Milkweed | Seeds Harvested

Milkweed plants are disappearing according to Monarch Watch and other sources. The Monarch butterflies rely upon them for survival. I decided to gather a few seed pods so I can plant some in my backyard and along a trail near my house. I cruised around some places on my bike looking for patches of milkweed that had extra pods I could harvest and bring home. I only took seven and left the rest for nature. I placed them on the deck for a month to dry out. That worked well. They split open and revealed their many seeds with attached coma.

01plate

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Each pod had dozens of healthy brown seeds. The challenge was to remove them without getting coma fuzzies all over the place. The garage seemed the best place to do that job.

02closer

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I grasped each pod firmly by the end opposite the seeds. That is where the coma tails were bundled. Then, I ran a small stick along the seeds to make them fall onto this plate. Almost all of them came loose so I could set aside the pod and detached coma fuzzies without any trouble. One source I read said to put the contents of the pod into a paper bag and shake it vigorously. Cut a small hole in the corner and dump out the seeds. The fuzzies remain in the bag. I never tried that. Here is my crop of seeds for the spring.

Seeds

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They are now stored in a paper bag in the refrigerator until April. At that time, I will vernalize them. They get exposed to very cold temperatures for several weeks before planting them in May when ground temperatures are above 70˚. Vernalization increases the germination rate. I will layer them between moist paper towels and put them into a freezer for several weeks.

More on this story in April and May.

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22 thoughts on “Milkweed | Seeds Harvested

  1. Debra

    Those pods look like a cross between a sea creature and a pine tree. At first glance I thought they were mussels … stuffed with pine cones. haha. That is truly amazing how many seeds are stuffed inside. I tried the paper bag trick with cat tails once. It went about as badly as you can imagine.

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    1. Jim in IA Post author

      They do look some like that. The packing job by nature is really good. The more it dries, the more are exposed out of the pod into the breezes.

      I’m having some funny visions of how the cattails in a bag went. 🙂

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      1. Debra

        I’d like to say there were tears. Nope. I am just not that civilized. One small paper bag released more fluff than I could have imagined. Endless fluff followed by some harsh words. Thankfully I was outside to let the wind take care of the worst of it. =D Lesson learned: beware of internet advice.

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      2. Debra

        I did get some seeds. = I think if I lived in an area with more water my neighbours would have added some words to the wind. I must have done something very wrong though because none of them germinated.

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  2. Alex Autin

    I’ve never seen milkweed growing wild, it could be that I just didn’t notice. I do know several people who have it growing in their yards and butterfly gardens. Definitely a beneficial plant.
    By the way, the images here are beautiful. Great job!

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    1. Jim in IA Post author

      Thank you about the images. As a kid, we walked the bean fields with a hoe in hand to cut out milkweeds and volunteer corn, etc. The milkweeds grew all over. Not so much these days. The herbicides are taking a huge toll on these plants and the Monarch food supply.

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    2. Steve Schwartzman

      There are half a dozen milkweed species growing natively in Austin, and you’re just 80 miles or so down the road, so I expect you have your share too. If you get in touch with the San Antonio chapter of the Native Plant Society of Texas they might be able to point you to some in the wild.

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  3. Jim Wheeler

    Excellent post, Jim. Human specialization has produced the most amazing knowledge of subtleties in nature! Vernalization – who knew? Scarifying! If anything saves our species on this blue marble, it will be specialization.

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    1. Jim in IA Post author

      Good to see you this morning.

      While specialization is valuable and important, it can also be a problem. It limits your options for survival is your world is too narrow.

      Thanks for stopping by. I like that word ‘scarify’. It seems a practice being used more and more these days in the 24/7 OMG news world.

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  4. Steve Gingold

    We have a few plants that we encourage and this year produced one larva. I never saw an adult, but we hope there was a chrysalis somewhere on the property. I should try to harvest some of the pods as you have and see if I can have a larger crop next year. Good luck with yours. They seem to be amenable to most conditions aside from soaking.

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  5. tloallergyfreetomogren

    If you are growing any native milkweeds at your place (or if a school or any organization also) please do Join the Milkweed Highway! It takes a minute or less to get on “the highway.” If you’ve got photos, please do download them, but this isn’t necessary at all. Come join us in our efforts to create a highway of milkweeds, coast to coast. Sign on (it’s free) at: http://www.safegardening.org/highway.html

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