Friday, September 15, 2017

Mortal Asclepias

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I packed my camera gear up to Mt. Tam this morning to look for narrowleaf milkweed (Asclepias fascicularis), a lovely plant whose generic name honors the son of Apollo, god of medicine. I don't remember to look for it every year, but I last photographed it on Mt. Tam in 2011. The only time I ever saw or photographed a monarch butterfly caterpillar feeding on this plant that's so important to the life of monarchs, was 2003. There were no milkweed plants in their former haunts this year, not even at Potrero Meadow. I didn't see any jimsonweed either. I imagined a few seeds of both of these interesting and beautiful plants biding their time in the soil until conditions become favorable once again. Maybe next year.

UPDATE (9/26/17): I noticed my first blooming plum tree as I biked home from work today, which reminded me that a guy on the Marin Native Plants group on FB said the milkweed was blooming like crazy in Potrero Meadow back in late July, quite a bit earlier than usual. Shopping for yard plants at Sloat Garden Center last weekend I saw a monarch land on a plant and pointed it out to an employee who told me he'd found two monarch chrysalises just the week before. Yesterday afternoon I saw another monarch flutter by downtown, near Sue Bierman Park. It can't be good for monarchs to show up in fall, only to find the usual haunts of milkweed gone, having already bloomed weeks or months earlier.  

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