milkweeds for the war effort
Recently I posted a photo of a funny looking plant that I grew up frolicking amongst every Fall: the Milkweed. I never thought much of them until I bought a book about the local history of my town and found this picture:
Who knew those funny looking weeds played such an important roll in saving lives! After reading the caption I knew I had to do some research to find out more about the life saving Milkweed.
The Milkweed pods contain seeds attached to a fluttery, silky “floss” which is actually quite buoyant. During WWII the Japanese cut off supply routes in the Dutch East Indies, causing the US to lose their main source of Kapok floss, which was the first choice for stuffing Mae West style life preservers. With the urgent need for an alternative, and no time to grow and harvest a crop to meet demands, the government called on America’s children to collect Milkweed pods wherever they were growing wild.
The pods needed to be collected before they cracked open to ensure the floss remained inside. Onion sacks were handed out nation wide, with a price of 15 cents paid per bag that was filled with pods (with an additional 5 cents if the pods were pre dried). Two bags of pods contained enough floss for one life jacket. The U.S. military needed enough floss to fill 1.2 million life jackets, which totaled 2 million pounds of floss. – Fascinating, isn’t it? There’s a great article on pantagraph.com if you’d like to read more about it.
Obviously there’s no need for Milkweed pod collection in 2013 (edit – I was mistaken, yes there is!), but I sure had fun pretending I was some sort of Girl Scout on a mission to do my part for our boys overseas.
The green pods may have been more useful, but the dried out broken pods are certainly more fun! They’re pretty magical on a blustery day, actually.
I’ll tell you, I’ll never look at a Milkweed the same way again! It’s funny how you can go around seeing things and not understand their importance, until you do, and then it makes you appreciate the little things. …like weeds.
outfit details: dress – handmade, sweater and apron – vintage, boots – Payless.
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