Please Don’t Weed the Milkweed

Common Milweed Asclepias syriaca ©Kim Smith 2014Once established, native Common Milkweed grows vigorously and rambunctiously, making itself known even in the thinnest of sidewalk cracks. Here’s a patch growing along East Main Street. I think it beautiful! What do you think?

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If you caught Tom Ashbrook’s On Point broadcast on NPR this morning you heard Doctor Lincoln Brower, Karen Oberhausser, and Rick Mikula, three of the world’s leading butterfly experts, speaking about the disappearance of the Monarch and the main reason why–most notably because of the sterilization of the American landscape through the use Monsanto’s Roundup and GMO corn and soybean crops. The episode is airing again tonight at 8pm.

The following is a list of a few suggestions on ways in which we can all help turn the tide:

Plant milkweed and wildflowers. Teach members of your family and friends what milkweed looks like and why we don’t want to weed it out of the garden. The above patch of milkweed is growing next to a shop on East Main Street. About a month ago, I went into the store and, very, very politely inquired as to whether or not they knew that the plant growing outside their doorway was a terrific patch of milkweed. They had no idea. I explained what the benefits were to the Monarchs and have since noticed that the milkweed patch is still growing beautifully!

Ban GMO crops. Genetically modified seeds have been altered to withstand megadoses of Roundup. Millions and millions of tons of herbicides are poured onto Roundup Ready fields of crops, preventing any other plant that has not been genetically altered from growing (in other words, wildflowers). The application of Monsanto’s deadly destructive herbicide Roundup is creating vast sterilized agricultural wastelands, which will, over time, only need heavier and heavier does of their lethal chemicals to continue to be viable.

Don’t apply herbicides and pesticides in your own gardens.

Create wildflower corridors in backyards and highways.

Reduce salt wherever possible (and where it wouldn’t cause harm to human life). Large amounts of road salt, as was needed during this past snowiest of winters, is detrimental to wildlife habitats.


  • I rip it up whenever possible!. Nothing but a nuisance.


  • Thanks for helping make people more aware of how this one plant is so important in nature.


    • You are welcome sagamorgan. We all make choices and hopefully, when we are made aware of the importance of a plant or animal species, we think about how we can nurture rather than destroy.


  • I wish I had gotten some seeds from you in the Spring. I want to help next year. Are you doing the seed distribution again, and can they be planted in the Fall, or do I have to wait until the Spring?


    • Hi Nancy,

      Yes I will be doing the seed distribution next year, however, you can collect ripened milkweed seeds this fall.

      For fall planting, lightly scratch the soil where you want your milkweed patch to grow, scatter the seeds over the patch and toss a handful of soil over the seeds to just barely cover. I’ll write a post with more details come this fall when the seed pods are ripening.


      • Thank you!


      • Hi Kim, I was just going to ask when is the best time to pick the seed pods off of milkweed. The plants I bought didn’t make it. but we had them growing like crazy naturally in our yard.


        • Hi Paul,

          The seeds are ready to pick from the point when the pod begins to split open.

          A conservation note for everyone interested in collecting seeds: a good rule of thumb is to collect no more than one fourth of the pods. This insures that the milkweed patch will continue to flourish.


  • is it ok to dig up some small plants to give away to those who want to grow it in their own yards?


    • Hi katy d,

      Yes it is okay if the plants are in your yard. If they are growing in the wild, then I don’t really recommend that because I think of “what if everybody did” with wildflowers.

      Milkweeds don’t often transplant well as they have a taproot. Even young plants. After transplanting, water deeply and often until you see the plant perk up.


  • I Remember the mother earth news from way back and that’s what pops (70’s) is into this as well – In environmental education, habitat restoration, Holistic Resource Management in both grassland and rangeland improvements as well as studying the impact of development and loss of agriculture on the health of soils and how to restore their biological activity and vitality!

    Every day is a new beginning. Treat it that way. Stay away from what might have been, and look at what can be.” – Marsha Petrie Sue

    Thanks 🙂 Dave & Kim 🙂

    Tidbit here:

    John Shuttleworth, who co-founded MOTHER EARTH NEWS with his first wife, Jane, in 1970, died earlier this year at his home in Evergreen, Colo. He was 71. John was preceded in death by his second wife, Wren Davenport Shuttleworth. John and Jane Shuttleworth started MOTHER EARTH NEWS in 1970.

    John Shuttleworth, Co-founder of Mother Earth News, 1937 …


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