Seeds forum: Cleaning Showy Milkweed Seeds

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Name: Natalie
North Central Idaho (Zone 7a)
Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Daylilies Hummingbirder Frogs and Toads Plant Lover: Loves 'em all! Native Plants and Wildflowers
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Natalie
Aug 27, 2013 12:56 PM CST
I harvested my first pods of showy milkweed seeds recently, and I'm hoping someone here will know of an easy way to remove the "fluff" from the seeds. I've stuck them in a bag and shook them half to death, and that got me nowhere! I'm sure that it wouldn't hurt to leave the fluff on them, but they look nicer with it removed. I've been picking the stuff off by hand, but that is taking forever. Any suggestions would be most appreciated!



Natalie
Name: Karen
Cincinnati, Oh (Zone 6a)
Forum moderator I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Cut Flowers Winter Sowing Charter ATP Member Seed Starter
Echinacea Plant and/or Seed Trader Region: Ohio Region: United States of America Butterflies Hummingbirder
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kqcrna
Aug 27, 2013 7:45 PM CST

Moderator

Then I'd leave it, as Mother Nature has. (spoken by a lazy gardener)

Karen
Name: Rick Corey
Everett WA 98204 (Zone 8a)
Sunset Zone 5. Koppen Csb. Eco 2f
I helped beta test the first seed swap Plant and/or Seed Trader Seed Starter Region: Pacific Northwest Photo Contest Winner: 2014 Vegetable Grower
Avid Green Pages Reviewer Garden Ideas: Master Level Garden Sages I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! I helped plan and beta test the plant database. Charter ATP Member
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RickCorey
Aug 27, 2013 8:06 PM CST
I haven't tried this, but it might be better than one-by-one. Or completely silly. I'm trying for a cotton gin without teeth.

Find something rubbery with a little "tackiness" or high friction, like a hard mouse pad or sink-drainer mat or the no-slip pad in a bathtub. I have some left-over pieces of anti-static matting that would be ideal.

Cut two pieces of the rubbery stuff - one 6" long and 1-2" thin, with one long edge clean and straight.

The other piece needs to have one edge (perhaps a 2" short edge) clean and straight.

Use the 6" piece to hold down some seeds with fluff sticking out past the 6" edge of the rubbery mat.

The tackiness of the mat should help to grip the seeds.
(I assume the seed is thicker than the fluff).

Now use the other piece to pull off the fluff that sticks out:
- match the two straight edges together, small piece on top of the fluff and long piece holding seeds down
- keeping pressure on smaller piece to keep friction on the fluff. drag the smaller piece away and try to pull the fluff with it.
- maybe rapidly "pat-rub, pat-rub" to pluck fluff away from seeds.

Maybe you can just set the 6" piece over a pile of seeds and use the other piece to pull fluff off seeds, or seeds off fluff, depending on what sticks out. Then slide the 6" piece backwards, gradually letting seeds and fluff emerge from under it so you can pull at them with the smaller piece.

Repeat dozens of times, holding many seeds in place with one piece of mat, and then pulling the fluff off with the other piece.

It might have to be on a hard, slippery surface like a china plate so the fluff will slide away.

If you do try it, please let me know if it works! Apologies in advance if it's useless.



Name: Natalie
North Central Idaho (Zone 7a)
Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Daylilies Hummingbirder Frogs and Toads Plant Lover: Loves 'em all! Native Plants and Wildflowers
Cottage Gardener Dog Lover Lover of wildlife (Black bear badge) Region: United States of America Echinacea Xeriscape
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Natalie
Aug 27, 2013 8:43 PM CST
Corey, I figured that you would have a brilliant idea! Not sure if I'm up to playing engineer or not tonight, but I'll see if I can find the necessary items tomorrow and will give it a try. The only problem I see is that I'd have to line up all the seeds, which would take more time than just pulling the fluff off by hand. They are so light that they float when any breeze hits them. We've been playing "catch the fairy" all day! Rolling on the floor laughing

