Asclepias syriaca


Reproduction of Common Milkweed

Similar to other plants, the seeds of Asclepias syriaca are dispersed primarily by wind. Their white, hair-like structures as seen in the pictures aid in this dispersal. The seeds can also float on water. Seeds on a milkweed plant grow in pods, as seen in the images below. The pods grow in place of the flowers after they fall off (Thayer, 2006).                     


Self-fertilization is one way that Asclepias syriaca can reproduce. A study done in Canada estimated that 66 percent of all sexual reproduction of common milkweed was by means of self-fertilization (Shore, 1993). Self-fertilization would mean that no pollinator is needed, and the plant is fertilized by its own seed. This method of reproduction largely depends on the success of the female plants' self-compatibility. When reproducing sexually but not by self-fertilization, some factors that affect the success of pollination are the time of day insects pollinate the flowers and the sugar concentration in the nectar (Morse,1994).                                                                               

Another possibility for sexual reproduction would be hybridization between multiple species of Asclepias. The first study done on hybridization between Asclepias syriaca and Asclepias sullivntii found that it is possible, but the offspring are infertile. However, they do still produce fruit and therefore provide food for organisms so are not a complete waste of energy and resources (Klips et al, 2004).

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Besides reproducing by seed dispersal and fertilization, milkweed can also grow asexually by mitosis. As you read on the habitat page, milkweed is a weed that invades crops in the Midwest. One way it is so successful at doing so is by "creeping, horizontal roots" that may spread to make a single plant grow up to 10 feet across in one season (Anderson, 1999). Along the horizontal roots, buds are produced that will grow into a new stalk. One milkweed plant can appear to be many different plants because of this type of growth.


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