I have seen milkweed pods my whole life but never knew what they were called until my friend Regina Blan Terry posted a collection of images on Facebook. It seems they're very common sights on her driveway.

Milkweed Pods Galore -- It Must Be Spring

Milkweed Is Toxic, But the Butterflies Will Come Running...I Mean Flying

Sort of resembling the regrettably named puss caterpillars, milkweed plants are toxic, as well, but that shouldn't deter you from planting them, says the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. While the agency does inform us that they can be toxic to animals if they eat enough of them, it also reminds us that they taste terrible and are generally unappealing to our two- and four-legged friends. But, if you don't mind them dotting your personal landscape or the "bad press", your yard can become a favorite destination of monarch butterflies, and here's why. They're soft and downy and make great "beds" for egg-laying. The National Park Service also tells us that monarch CATERPILLARS feed on the seeds. (The caterpillars are unaffected by the toxins.) It seems we might have very few monarch butterflies--if any--without milkweed. And here's how you can plant them:

The Connection Between Milkweed and Life Jackets

Now that you've seen milkweed pods--and more than likely, this isn't the first time you've seen them--and you understand how soft they are, it shouldn't surprise you that they were once used as down for life jackets.

If you were around in 1944, it wasn't uncommon to see government slogans like "Don't let our sailors sink," "Two bags save one life," or "Schoolchildren of America? Help save your fathers', brothers', and neighbors' lives by collecting milkweed pods."

These were all in reference to milkweed pods and were used as rallying cries for kids to get out there and collect them so they could be stuffed into life jackets for our World War II troops. And it only took a couple of 20-pound bags to fill one jacket. I'm pretty sure my grandmother mentioned something about this to me when I was a kid, but I didn't know what she was referring to at the time. I heard lots of cool stories about the war effort from both my parents and the grands.

While the life jacket thing isn't necessary anymore, you can still load up on monarch butterflies. Give the insects what they want and they'll tell their friends.

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