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This video and photos in this blog post show numerous bumble bee species foraging on non-native heather (Erica spp.) plants in our garden on February 24, 2016.

It’s still winter in the Klamath-Siskiyou, but the warm, spring-like days this February have brought out the bumble bees! Bumble bees are some of the first bees seen in the spring because they are specially adapted to be active in colder weather than most other bees.

Early emerging bumble bees are hard pressed to find flowers in February, but there are some native plants flowering already that they can utilize. I have seen snow queen or spring queen (Synthyris reniformis) and Nuttall’s toothwort or spring beauty (Cardamine nuttallii) blooming in the canyon I live in, along with several different species of willow (Salix spp.). The first Indian warrior (Pedicularis densiflora), gold stars (Crocidium multicaule) and native violets (Viola spp.) are all blooming in the Klamath-Siskiyou at low elevations, and the grass widows (Olsynium douglasii) will be blooming soon on sunny slopes and rock outcrops. For the bumble bees, spring will soon begin in earnest.

Bumble bees provide excellent pollination services for the diverse native plant species in our region, and this relationship and interdependence is crucial for the survival of imperiled native plants and pollinators alike. If you want to manage your land or garden for pollinator conservation the best thing you can do is plant flowering native plants that provide pollen and nectar throughout the growing season: early season, mid season, and late season flowers.

Bumble bees are classified in the genus Bombus. The Pacific Northwest is home to many native species of bumble bees, broken down into the following groups: the red-tailed group, the striped group, the black-tailed group, the whites, the yellow-faced bumble bees, and the cuckoo bees.

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Bumble bees of the Pacific Northwest identification chart created by The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation
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Bumble bees of the Pacific Northwest identification chart created by The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation

The Bees In Your Backyard: A Guide to North America’s Bees gives the following information about bumble bees:

  • The name Bombus comes from the Greek word bombos, which means “a buzzing sound,” referring to the low hum these bees make as they fly gracefully around flowers. The common name “bumble bee” can be traced back to the word bombelen in Middle English (AD 1200-1500), which means “to hum.” In fact, prior to the 1920s, bumble bees were more often called “humble bees,” also a reference to the soft droning inherent in their foraging activities. The term “humble bees” was used by both William Shakespeare in A Midsummer Nights Dream and by Charles Darwin in On the Origin of Species. A few popular articles in the 1920s about Bombus referred to them as “bumble bees” and the new name took.Scan 20
  • Bumble bees are among the few bees native to North America that are truly social, with a queen and workers.
  • Like European honey bees, bumble bee workers collect copious amounts of nectar, which they bring back to the hive for storage. Unlike honey bees, however, the bumble bee workers do not dehydrate the stored nectar, turning it into honey. Instead this nectar is used by bumble bees, along with pollen, to feed the developing young. Because bumble bee hives begin anew each year, there is no need to store large amounts of nectar as honey to sustain the workers through the winter the way that honey bee colonies must.
  • Studies have shown that for many crops, pollination by bumble bees produces bigger fruit, faster fruit set and larger yields than other pollination methods, most specifically honey bee pollination. First, bumble bees have a distinct advantage over European honey bees when it comes to retrieving pollen from some plants: they can buzz pollinate. They are therefore much more effective pollinators of some important crops, specifically with flowers requiring buzz pollination. These plants include tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, potatoes, and even some berries like blueberries. Second, bumble bees have been shown to be faster workers than honey bees, often visiting twice as many flowers per minute. Finally, researchers have estimated that bumble bees will do at least eight times more work than a honey bee because bumble bees can remain active in cold temperatures, and they can carry more pollen.P1250344
  • Bumble bees have special adaptations that allow them to be active in colder weather and colder climates than most other bees. In addition to their thick and insulating coat of hair, bumble bees often bask in the sun to warm themselves before they head out to forage. When sun and fuzz aren’t enough, bumble bees can actually generate heat internally by shivering their flight muscles. These bees can uncouple their wings from their flight muscle, allowing them to contract the muscles without flapping their wings. Those muscle contractions can raise the internal temperature of the bee, making them significantly warmer than their surrounding environment. In fact, bumble bees can’t take off and fly until their flight muscles are above 80 degrees; by shivering their flight muscles to warm up, they can actively forage in temperatures much too cold for other bees.
  • Unlike honey bee queens, a bumble bee queen lives for only a single year. This annual cycle generally keeps bumble bee hives much smaller than the hives of honey bees. Most mature bumble bee colonies consist of fewer than 200 bees, although some can have as many as 1000 individuals. For comparison, European honey bees may have around 60,000 bees in a single colony.
  • Most bumble bee species make their nests in the ground, often in preexisting cavities like abandoned rodent burrows, in piles of wood, or in leaf litter.

