any of several plants that secrete a milky juice or latex, especially those of the genus Asclepias, as A. syriaca. Compare milkweed family.
any of various other plants having a milky juice, as certain spurges.

1590–1600; milk + weed1 Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
milkweed (ˈmɪlkˌwiːd)
1.  See also asclepias Also called: silkweed any plant of the mostly North American genus Asclepias, having milky sap and pointed pods that split open to release tufted seeds: family Asclepiadaceae
2.  any of various other plants having milky sap
3.  orange milkweed another name for butterfly weed
4.  another name for monarch

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
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Word Origin & History

1598, from milk (n.) + weed; used in ref. to various plants whose juice resembles milk.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Example sentences
She discovered that monarch butterflies absorbed toxins from milkweed in order
  to use them, as the plant did, for defence.
Several species of milkweed, including red and common, grow in the state where
  the plants appeal to butterflies.
Prairies also are present, with species such as cliff goldenrod, woolly
  milkweed and butterfly weed.
He describes planting milkweed in a tiny city courtyard about the size of a
  living room one spring.
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