BEST MILKWEED TO PLANT FOR MASSACHUSETTS GARDENS, MEADOWS, FIELDS, AND DUNE RESTORATION

Friends often ask, and I cover this topic extensively in my Monarch programs, “What is the best milkweed to plant in our region?” Without a doubt, the two most important and productive are Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) and Marsh Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata).

Marsh Milkweed also goes by the name Swamp Milkweed, but Marsh sounds so much more appealing, don’t you think? Milkweeds already have the suffix weed attached to their names. To some folks, any wildflower that includes the word weed seems invasive, and we don’t want to frighten people from planting our sweet native wildflowers by inferring they are a swamp dweller, too.

Gallery of Marsh Milkweed

When a weed is not a weed  – It’s unfortunate that so many of our native beauties end in “weed.” Ironweed, Joe-pye Weed, Sneezeweed, Thimbleweed, Butterfly Weed, and Milkweed are just some examples. Why were these native wildflowers at one time long ago named “weed.” Because the earliest colonists brought from their home countries flowering plants that were beloved and familiar to them, delphiniums and larkspurs, for example. In their new American home gardens, these treasured European plants would have been easily overtaken by our more vigorous American wildflowers.

To return to the topic of milkweed, Common Milkweed spreads both underground and by seed. It’s ideal for dunes, meadows, and fields. Marsh Milkweed is more clump forming and stays relatively close to where you plant it. You can control how much it spreads by deadheading, or not, before the seed heads turn to fluff and sail away. I grow both Marsh Milkweed and Common Milkweed side-by-side. In our garden, the female Monarch does not discern the difference between the two species of milkweeds, she will flit from one to the other, and back again, depositing her eggs all along the way.

Gallery of Common Milkweed

By the way, both A. syriaca and A. incarnata are also the easiest milkweeds to grow in Massachusetts.

A ten-year nation-wide study was recently published. Across the country, Marsh and Common proved to be the most productive, in other words, more eggs were laid on these two species than on any other species of milkweed.

The map provided below is somewhat helpful; I write somewhat with a word of advice. If you click on Massachusetts, for example, not only are Common and Marsh Milkweeds listed but also Purple Milkweed (A. pupurascens), Fourleaf Milkweed (A. quadrifolia), Butterfly Weed (A. tuberosa), Poke Milkweed (A. exaltata), Whorled Milkweed (A. verticillata), and Clasping Milkweed (A. amplexicaulis). We grow a nice patch of Whorled Milkweed and I have never, ever seen a Monarch once visit the foliage or flowers. Purple Milkweed can be very challenging to get started, and Butterfly Weed is not as hardy in our region as are Common and Marsh.

Milkweeds are the only food plant for Monarch caterpillars and also provide nectar to a host of pollinators including many, many species of butterflies, bees, beetles, and even hummingbirds. Plant for the pollinators and they will come.


This is an image from my recent adventure to Cerro Pelon. I am dying to write about the trip, but have had a very full schedule finishing up my film, organizing landscape jobs for the season, and hoping to get the PiPls settled in. The Monarchs in the photo are mud-puddling. Tens of thousands leave the butterfly trees during the heat of the day, sucking up water and much needed nutrients from the mud at nearby mountain streams

THANK YOU COURTNEY RICHARDSON AND THE CAPE ANN MUSEUM KIDS!

We had a super fun morning at the Cape Ann Museum Kids program. Courtney Richardson and her helpers Sarah and Nick set up a long table in the auditorium where the caterpillars, art supplies, plants, and pods were arranged. The kids were wonderfully curious, as were the adults. Many thanks to Jan Crandall for supplying the caterpillars. Thank you to Courtney and to the Museum for the opportunity to share about Cape Ann Monarchs!

 

MONARCH MADNESS!

Four Monarchs eclosing and nineteen caterpillars becoming chrysalises, all in a day! And we have a new batch of caterpillars, just in time for my program tomorrow morning at the Cape Ann Museum. I hope to see you there!

