Pod Opens, Clean Bill of Health and New Pig Attack

a. california seed pod collected last week opens

The miracle of the a. californica milkweed continues. The one unopened seed pod I harvested last week opened – and the contents were spectacular. The seed is thin and brown, and is supposed to be attached to the fluff, which aids the seed in spreading by helping it float through the air. The seed is certainly not heavy, but seems to be too heavy for the fluff to carry. In fact, when I saw the fluff around the plants, I saw no seeds attached. The specimen I took out of the seed pod (see photo below) did not appear attached at all – or it so delicately attached that it disconnected simply by my removal of the seed.

Seed and aerial fluff partner harvested from the pod

The destination of this seed pod is Ron Allen and Mariposa Native Plants. A. californica is a very special plant. It is an early bloomer offering the Monarchs a crucially important food source (awuuate’) after the first 100 or so miles of their journey north. It is also endemic to only some parts of California. Ron will be propagating another generation from this pod to be planted next year. Again, this plant is very special.

Clean Bill of Health

Since Ron was coming by to pick up the seed pod, I asked him to take a look at some of the plants I had concerns about. He ended up taking a look at each of the plants I have in Site 9, the South Plot and the nectar plantings. I also double checked that the adaptations I had made to some of the plant watering schedules would be ok for the them in the long term. He was impressed with the health of the plants and even surprised that some were still looking green at this point in the summer. The plants I thought had problems were actually doing well. Native plants do not look the same as exotic nursery plants that many of us may be used to. They often look died back or really rough in the summer depending on their life cycle. I am extremely grateful that Ron shares his knowledge, and was so relieved at the clean bill of health.

Another Wild Pig Attack

The smaller of the narrowleaf milkweeds was the latest victim

While on my way to water Site 8, I smelled a trash odor. Then, I saw fresh hog scat (photo below). I knew the wild pigs were back. My heart raced as I approached Site 8. Damn! Of the remaining three milkweeds, one had been rooted out and lay lifeless in its basket. As I did the last time the pigs slaughtered my milkweed community, I quickly picked up the basket and replanted it with the hope that the roots might still be intact. I resumed my watering of the healthy milkweeds, and the hopeful watering of all the replanted victims. I left the poor little narrowleaf packed in, standing at attention – a vertical monument to the cruelty of the pigs.

Wild hog scat
Another day I rise well before the sun

Each day, I rise before the sun to beat the heat as I haul water all around my plantings. It is a labor of love. I had biologists on the ranch last Friday conducting an assessment for a conservation plan. One of the biologists was from Xerces Society, the butterfly conservation group. After they came back from an epic trek, they informed me that they saw a yellow swallowtail butterfly and several buckeye butterflies. They also found naturally occurring narrowleaf milkweed in a more remote area of the larger creek that runs through the mid-part of the ranch. That I was overjoyed at the news is an understatement. These things make all the effort worth it. I want to bring the monarchs home, but I am also keenly aware that I am creating habitat for all types of butterflies. I will take the win.

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