Milkweed Seed Collection

Milkweed Seed Collection

If you have access to native milkweed seeds, here are some tips for seed collection that you can use to share seeds with different conservation organizations or community/neighborhood projects, or to plant yourself and expand habitat for monarchs! 

Guidelines for Seed Collection

  • Know your milkweeds! If you do not know the species, collect for personal use only. Propagation space is the most valuable space in the greenhouse, so mislabeled or mixed seeds can cost nurseries and distributors money. Do not collect seeds of rare or endangered milkweed species.

  • High priority milkweed seeds needed include (Monarch Watch Milkweed Market):

    • Asclepias tuberosa -- butterflyweed

    • A. incarnata -- swamp milkweed

    • A. verticillata -- whorled milkweed

    • A. perennis -- aquatic milkweed

    • A. oenotheroides -- side cluster (W. Texas)

    • A. asperula (W. Texas)

  • Only send native, wild milkweed seeds. Distributors and nurseries want to be able to promise their plants came from a native milkweed population.

  • Collect only ripe pods. Pods are ripe when they open at the seam with light pressure. Ripe seeds will be brown.

  • Check the seeds for viability before putting a lot of work into it. Break a few seeds open. The exterior of the seeds should be brown. If they are distinctly creamy white on the inside (of the seed), they are viable. If they are brown or black and paper thin on the inside, they are not good seeds.

  • 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.

Labeling Your Milkweed Seeds

Labeling the seeds you collect is incredibly important. Be sure to record the species name, collection location, date, and your contact information. It's helpful to bring labels with you to your collection site so you can fill it out while you collect. Wild ones has an excellent resource that includes printable labels. To access this, click here

Seed Separation 

Distributors and nurseries always prefer to receive seed that has been separated from the pods and silk because there's not always time to do it promptly. There are many different ways to do this:

  • To watch a video of how to do this by hand, click here.
  • To watch a video of how to do this with a vacuum and a sifter, click here
  • To watch a video of how to do this with a vacuum and homemade seed separator, click here
  • You can put the silk material and seeds in a paper bag with stones or coins and shake it to separate the silk from the seeds, then cut a small hole in the bottom of the bag to pour the seeds out and keep the rest contained.
  • In a dryer on the cool setting, you can put the silk material and seeds in a closed, cloth bag with a tennis ball.

Seed Storage

Store moist pods or seeds in breathable containers, such as paper bags. For long term storage and dry seeds, use plastic containers. If you are collecting the seeds for yourself, friends or family, store the dry seeds in an airtight container in the refrigerator. They may remain viable for years if you do this! 

Additional Resources