Many thanks to my friend Jan Crandall for the caterpillars. She has a gorgeous butterfly garden and this morning there were dozens and dozens of caterpillars on her Common Milkweed plants.

Velvet wings drying in the morning sun.

Monarch Conference

CATERPILLAR CONDO

Caterpillar Condo

Several readers have written to ask how do I manage to have so many Monarch Butterfly caterpillars and chrysalises. The answer is very simple–because we have planted a wonderful little milkweed patch! We grow both Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) and Marsh Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) side-by-side. Our milkweed patch is planted near our kitchen. When washing the dishes, I can look out the window and watch all the pollinators and fabulous activity that takes place at the milkweed patch.

Several weeks ago, a Mama Monarch arrived and I watched as she gently floated from leaf to leaf, and bud to bud, ovipositing one golden egg at a time. She went back and forth between the Common and Marsh, depositing eggs on both the tender upper foliage as well as the more sturdy lower leaves. I waited for her to leave, but not too long (because the eggs are quickly eaten by spiders) and collected the sprigs with the eggs. I thought I had scooped up about eight eggs and you can imagine our surprise when 19 caterpillars hatched, all within the same day! Female Monarchs like to deposit eggs around the tiny buds of Marsh Milkweed and many of the eggs were hidden within the buds.

Here’s a video of a Mama depositing eggs on Marsh Milkweed buds. Charlotte was with me that day and we were dancing to the song “There She Goes” as the butterfly was depositing her eggs and it was too perfect not to include in the video clip.

Our garden is postage stamp size, but I have managed to fill it with a wide variety of songbird, butterfly, bee, and hummingbird attractants. The great majority of plants are North American native wildflowers and shrubs, and we also include a few nectar-rich, non-native, but non-invasive, flowering plants. Plant, and they will come 🙂

I am super excited to give my children’s program at the Cape Ann Museum on Saturday morning. The program is free and open to the public. I hope to see you there!

CRAZY WITH CATERPILLARS!!!

Dear Kim,
When I was gardening this evening I discovered that there were monarch caterpillars all over our butterfly weed- so many that we stopped counting at 35! Not sure if you are interested in caterpillar sightings in Gloucester as well as monarchs themselves, but thought we would share this info (and photo) with you.
Kelsey McNiff and family

A FLOOD OF MONARCH SIGHTINGS, SOME SHARING THE BEST THEY’VE SEEN IN YEARS!!!

GMG Reader Leigh writes,
I just took this pict today (Tuesday July 17) and then saw your post tonight about sharing monarch picts. Spotted this one in my backyard in Rockport— on a zinnia, but near the swamp milkweed.
I enjoy your blog!
 Pamela shares a recent sighting of a Baltimore Checkerspot at Appleton Farm.

Sharon M saw one at Wingaersheek, Catherine M at Niles Pond, M.J. in her Gloucester garden and one in Lanesville, Aurelia Nelson is seeing tons at her milkweed patch in Beverly, Beverly M saw one at Riverdale, Whitney C in East Gloucester, Peggy A at Old Garden Beach Rockport, Lisa W at Magnolia Avenue, Ellen A Beverly, Betty L Pasture Road Rockport, Nancy L at her milkweed field in Salem, and Patti Papows adds that hers are coming daily to her milkweed patch not by the ones and twos, but by the threes and fours! 

Today at my presentation in Beverly Farms, the North Shore Garden Club ladies report seeing tons in their gardens, and today I saw them in my garden, and while checking on the Piping Plovers, they were in the dunes at Good Harbor and on the beach at Revere. If this warm weather continues, 2108 could prove to be a promising year for the Monarchs. Please keep your Monarch (and other butterflies, too) sightings coming. Thank you! And feel free to email us photos of sightings: kimsmithdesigns@hotmail.com

PLEASE SHARE YOUR MONARCH SIGHTINGS!

