Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Milking the weeds for all they're worth

Unbeknownst to me previously, today is "World Photo Day." Let me wish you a happy one. Here's my favorite "world photo."

Earthrise is a photograph of the Earth taken by astronaut William Anders in 1968, during the Apollo 8 mission. Nature photographer Galen Rowell declared it "the most influential environmental photograph ever taken."
Earthrise is a photograph of the Earth taken by astronaut William Anders in 1968,
during the Apollo 8 mission. Nature photographer Galen Rowell declared it
"the most influential environmental photograph ever taken."

Back on Earth, I'm missing a good photo [see below] of the section of our field that's full of what I think are common milkweed plants, none of which have monarch caterpillars feeding on them, nor did any display flowers this Summer. Today's continuing rain severely limits my interest in  heading to the field to get a better shot. Plus, I'm still drying out from walking all four dogs in yesterday's downpours.

While I was getting warm and dry again, it took me several searches to find the following milkweed description in a USDA Plant Guide:
"Both seedlings and cuttings will usually bloom in their second year, although cuttings will occasionally bloom during their first year (Kindscher 1992)."
field with Black-eyed Susan and milkweed
field with Black-eyed Susan and milkweed
Photo by J. Harrington

There's lots of information on propagating and planting and growing "pollinator-friendly" plants, including various milkweeds. Little of it mentions a lack of flowers the first year.

You might be able to notice some of the plants I'm talking about in the lower right quadrant of the above photo. For the moment, I'm interpreting the USDA quote to mean that I have a field full of first year plants (seedlings, since I know we didn't do cuttings) and should hope for blooms next year. Alternatively, I have a field full of some rare, weird plant that looks like a common milkweed but doesn't bloom. I'm open to alternative explanations. Have any? 

Milkweed

Philip Levine

Remember how unimportant
they seemed, growing loosely
in the open fields we crossed
on the way to school. We
would carve wooden swords
and slash at the luscious trunks
until the white milk started
and then flowed. Then we'd
go on to the long day
after day of the History of History
or the tables of numbers and order
as the clock slowly paid
out the moments. The windows
went dark first with rain
and then snow, and then the days,
then the years ran together and not
one mattered more than
another, and not one mattered.

Two days ago I walked
the empty woods, bent over,
crunching through oak leaves,
asking myself questions
without answers. From somewhere
a froth of seeds drifted by touched
with gold in the last light
of a lost day, going with
the wind as they always did.

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