The Common Milkweed, a native plant in Wisconsin, has rough textured pods that contain thousands of seeds attached to strands of silky down. As the pods split in autumn, the seeds open like tiny parachutes and travel on wind currents to a new site to seed.
This silky stuff has been used creatively throughout the years. Settlers in the 1700s and early 1800s used the fluff to fill their pillows and mattresses. In the 1860s, thread from the down was made into socks and purses. During World War II, schoolchildren collected milkweed pods and the pods were sent to central processing locations. The down was used to fill life preservers and to line the uniforms of the United States Air Force. Milkweed down is extremely bouyant and a few pounds of this spinnery stuff can keep a 150 pound person afloat in water.