Tag Archives: Milkweed

The Prairie Ecologist Photo of the Week – January 17, 2013

Ok, I know milkweed seeds have been done to death by photographers. I, personally, have somewhere around a zillion milkweed seed photos. But milkweed seeds in the winter? With hoar frost? And a snowy background? That’s just magic. How can I not photograph that?

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Frosty milkweed seeds and pods. The Leadership Center Prairie. Aurora, Nebraska.

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By Chris Helzer from The Prairie Ecologist Website

To Purchase All Your Native Wildflowers & Prairie Plants Visit Us At Our Website Native Wildflowers & Seeds from Ion Exchange, Inc.

 

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Earthyman Responds to a Customers Question on Advice on Planting Butterfly Milkweed : Asclepias Tuberosa Seeds

Question:  Hi.  I recently received 6 packets from you of Butterfly milkweed.  Could you provide some advice on planting?  I have a small flower garden ( full sun,) as well as 15 acres of various prairie plants and grasses. Began as all  switchgrass but I am slowly planting more and more grasses and forbs. Thanks.  Stan

Butterfly Milkweed

Response: Stan, you may start the seeds indoors after you have moist stratified them. Place the seeds in a zip lock back mixed with moist vermiculite. Leave them in a refrigerator for 30 days. Remove and plant in open flats or small pots with sterile soil medium at a depth of 1/8th to 1/4th inch. They must receive considerable light and warmth to adequately develop. Once they have started to form the white root, they can be transplanted to your garden or field. Keep the competition down from weeds and other plants. They prefer well drained to excessively drained soils in full sun. They do well in rocky poor soils with maximum exposure to the sun and wind. If you want to do a dormant seeding, you may spread the seed now or anytime the ground is exposed. Make sure your seeds are not on frozen ground as they may wash away. Wait until the ground thaws and spread your seed but only lightly cover with a sprinkling of soil or compost no deeper than 1/8 to 1/4 inch. Nature can then freeze and thaw offering the best stratification. Once plants are mature, you must be very careful when you attempt to transplant as the roots are very massive and at least 90% of the roots should be dug with plant and immediately transplanted. You should start seeing blooms the second year and thereafter the plants will grow much stronger and have many blooms in the following years. If your plants, for some reason die or disappear the following year after planting, they are probably in a poorly adaptable site for this species.

Thanks,

Howard aka “Earthyman”

To Purchase Butterfly Milkweed Visit our Website at Ion Exchange, Inc.

Helping You Create Your Own Natural Beauty

Howard Bright
800-291-2143
1878 Old Mission Drive
Harpers Ferry, IA 52146

Ion Exchange, Inc Website

[IOWA-INSECTS] Monarch butterfly research story

Here in SE MN I noticed the same lack of Monarchs in mid-summer. We also had robust milkweeds with very few larvae. I heard from (entomologically oriented) folks in NE MN that in June they saw far more Monarchs than usual, but with their relatively low population of milkweeds the Monarch seemed to overload the larval food plant. Then in August the flight of Monarchs here in SE MN was the lowest I have every seen.

Joel Dunnette

 

On Tue, Nov 6, 2012 at 8:21 PM, Bruce And Georgeann <crazcoot@evertek.net> wrote:
I have been following this topic and want to ask about another angle of the past summer’s Monarch slump -at least it was in Nw Iowa.

The Monarch Butterflies, were a real concern here this year. We had quite good numbers showing up in early spring – in fact the dates were record early arrivals for us. And I witnessed egg laying in the pasture…even photographed eggs as they were so obvious. But the thing that really puzzled and concerned me was we had no egg hatches and no caterpillars all summer! I have never, in my life, “Not” seen a Caterpillar all spring, summer or fall!!!???!!! Why after finding eggs, I could later not find larva?

Then the summer was “scant” as far as Monarchs were concerned. Nearly none, just a handful all summer. This should not have been the case here, we had the largest crop of Asclepias (milkweeds) that I’ve ever seen here…we had A. tuberosa(Butterfly Milkweed) in record numbers…they were stunning all over the county…even the area farmers were asking me what that “orange plant” is showing up everywhere! We had way more A. syriaca (Common Milkweed) than I care to see here – the neighborhood is coated with seed parachutes from our pasture…not a real “good neighbor” relations maker with the local farmers. We also had a good share (but down slightly from past years) of A. verticillata (Whorled Milkweed) and a small compliment of A. incarnata (Swamp Milkweed) in the ditches out front.

I witnessed a lone Monarch laying eggs on some Common Milkweed outside the studio windows in late August and tried keeping an eye on them – they were gone after just 3 days!? I don’t know of “egg” eaters in the insect world but maybe something is going on? I know of parasitic wasps in caterpillars – but saw NO CATERPILLARS all summer (as I said before). I haven’t the foggiest idea what is going on?

This fall we had virtually no Monarch roosts here – we usually have 150-500 individuals roost here each fall. 13 was our high number in a roost this fall…”6″ was the other high day…”high” used very sarcastically…

Some folks following this have raised issue with the drought hurting the mid section of the continent’s Monarch survival…I’m sure that has some bearing. They also have raised issue with GMO crops. But it does nothing to explain a local phenomenon like we’ve been experiencing here…eggs laid but no hatching, no larva…with an abundance of food source for larva and adult stages. We do not spray insecticides here on the acreage, but I have no knowledge of GMO crops or spraying issues in the surrounding area, so I can’t speak to that.

Am I imagining things or is there anyone else raising these kinds of observations or concerns? …Bruce Morrison, SE O’Brien County

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Plant Of The Week Asclepias Syriaca | Silkweed From Ion Exchange, Inc.