The following is an excerpt from The Xerces Society’s publication: Conserving Bumble Bees: Guidelines for Creating and Managing Habitat for America’s Declining Pollinators

 

Competition with Honey Bees

The honey bee (Apis mellifera) was introduced to North America by European settlers in the early seventeenth century. The honey bee is extremely important to our agricultural system, yet its populations have declined steadily since the mid twentieth century. Many efforts to support honey bee populations are in line with bumble bee conservation. However, recent research has shown that competition with honey bees reduces bumble bee foraging efficiency, worker size, and reproductive success. As such, bumble bees in close proximity to honey bee hives may be experiencing additional pressures in an already difficult landscape. A single honey bee hive can contain over 50,000 bees, who collectively remove hundreds of pounds of nectar and tens of pounds of pollen from an area in a single year. Whether this is testing the limits of the available flowering resources is unverified. However, there is no doubt that such a significant removal of resources must represent a substantial proportion of the available pollen and nectar, especially during a period of limited flower abundance.

Klemens and Volkmar showed that the presence of honey bees force bumble bees off flowers, and change their foraging times. While reproductive success was not measured in this study, any event that causes decreased efficiency of foraging trips is likely to be detrimental for bumble bees.

In addition, it has been shown that pollen is a vector for disease transmission between honey bees and bumble bees. Thus, where bumble bees are visiting the same flowers as honey bees, they face an increased risk of infection. Diseases from some pathogens can lead to fewer new queens produced by the colony. Since honey bees are present virtually everywhere there are flowers in North America, it is nearly impossible to avoid interactions between honey bees and bumble bees. However, if land managers have the option to limit these interactions by restricting honey bee hives from natural areas managed for biodiversity, it is strongly recommended.

 

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California spikenard, Western aralia, or Elk clover (Aralia californica) in bloom.

One of the largest herbaceous plants in North America — known by the botanical name, Aralia californica — can be referred to by any of its many common names: Western aralia, Western spikenard, California ginseng, or elk clover. Western aralia’s large, green leaves grow on thick, non-woody stems. This lush plant gracefully arches to a mature height of 3’-9’, but sometimes it can reach up to an impressive 10‘. That is very tall for an herbaceous perennial plant that dies back fully to the ground each fall, only to return the next spring from its thick, fleshy, snakelike roots, which are often embedded in rocks or streamside woody debris.

The broad and compound leaves have a tropical look, but Western aralia naturally ranges from southern California to as far north as Linn County in Oregon’s western Cascades. Aralia has an affinity for moist gulches, seasonal or perennial streambanks, canyons, and other cool, shady locations at elevations generally below 5,000 feet. Considering its relative tenderness, aralia is a very big and robust plant.

In early to midsummer Western aralia produces ball-like clusters of greenish white, sticky flowers that mature into ornamental, dark purple berries in the fall. The juicy berries are about the size of peppercorns and have a pungent, ginseng-like flavor. The berries are reportedly loved by birds, but I only observe occasional use in my neck of the woods.

Aralia berries
Aralia berries

One of the common names, elk clover, is a bit of a misnomer since aralia is not really a clover at all; in fact, it is a member of the plant genus Araliaceae, or the ginseng family. It is one of only two native plants in Oregon in the ginseng family; the other being devil’s club (Oplopanax horridus). Western aralia is, however, the only member of the ginseng family that grows wild in the Klamath-Siskiyou Ecoregion. It is related to American spikenard (Aralia racemosa) and wild sarsaparilla (Aralia nudicaulis), known, as Western aralia is, for their many medicinal uses.

According to Wendell Wood, Western aralia was “historically used by the Karok Indians as an antirheumatic, were a decoction of roots [was] used as a soak for arthritis.  The Mendocino Indians used a decoction of the dried roots for colds and fevers and also to treat stomach and lung diseases.  The Pomo saw it as “panacea plant” to treat many ailments including using the roots for sores and itching sores.”

