Posts Tagged ‘milkweed’

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.

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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 »

First Meadow Survey of 2018

John enjoying the view (and a moment of sunshine) at our first new meadow site of the year.

On Monday, January 29, John Koenig and I attended a meeting of the Southern Willamette Forest Collaborative at the Forest Service office in Westfir. The purpose of the meeting was to propose surveying projects in the Rigdon area of the Middle Fork District of the Willamette National Forest (south of Oakridge and Hills Creek Reservoir). Earlier in the month, Molly Juillerat, the district botanist, and I met to talk about meadows we want to survey, especially those that might have purple milkweed (Asclepias cordifolia). I spent some time looking at Google Earth searching for potential meadow sites I hadn’t been to yet and put together a list of 16 low-elevation open areas I think are worth checking out. Read the rest of this entry »

Another New Milkweed and Monarch Site!

After all the great luck we’d been having finding purple milkweed in the Rigdon area of southeastern Lane County, I was determined to find some more sites. With the exception of Grassy Glade, all the other sites were on the north side of Rigdon Road 21 and the Middle Fork of the Willamette. Surely there must be some other areas on the south side. I spent some time on Google Earth, looking for all the openings I could find between Big Pine Opening and Grassy Glade that appeared to be meadows between 2400–3600′, similar to those we had been surveying. I found at least a half dozen or so promising spots, but one in particular seemed like a good place to start.

Milkweed, buckwheat, and rabbitbrush growing in “Maple Creek Meadow”. Diamond Peak can be seen to the east. The ridge in the backround was burned in the 2009 Tumblebug Fire.

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Farther Up “Milkweed Ridge”

Like many openings in the area, the southernmost one in the complex had Oregon white oaks (Quercus garryana) being crowded out by ponderosa pines (Pinus ponderosa) and other conifers. Enhancing oak habitat has been the main focus of restoration in the area. Hopefully now improving the area for milkweed and monarchs will also be a priority.

Having found purple milkweed (Asclepias cordifolia) and monarchs at Monarch Meadow (see Hidden Meadow Reveals a Thrilling Secret) and at the meadow complex north of there (see A Week of Monarchs and Milkweed: Day 1), the next logical place to check was another complex of openings even farther up the ridge. On July 5, Joe Doerr and I headed up there to investigate. These openings also follow the old road that the middle complex is along, so we felt particularly confident we would find more milkweed. We decided to drive in from the north on an old but (barely) driveable road. I had been on that road several times years ago, to access what Sabine and I call “Gateway Rock Ridge” (see First Outing of the New Year for the most recent trip), but I can’t imagine doing it now. The tire tracks seemed to be sinking down and lots of vegetation was reaching out into the road from the surrounding forest. Thank goodness we were in a Forest Service rig!

Unfortunately, mortality is very high for these tiny monarch caterpillars. Most get picked off by wasps and other predators when they are quite small.

We parked at the top of the old road and saw ground rose (Rosa spithamea) in bloom right by the car. From there we walked south. Before long we came to the first opening, lying right along the ridge. Sticky birdbeak (Cordylanthus tenuis) grew abundantly here along with western rayless fleabane (Erigeron inornatus). These normally uncommon species have been showing up at most of the other milkweed sites, so it was a good sign. There had also evidently been a great display of showy tarweed (Madia elegans), but it was already shriveling up in the heat of the day. We didn’t spot any milkweed at first, but then we started to see it scattered about in several openings. We found monarch caterpillars and eggs as well. Mission accomplished! We walked as far down the road as the uppermost meadow of the middle complex that we’d both already been to on separate trips. So now we knew the area all along the old road and started back toward the car. Read the rest of this entry »

A Week of Monarchs and Milkweed: Day 3

A variable checkerspot straddling the individual small flowers of spreading dogbane (Apocynum androsaemifolium) to sip the sweet nectar. Milkweed species were recently moved into the dogbane family, Apocynaceae. They both share the trait of milky sap in their stems and are both beloved by butterflies as well as other insects.

For the second day of our camping trip, Nancy and I went up to Twin Lakes and what I call the BVD Meadow, both accessed from the same parking spot at the end of Twin Lakes Road 4770. I’d never seen (or felt) the road in such poor condition with many miles of washboard and areas starting to wash out a bit. My van survived without flatting another tire, but on returning to the campground, I discovered I’d lost a hubcap. The flowers were good, though farther along than I expected at the meadow, and we went for a nice swim at Twin Lakes, but both places were buggier than I ever remember. So far, it has been a particularly bad year for mosquitoes in the Western Cascades. Read the rest of this entry »

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