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The sky-blue aster (Symphyotrichum oolentangiense) is starting in full bloom now. I love how they look like a cloud of blue flowers just standing there, so I’ve been a little permissive about leaving volunteer seedlings in the past. They’re all over the place now, so I’ll have to be merciless in clearing them out. After blooming, that is. The local birds don’t seem to be interested in the seeds, so it’s no loss to the wildlife if they don’t set seed (I think). The American goldfinches (Spinus tristis), on the other hand, love the giant blue hyssop (Agastache foeniculum) seeds. Those seeds are tiny, like a grain of fine sand, so it baffles me that they think it’s worth the effort of picking them out.

Speaking of seeds, I’ve got a nice bagful of swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) seeds collected, and will soon collect from the butterfly milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa). The Mississauga Master Gardeners take part in seed drives in spring, and the seeds have to come from somewhere. I particularly like convincing people to grow swamp milkweed, because even though it’s pink, it’s very adaptable and hardy and smells unbelievably good (think nasal orgasm). I don’t find the butterfly milkweed as impressive, and despite the name the butterflies always seem to prefer the swamp milkweed.

Also, like all milkweeds it’s a host plant for the Monarch butterfly caterpillar (Danaus plexippus). The Canadian government, in its infinite wisdom and incredibly well-considered policies, declared the (also native) common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) a noxious weed. I have yet to find a clear and legal definition for “noxious weed”. Regardless, the loss of milkweed populations both here and further south is accompanied by a commensurate decrease in Monarch populations in this region.

There’s no point to that little rant aside from the content of the rant itself. Milkweed seeds have a little downy parachute attached to let them float in the wind, and of course it was a breezy day when I collected and cleaned them. By the end of it I looked as though I’d been plucking chickens.

The moss trick seems to have worked. It took all season, but there’s definitely more new growth in the test areas than anywhere else. Next experiment: try it out again now, in autumn, and see what the result is in spring.

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