Karen, I'm leaving the fluff on the seeds that I'm keeping for myself, because I am also lazy, but I'm trading seeds with a couple of people, and want to clean them up before sending them to their new homes. I know it won't matter when it comes to planting them, but I want them to look nice. I'm being silly about it, but it's just the way I am.
Natalie
Name: Rick Corey
Everett WA 98204 (Zone 8a)
Sunset Zone 5. Koppen Csb. Eco 2f
I helped beta test the first seed swap Plant and/or Seed Trader Seed Starter Region: Pacific Northwest Photo Contest Winner: 2014 Vegetable Grower
Avid Green Pages Reviewer Garden Ideas: Master Level Garden Sages I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! I helped plan and beta test the plant database. Charter ATP Member
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RickCorey
Aug 28, 2013 10:56 AM CST
Thanks, Natalie, but I think it might have been a wacky idea! And it might work just as well with two fingertips instead of a piece of rubber mat. Or maybe fingertips in rubber gloves.

Say - when the seeds are still in the pod, are they all aligned? maybe you could "pinch them out of the pod" in some way that de-fluffs many of them in one step.

>> The only problem I see is that I'd have to line up all the seeds, which would take more time than just pulling the fluff off by hand.

Probably true. I was thinking that randomly, some fluff would stick out each time you plopped down the 6" piece, and many random repetitions would eventually get them all.

At least you'll be able to separate them by just pouring the mix from bowl to bowl. The clean seeds will drop straight down, and the fluffy ones will fly all over your living room rug.

I know! Let's ask @JonnaSudenius how she cleans seeds with fluffy tails! Her seeds from http://www.seedsite.eu/ are always extremely clean.

Natalie said:
... pods of showy milkweed seeds





Name: Natalie
North Central Idaho (Zone 7a)
Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Daylilies Hummingbirder Frogs and Toads Plant Lover: Loves 'em all! Native Plants and Wildflowers
Cottage Gardener Dog Lover Lover of wildlife (Black bear badge) Region: United States of America Echinacea Xeriscape
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Natalie
Aug 28, 2013 11:31 AM CST
I decided that I didn't have the patience to give this a try right now. It might work, but sounded like more work than I am up to at the moment! I'm just having way too much fun chasing fairies around the house instead! I've vacuumed 10 times today too, and I'm making a dent! Rolling on the floor laughing

The seeds are sort of lined up in the pod, but it is very hard to grab only the fluff when removing them from the pod. I am doing this very carefully, and having a little success. I'm sure with time, I can get the hang of it. Part of the problem is that I had to make an emergency trip out of state, and most of the pods had opened widely when I picked them. Many of the seeds were spilling out and flying away by that time. This is the mess that I had to deal with...


I tried rubbing them between my hands, and that didn't really work. I've tried staring at them, and that doesn't work either. I've learned to hold my breath for a very long time though, so that is a plus! Shaking them in a bag may be the way to go, but I'll end up with a sprained arm before I get enough separated to trade. I did have a little bit of success with that method, but not enough that I really want to try again.

I'm picking the fluff off by hand in the meantime, and I'm really hoping that Jonna will know of a magical way to do this!
Natalie
Name: Rick Corey
Everett WA 98204 (Zone 8a)
Sunset Zone 5. Koppen Csb. Eco 2f
I helped beta test the first seed swap Plant and/or Seed Trader Seed Starter Region: Pacific Northwest Photo Contest Winner: 2014 Vegetable Grower
Avid Green Pages Reviewer Garden Ideas: Master Level Garden Sages I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! I helped plan and beta test the plant database. Charter ATP Member
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RickCorey
Aug 28, 2013 11:50 AM CST
>> Shaking them in a bag may be the way to go, but I'll end up with a sprained arm before I get enough separated to trade

I've never tried to clean fluffy seeds, but I use a version of this a lot with pods and seed heads. I have rigid plastic tubs that used to hold peanut butter or peanuts. The hard sides and good grip let me shake them HARD. (I also use them for seed storage, hence the photo below.) Paper bags drive me crazy because seeds hide in the flaps and crevices.

