Let the Blooms Begin!

Blue dick

It truly is amazing how blooms happen. Overnight, they just appear. Although I have been seeing the stems for a couple weeks, I woke up Saturday morning to a proliferation of purple. In fact, there are many plants sprouting blooms or new leaves. Early nectar is an important habitat element for monarchs as they begin their journey from the coast northeast. I say this as if it is a sure thing. The truth is – the monarchs may never come. The Xerces overwintering count was less than abysmal. There were almost no monarchs overwintering. From millions to under 2,000 individuals, this is a major crisis. I keep having this fantasy that they are adapting to climate change and habitat loss, that their course is shifting, that they have chosen moderate habitats inland. It is simply a fantasy that helps keep me moving forward, a trick of the brain. While it is possible, it is not likely in numbers anywhere near the millions. So, I keep moving forward knowing that my work also impacts other pollinators – butterflies, bees, flies and really…everything.

I was so pleased to see that the majority of plants I planted are settling in, beginning to leaf-out. The buckeye is really leafing out. The cottonwood is still dormant, but I am excited to see that tree thrive. The redbud seedling is beginning to leaf-out. I am really excited to see it in bloom. If she likes it here, I will plant more. I am really excited about this shrub as well as the big leaf maple I just planted over the weekend. Ron Allen (mariposanativeplants.com) included the maple as a good option for pollinators in my latest order. I will plant another when the seedling is ready. Planting trees is crucial for carbon sequestration and helping reduce climate change. However, it is important to consider water availability when choosing what tree and where to plant. Ron said the big leaf maple is indigenous to California and is found in Southern California tolerating drier climates. With this in mind, I decided to purchase and plant it.

Big leaf maple planted on the arroyo

I chose to plant the maple along the arroyo near the swale pond. I plan to install more swales along the arroyo in the future, and felt that there would be sufficient moisture to maintain the tree(s) over the long term. Since it did not have leaves yet, I did not feel an urgent need to immediately place protection around it. I had a lot to do this weekend. I will build a cage around it this week. I already gathered the materials so they are ready when I have a two hour time slot.

Loaded and ready to go with fencing equipment on standby

All of the first set of plants are planted. I created a new milkweed/nectar plant “island” near the southeast corner of the house enclosure. I added the mugwort to the plantings of Site XR1.

I also took the time to monitor and weed around old plantings, especially the Xerces hedgerow kits. Some planted areas needed significant weeding. Several revealed some new growth way, way down at the dirt level. I am not sure if they are the plants I planted. Many were dormant at the time of planting. All I can say is that the sprouts look different than the typical grass I am familiar with, so I did not pull them. The riparian kit plants, that I can see, appear to be thriving especially the golden currents and mulefat. There is also an aster that retained its leaves all winter (i.e. nothing ate it).

On Friday, I saw two types of butterflies. They came and went so fast that I did not have time to attempt a photo. One was larger and black. The other was lighter, not quite white. Needless to say, I was overjoyed. It is proof that what I am doing is working. We also had a large number of European honeybees and a large bumble bee. They are loving the arugula flowers. Still no a. California, but I continue to look. Also, I am improving my knowledge by attending the Community Alliance with Family Farmers annual conference. There are some great topics, including carbon sequestration, composting, indigenous ag and many others. Check out the conference page.

Technical Support

Astrid and her best friend

A very small portion of the grant I helped write with Melinda Barrett of the Mariposa County Resource Conservation District (RCD) is for technical assistance helping others plan, choose and implement planing of pollinator friendly plants, particularly those appealing to monarch butterflies. I am leveraging my experience, with the expertise of Ron Allen and Melinda Barrett, to help connect people, land, plants and butterflies. My friend Carolin has been following the Walappu’ ‘Uuchuthuu posts on Facebook and wanted to participate. Ron and I helped her pick good plants for the monarchs and her location in Catheys Valley. She purchased some plants and got them into the ground right away. Carolin had some help though! Two of her children and the family fur-child helped too. See their photos below – and cuteness alert!

Monarch plantings are a phenomenal way to engage with family and teach children about their role as stewards in this world. A big “thank you”to Carolin and her family for jumping in as change makers and for sharing these great photos. Hopefully, there will be many more families and individuals participating in planting a’woo’atee (butterfly food). If you want to be a part of this change making project, contact me through the “contact” page on this blog.

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