Seed Collecting & Processing

The Bring Back the Monarch Campaign starts with seeds, and we need your help collecting them! Please consider collecting and donating milkweed seeds to Monarch Watch.

Please note: We can only accept and use seed from wild populations of milkweed. Collect from purchased milkweeds only if their origins can be traced to a local wild population.

Guidelines for Collection
Labels
Precautions

GUIDELINES FOR COLLECTION

What to collect: From wild populations of milkweed species native to your region (see BONAP: Asclepias). Do not collect seeds from rare or endangered milkweeds.

When to collect: Ripe pods split at the seam upon touch and the seeds should be brown or “browning up.” Do not collect pods in which the seeds are white, cream colored, or pale. Pods throughout one site will become ripe at varying times. Collect only ripe pods.

How to collect: Be sure to obtain permission before collecting on private property or federal, state or county properties.

Be safe. Wear bright clothes near roads. Do not collect along busy highways. Wear gloves. See Precautions below.

Collect in a breathable container, such as onion bags. Wet pods can mold very quickly.

Ideally, seeds should be separated from pods and floss immediately after collection while still moist (see this short video for simple instructions) or the pods can be laid out to dry and the seeds separated later. There are many methods available on the internet for separating dry pods.

How much? Collect as much as you can, but don’t collect all of the pods in a location. They won’t all be ripe, anyway. Many pounds of milkweed seeds are needed annually. Two to four onion bags of pods will yield about one pound of seeds. Quantities less than one ounce of processed seed are only needed for less common species.

Genetic diversity: Incorporate as much diversity as you can into your sampling of pods. You can do this by collecting pods from more than one site.

A. syriaca (common milkweed) forms genetically identical clones through underground rhizomes. To obtain a fair representation of the genetic diversity of this species, the pods should be collected from a number of clones scattered over several sites.

LABELS

To ensure that the seeds you collect are used in your region, we need the following information on each seed collection:

• Your contact info: name, address and email.
• The date, county, and state of the collection.
• The species collected.
• Your Ecoregion. Not sure of ecoregion? Look it up on our Milkweed Region and Seed Needs page.

Notes on the size of the milkweed population, e.g. large, medium, small, one or many sites, etc., would also be helpful.

LABEL a separate, sealed container, such as a re-sealable plastic bag, for the seeds of each milkweed species. Make sure the seeds are completely dry before sealing.

If you do not process the seeds before shipping, please contain the dried pods so that they will remain in the container when opened and floss will not fly about our offices.

Mail seeds to:

Monarch Watch
The University of Kansas
2021 Constant Ave
Lawrence, KS 66047

PRECAUTIONS

Milkweed Sap
Milkweed sap can damage your eyes. The initial irritation is a bit painful followed by a cloudiness of the cornea, which can take a week to clear up. You don’t want this to happen to you or anyone who works with you.

Wear gloves while collecting milkweed pods and avoid contacting your face, or region of the eyes, with the gloves. Wash your hands carefully after handling milkweed pods. If milkweed sap gets into your eyes or that of a fellow collector, seek medical attention immediately.

If you know you have an allergy to latex, be sure to protect your skin and eyes from the sap.

Milkweed Bugs
Milkweed bugs use their beak or rostrum to pierce and feed on milkweed seeds rendering them inviable. The damage is often difficult to see.

Do not collect open pods with numerous milkweed bugs on the seeds or pods. Avoid introducing milkweed bugs into the bags in which you are placing pods.

After you have made your collection, spread out the pods and remove any milkweeds bugs you find on the pods or seeds. The pods can then be re-bagged in the onion bags and hung up to dry.

Inspect the bags from time to time to be sure that no milkweed bugs have been missed during your inspections.

Large Milkweed Bug
Large milkweed bug (Oncopeltus fasciatus) adult and two juveniles. Photo by Greg Hume. These bugs are seed feeders and destroy milkweed seeds. Avoid collecting and storing these insects with seeds or seed pods.

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