During WW. II, school kids were taken out into the fields to pick mature milkweed pods. The fluffy inside fibers were used to fill life vests. No styrofoam back then, and imported cork hard to come by. For the war effort, used cooking fat/grease was also collected, and other recyclables right down to tinfoil from chewing gum and candy bars.
Haven’t seen any milkweed for years. Remember though how sticky the white juice was. I think there are stands of it in Pismo Beach where the Monarchs gather into huge pods every year. Did a story on it twenty years ago.