Spring 2018 Newsletter
AMAH MUTSUN ETHNOBOTANY
By Sara French, AMLT Research Associate
Mutsun Name: siska
English Name: Indian milkweed
Botanical Name: Asclepias eriocarpa
Indian milkweed is a perennial plant that grows up to three feet tall, with thick, fuzzy leaves, and large clusters of characteristic milkweed flowers with reflexed flower petals. It grows in the chaparral and oak woodlands, preferring sunny, dry sites. Like other milkweeds, Indian milkweed is a critical host plant for monarch butterflies, providing food to the caterpillars. It also benefits many bee species. Planting native milkweeds is a wonderful way to support these beautiful and important native bees and butterflies.
The Amah Mutsun appreciate siska not only for its benefit to the animal kin, but for its powers as a medicinal plant. Various preparations of the plant were used by the ancestors of the Amah Mutsun as a remedy for colds or asthma, and as a treatment for corns. Other California Indian tribes used milkweed for fiber. Stem fiber was made into twine and cordage which was then used to make sacks, nets, slings, and clothing.
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