Shattering milkweed pods release floating seeds that turn and fly like aerial gossamer ladies in petticoats. In my milkweed-laden garden, these airborne seeds are the surest sign of late fall. All milkweeds produce the large, plump pods, from the profuse Mexican native Asclepias curassavica, to the pumpkin-orange-flowered Asclepias tuberosa, and white-flowered Asclepias incarnata 'Ice Ballet'. The delicate seedpod show in fall is subtle but pretty. And I know that many of the seeds will find a home and eventually bloom where they are planted. This is especially encouraged with Asclepias tuberosa, a personal favorite and regional native.
Each year I take a few of the seeds and place them strategically where I want them to grow. Once the pods are empty, they continue to provide winter interest, particularly if standing among winter grasses that don't lost their verve after one or two snows. So I leave mine up until they begin to look winter worn.
Dried milkweed pods also bring back Christmas memories. My grandmother used to make milkweed ornaments by gluing cotton clouds along the interiors, adding golden angel figurines then dusting each decorated pod with glitter and spray snow. She must have added the hooks for hanging first. She used the bumpy pods of the common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca), which are quite large and woody when dried.
One easy way to invite native milkweeds into your garden is to go into old fields in fall, find erupting milkweed pods and collect the seeds for garden sprinkling. Shorter statured plants collected from upland fields will likely be Asclepias tuberosa, the orange butterflyweed. The memory of their bright summer color keep me spreading seeds for more next season.