Michael Moore, in his book Medicinal Plants of the Pacific West states that Western Aralia “is an excellent tonic and soothing expectorant for people with chronic moist-lung problems.” The root, aromatic and full of sticky while oleoresin, is particularly potent, but the leaf and berry of the plant also contain many different medicinal uses. Moore also says that “the cough syrup, tincture in hot water (toddylike), or the leaf tea is a good way to recuperate from some bronchitis or the winter lung-grunge.”

According to Arthur R. Kruckeberg in his book Gardening with Native Plants of the Pacific Northwest, Western Aralia “has been a most effective and decorative plant for similar wettish habitats in Northwest gardens.”

In your garden Western Aralia will thrive in heavy shade as long as there is some moisture and the soil does not dry out completely. Aralia is robust and ornamental and can be grown in regular garden conditions. It is hardy to USDA zones 3-8.

California spikenard (Aralia californica) berries
Aralia berries

I am lucky enough to live near a seasonal gulch where Western aralia grows naturally, but nonetheless I have still planted it in my garden to enjoy its beauty and to more easily harvest plant material for herbal medicine.

Before going dormant for the winter, Western Aralia produces a rich and creamy yellow autumn foliage that allows for a beautiful contrast to other fall colors in the garden or wild setting.

Enjoy Western aralia in your garden!

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Aralia californica in bloom on the forest edge.

 

 

 

A2045 tagged monarch butterfly

By Mark Freeman

Medford Mail Tribune

February 11. 2016

Monarch butterflies tagged last year in Southern Oregon found in California

A monarch butterfly tagged last year in Medford, known as monarch A2045, is shown Feb. 3 in Bolinas, California. Courtesy photo

Robert Coffan stood next to a patch of milkweed at Coyote Trails Nature Center in Medford last September feeling a little choked up about all that had transpired to bring him and monarch butterfly No. A2045 to this point.

The milkweed where Coffan found two caterpillars three weeks earlier had just been planted earlier that year, and it lured a female monarch that produced those caterpillars, which Coffan and his wife, Simone, raised at home until they became butterflies.

Now, this royal monarch sporting a little white tag with its official number on it — A2045 — was about to go to work, flying away toward a winter colony in who-knows-where.

“It was kind of touchy-feely,” Coffan says. “All of these things came together, and it was me that had it for release.”

For monarch A2045, who-knows-where turned out to be Bolinas, Calif., in Marin County just north of San Francisco.

That’s where he and his distinctive tag were spotted not once but twice this winter, providing an important cog in a new citizen-science experiment that is trying to shed light on when and where Pacific Northwest monarchs migrate during their fascinating life cycle.

“When I heard it was discovered, instead of feeling all emotional, I was proud,” says Coffan, a member of Southern Oregon Monarch Advocates. “When you think he made it 312 miles, and that sticker I put on him was still on.”

Coffan’s monarch was one of eight released last fall in Southern Oregon that turned up this winter in California roost trees, providing the lion’s share of raw data collected this year on monarch migration by Washington State University professor David James.

The Southern Oregon monarchs were among 20 tagged butterflies that were identified in winter roosts this year, and were among 40 tagged monarchs identified after release since James began the study in 2012.

“Having eight recaptures is extremely high,” James says. “It’s remarkable. This year’s been an extremely productive year for citizen-scientists in Southern Oregon.”

While eastern monarchs are famous for their long migrations, much less is known about Pacific Northwest monarchs, whose populations, locations and life cycles are tied to milkweed.

Adult females lay their eggs in milkweed, and the ensuing caterpillars dine solely on milkweed before forming a chrysalis, from which they emerge as the royal-looking orange- and black-winged butterfly.

Monarchs produce four generations annually, each one making a portion of the migration between Washington and Idaho through Oregon and down to California and even Mexico.

At least, that’s the conventional wisdom, James says.

“Up until now, it’s all been theory and assumptions,” James says. “It’s all anecdotal.”

James launched his unfunded study in 2012, relying on monarch fans and Washington State Penitentiary inmates in Walla Walla, Wash., to tend milkweed plots and rear the monarchs to adulthood.

James supplies the small, white, adhesive stickers that sport a specific number and a website address that volunteers put on a wing before release.

“Butterflies are not as fragile as people think,” he says. “You just hold the butterfly and stick it on.”

