Additional notes (click to expand)

Commemorative

Asclepias incarnata is named for Asclepius, the Greek god of medicine (Aesculapius in the Roman pantheon), the son of Apollo. He probably existed around 600 BC, but became a Roman god in c. 295 BC. Apollo was the god who kept disease away and Telesphorus, the short person with the woolly hat who accompanies Asclepius in the Royal College of Physicians’ statue, was the god of convalescence. Asclepius was regarded as a ‘hands-on’ physician who intervened with drugs and surgery when a person was ill. His staff, with a single snake twined round it, is the symbol of medicine, and is used as the logo of the British Medical Association and the American Medical Association. The caduceus, two snakes twined round a winged staff, was given to Hermes, the messenger of the gods, by Apollo and is not a medical symbol, although it has been so used in error (Graf, 2009). The mythology of Asclepius is convoluted, and there are several versions. Ovid’s (AD 8) version was that his mother was Coronis, daughter of Phlegyas, king of the Lapiths. Apollo killed her when he heard she was a lover to someone else. The baby Asclepius, delivered by caesarean section from the dead Coronis as she lay on her burning funeral pyre by the repentant Apollo, was brought up by the centaur Chiron (who also brought up Achilles qv). Asclepius became so skilled that he was able to revive the dead, and Zeus killed him with a bolt of lightning. One version states that this was at the request of Pluto, king of the Underworld, who had become worried that Asclepius might keep everyone alive so there would be no more souls to enter Hades.
Oakeley, Dr. Henry. (2012). Doctors in the Medicinal Garden. Plants named after physicians. Royal College of Physicians. p 26 et seq link

Nomenclature

Asclepias tuberosa is named for Asclepius, the Greek god of medicine (Aesculapius in the Roman pantheon), the son of Apollo. He probably existed around 600 BC, but became a Roman god in c. 295 BC. Apollo was the god who kept disease away and Telesphorus, the short person with the woolly hat who accompanies Asclepius in the Royal College of Physicians’ statue, was the god of convalescence. Asclepius was regarded as a ‘hands-on’ physician who intervened with drugs and surgery when a person was ill. His staff, with a single snake twined round it, is the symbol of medicine, and is used as the logo of the British Medical Association and the American Medical Association. The caduceus, two snakes twined round a winged staff, was given to Hermes, the messenger of the gods, by Apollo and is not a medical symbol, although it has been so used in error (Graf, 2009). The mythology of Asclepius is convoluted, and there are several versions. Ovid’s (AD 8) version was that his mother was Coronis, daughter of Phlegyas, king of the Lapiths. Apollo killed her when he heard she was a lover to someone else. The baby Asclepius, delivered by caesarean section from the dead Coronis as she lay on her burning funeral pyre by the repentant Apollo, was brought up by the centaur Chiron (who also brought up Achilles qv). Asclepius became so skilled that he was able to revive the dead, and Zeus killed him with a bolt of lightning. One version states that this was at the request of Pluto, king of the Underworld, who had become worried that Asclepius might keep everyone alive so there would be no more souls to enter Hades.
Oakeley, Dr. Henry. (2012). Doctors in the Medicinal Garden. Plants named after physicians. Royal College of Physicians. p. 26 link

Toxicity

Asclepias tuberosa is the American Milkweed, and is one of the host plants of the caterpillar of the Monarch butterfly, Danaus plexippus. The sap is highly toxic, containingcardenolides related to digoxin. The caterpillars store it and it continues in the bodies of the butterflies, which makes them poisonous to eat. One bird, the Black-headed Grosbeak, Pheucticus melanocephalus, is not affected by this poison and feeds on the overwintering adults. The butterflies are capable of huge migrations, overwintering in the pine forests of Mexico and California.
Oakeley, Dr. Henry. (2012). Doctors in the Medicinal Garden. Plants named after physicians. Royal College of Physicians. p. 26, 29 link

Geographical distribution

  • Northern America, Eastern Canada
  • Northern America, Mexico
  • Northern America, North-Central U.S.A.
  • Northern America, Northeastern U.S.A.
  • Northern America, Northwestern U.S.A.
  • Northern America, South-Central U.S.A.
  • Northern America, Southeastern U.S.A.
  • Northern America, Southwestern U.S.A.

Asclepias incarnata L.

Family: APOCYNACEAE
Genus: Asclepias
Species: incarnata L.
Common names: Swamp Milkweed
Distribution summary: Northern America
Habit: Perennial
Hardiness: H5 - Hardy; cold winter
Habitat: Wet woodland, wasteland, river banks
Garden status: Currently grown
Garden location: North America (A)
Flowering months: July, August
Reason for growing: Commemorative, medicinal, other use, toxic


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