Polarized Light Microscopy Digital Image Gallery

Milkweed Fibers

The fiber of milkweeds, which is often described as floss or silk, is stored in seedpods, which naturally dry and crack open in the autumn, releasing the seeds into the wind for dispersal. Composed of tiny cellulose tubes filled with air, the fibers are unusually buoyant and were utilized during World War II to fill life jackets when kapok fiber became scarce. After the war, milkweed fiber usage tapered off, but over the last twenty years several companies have begun to reexamine the possibilities offered by the soft, lustrous material. Some of these businesses have begun producing comforters and pillows filled with milkweed floss rather than down, while others have explored the materialís ability to recover crude oil from seawater.


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