Buoyed largely by the inmate butterflies, James’ group tagged and released 2,000 monarchs in 2012, 1,000 in 2013 and 2,000 in 2014.

Wintering monarchs are viewed regularly throughout California. Those who spy them, catch them or look at them through a camera lens can see the bright stickers, record the data and report when and where they are “recaptured.”

Since 2001, Linda Kappen has been growing milkweed for monarchs at the Applegate School, where she is an education assistant. She long wanted to get into monarch tagging and hooked up with James in 2014.

She now leads a cadre of monarch-taggers who sent 966 of almost 3,000 tagged monarchs that flew into the skies of the Pacific Northwest in 2015.

Of the eight recaptures, one included a monarch tagged at Applegate School that ended up at a middle school in Boonville, Calif., 227 miles away, records show.

Coffan’s A2045 was seen in Bolinas on New Year’s Day and again last week.

“Without Linda Kappen and those volunteers down there, all this recovery wouldn’t have happened,” James says.

James is starting to get enough data to draw some patterns, and the research likely will prove most of what scientists have assumed about monarch migration into and out of the Pacific Northwest.

“It’s great to get the definitive evidence,” he says.

Coffan and the rest of the Southern Oregon Monarch Advocates are more than willing to help, one patch of milkweed and one monarch sticker at a time.

“We’re just completely amazed that what we’re doing here is making a stir and making a difference,” Coffan says. “We’re affecting things. It’s amazing.”

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470 or mfreeman@mailtribune.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MTwriterFreeman.

Where are they now?Out of 966 monarch butterflies tagged and released last fall in Southern Oregon, eight have been identified on their wintering grounds in California. Following is a list of the butterflies, where they were released, where they were located and the distance they traveled. The data was compiled by David James, a Washington State University entomology professor, who is conducting a monarch migration study.1. Released Sept. 9 in Medford. Found Oct. 28 in Cayucos, Calif. (498 miles)2. Released Aug. 19 in Talent. Found Nov. 28 in Bolinas, Calif. (302 miles)3. Released Sept. 26 in Medford. Found Jan. 1 in Bolinas, Calif. (312 miles)4. Released Oct. 4 in Talent. Jan. 1 in Bolinas, Calif. (302 miles)5. Released Oct. 5 in Applegate. Found Oct. 23 in Boonville, Calif. (227 miles)*6. Released Aug. 19 in Applegate. Found in Santa Cruz, Calif. (375 miles)*7. Released Aug. 19 in Applegate. Found in Santa Cruz, Calif. (375 miles)*8. Released Sept. 17 in Applegate. Found in Pismo Beach, Calif. (535 miles)*Discovery date unavailable

 

In 2014 the White House released the Presidential Memorandum-Creating a Federal Strategy to Promote the Health of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators, which directed the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Interior — who, in turn, direct the United States Forest Service (USFS) and Bureau of Land Managment (BLM) — to issue a much-needed document, Pollinator-Friendly Best Management Practices for Federal Lands. According to the Forest Service, “This document will guide federal land managers to effectively and efficiently use available resources and engage public and private partnerships in taking action for the conservation and management of pollinators and pollinator habitat on federal lands.” In other words, pollinator health and conservation are now considered a high priority for federal land managers.

The meadows pictured above are examples of healthy meadow ecosystems full of flowering native plants that are excellent habitat for native pollinators.

This is good news for pollinators in the Klamath-Siskiyou Ecoregion, where public land surrounds our valleys, canyons, communities, and homes. Those of us who are intimately tied to this landscape and appreciate the “pollination services” that our native bees, butterflies, hummingbirds, beetles, moths, and other insects provide, could see some critical improvements in land management to improve pollinator health.

With the recent occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, public lands grazing has been more widely discussed, and for good reason. Public lands grazing can have damaging impacts to native plant communities, in turn, negatively impacting pollinator populations as well. When wildflowers are eaten down by grazing livestock, or mountain meadows are trampled by stationary cows, pollinator food and habitat is diminished.

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Documentation of a livestock- trampled meadow and wetland during the 2015 grazing allotment surveys on the Siskiyou Crest.

