Sunday, December 9, 2012

Swamp Milkweed

Swamp Milkweed, Asclepias incarnata, propagting milkweed
Swamp Milkweed Before Pods Were Mature

  Asclepias incarnata

Cold Moist Storage - 30 days

When I was in the 7th grade, we moved to a 100 acre farm in North Vollney, NY. I sometimes wonder if my dad watched too many episodes of Green Acres, as we had no idea how to farm or manage all that property. One lesson I learned quickly was, look as busy as possible before someone found something for you to do. Consequently, we spent many hours "bombing" each other with milkweed pods.

I am embarrassed to admit, that I never considered that these fun little seed pods, when broken open sending fuzzy helicopters helter-skelter played a significant role in the life of numerous insects most notably the Monarch Butterfly. For us they were sheer entertainment.

Many years later, I find myself propagating and raising several varieties of milkweed plants. What is exciting is, after three years I now have plenty of my own seeds.

Swamp milkweed, propagating swamp milkweed, native plants
Stratification  Preparation 

Stratification is a fancy way of saying, seeds won't sprout unless winter like conditions are "forced upon" them.

Luckily I didn't need to unlock each plant's code, William Cullian's Book,  A Guide to Growing and Propagating Native Flowers of North America does a great job explaining this, as does the seed catalog for Prairie Moon Nursery.

1. After harvesting my seeds in the fall, I allowed them to dry out in the garage in open paper bag.

2.  Today was step two, pick out sticks leaves old seed pods. I am not concerned about removing the downy, as these seeds are strictly for my own use. Once they have been cleaned, seeds are stored back in the paper bag in the unheated garage until they are needed for the final step.

3. Collecting supplies is the next step - clean plastic zip lock bag, 1/2 cup of vermiculite. I like to label my plastic bags now as a way to stay organized.

Swamp Milkweed, Asclepias incarnata, propagating swamp milkweed

4. The last step is what counts - breaking dormancy, that is creating an environment that "duplicates" winter condition ie, my refrigerator. A few years ago I tried spreading seeds in the garden, but the success rate was relatively low. The other reason, I do it this way it's fun having control over seedlings and watching them grow. Sounds like a mother hen.

Swamp Milkweed
Fall 2012

I won't add the water to the zip lock bag, until 30 days before I plan on planting.  Usually, I get excited and put them in the refrigerator early, shooting for a February 14th planting date. I bet you can guess what size they are by April.

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