My friends Lauren from Manchester, Patti P from East Gloucester, Eric from Rockport, Cheryl from West Gloucester, and DB from Essex have all reported seeing Monarch butterflies and caterpillars in their gardens. Please keep your Monarch sightings coming (and any other beautiful butterfly or moth you may see)!

Patti shares photos from her garden –

Monarch and Eastern Tiger Swallowtail – Patti Papows ever expanding patch of Common Milkweed attracts a bevy of pollinators.

Eric Hutchins shares a photo of a Monarch on his Common Milkweed, grown from seeds he purchased at our milkweed seed sale a few years back.

COMMUNITY MILKWEED SEED POD PROJECT FOR THE POLLINATORS SUNDAY OCTOBER 15TH AT THE DOCK!

MILKWEED SEED COLLECTION AND DISTRIBUTION PROJECT SUNDAY OCTOBER 15TH

Collect ripe milkweed seed pods (only Common Milkweed and Marsh Milkweed please). Place in a paper bag, not plastic, as plastic can cause the seed pods to become damp and moldy.

Bring seedpods to Captain Joe and Sons on Sunday morning between 10:30 and noon. Captain Joes is located at 95 East Main Street, East Gloucester.

If you’d like to distribute seeds, meet at the dock between 10:30 and noon and I will show you what to do.

NOTE: It is easy to tell when milkweed seedpods are ripe. The seeds inside turn brown. Do not collect the pods when the seeds are white or green. If you pick them too soon, they will never be viable. You can check the seed pods by slitting the pod a tiny bit and peeking inside.

Any questions, please comment in the comment section or email me at kimsmithdesigns@hotmail.com. Thank you and I hope to see you Sunday morning!

WE HAVE SOME JOE-PYE SEEDS TO GIVE AWAY, TOO!!!

We are excited to share that in addition to milkweed pods, I have seeds of an especially gorgeous, and fabulous pollinator-attracting variant of Joe-Pye to share at our Milkweed Seed Pod Distribution event. 

 

To learn more about how you can help fund the documentary Beauty on the Wing and the Monarch Butterfly Film Online Fundraising event, please visit the film’s website at monarchbutterflyfilm.com.

SUPER FUN COMMUNITY MILKWEED SEED POD PROJECT FOR THE POLLINATORS!

Monarchs Mating in a Milkweed Patch, Good Harbor Beach Dunes

Recently, Good Morning Gloucester reader John Steiger gave me a large bag filled with ripe milkweed seed pods collected from his garden. I had a total blast throwing the seed pods around on my early morning walk, tossing alongside the road where ever I thought milkweed might have a chance to take hold (which is easy as milkweed even takes root in sidewalk cracks).

I’d like to do more of this and Joe had the great idea to ask folks to make it a community project as we did several years ago with the milkweed and New England aster seeds and plant sales. He has again very generously offered the dock on Sunday morning after the podcast, between 10:30 and noon. If you have ripe milkweed seed pods in your garden, please bring them Sunday morning. Anyone who wants to distribute the seeds, stop by the dock and we’ll arm you with seed pods. I’ll also be collecting Joe-pye, goldenrod, and aster seeds later this fall when these wildflowers go to seed. If we get more folks dropping off bags of pods than wanting to distribute, that will be okay. I know tons more places that need milkweed and I will be happy to do the distributing. These are areas that probably at one time had milkweed and other wildflowers growing there, but they have been mowed over or taken over by bittersweet and phragmites. As people are learning more about the importance of wildflowers and pollinators, I am hoping the wildflowers will have a better chance of becoming reestablished.

Female Monarch Depositing Eggs on the Undersides of Milkweed Leaves

MILKWEED SEED COLLECTION AND DISTRIBUTION PROJECT SUNDAY OCTOBER 15TH

Collect ripe milkweed seed pods (only Common Milkweed and Marsh Milkweed please). Place in a paper bag, not plastic, as plastic can cause the seed pods to become damp.