Public lands grazing is highly subsidized, and the current fees for 2016 have only increased slightly. The price is calculated through a formula based on per animal unit month (AUM). The BLM gives the definition of an AUM as “the amount of forage needed to sustain one cow and her calf, one horse, or five sheep or goats for a month. In 2012 the price was $1.35 per month; in 2015 the price was $1.69, and in 2016 the price will now be $2.11 per month. The grazing fees charged on public land are substantially lower than those charged on private land, but the real price of public lands grazing should also include the associated impacts to native plants and pollinators.

 

Many nature lovers, ecologists, scientists, and environmentalists have worked for years to reform the public lands grazing system. The Klamath-Siskiyou Ecoregion is lucky to have Felice Pace, a longtime public lands advocate, directing the Project to Reform Public Lands Grazing in Northern California. This on-the-ground monitoring of 14 different grazing allotments in the Klamath-Siskiyou has pushed for reform to protect high mountain meadows, the willow flycatcher, clean water, elk habitat, intact streams and springs, and now pollinators! With the Pollinator-Friendly Best Management Practices (BMPs) public lands grazing should now undergo a more thorough analysis to protect pollinator habitat.

The Pollinator-Friendly Best Management Practices for Federal Land now give the following specific recommendations for livestock grazing:

Livestock Grazing
 
Objective: To reduce the impact to pollinators from livestock grazing.
 
Explanation:
 
Livestock grazing alters the structure, diversity, and growth pattern of vegetation, which affects the associated insect community.
Grazing during a time when flowers are already scarce may result in insufficient forage for pollinators.
Grazing when butterfly larvae are active on host plants can result in larval mortality and high intensity grazing can cause local loss of forb abundance and diversity.
 
Implementation: The following actions should be considered in rangelands when livestock grazing is present:
 
• Determine which types of pollinators and which pollinator habitat elements are affected by grazing livestock.
• Assess if grazing is compatible with the specific needs of target pollinator species on site, including targeted butterfly species.
• Prevent trampling ground-nesting sites by implementing practices to minimize hoof action of grazing animals, which causes soil compaction or erosion in pollinator nesting and shelter patches.
• Minimize livestock concentrations in one area by rotating livestock grazing timing and location to help maintain open, herbaceous plant communities that are capable of supporting a wide diversity of butterflies and other pollinators.
• Protect the current season’s growth in grazed areas by striving to retain at least 50% of the annual vegetative growth on all plants.
•Enhance the growth of forbs to ensure their ability to reproduce and to provide nectar and pollen throughout the growing season by setting grazing levels to allow forbs to flower and set seed.
•Leave nearby ungrazed areas to provide reserves for pollinator populations.
• Prevent grazing during periods when flowers are already scarce (e.g., midsummer) to maintain forage for pollinators, especially for bumble bee species.
•In important butterfly areas, avoid grazing when butterfly eggs, larvae, and in some cases pupae are on host plants.
•Consider the needs of pollinators when placing range improvements and structures on the
landscape.
•Ensure that fencing is adequate and well maintained.
•Include protection of pollinator species in grazing management plans.
Swallowtail butterfly on western thistle
Swallowtail butterfly on western thistle (Cirsium occidentale) Photo: Marvin Keller

Despite their beauty and value for pollinators and birds, native thistle species have long been undervalued. I often hear people make condescending remarks about thistles when I table at events. Someone may see that I have native thistle seeds for sale and make a comment along the lines of: “Thistles are horrible, why would you want to plant those?” What they don’t realize, however, is that native thistles play a critical role in native ecosystems. Native thistles get a bad rap simply because of people’s association with their weedy, invasive relatives like bull thistle (Cirsium vulgare) and Canada thistle (Cirsium arvense).

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Swallowtail butterfly nectaring on a non-native, invasive bull thistle (Cirsium vulgare)

Bull thistle was introduced into Oregon in the late 1800s,  and it now occurs in every county in the state. Canada thistle has been around for about the same time, and once established, it is a fierce competitor, exuding allelopathic chemicals that inhibit the growth and survival of neighboring native plants. Just the mere mention of the name, yellow starthistle (Centaurea solstitialis) — a knapweed, not at true thistle — makes the blood boil of those who live in an area with a heavy infestation. These are highly invasive plants that are a real threat to native ecosystems as well as economic interests in agricultural areas.

