Lupinus perennis production field

Milkweed Seed Harvest

Nov 03, 2015

Fall is officially here and we have a few moments to breathe between seed harvesting. Milkweed (Asclepias spp.) seed continues to be in high demand for native pollinator habitat conservation. We have focused on collecting as much seed as we can to support this important initiative.

Common Milkweed pods drying before cleaning
Common Milkweed pods lying out to dry before cleaning.

Common Milkweed – Asclepias syriaca. Like Rodney Dangerfield, common milkweed doesn’t get enough respect. It is the primary host plant of the Monarch butterfly larvae and the leaves and foliage provide food for many other insects. While the flowers aren’t as showy as other Asclepias species, they have an intensely sweet fragrance. Currently, we have over 300 lbs of pods drying and awaiting cleaning.

Butterfly Milkweed –
Asclepias tuberosa. The showiest of all milkweeds, butterfly milkweed attracts plenty of other pollinators, such as bees and flies. It is also one of the very few native species in the Midwest with an orange flower. As of now, we have about 160 pounds of pods (field weight) collected and drying.

Swamp milkweed - Asclepias incarnata. As the name suggests, the swamp milkweed grows well in wet and saturated soils. Like all other milkweeds, it provides food for many insects. It isn’t uncommon to seed a few hummingbirds visiting our swamp milkweed production field to sip at the nectar produced by the large, pink flowers. We have about 250 lbs of bulk seed which will be run through the cleaning machines today.

We have collected small quantities of seed for other Asclepias species, such as A. exaltata, A. hirtella, A. purpurescens, etc, but will not have in large enough quantities to test and resell. We will clean these quantities by hand and sow for plant production next spring.

To learn more about milkweeds, you can visit our featured species page. If you want to know more about harvesting or growing milkweeds, the Xerces Society also has a guide for milkweed conservation here. If you are not in the Midwest, the National Wildlife Foundation has listings of native milkweed species for other areas of the United States located here.