the soul from a state of lethargy and regressive helplessness, to help it to incarnate and to wake up a pathologically withdrawing ego (Kaminski and Katz).

The Artistic Perception Exercise

I have done this exercise several times over the course of five weeks, each time forgetting what it was like the last time. As I review my notes, I am struck by the consistency of my discoveries.

One of the interesting discoveries I made in this part of the exercise, as I was observing the transition from flower to pod (when the flowers are starting to wilt and the young pods are forming), was that the outward radiating quality of the inflorescence does not disappear, although the outer eye just sees wilted flowers and a little bit of green pod. The outward-radiating quality of the flower that has disappeared is now being contracted in the pod, and reappears transformed in the gesture of spreading "worldwide" as seed.

Planning to compile my inspiration (in the artistic part) into one opus, I was unable to chose. I have therefore decided to call this artistic exercise

The Milkweed - A Song in Prose
Three Variations

First Variation - Mid July

I am.
I flow.
I fill my space with ripeness.
I spread myself and give to the world. I return to the earth after my journey.

I nourish with nectar.
I disband in lightness of seed.
I flow and grow in my strong rhythm. I nourish the senses.
I invigorate.

I live!
I am sustained and I sustain.

I am strong and I am light.
I am feminine. My masculine strength nourishes my feminine nature.
I am at home on the earth.
I grow rhythmically.
I expand.
I spread and I dilute finer and finer until I resurrect.

We are many, and we settle our strong rhythmic flow and lightness in the fields.
We are there. We are always there!
The world around us, the air beings insects carry our substance and message
We give to them and we spread through them.

We are solid! We are strong!
We give something unique to the earth.
We allow the earth mother to make milk and we bring it into rhythmic flow. Etherialised,
rarified, it flows through the cosmos. We make milk alchemy.
We are anchored.

I am a group.
I am a group of beings.
My "poison" is the contraction that gives birth to the soul.
Then you too can flow rhythmically, strongly, live in expansion, yet anchored.

Second Variation

I feed!
I nourish!
I am there, I dance with there-ness! Youhoo!
I am strong! I grow, I grow! I am happy!
The wind comes, and it carries me all over! I am so happy
I am alive
I love the earth on which I grow. I make milk for the earth.
I am part of the milk family.

We are the veins of the earth's skin in which the milk flows.
The light of heaven becomes milk in our veins.
We are happy and fulfilled.

Third Variation

Ohoh! We are strong!
We are strong and we flow
We flow and stream and pulsate with strength
We nourish, we heal.
The jubilation we are the milk of the earth
We are there! We are there!
We are happy!

Shivering with anticipation, we can't wait to fly...
We fly around the earth!
We sing, we dance, we jubilate in the wind.
We are the Milkweed Mother, and we are the milk of the earth.
We are happy, happy when we are visited.
The friends of the air come and visit us.
And then we burst, we burst and visit!
We bring joy, we bring joy!
Aaah oueeh!

About Barbara Schuster—

Barbara grew up in Germany where she studied languages and trained to become a Waldorf teacher. She then emigrated to Canada where she taught at the Ottawa Waldorf School for a number of years. It was during this time that she first encountered the English flower essences. She then moved to Zimbabwe with her family where her husband was posted for his job.

After falling sick from a mysterious illness that took a several years to be properly diagnosed, Barbara became acquainted first hand with the patterns of illness and health and with a multitude of conventional and unconventional healing modalities.

Barbara maintains a part-time practice in her home at the outskirts of Ottawa, Canada. She is a recognized practitioner of Therapeutic Touch and presently enrolled in the FES practitioner certification program. Apart from her practice, Barbara does translation work for Healers Who Share and is also involved in study groups regarding the Threefold Social Organism.



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Hutchens, Alma R. A Handbook of Native American Herbs. Boston & London: Shambala, 1992

Kaminski, Patricia & Katz, Richard. Flower Essence Repertory. Nevada City, CA: The Flower Essence Society, 1992

Kaminski, Patricia & Katz, Richard. The Twelve Windows of Plant Perception.

Kloss, Jethro. Back to Eden. Loma Linda, California: BACK TO EDEN BOOKS, 1982

National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Wildflowers. Eastern Region. New York: Chanticleer Press, 1979

Sanders, Jack. Hedgemaids & Fairy Candles. The lives & lore of North American Wildflowers. Camden, Maine 1995

Simon, Hilda. Butterflies. New York, 1969

Steiner, Rudolf. The Effects of Spiritual Development. London: Rudolf Steiner Press, 1978

Wayne's Word This online reference website provides a detailed drawing of the blossom.


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