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Help Collect Milkweed for Monarchs

Monarchs are easily recognized by most for their bright orange wings and fascinating migration pattern. Each year it takes at least 4 generations of monarchs to travel from Canada to Mexico in the fall and back to Canada in the spring. Along the way each generation must lay eggs, grow into caterpillars, form a cocoon with pupa, and leave the cocoon as a butterfly. During that lifecycle, milkweed is the only plant that Monarch caterpillars will feed on.

The Ohio Division of Wildlife and other partners formed the Ohio Pollinator Habitat Initiative (OPHI) to educate the public about the disappearance of pollinators and their habitat. Last year OPHI organized a massive statewide milkweed seed collection, collecting over 2,500 gallons of pods. With the help of a prison horticultural program, most of the seeds collected are being grown into plugs for planting in key areas statewide to assist Monarchs.

OPHI and Ohio’s Soil & Water Conservation Districts are partnering together again in the Annual Milkweed Pod Collection going on from September 1, 2017 through October 30, 2017. Here at Cuyahoga Soil & Water, we will have a collection bin outside the office for Common Milkweed pod drop off. We are located at 3311 Perkins Ave, Suite 100 Cleveland Ohio 44114. We are in the office from 8am to 4:30 pm, but will have a drop off bin available after hours along the west side of the building by the garage door off E. 33rd.

Pod Collecting Instructions:

Make sure you pick the right plant! Common Milkweed can look like Hemp Dogbane and Swamp Milkweed but is easily distinguished using these key characteristics:

  • Common Milkweed has a single stem
  • Common Milkweed leaves grow opposite of each other and are broadly ovate to elliptical with plenty of hair on the bottom
  • Common Milkweed flowers are round pink/white clusters that bloom from May to August
  • Common Milkweed seed pods are tear-shaped with a warty surface and are gold/gray to brown when ripe
  • Common Milkweed grows in sandy or rocky soils along roadways, open fields, prairies, forest margins and waste areas

Collect seed pods from a Common Milkweed plant when they are dry, gray, or brown in color, but before they break open.

Place your picked pods in a paper bag, avoid using plastic bags as they tend to collect and hold moisture.

Mark your bags with the county they were picked in, as well as the date and time.

Store your seeds in a dry cool area until you are available to drop them off.

Once the pods have been collected they will be processed by OPHI partners and all the seeds will be used to establish new milkweed plants and create additional habitats for the Monarch Butterfly here in Ohio.

Questions? Contact Amy Roskilly, 216-524-6580, ext. 1005.

Blog author: Elizabeth Hiser, Natural Resources Coordinator

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