Monday, April 22, 2013

Happy Earth Day: Planting our Milkweed seeds

For Earth day we are sharing our progress in our 'Save the Monarch' Project. For the original post about our plans click on here or on the picture.

This past weekend we planted all our Tropical Milkweed seeds. Thank to the inspiration from Organic Aspirations we planted them all in mini 'greenhouses' made from plastic berry containers. The kids had a fun evening scooping and raking dirt.

Here is our little nursery of 100 Pink Tropical Milkweed seedlings.

We already fully grown plants waiting for the Monarchs because these seeds won't be ready for hungry caterpillars for at least 45 days. We ordered the plants from Educational Science. They arrived very quickly and were nice and strong.
  Even Perry was satisfied with the packaging....
They have a nice sunny spot and are just beginning to flower.

So long as the sunny spring days continue, we should have lots of strong seedlings to feed the caterpillars. There should also be plenty left over to re-pot and give to our neighbors. As Miss K pointed out, by doing this, even if we move before next spring the Monarchs will still be able to visit our neighbors' plants.

We have been reading a lot since we started this project and as we were about to plant the seeds we read something that made us have second thoughts...

In March Texas Butterfly Ranch posted about the efforts of the Native American Seed Company to restore Native milkweed.

'Gardeners and butterfly fans committed in theory to propagating and planting native milkweeds (and I consider myself among them) have been vexed in practice by their persnickety ways.   That’s what often drives us to plant Tropical Milkweed, the nonnative Asclepias curassavica that is easy-to-grow, widely available and the favorite of Monarch butterflies for hosting and other butterflies for nectar. While the practice bothers some scientists and native plant purists, our rationale is that Monarch caterpillars need to eat.   In short, it’s better to provide SOME host plant for migrating Monarchs than NONE as they pass through Texas.' Source

 We decided to check the nearby parks and green belts for Native Milkweed. We have yet to find any. Talking with the locals it seems that a lot of the area has been cleared for new Houses, Apartments and Retail expansion. We felt, like Texas Butterfly ranch, that the Monarchs will need something in in our part of Texas even if (for the present) all we have to offer is the tropical variety.

We are going to spend some weekends a bit further from home looking for Native milkweed to collect seeds from. However it looks like this could be easier said than done....
Persnickety Texas Milkweeds may not lend themselves to Mass Seed Production

We also intend to contact our local council about the issue of Milkweed depletion.

How is the Native Milkweed doing in your area? If you need some help, to identify the native milkweed in your State, the University of Minnesota has some good resources here.