Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Milkweed pods #phenology

robust, healthy milkweed
robust, healthy milkweed
Photo by J. Harrington

A couple of days ago I finished reading Fred Pearce's The New Wild: Why Invasive Species Will Be Nature's Salvation. Many, perhaps most, of his propositions make sense to me, but I want to think some more and probably buy a paperback version that I can annotate before I declare myself. This morning I returned a borrowed hardcover copy to my local library. The blessing of having a library copy available was a response to having skimmed some reviews, and being uncertain if I'd end up hurling across the room a poorly developed and badly written apologia for benign neglect as a conservation strategy. Nope. Pearce makes at lease a half-way decent case. I'm still not sure he makes enough of a case. His book, and its premise, are temporarily lodged in my category of necessary, but not sufficient. We'll get to more about that in a later post. Pearce seems too accepting of non-natives while many conservationists want to eradicate those that weren't here before Columbus. I want to see, as a basis for a management strategy, more assessments of the role and ecological niche an invasive fits and whether it is extirpating native species. Anyhow, for now I want to get back to the point I wandered from at the beginning of the paragraph, that returning the library book gave me the opportunity to take a close look at the rain garden that lines the north and west sides of the library building.

purple cone flowers in rain garden
purple cone flowers in rain garden
Photo by J. Harrington

This morning the garden was full of purple cone flowers and florescent pink phlox and blazing star and some yellow flowers I didn't recognize. The milkweed at the rain garden's edges is much taller and more robust looking than the scruffy, dust-covered stems and leaves in our sand-plain field. Its seed pods are among the biggest I've ever seen. I noticed though, that not all the plants had developed pods. Later, when walking one of the dogs, I did notice some puny, developing seed pods on our local milkweed plants, but not even on most of them. From what I read, seed pods don't develop until the third year of a milkweed's growth. That would explain a lot, or at least why some plants have pods and others don't. Good to remember, but I had foolishly thought I was home free remembering the difference between annuals and perennials. Sigh!

Milkweed


James Wright


While I stood here, in the open, lost in myself,
I must have looked a long time
Down the corn rows, beyond grass,
The small house,
White walls, animals lumbering toward the barn.
I look down now. It is all changed.
Whatever it was I lost, whatever I wept for
Was a wild, gentle thing, the small dark eyes
Loving me in secret.
It is here. At a touch of my hand,
The air fills with delicate creatures
From the other world.


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