Product Description:
Silkweed (Asclepias Syriaca) – Becoming rarer (especially north of Iowa) in moist to wet prairies throughout most of the Tallgrass region, Prairie Milkweed can reach heights up to 3 1/2 feet. Similar to and often confused with the more common “Common Milkweed”, the flowers are a deep reddish-pink and occur in clusters of up to 40 near the top of the plant. Blooms from June through mid-August. Asclepias, from the Greek God of healing and medicine. Syriaca is from the Latin word for “of Syrian origin”.

The Milkweed Family has a long history of medicinal use. Asclepias incarnata was also cultivated for food uses, so it has been a valuable plant of the tallgrass biome for thousands of years. Some tribes added the flowers and bulbs to soups, some used the flowers stewed and served almost like preserves, immature pods were often cooked with buffalo meat and still others used the immature flower clusters and fruits as a cooked vegetable.

There are more than 25 species of milkweed found across the US with a dozen alone in the Tallgrass Biome. It is this species, Silkweed or Common Milkweed that enjoys the most popularity with edible plant enthusiasts.

Medicinally, the ground root of this species was used to induce temporary sterility, tea made from the root was used to “expel internal parasites” and the ground seeds were used in a poultice to draw the poison from a rattlesnake bite.

During WWII, the sap of the milkweed family plants were used experimentally to provide a rubber substitute. The silk produced by the seed pods was also used as a substitute for kapok in flotation devices for many years.

Edible Uses: Unknown

Medicinal Uses:
The root is anodyne, diaphoretic, diuretic, emetic, expectorant and purgative. It has been used in the treatment of asthma, kidney stones, venereal disease etc. Caution is advised, see the notes above on toxicity. An infusion of the pounded roots has been used by the women of some native North American Indian tribes to promote temporary sterility. The leaves and/or the latex are used in folk remedies for treating cancer and tumours. The milky latex from the stems and leaves is used in the treatment of warts. The latex needs to be applied at least daily over a period of up to a few weeks to be effective. The stems can be cooked and applied as a poultice on rheumatic joints. One reported Mohawk antifertility concoction contained milkweed and jack-in-the-pulpit, both considered contraceptive. Dried and pulverized, a fistful of milkweed and three Arisaema rhizomes were infused in a pint of water for 20 minutes. The infusion was drunk, a cupful an hour, to induce temporary sterility. The rhizome is used in homeopathy as an antioedemic and emmenagogue in the treatment of dropsy and dysmenorrhoea.

Other Uses:
A good quality fibre is obtained from the inner bark of the stems. It is long and quite strong, but brittle. It can be used in making twine, cloth, paper etc. The fibre is of poor quality in wet seasons. It is easily harvested in late autumn after the plant has died down by simply pulling the fibres off the dried stems. It is estimated that yields of 1,356 kilos per hectare could be obtained from wild plants. The seed floss is used to stuff pillows etc or is mixed with other fibres to make cloth. It is a Kapok substitute, used in Life Jackets or as a stuffing material. Very water repellent, it can yield up to 550 kilos per hectare. The floss absorbs oil whilst repelling water and so has also been used to mop up oil spills at sea. Candlewicks can be made from the seed floss. In cultivation, only 1 – 3% of the flowers produce mature pods. It is estimated that yields of 1,368 kilos per hectare could be obtained from wild plants. Rubber can be made from latex contained in the leaves and the stems. It is found mainly in the leaves and is destroyed by frost. Yields of 197 kilos per hectare can be expected from wild plants, it is estimated that by selection these yields could be increased to 897 kilos. Yields are higher on dry soils. The latex can also be used as a glue for fixing precious stones into necklaces, earrings etc. The latex contains 0.1 – 1.5% caoutchouc, 16 – 17% dry matter, and 1.23% ash. It also contains the digitalis-like mixture of a- and b-asclepiadin, the antitumor b-sitosterol, and a- and b-amyrin and its acetate, dextrose and wax. Pods contain an oil and a wax which are of potential importance. The seed contains up to 20% of an edible semi-drying oil. It is also used in making liquid soap.

Herbal Uses: Unknown

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My Little Prairie Article

After a thunderstorm and lots of rain last night, I walked out to our 1-mile labyrinth through our 20-year-old prairie.  I noticed the mist rising through the thick morning air and smelled the freshness of the ground and air.  Dew dripped from the Big Bluestem.  Showy Tick-trefoil was seen drooping its purple head now standing 4 feet high towering over the already bloomed Golden Alexanders.

               

 

Still the Ohio Spiderwort sends out a spectacular 3 petaled blue flower saying goodbye once again to its blooming season.

The Yellow Coneflowers reach skyward with blooms in the green buds ready to burst into their summer yellow suits supporting their cone heads.  

               Mad Dog Skullcap sported its pink and white blooms and stood at attention just below the ever-growing Indian Grass.  

 

 

 

 

 

Cup Plant had reached the overflow mark as its’ cupped leaves held at least 4 ozs. of water after the rain.  It continues its upward growth trying to once again outdo itself having reached over 7 feet in height last year.

A closer look revealed a Cream Gentian trying to get attention but alas all it could show were its waxy leaves waiting for another month to bloom and show off its pale yellow color.  Of course the Butterfly Milkweed needs no search to find as it shows forth its psychedelic orange heads stealing all the attention to itself.

The prairie hides many treasures just waiting to surprise the passerby with its individual personality made up of a hundred species of native flowers and grasses forming a living community adapted to the seasons of time.  A virtual kaleidoscope of dazzling colors turning off and on as the seasons roll by, is there to just enjoy.  Each species alone can be cherished but we sometimes forget that they all joined hands at one time making one of the largest living communities in the world sweeping from Texas to Canada.

Listen closely and you can still hear the pounding hooves of the Buffalo.

Earthyman

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