Bring seedpods to Captain Joe and Sons on Sunday morning between 10:30 and noon. Captain Joes is located at 95 East Main Street, East Gloucester.

If you’d like to distribute seeds, meet at the dock between 10:30 and noon and I will show you what to do.

NOTE: It is easy to tell when milkweed seedpods are ripe. The seeds inside turn brown. Do not collect the pods when the seeds are white or green. If you pick them too soon, they will never be viable. You can check the seed pods by slitting the pod a tiny bit and peeking inside.

Any questions, please comment in the comment section or email me at kimsmithdesigns@hotmail.com. Thank you and I hope to see you Sunday morning!

Milkweed is not only the Monarch caterpillar’s food plant, the florets are a very important source of nectar for myriad species of pollinators.

To learn more about how you can help fund the documentary Beauty on the Wing and the Monarch Butterfly Film Online Fundraising, please visit the film’s website at monarchbutterflyfilm.com.

 

#POLLINATORHERO

Bees and butterflies, as we all know, pollinate flowers, but did you know that bats, songbirds, hummingbirds, wasps, beetles, moths, flies, midges, and even nasty mosquitoes also deliver pollen from plant to plant?

Flower pollinating Green-eyed Wasp drinking nectar from Common Milkweed florets.

The eyes of the male Green-eyed Wasp are larger than the females, all the better to see her, and predators. Green-eyed Wasps are also known as sand wasps because females excavate burrowing nests in sand (as well as soil).

Male Monarch Butterfly flitting about our garden and drinking nectar from the Marsh Milkweed florets. Notice the mass of orange Milkweed Aphids in the background. Lady Beetles are another pollinator super hero because they help milkweed plants by eating aphids.

MONARCHS HERE, THERE, AND EVERYWHERE PART TWO AND PLEASE CONTINUE TO REPORT YOUR MONARCH SIGHTINGS

The title of the post could just as easily have read Monarchs, Eggs, and Caterpillars Here, There, and Everywhere. I haven’t seen this much Monarch activity on Cape Ann in over ten years and hope so much the number of Monarchs seen in gardens, meadows, and dunes indicates a strong migration.

Thank you to everyone who has written in with your Monarch sightings! The reports are tremendously informative and fun to read, so please, do continue to let us know. The rainy cool weather has temporarily put the kibosh on mating and egg laying, but they are here on our shores and just waiting for a few warm hours and the sun to come out to renew breeding activity.

Monarchs not only drink nectar from the florets of milkweed, it is the only species of plant on which they deposit their eggs. In the above photo you can clearly see the Monarch probing for nectar with her proboscis, or drinking straw. 

Look for the butterflies, eggs, and caterpillars wherever milkweed grows. In our region, they are most often found on pink flowering Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) and Marsh Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata), as opposed to the orange milkweeds, A. curassavica and A. tuberosa.

Female Monarch depositing an egg on an upper leaf of Common Milkweed.

The eggs are typically laid on the underside of the leaf, near the top of the plant. Tiny golden domes, no larger than a pinhead, Monarch eggs are easily confused with the eggs of other insects.

Once the tiny caterpillar emerges, it will stay towards the top of the plant, venturing further to larger leaves as it grows.

Four Monarchs in One Photo!

I was trying to take a snapshot of two Monarchs flying but not until I returned home did I realize that resting on a leaf were a pair of Monarchs mating. Lara Lepionka had just sent a photo the day before of a pair mating in a tree above her garden. Typically Monarchs will begin mating on the ground, or the foliage of a lower plant plant such as squash or milkweed. They will join together abdomen to abdomen and, once securely attached, the male then carries the female to a safer location. A male and female Monarch will stay coupled together for four to five hours before releasing (see photo below of a pair of Monarchs mating, towards center left. 