Peregrine thistle (Cirsium cymosum) with silver lupine (Lupinus albifrons)
Peregrine thistle (Cirsium cymosum) with silver lupine (Lupinus albifrons)

So why does the justified distaste for non-native, invasive thistles seep into some people’s psyche, affecting their perception of native thistles? Is it simply because they’re spiny?  Is it because they only associate thistles with weeds? Its hard to say for certain why this is, but what we can say, with certainty, is that native thistles deserve a spot in your pollinator garden or a site on your land with good drainage, good sun and little competition. Native thistles are never aggressive and won’t spread rapidly like the non-native species do.

Western thistle (Cirsium occidentale)
Western thistle (Cirsium occidentale)

True thistles belong to the genus Cirsium. California has 19 native species of thistle in the genus Cirsium, while Oregon has 14. Some of the species have multiple subspecies as well, making for a lot of diversity in color, leaf shape, size and spininess. For instance, western thistle (Cirsium occidentale) has numerous different subspecies and is known by different descriptive common names, such as snowy thistle or cobweb thistle, referring to the cobweb-like fibers covering the phyllaries at the base of the flower.

Ashland thistle (Cirsium ciliolatum)
Ashland thistle (Cirsium ciliolatum) is endemic to the Klamath-Siskiyou Ecoregion.

Thistles are in the sunflower family (Asteraceae), with many individual flowers packed within each flower head, protected by a spiny involucre. Like a sunflower, each flower produces a single seed, and each seed head produces many seeds.

Nutritious thistle seeds are highly prized by birds such as the Lesser or American goldfinch. According to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, “Their diet is composed almost entirely of seeds, with those of the sunflower family, particularly thistles, strongly preferred.” Birds also use the fluffy thistle chaff to line their nests.

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Peregrine thistle (Cirsium cymosum)
Cirsium occidentale3
Western thistle (Cirsium occidentale)

The list of butterfly species that use native thistles for nectar is too numerous to list here. It is common to see butterflies nectaring on thistles. Several butterfly species use native thistles as a host plant for their larvae, including: Painted lady (Vanessa cardui), Mylitta crescent (Phyciodes mylitta), and the California crescent (Phyciodes orseis).

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Mylitta crescent caterpillars using western thistle (Cirsium occidentale) as a host plant.

 

Hummingbirds are especially fond of thistle nectar. Often spending a considerable amount of time around a thistle patch, sipping nectar in between aerial acrobatics.

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Suzie watching a hummingbird nectar on western thistle (Cirsium occidentale) in the Applegate Foothills. The hummingbird was too fast to get a good photo of it. Check out the size of this plant! It’s at least 4′ tall!

 

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Brewer’s swamp thistle (Cirsium douglasii var. breweri)

Native bees use thistles too, and will sometimes be found on flowers already teeming with beetles and other native pollinators. Because thistles draw in so many beneficial pollinators, they also bring in predators such as spiders, ready to ambush unsuspecting prey. Native thistle flowers are a good spot to hunt because the insect visitation rates are so high.

Native thistles inhabit a variety of habitat types. Most are found on poor soil with good drainage, harsh sun and very little surrounding competition from other plants. There is, however, one thistle in the Klamath-Siskiyou Ecoregion that grows in moist, high elevation meadows: Brewer’s swamp thistle (Cirsium douglasii var. breweri).

Here at Klamath-Siskiyou Native Seeds, we are happy to promote the use of native thistle species for the benefit of wildlife. We currently offer western thistle (Cirsium occidentale) seed for sale, with the hope of increasing our native thistle offerings in the future. This species is a biennial, meaning that it will send up a rosette of leaves the first year, flower in the second year, and mostly likely die after that, spreading seeds for future generations. The species can live longer than two years, and sometimes becomes a perennial, but it is good to only expect a biennial flower. Western thistle does well in a dry garden setting with good drainage. It can be direct seeded or sown in containers and transplanted. Sow seeds outdoors or in an unheated greenhouse in the fall or winter for germination in early spring.

Plant native thistles for the benefit of hummingbirds, butterflies, bees and birds!

All photos are those of Klamath-Siskiyou Native Seeds, unless otherwise noted.

