Bottom Right and Top Left: Asclepias viridis (Green Antelopehorn Milkweed) emerging. February 12, 2016
The Great Milkweed Experiment?
No, I'm not talking about the plans for planting milkweed on 100 miles on either side of Interstate 35 from Texas to Minnesota. But if you haven't heard about that plan, you can read more details about it in this article from the Minneapolis Star and Tribune.
A 2012 study by Oberhauser and John Pleasants, a scientist at Iowa State University, showed that half the milkweed in the corn belt disappeared between 1999 and 2010. Milkweed is critical to the Monarch because the milkweed is the only plant on which the Monarch will deposit its eggs and it is the only plant on which the Monarch Larvae feed. Unfortunately for us and the Monarchs, bringing the milkweed back will be a lot harder than it was to destroy it. In order to raise the milkweed population to 255 million in five years, one geological specialist has estimated it will take 500 million milkweed seeds--and we don't have 500 million milkweed seeds. Even it we did, according to this specialist, only one out of one-hundred seeds germinates.
It's the ordinary citizens who will make the difference! Find some milkweed seeds and start growing them yourself!
When experts like that geological specialist tell us that only one seed from a hundred germinates, the part they leave out is that only one seed from a hundred germinates under natural conditions. However, this is not true when the seeds are carefully tended and no, I don't mean with latex gloves and sterile water. I read some literature recently on how to propagate milkweed seed. Oh my word! The "expert" insisted one had to wear latex gloves, use sterile water etc. in order to successfully germinate seeds.
Being a part-time contrarian, I decided to put the "expert" to test. First of all I did not cold-stratify the seeds in my refrigerator for 40 days or even one day. Second of all, I handled the seeds with my bare fingers. And finally, I decided in one of the two (nine, three-inch deep flat containers to use tap water instead of sterile water. I did soak the seeds overnight: one group of nine seeds in tap water and the other group of nine seeds in sterile water.
This morning, 13 days later, I saw the first of my results: Two green antelope horn milkweed have sprouted from the flat with the seeds I soaked in tap water. Already I've beaten the odds set by the expert. Thus far I have two seed sprouted from 18 that I planted. I fully expect more.
I'll keep you posted. In the meantime, here is a great event upcoming for you on Monday February 15 in Garland Texas.
Mark Monday February 15 - 6:30 to 7:30 PM on Your Calendar!
You are invited to attend a special event at the Garland downtown Nicholson Library at 625 Austin Street.
A Master Gardener will present Attracting Native Pollinators with Native Plants.
The presentation begins promptly at 6:30 PM and there will be door prizes of native plants.
What can you do to help the Monarch? Ask Mayor Athas of Garland Texas.