P.S. While I was briefly serving as a clearing-house for saved seeds to be given away, many people sent bags of fluff with seeds embedded. I always just put a big pinch of fluff into 2"x3" Zip-Locs for sharing.

Then I told myself that the fluffy tails would give people "handles" for sowing each seed individually. I if they planted in rows, the fluff would serve as markers to show the seeds' spacing in the rows.


Thumb of 2013-08-28/RickCorey/5e57b5

Name: Natalie
North Central Idaho (Zone 7a)
Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Daylilies Hummingbirder Frogs and Toads Plant Lover: Loves 'em all! Native Plants and Wildflowers
Cottage Gardener Dog Lover Lover of wildlife (Black bear badge) Region: United States of America Echinacea Xeriscape
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Natalie
Aug 28, 2013 12:01 PM CST
My only worry about leaving the fluff on, when wanting to make sure that the seeds stay put, is that they are naturally meant to fly. I will plant them with the fluff if I can't learn of a super easy way to remove it, but I think these need light to germinate, so I think the fluff needs to be removed, or at least covered, in order for the seeds to stay where you want them. I really don't know what I'm doing though, and may be way off on that! Possibly once the fluff gets wet, it won't matter. I now have 12 1/2 acres of land to work with, but I don't want 12 1/2 acres of milkweed! Right now, I only have one very small patch of the plant, and I'd love to get a rather large patch growing in several areas.
Natalie
Name: Rick Corey
Everett WA 98204 (Zone 8a)
Sunset Zone 5. Koppen Csb. Eco 2f
I helped beta test the first seed swap Plant and/or Seed Trader Seed Starter Region: Pacific Northwest Photo Contest Winner: 2014 Vegetable Grower
Avid Green Pages Reviewer Garden Ideas: Master Level Garden Sages I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! I helped plan and beta test the plant database. Charter ATP Member
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RickCorey
Aug 28, 2013 12:06 PM CST
>> but I think these need light to germinate, so I think the fluff needs to be removed, or at least covered, in order for the seeds to stay where you want them.

That sounds tough!

