Posts Tagged ‘Asclepias’

Searching for Monarchs at Grassy Glade

On June 27, John Koenig and I went to Grassy Glade with Jenny Lippert, Willamette National Forest botanist, to see if there was any more monarch activity. Jenny hadn’t been there for a number of years, so I was quite interested to find out if she thought the population of purple milkweed (Asclepias cordifolia) was expanding or contracting. We’ve had a number of discussions about whether this species is moving northward—possibly due to climate change—or if it was formerly more common back when Native Americans kept the area more open by burning and is now decreasing. The answer to this question would be of great help in deciding how best to encourage more milkweed in the Rigdon area. She seemed certain there was more milkweed in the main area by the road and that she hadn’t seen it before closer to the large, open meadow. While anecdotal, this was great to hear.

John walking along Rabbitbrush Ridge. Mosaic Rock and Steeple Rock can be seen in the distance. The light gray-green foliage is rubber rabbitbrush (Ericameria nauseosa).

We found a few eggs but not as many as I was hoping to see. As on my previous trip, a swallowtail and some smaller butterflies were enjoying the lovely milkweed blossoms. Soon, we were joined by a monarch! It was a male, and I wondered if it was the same one I had spotted a couple of weeks before. Where was the female who had laid the eggs? Read the rest of this entry »

Early Season in the Calapooyas

A last remaining snow bank in the wetland. The mountain shooting stars (Dodecatheon jeffreyi) and marsh marigold (Caltha leptosepala) were still in bloom, so it was probably too early for the Sierra Nevada blues to be out yet.

It was very odd to see a number of cliff paintbrush (Castilleja rupicola) blooming along the edge of the gravel road right beside the wet ditch and moisture lovers such as brook saxifrage (Micranthes odontoloma).

On June 19, John Koenig and I took a trip up Coal Creek Road 2133 to see what was blooming in the high country. This is one of our favorite areas. But first, we stopped by Monarch Meadow to see if there was any activity. There were no monarchs flying around, but we saw a handful of eggs. Then we stopped at many wonderful spots along Coal Creek Road to look at plants and butterflies before ending our day in the wetlands near Loletta Lakes. Thickening clouds right above us along the crest of the Calapooyas kept the butterflies down at the top, but we saw plenty on the way up. Things were still pretty early up there, and we even saw a few lingering glacier lilies (Erythronium grandiflorum) and some snow. Here are a few photographic highlights. Read the rest of this entry »

More Milkweed Near Grassy Glade

Molly and Joe both carried butterfly nets all day, hoping to be able to tag an adult monarch. This Lorquin’s admiral was the only butterfly to make contact with a net. It must have found something tasty on the net and joined us while we ate lunch on the banks of Coal Creek.

On June 15, Molly Juillerat (botanist but now deputy ranger at the Middle Fork District), Joe Doerr (wildlife biologist for the Willamette National Forest), and I went back to Rigdon to do some more exploring. First, we headed out to see the purple milkweed (Asclepias cordifolia) at Coal Creek Bluff. Neither Molly nor Joe had been there before, so I’d been hoping to take them there for some time. We took a relatively short spin around the slope, stopping to check on the milkweed. There was no sign of eggs or caterpillars yet, so I’m still not certain if the monarchs know about this small population. Although the slope was pretty dry, there were plenty of nectar plants to be had if any monarchs did show up. The milkweed was in fading bloom, but fresh northern buckwheat (Eriogonum compositum), Oregon sunshine (Eriophyllum lanatum), bluefield gilia (Gilia capitata), and elegant cluster-lily (Brodiaea elegans) added some color to the mostly brown slope. Read the rest of this entry »

Butterflies Galore at Grassy Glade

The west end of the ridge can’t be seen from most of the ridge, but this is where most of the purple milkweed is found.

After my first look at the rocky slope north of Grassy Glade (see Exploring Near Grassy Glade), I was anxious to get back when the milkweed was in bloom (and the weather was better!). On June 11, I drove to Grassy Glade and walked directly to the end of Road 262 to where I could climb down to what I’m now calling “Rabbitbrush Ridge.” Since the thunderstorm drove me away before I was able to make it to the far end of the ridge on my earlier trip, I headed along the ridge to west end rather than poking around down the steep slope. That turned out to be the right thing to do. After finding a few individual plants scattered along the ridge, I was thrilled to come upon a decent-sized population of milkweed blooming in a scree just beyond the north-south dike I had thought marked the end of the ridge. This area was a bit more protected and more gravelly than rocky, so perhaps more to their liking. Read the rest of this entry »

Return to Grassy Glade and Many Creeks Meadow

While most of the milkweed is in some openings in the woods, a small number of plants grace the north end of Grassy Glade. Parts of the large meadow were already dried out, while others remained green and floriferous. Remnants of a forest fire can be seen on the hills to the south.

I suggested we look for seedlings of milkweed, and Sasha quickly spotted this clump. You can see the purplish, long-petioled cotyledon leaves still evident at the bases of the tiny plants.

In spite of not receiving a Monarch Grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Fund this year, Walama Restoration Project is still working on collecting data about the milkweed and monarch sites in the Rigdon area. Hopefully, they’ll have better luck next year. Maya Goklany is the volunteer coordinator for Walama and has already started taking volunteers out to count purple milkweed (Asclepias cordifolia) at Monarch Meadow. We had been wanting to go out to Rigdon together sometime to survey the milkweed and finally had a chance on Sunday, May 27. I invited Sabine Dutoit along, and Maya brought her friend Sasha. How wonderful to hang out with a great group of plant-loving women! It was a gorgeous day to be out botanizing. It was also a great day for Memorial Day Weekend camping trips, and there were more people along the lake and in the general Rigdon area than I think I’ve ever seen before. We even ran into other folks up at Grassy Glade, our first stop. But most of our day was spent enjoying the peace and quiet with only the pleasant company of each other and the butterflies, birds, and bees. Read the rest of this entry »

Terrific Day at Medicine Creek Road

John exploring the steep slope above Medicine Creek Road. A few purple milkweed plants can be seen in the foreground.