Lara Lepionka cell phone photo of Monarchs mating in a tree.Monarch and Common Milkweed Good Harbor Beach

Not everyone has a gorgeous milkweed patch like Patti Papows. Don’t despair. You don’t have to go far! I am finding tons of eggs and caterpillars on the Common Milkweed that grows around the edge of the parking lot at Good Harbor Beach.

Patti Papows Common Milkweed with Monarch and Bee

 

MONARCH BUTTERFLY PRESENTATION TONIGHT IN SALEM

Learn about the life history, decline of, current status, and how the use of GMO Roundup Ready crops are killing Monarchs and pollinators. Learn how you can help the Monarchs breed in Massachusetts during the summer months and on their annual migration to Mexico in the fall. Lecture and slide presentation at the Salem Garden Club. For more information, email kimsmithdesigns@hotmail.com

Female Monarch depositing egg on Milkweed foliage and buds.

DOWN THE GARDEN PATH

monarch-new-england-aster-coneflower-copyright-kim-smithThe New England Asters and Quilled Coneflowers blooming in our garden during the months of September and October were planted to provide sustenance for migrating Monarchs. Although both are native wildflowers, the bees and butterflies visiting gardens at this time of year are much more interested in nectaring at the New England Asters.

Plant the following four native beauties and I guarantee, the pollinators will come!

New England Aster (Aster novae-angliae)

Seaside Goldenrod (Solidago sempervirens)

Marsh Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata)

Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca)

monarch-butterfly-depositing-egg-milkweed-copyright-kim-smithFemale Monarch curling her abdomen to the underside and depositing eggs on Marsh Milkweed foliage.

HELLO MAMA MONARCH!

Plant and they will come!

Female Monarch depositing eggs -1 copyright Kim Smith

Alighting on the buds of our Marsh Milkweed plants, you can see in these photos that the female Monarch is curling her abdomen to the underside to deposit eggs. She will go from bud to bud and leaf to leaf ovipositing one egg at a time. A female, on average, deposits 700 eggs during her lifetime, fewer in hot, dry weather.Female Monarch depositing eggs copyright Kim Smith

Female Monarch Butterfly and Marsh Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata)

Butterflies do not “lay” eggs; we say oviposit or deposit. And you wouldn’t describe a caterpillar as hatched, but that it has emerged or eclosed.

Grow Marsh Milkweed and Common Milkweed and you most definitely will have female Monarchs calling your garden home!Female Monarch depositing eggs -2 copyright Kim SmithIn the above photo you can see how she is contorting her abdomen to correctly position the eggs

KIM SMITH POLLINATOR GARDEN PROGRAM FOR THE NORTH SHORE HORTICULTURAL SOCIETY TONIGHT

I am looking forward to presenting my “Pollinator Garden” program tonight at 7:30 for the North Shore Horticultural Society. The program begins at 7:30 at the American Legion Hall, 14 Church Street, Manchester (behind Town Hall). I hope to see you there!male-female-monarch-butterfly-marsh-milkweed-2-c2a9kim-smith-2012-copy

Male and Female Monarch Butterly Marsh Milkweed

“Following the rhythm of the seasons, celebrated landscape designer Kim Smith presents a stunning slide show and lecture demonstrating how to create a welcoming haven for bees, birds, butterflies, and other wildlife. Native plants and examples of organic and architectural features will be discussed based on their value to particular vertebrates and invertebrates.”

MONARCH BUTTERFLY HELP NEEDED!

Butterfly Days are Here!

Monarch Butterfly Female -2 ©Kim Smith 2015Female Monarch Butterfly Necating at Red Clover, Waring Field, Rockport

I am looking for Monarch eggs and will travel! Monarch eggs are found on the upper leaves of milkweed plants. The eggs are tiny and dome-shaped, only as large as a pinhead, and are a pale golden yellow color.

