Have you been growing milkweed in an effort to save monarch butterflies? Or do you know where common milkweed is growing in the wild?
It’s almost time to harvest the seedpods.
The Summit Soil & Water Conservation District is encouraging local residents to participate in the Ohio Pollinator Habitat Initiative’s milkweed pod collection, which runs through Nov. 1.
The Ohio State University Extension office has set up an outdoor collection bin for milkweed pods at its Summit County office at the Akron Urban League at 440 Vernon Odom Blvd. The green bin is located outside Door 19.
But don’t clip those pods until they’re ready (and dry).
Milkweed is the only host plant for monarchs. After the butterflies lay their eggs on it, the caterpillars hatch and feed on the leaves.
The leaves also help protect monarchs from predators. Natural chemicals in the plant make the caterpillars taste yucky to many of its enemies.
The more milkweed, the more monarchs. The more seeds, the more milkweed.
The Ohio Pollinator Habitat Initiative, which is made up of nearly 80 Ohio agencies, nonprofit groups and businesses, is on a mission to improve and create pollinator habitat in Ohio and to raise awareness about the importance of pollinators.
So why are they important? It’s only the planet that’s at stake.
Pollinators are responsible for about one-third of the world’s food supply, according to the state group. They move pollen from plant to plant, resulting in pollination, which is necessary to bear fruit.
Meanwhile, bee and butterfly populations have plummeted over the past decade because of a loss of habitat. Milkweed plants can help turn that around.
Before you clip those pods, the Ohio Pollinator Habitat Initiative offers some important advice. Find the right plant and don’t collect seeds too early.
People should become familiar with the common milkweed to avoid harvesting pods from similar plants such as swamp milkweed and hemp dogbane. The collection is only for common milkweed.
It is best to check the pods when they are dry, gray or brown. September is the time to locate milkweed plants to keep an eye on the pods while they ripen.
Here are other tips from the initiative:
• Find areas where there are a good amount of milkweed plants with harvestable pods.
• Keep tabs on those areas to check on the pods throughout September.
• Once the pods start to look more brown or gray, they are likely ready to be harvested.
• If the center seam pops with gentle pressure, the pod can be harvested.
• Leave a couple of pods per plant to ensure natural regeneration occurs.
• Use paper bags or cardboard boxes and wear gloves while harvesting pods.
• Store the pods in paper bags. Plastic bags collect unwanted moisture.
• Keep the pods in a cool, dry area until they can be delivered to a collection site.
• Write the date and county collected on the bags when you turn them in.
For more information, email OhioPollinator@gmail.com, visit http://www.ophi.info or call 614-620-9830 during business hours. Contact the Summit County office of the OSU Extension at https://extension.osu.edu/summit-county-office or 330-928-4769.
By Mark J. Price
Akron Beacon Journal