Milkweed seeds no longer viable?

SammyG(7)August 24, 2012

I have a lot of different milkweed plants (common milkweed, swamp milkweed, and butterfly weed) and all with seed pods. I also have large milkweed bugs on all of the milkweeds, but I left them- thinking they were only harmful to aphids or monarch caterpillars (and I collect the caterpillars and eggs and raise them in an enclosure).

I didn't realize that they eat the milkweed seeds... so are all of my seedpods now unusable? One of the swamp milkweed pods did open, and there are seeds in there that look normal. But since the milkweed bugs have been around, is it safe to assume that these seeds won't grow?

I'd like to save as much seed as I can, just trying to figure out if what I have is already a lost cause. How do I tell?

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imabirdnut

I have been able to harvest plenty of both red & yellow tropical seeds but had decided to hand kill the MW bugs because they were sapping the life out of the pods I saw them on. I would think if the seeds look normal...they would be OK! The ones that are tiny &/or faded looking probably aren't! I think the aphids don't hurt the seeds but the milkweed bugs do! I hate doing it...squishing them even with gloves on...but that is the only way I can figure out how to kill them without killing or harming the queen & monarch cats & eggs!
Maybe someone more experienced can give you better advice! I haven't had seeds on my common, swamp, or showy MWs!
Take care,
Lila

    Bookmark   August 25, 2012 at 10:42AM
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terrene(5b MA)

I would not assume that all pods are bad, unless you had a terrible infestation of milkweed bugs. Otherwise, you are likely to have some good pods and seeds.

The milkweed seed should look smooth, and somewhat plump and firm in the middle. One way that I check the viability of larger seeds is to use some very sharp scissors, or a blade and cut a seed in half. There should be a small white looking embryo or germ inside - from where the root and cotyledon emerge. If there's no seed embryo, then the seed is not viable.

Milkweed seems to attract so many assorted insects, most of which are "banished" from my plants. This is because they either prey on the Monarch larvae or they degrade the foliage quality of the plants. I admit I am more or less merciless with all other bugs besides Monarchs and they get the big squish (even some I like, oh dear).

    Bookmark   August 25, 2012 at 7:29PM
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SammyG(7)

Thank you so much! A bunch of seed pods are starting to open, and I'd love to harvest and donate/give away the seeds to others who want to plant milkweed. I will test some of the seeds now.

Thanks again for your expertise! :)

    Bookmark   August 30, 2012 at 4:48PM
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