Monarch Butterfly Egg ©Kim Smith 2015

Monarch Butterfly Egg

Waring Field supports myriad species of pollinators and is simply a fantastic place to explore. Although I didn’t find any eggs on my search on the leaves at the Common Milkweed patch at Waring this morning, I did see four adult Monarchs, three male and one female, along with fritillaries, a Common Ringlet, a bevy of Pearly Cresentspots, Blue Azures, and Yellow Sulphurs. The Monarchs, Ringlet, and Sulphurs were nectaring at the great field of Red Clover and the Pearl Crescents at the milkweed.

Pearl Crescent  Butterfly Female Milkweed ©Kim Smith 2015

Female Pearl Crescent Nectaring at Marsh Milkweed

Common Ringlet Butterfly Waring Field Rockport ©Kim Smith 2015Common Ringlet

Monarch Butterfly Female -3 ©Kim Smith 2015Newly Emerged Female Monarch Butterfly

Please email me at kimsmithdesigns@hotmail.com or leave a comment in the comment section if you have Monarch eggs you’d like to share. Thank you!

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Emerging from the woods onto the sunny lower field, I startled a small herd of White-tailed Deer foraging. If you click on the photo to enlarge, you can see the male deer antlers are covered in velvet. Antlers are true bone structures and are an extension of the skull. The velvet provides blood flow that supplies nutrients and oxygen.

Waring Field Deer ©Kim Smith 2015

White-tailed Deer

My Pollinator Garden Talk and Short Films Screening at the Hamilton Wenham Public Library

Male Luna Moth ©Kim Smith 2013Male Luna Moth and Phlox davidii

Please join me on Wednesday evening, April 29th, at 7pm at the Hamilton Wenham Public Library where I will be giving my Pollinator Garden program and screening several short films. This event is free and open to the public. I hope to see you there!

Catbird eating  dogwood fruits ©Kim Smith 2014Catbird and Dogwood Fruits

Monarch Butterfly depositing egg ©Kim Smith 2012Female Monarch Butterfly Depositing Egg on Milkweed 

I am currently booking programs for 2016-2017 and would be delighted to present to your club, library, school, and private or public event. See thePrograms Page of my website and feel free to contact me at kimsmithdesigns@hotmail.com with any questions.

©Kim Smith 2014Willowdale Estate Topsfield

Community Call for HELP with the HarborWalk Gardens and a Photography Workshop Offer You Won’t Want to Miss!!

Okay so I’m in a bit of a bind, perhaps of my own making, but a bind nevertheless. Two years ago there was a formal nationwide public call for art for the HarborWalk. My grand idea was to purchase a projector and audio equipment for outdoor screenings and show films on an inflatable screen at I4-C2, along with creating a film for our community. I was a semi-finalist. I am happy to see the benefits to the community stemming from the success of movie nights and appreciate very much the time and energy that has gone into making this vision a reality.

The dilemma is that the gardens surrounding I4-C2 are not at all looking their best and invasive weed species are beginning to take over, as they have already claimed the adjacent plots of land. I’d like the gardens to shine and to be a place of pride for the City. They could look so, so much better than they do in their current condition. The butterfly gardens are a low-maintenance garden however they do need some maintenance. Having a public native plants garden in our community is a wonderful asset and provides tremendous educational opportunities. My hope is to eventually donate programs but we have to solve the garden’s maintenance crisis first and foremost. We don’t have an outside crew to take care of the gardens this year and the DPW I have learned has far too many other more important responsibilities. The group that was planning to help water realized that they had taken on too much and will not be helping this summer.

As a result, we are having a meeting (not weeding) of “Friends of the HarborWalk”  this Sunday morning, July 27, at 9:00am, under the shade tree in front of the Gloucester House Restaurant, near the Schooner Lannon office. We are going to brainstorm about ways to fund basic needs for the gardens, for example, annually purchasing and applying compost/mulch to cut down on the weeding responsibilities. I am hoping businesses in the area that are benefiting directly or indirectly from movie night will also come and contribute their ideas, suggestions, and manpower.