Last year, while camping on the North Umpqua, Nancy Bray and I explored the first few miles of Medicine Creek Road 4775, just east of Eagle Rock Campground (see A Week of Monarchs and Milkweed Day 2 and Day 3). It was the only site for purple milkweed (Asclepias cordifolia) listed on the Oregon Flora Project Atlas. We had a wonderful time looking at milkweed and watching monarchs and other butterflies, and I could hardly wait to get back this year to see the earlier blooming plants.

Read the rest of this entry »

Exploring Near Grassy Glade

A lovely madrone (Arbutus menziesii) grows on the backside of the rocky ridge.

On my most recent trip (see Surveying Milkweed at Maple Creek Meadow), I had seen an intriguing rocky slope to the east. I realized it was one of the sites in the Rigdon area of southeastern Lane County that I had made a note to survey. It was just north of Grassy Glade, where there is a good population of purple milkweed (Asclepias cordifolia), so I decided for my next outing, on May 15, to check it out, as well as some other openings in that area. Read the rest of this entry »

Surveying Milkweed at “Maple Creek Meadow”

This is the same view across the meadow, with the same milkweed and rabbitbrush, as I posted last year. You can see an open, rocky slope on the near ridge. I visited it a few days later. Grassy Glade is nearby on that ridge but can’t be seen from here. Unfortunately, the clouds never really broke, so we couldn’t see the view of Diamond Peak.

Last July, I discovered a new site for purple milkweed (Asclepias cordifolia) in the Rigdon area (see Another New Milkweed and Monarch Site!) and dubbed it “Maple Creek Meadow” since the nearest named feature is Maple Creek. I had been looking forward to getting an earlier look at it but wanted to wait until the milkweed had at least emerged. Since I had seen it coming up in some of the nearby sites, John Koenig and I decided to head up there on May 11. Knowing where I was going and how great a place it is, I found the boring, 1.7-mile walk up the bermed-off Road 217 much more pleasant than I did last year when I was wondering all the while if it would be worth it. We had hoped the morning clouds would burn off, but we were under clouds most of the day, so we didn’t get to see many butterflies. Read the rest of this entry »

First Look at Coal Creek Bluff Milkweed

Ever since our trip to Coal Creek Bluff at the end of March (see First Flowers at Coal Creek Bluff), John Koenig and I had been looking forward to a return visit. Now that I knew the purple milkweed (Asclepias cordifolia) was emerging from its long winter dormancy, we wanted to get there as soon as possible. On Monday, May 7, we headed down to the Rigdon area along with Sheila Klest. We were very happy to drive out of the fog into a beautiful sunny day. Unlike our last trip, we were all prepared with extra shoes for walking through the creek. It was lower than in March but still not crossable without getting wet. With suitable footgear, the crossing hardly slowed us down.

It was difficult to spot the milkweed in some areas where there were similar colors to still brownish purple leaves and whitish branches mimicking the old stalks. There are several milkweed plants in the foreground of this photo.

We decided we wanted to head straight to the south end of the bluff to look for the milkweed. We cut up around the side where we were able to climb up the small but steep rocky slope along the south edge. This brought us up on the bluff a little way down from the top but not too far from where I’d placed a cairn last year by a dead plant with seed capsules. John located the cairn fairly quickly. We found the large plant next to it and four more plants coming up nearby, two of which were pretty small. I was glad to confirm they really were milkweed plants, but it was rather disappointing that the population was so small. We wandered around separately looking for more and then gave up and started to head down the ridge, intending on looping around to the creek and back up on the north side—the same way John and I did the last trip. But I had this nagging feeling that I’d missed some up higher, so I climbed back up to the top. There was a milkweed, and another, and another! Right by the edge of the forest, there was a small area with at least a dozen plants. As I walked over a bit to the north, I ran into Sheila. She also had the same idea that we hadn’t been very thorough and had found another dozen or so plants. Since John was way down at the bottom at this point, we decided we’d better come back here at the end of our loop and do a more careful survey. Read the rest of this entry »

Purple Milkweed Emerging on Milkweed Ridge

Purple milkweed is tinged with purple as it emerges, and its inflorescence is already well developed.

With my showy milkweed (Asclepias speciosa) at home emerging from the ground, I hoped the purple or heartleaf milkweed (A. cordifolia) would be up in the Rigdon area in southeastern Lane County. On May 2, I headed down to see if I could find the first plants. I started out by climbing up the hill at Big Pine Opening, the one site visible from Road 21 and the lowest elevation site in the area at 2300′. The milkweed is only in the northeast corner, above an old quarry, but it is a very healthy population. Sure enough, they were up! Having never seen them this early in the season, I was quite surprised to find the flower heads already formed as they emerge. They must be in a hurry to bloom! The plants come up quite dark, their glaucous leaves suffused with red-violet. This makes them quite easy to spot against green grass but hides them well in bare soil. They are often found in very rocky areas, but sometimes they seem to be happy enough in meadows with no rocks but perhaps gravelly soil beneath. I’m still trying to get an idea of their preferred habitats, but they certainly seem to want to be in well-drained soil. Read the rest of this entry »

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