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Sunday, July 21, 2024 at 12:45 PM

Edith on Milkweed -- not a weed

Edith on Milkweed -- not a weed
by Edith Isidoro-Mills --  Milkweeds by now have become famous for how important they are for the life cycle of Monarch Butterflies. Some garden centers and nurseries even sell them as perennials to put in your perennial beds.  However, it may come up naturally on some properties around Churchill County.  Unlike some weeds, this weed can be beneficial by attracting pollinators and predator insect. You just might want to rethink whether Milkweed is a weed. Milkweed, Asclepias sp., gets its common name for the milky sap exuded from broken stems or leaves.  There are a number of species of milkweed but the one native to Nevada and growing all around Churchill County is Asclepias speciosa or Showy Milkweed.  The milkweed species sold in the garden centers and nurseries is usually some selection or hybrid of Asclepias tuberosa, Asclepias incarnata, or Asclepias siriaca. All species of milkweed mentioned in this column, are native to North America but only Asclepias speciosa and Asclepias incarnata are native to Nevada.  The species you see growing wild here in Churchill County is Aslepias speciosa.  All of these species attract monarch butterflies.  Better yet, they also attract many pollinators and beneficial insects that feed on pest insects. Many farmers and ranchers treat milkweed as an unwanted plant and spray it but unless they are worried about their livestock grazing it, they might want to keep some of this weed around.  It can be toxic to livestock but animals usually leave it alone if they have an abundance of other forage.  Farmers who rely on pollinators to produce a marketable crop or reduce their insecticide bills can benefit from milkweed attracting beneficial insects to their fields.  The fact that farming in much of the United States has gone back to being fencerow to fencerow is part of why many of our native pollinator are endanger of extinction.  Home gardeners can help save these pollinators and reduce the need for insecticide in their environment by planting native flowers like milkweed in their yards.  Here in Churchill County, you might get lucky and have some native milkweed come up naturally. If it comes up naturally, most likely that means you don't have to water it or do much of anything to keep it alive and looking nice.  Try leaving them where they come up originally because they have a very long taproot that doesn't transplant well.  Milkweeds don't always choose to come up where you want them but if they do come up in a flower bed or an abandoned area of your property, leave them there to attract beneficial insects.  If you enjoy watching butterflies and hummingbirds, having milkweed pop up in your flowerbeds can be an added bonus because they definitely attract butterflies and hummingbirds. Milkweed grows to about three feet in height and can take over a flowerbed if not managed.  To manage it, clip out or pull out the ones that are not growing where you want them.  Don't worry about over watering or under watering them since they do grow under a wide range of moisture conditions.  After seed is set move the seed heads to a location where you won't mind if more milkweed grows (preferably around the perimeter of your property since they can get tall. Here are to two websites you can visit to find out more about milkweed and monarch butterflies; https://monarchjointventure.org/get-involved/create-habitat-for-monarchs and https://www.saveourmonarchs.org/why-milkweed.html .  The latter has a good YouTube video telling about the different milkweeds native to the United States and the conditions under which they grow.     Sign up to receive updates and the Friday File email notices. Support local, independent news – contribute to The Fallon Post, your non-profit (501c3) online news source for all things Fallon.