And here is the deal. For the first ten people that sign up to become contributing members of the Friends of the HarborWalk, either through the comment section or by emailing me at kimsmithdesigns@hotmail.com, I am giving a close-up photography workshop. We’ll hold the workshop in the garden and it will be identical to the one that I give at the Arnold Arboretum.

Bring your own coffee Sunday morning and we will provide the homemade doughnuts!

White milkweed asclepias incarnata Ice Ballet skippers ©Kim Smith 2014JPG

Blooming Today at the HarborWalk Butterfly Garden ~ Asclepias incarnata ‘Ice Ballet,’ or white milkweed, with skippers nectaring. There are over 140 different species of milkweed worldwide; 108 of these are found in North America.

Thank You to Everyone Who Participated in This Year’s Cape Ann Milkweed Project!!!

Monarch Butterflies Pink New England Aster ©Kim Smith 2012Monarch Butterflies Nectaring at Pink New Enlgand Aster, Gloucester

Thank you so much to our most awesome community for participating in the Cape Ann Monarch Milkweed and Aster Project. Today was a huge and wonderful success and we were non-stop with folks dropping in to pick up their seeds and learn more about how they can help the Monarchs. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!

And my most heartfelt thanks to Joey. He nudged me into doing the sale again this year by inquiring just about a month ago if we were planning a repeat of last year’s plant sale. Joey’s hospitality and interest in everyone who stops by makes Captain Joe’s a wonderfully fun place to have a community event!

Note to anyone who could not pick up their seeds or who was planning to have them sent via a self-addressed stamped envelope: You will recieve an email with information on where to send the check and order amount total. Thanks again to everyone!

Monarch Butterfly fur ©Kim Smith 2012Fun fact about butterflies: Butterflies do not grow fur. The fur-like structures that you see on butterflies are many single cells conjoined to form one long string.

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In case you misplace the instructions on how to prepare your milkweed seeds for spring planting ~

How to Vernalize Milkweed Seeds for Spring Planting

Seeds of most temperate plants need to be vernalized—in other words, exposed to cold temperatures. The best way to vernalize is by stratification, which means subjecting seeds to a cold and moist environment for a short period of time. By stratifying, the seed’s natural break of dormancy that occurs when the seed spends the winter in the ground is simulated.

#1 Method of Stratifying Milkweed

Open the bag of seeds and place them between very slightly moistened paper towels in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. After vernalizing for 3-6 weeks, the seeds can be planted out in the garden in warm 70º soil.

#2 Method of Stratifying Milkweed

Place ¼ cup of sand mixed with ¼ tsp. of water in a plastic bag. Add the seeds and mix again. Store in plastic bag in the refrigerator. After vernalizing for 3-6 weeks, the seeds can be planted out in the garden in warm 70º soil.

Prepare the planting bed in a sunny location. Scatter seeds, or plant in rows, and cover with no more than ¼ inch of soil.

For natural vernalization, sow collected seeds directly into a prepared bed in the fall and the seed will germinate the following spring.

Monarch Caterpillars Common Milkweed ©Kim Smith 2012Monarch Butterfly Caterpillars Munching on Milkweed

Cape Ann Milkweed Project Seed Pickup and Information Day Sunday, May 18th, from 9:30 to Noon

Our milkweed and New England aster seed pickup day is Sunday, May 18th, from 9:30 to noon, at Captain Joe and Sons. Come on down to pick up your seeds and learn the best way to plant asters and milkweeds. We’ll have coffee and doughnuts, too! Captain Joe’s is located at 95 East Main Street and you can find directions posted on their website here.

Thanks so much to Joey for hosting the event at the dock. I am looking forward to saying hello to everyone!

Monarch butterfly explosion ©Kim Smith 2014Millions of milkweeds and nectar-rich wildflowers, such as New England Asters and Seaside Goldenrod, insures millions of Monarchs arrive to Mexico!