Name: Tiffany
Opp, AL (Zone 8b)
Houseplants Organic Gardener Composter Region: Gulf Coast Miniature Gardening Native Plants and Wildflowers
Bulbs Foliage Fan Tropicals Butterflies Garden Sages Cactus and Succulents
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purpleinopp
Aug 28, 2013 12:17 PM CST
If I received fluff-less seeds from someone, I'd wonder if that's what they were for sure if they hadn't mentioned the de-fluffing already. (Then I'd need to make sure I labeled them or I'd forget, being unable to recognize them by sight.) Receiving them still busting out of the pod like in your 2nd pic would be great, comforting.
๐Ÿ‘€๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ˜‚ - SMILE! -โ˜บ๐Ÿ˜Žโ˜ปโ˜ฎ๐Ÿ‘ŒโœŒโˆžโ˜ฏ๐Ÿฃ๐Ÿฆ๐Ÿ”๐Ÿ๐Ÿฏ๐Ÿพ
๐Ÿ€๐Ÿ‘’โ˜€๐Ÿ„๐Ÿ๐ŸŒฑ๐ŸŒฟ๐ŸŒด๐ŸŽ„๐Ÿ‘ฃ๐ŸŒต๐ŸŒทโš˜๐ŸŒน๐ŸŒป๐ŸŒฝ๐Ÿก๐Ÿƒ๐Ÿ‚๐ŸŒพ๐ŸŒฟ๐Ÿโฆโง ๐Ÿƒ๐Ÿ๐Ÿ‚๐ŸŒพ๐ŸŒป๐ŸŒบ๐ŸŒธ๐ŸŒผ๐ŸŒน๐ŸŒณ๐ŸŒฒ
โ˜•๐Ÿ‘“ The only way to succeed is to try.
Name: Natalie
North Central Idaho (Zone 7a)
Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Daylilies Hummingbirder Frogs and Toads Plant Lover: Loves 'em all! Native Plants and Wildflowers
Cottage Gardener Dog Lover Lover of wildlife (Black bear badge) Region: United States of America Echinacea Xeriscape
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Natalie
Aug 28, 2013 12:23 PM CST
I've bought lots of seeds over the years, and hate it when someone sends seeds that haven't been cleaned somewhat, unless I know ahead of time. I've made trades where I only received chaff. That is terrible. The two people I'm trading these seeds with have always sent spotless seeds, so I want to do the same in return. To me, you mark on the package what they are, and don't rely on the seed pod for identification. Maybe that is just me being weird though. Some seeds are so tiny that it's impossible to really clean them without special screens, and I've sent messy seeds to people before. But, I'd prefer not to in this trade, if I can help it!
Natalie
Name: Jonna
Belgium, Europe (Zone 6a)
Sedums Winter Sowing Organic Gardener Native Plants and Wildflowers Region: Belgium Region: Europe
I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Seed Starter Plant and/or Seed Trader Salvias Herbs Cut Flowers
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JonnaSudenius
Aug 28, 2013 2:27 PM CST
First of all, I collect the seeds when they are really 'fluffy'. I keep the seeds in a paper bag until they are dried completely ( 1-3 weeks, depending on the region where you live). After that I shake the paper bag and the 'fluff' wil be separated from the seeds. If the 'fluff' is not separated after that, the seed is not ripe, so not viable.
In nature the 'fluff' is needed to spread the seeds, but the 'fluff' wil be separated from the ripe seeds at a certain time. But if you sow seeds in vermiculite you need to have seeds without any chaff.
Name: Natalie
North Central Idaho (Zone 7a)
Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Daylilies Hummingbirder Frogs and Toads Plant Lover: Loves 'em all! Native Plants and Wildflowers
Cottage Gardener Dog Lover Lover of wildlife (Black bear badge) Region: United States of America Echinacea Xeriscape
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Natalie
Aug 28, 2013 7:43 PM CST
Thanks for coming to my rescue Jonna! They are falling off the fluff, but not all of them. Everything is really dry though, so I'm sure they are ready. I didn't pick any pods that weren't open yet, just in case. I'll store them for a bit and see how it goes. I appreciate your help, as always!
Natalie
Name: Jonna
Belgium, Europe (Zone 6a)
Sedums Winter Sowing Organic Gardener Native Plants and Wildflowers Region: Belgium Region: Europe
I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Seed Starter Plant and/or Seed Trader Salvias Herbs Cut Flowers
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JonnaSudenius
Aug 29, 2013 1:12 PM CST
Can you tell me if there is a book that teaches you how to recognize seeds, how to collect seeds, how to clean seeds, how to store seeds, pictures of seeds and seedpods, longevity of seeds, sowing seeds, etc.
If there is a book that is helpfull, please tell me the title and author.
If you canโ€™t find a book about seeds, please tell me what you want to learn about seeds.
Name: Karen
Cincinnati, Oh (Zone 6a)
Forum moderator I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Cut Flowers Winter Sowing Charter ATP Member Seed Starter
Echinacea Plant and/or Seed Trader Region: Ohio Region: United States of America Butterflies Hummingbirder
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kqcrna
Aug 29, 2013 1:22 PM CST

Moderator

I don't know of any such book, but as a beginner I learned a lot from this site. It has long been my go-to resource.

