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Rare Milkweed seeds collected at the Demonstration Gardens

Posted 5/18/2015

Bags to catch Asclepias subulata seeds on plant

Bags to catch Asclepias subulata seeds. Photos courtesy of Anne Marie Lardeau.

Native desert Asclepias subulata encourage Monarch butterfly migration

The Monarch Watch Organization was “over the moon” with excitement when University of Nevada Cooperative Extension Master Gardener Anne Marie Lardeau sent them one cup of rare, desert native Milkweed seeds. Last year, Lardeau spoke via email to the Monarch Watch Organization and found out that they did not have the rare, desert Milkweed on their list. Lardeau told them that Cooperative Extension had such plants.

Lardeau began the collection process a year ago at the Lifelong Learning Center’s Demonstration Gardens. Monarch butterflies deposit their eggs on the Asclepias subulata as they migrate from west to east and vice-versa. The caterpillars feed on the plants.

“It certainly was a long, involved process,” explained Lardeau. “The spring crop failed due to high winds that released all of the seeds into the air.” During the second harvest, Lardeau used panty hose she cut into thirds and tied at the ends and placed over the pods to capture the seeds. When the pods were ready to release the seeds, they were deposited into the mesh from the hose.

Bags to catch Asclepias subulata seeds on plant

Checking bags - Collecting seeds - Placing new bags as needed. Photos courtesy of Anne Marie Lardeau.

“The 10 Milkweed plants created about two ounces of seeds, equivalent to one cup,” Lardeau added. These were the first donation and the first desert Milkweed seeds the Monarch Watch Organization received from Nevada.

Besides the Milkweed plants, Cooperative Extension’s Demonstration Gardens host close to 1,000 different plants—from native desert plants to fruit trees to vegetables.

“I try to collect seeds from other native desert plants, mostly flowers, at the Gardens,” explained Lardeau.

“The flower seeds are then donated to Nellis Air Force Base’s Environmental Grove; the City of Henderson Parks Department; the Las Vegas and Pittman Washes; and two local elementary schools for their school garden project.

Cup of Asclepias subulata Seeds

Cup of Asclepias subulata Seeds. Photos courtesy of Anne Marie Lardeau.

Lardeau graduated from the Southern Nevada Master Gardener training program in 2012. Her passion to beautify the barren washes in the area led her to seed harvesting. She has conducted extensive research to find out what seeds in the Demonstration Gardens have value and what organizations might be interested in seed donations.

The Master Gardener program teaches sustainable desert gardening practices, including proper plant selection and care, disease and pest management and water-efficient gardening. To become a Master Gardener, an individual must complete 80 hours of horticultural instruction and volunteer 50 hours on community projects each year. The Master Gardener title can only be used when performing volunteer work on behalf of the University.

Master Gardeners are volunteers who teach, assist and work with community partners on projects across the Las Vegas valley. Projects are on-going at Acacia Park, the Springs Preserve, Doolittle and Lieburn Senior Center Community Gardens, the Research Center and Demonstration Orchard and Nellis AFB Environmental Grove. Additional program information is available on the Master Gardener Facebook page.

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