http://www.frsa.org/plateindex.htm

Karen
Name: Jonna
Belgium, Europe (Zone 6a)
Sedums Winter Sowing Organic Gardener Native Plants and Wildflowers Region: Belgium Region: Europe
I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Seed Starter Plant and/or Seed Trader Salvias Herbs Cut Flowers
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JonnaSudenius
Aug 29, 2013 1:33 PM CST
Thank you for your reply Karen. I know the website, but it's good to hear you used that one as a beginner.
Name: Rick Corey
Everett WA 98204 (Zone 8a)
Sunset Zone 5. Koppen Csb. Eco 2f
I helped beta test the first seed swap Plant and/or Seed Trader Seed Starter Region: Pacific Northwest Photo Contest Winner: 2014 Vegetable Grower
Avid Green Pages Reviewer Garden Ideas: Master Level Garden Sages I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! I helped plan and beta test the plant database. Charter ATP Member
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RickCorey
Aug 29, 2013 2:08 PM CST
Jonna, I don't know of one book that's better than another, but here are two titles I've heard recommended several times:

The New Seed Starters Handbook
(Nancy Bubel)

http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_i_1_30?url=search-alias...

This one is more for saving vegetable seeds:
Seed to Seed: Seed Saving and Growing Techniques for Vegetable Gardeners
by Suzanne Ashworth, David Cavagnaro and Kent Whealy

Here's a list:
http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_i_1_11?url=search-alias...
[Last edited by RickCorey - Aug 29, 2013 5:22 PM (+)]
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Name: Jonna
Belgium, Europe (Zone 6a)
Sedums Winter Sowing Organic Gardener Native Plants and Wildflowers Region: Belgium Region: Europe
I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Seed Starter Plant and/or Seed Trader Salvias Herbs Cut Flowers
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JonnaSudenius
Aug 29, 2013 2:28 PM CST
Thank you Corey for your reply. I will make a inventory of all replies I get. I posted it on several forums.
I'm looking for a book that discuss all about seeds, not only vegetables or just collecting seeds, but everything that I posted.
Name: Kent Pfeiffer
Southeast Nebraska (Zone 5b)
Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Plant Database Moderator Plant Identifier Region: Nebraska Forum moderator
Garden Sages Garden Ideas: Master Level Irises Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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KentPfeiffer
Aug 29, 2013 3:16 PM CST

Plants Admin

The easiest way to clean milkweed seeds is to pick the pods a few days before they split open on their own. At that stage, the seeds are mature and attached to a rib that runs the length of the interior of the pod. The "fluff" is still wet and folded up at the upper end of the pod (and, therefore, not fluffy). It's a simple matter to split the pod open yourself. Then, pull out the rib with the seeds attached (all in one piece). Then hold the rib in your hand so that your fingers are wrapped around the end with the fluff and your thumb is positioned to shuck the seeds off of the rib. It takes a few seconds per pod to get clean seed.
Name: Natalie
North Central Idaho (Zone 7a)
Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Daylilies Hummingbirder Frogs and Toads Plant Lover: Loves 'em all! Native Plants and Wildflowers
Cottage Gardener Dog Lover Lover of wildlife (Black bear badge) Region: United States of America Echinacea Xeriscape
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Natalie
Aug 29, 2013 4:12 PM CST
Jonna, I think YOU would be the perfect person to write a book on that subject, and I will buy it! There are sites on the internet with good information, but I love books that I can carry around with me.

Kent, this is my first year having this plant, since it was already growing here when we bought the property. I still have no idea of how to tell when the pods are close to ready. I really did expect many of them to open around the same time, but some are still rather hard. Not that I'd really know what "almost ready" looks or feels like anyway, but they aren't soft when I squeeze them. I had to make a couple of trips out of state, and the ones that I picked were wide open when I got home.

I know what you are talking about, with the rib. I did try pulling that out, but it was very brittle, and none of the fluff was stuck to it. I made a rather spectacular mess in doing so, and those seeds went floating everywhere! I will try again though, by picking what I think are some pods that may be close to opening. It's so hard to tell on a plant you have never seen before, but I'll give it a try! With the others that I've already picked, I'll try Jonna's method.

Thanks to you all for the help!
Natalie

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