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Ashland thistle (Cirsium ciliolatum is endemic to the Klamath-Siskiyou Ecoregion.
Cirsium occidentale1
Western thistle (Cirsium occidentale)
Cirsium occidentale
Western thistle (Cirsium occidentale) seed
Western wallflower (Erysimum capitatum) seed
Western wallflower (Erysimum capitatum) seed
Western wallflower (Erysimum capitatum) in the Klamath-Siskiyou.
Western wallflower (Erysimum capitatum)

Now is a great time to plant native seeds! Each native plant species has its own specific germination requirements, but many native seeds require a cold/moist stratification period to break the natural dormancy of the seed and trigger germination in the spring. If the seed you are looking for requires cold/moist stratification, then fall through early winter is the best time to plant.

Bluehead gilia (Gilia capitata)
Bluehead gilia (Gilia capitata)
Bluehead gilia (Gilia capitata) seed
Bluehead gilia (Gilia capitata) seed

UPDATED INVENTORY: Check out our current inventory! We offer over 100 species of regionally-adapted native trees, shrubs, and perennial plants from around the Klamath-Siskiyou bioregion, with an emphasis on small seed lots, a large diversity of species, and flowering herbaceous plants for pollinator habitat and conservation. Our seeds can be used in a variety of applications, including native plant gardens, habitat restoration, pollinator gardens, rain gardens, drought tolerant gardens, or wildlife plantings.

A pdf of our current inventory is now available. The inventory list includes botanical and common names, photos, price per individual seed packet, and information about whether or not we have larger quantities available. Inventory quantity varies according to species. We typically harvest less than a pound of any given species of seed, unless contracted to collect large seed lots. Packets containing small seeds contain about 1 gram of seed (approximately a tablespoon of seed), but packets with larger seeds are generally 2-3 grams of seed, depending on the size of the seed. Custom seed packets with a specific seed quantity are available upon request .

Download inventory by clicking here.

Washington lily (Lilium washingtonianum)
Washington lily (Lilium washingtonianum)
Washington lily (Lilium washingtonianum) seed
Washington lily (Lilium washingtonianum) seed

ECOTYPE INFORMATION: Using well-adapted, regionally and ecologically appropriate seed is a key component of a successful habitat restoration project. Information regarding, origin, ecotype or elevational zone of our seed is available upon request.

Oregon checkermallow (Sidalcea oregana ssp. spicata)
Oregon checkermallow (Sidalcea oregana ssp. spicata)
Oregon checkerbloom (Sidalcea oregana spp. spicata) seed
Oregon checkerbloom (Sidalcea oregana spp. spicata) seed

HOW TO PLACE AN ORDER: Klamath-Siskiyou Native Seeds is a small business, run on the side of many various projects and work commitments. We are small, and still run off the old fashioned honor system. Someday we may have an updated website with a shopping cart, lots of information, and the ability to accept credit cards, but for now it works this way:

Contact us at klamathsiskiyou@gmail.com or 541.890.1483 with a seed request. If you know the species and quantity you are looking for that makes things easy. If not, we can make recommendations for your site/project and we will verify seed quantity availability and get back to you. When you settle on your order, we will give you an invoice preview via email for your approval. Once approved, we will send you the seeds in the mail and you can send a check made out to Klamath-Siskiyou Native Seeds.

Scarlet gilia (Ipomopsis aggregata)
Scarlet gilia (Ipomopsis aggregata)
Scarlet gilia (Ipomopsis aggregata) seed
Scarlet gilia (Ipomopsis aggregata) seed

 

 

 

 

SHIPPING: Shipping is generally 50 cents per packet of seeds, but may vary depending on the bulkiness or shape of larger seed, or the size of the order. Shipping cost will be included on your invoice preview prior to approval and shipping.

Good luck with your native plant garden, pollinator garden, or habitat restoration project!

Thanks, and Happy Planting! -Klamath-Siskiyou Native Seeds

Western coneflower (Rudbeckia occidentalis)
Western coneflower (Rudbeckia occidentalis)
Western coneflower (Rudbeckia occidentalis) seed
Western coneflower (Rudbeckia occidentalis) seed
Mule's ears (Wyethia angustifolia)
Mule’s ears (Wyethia angustifolia)
Mule's ears (Wyethia anguvstifolia) seed
Mule’s ears (Wyethia angustifolia) seed
Beargrass (Xerophyllum tenax)
Beargrass (Xerophyllum tenax)
Beargrass (Xerophyllum tenax) seed
Beargrass (Xerophyllum tenax) seed
Deltoid balsamroot (Balsamorhiza deltoidea)
Deltoid balsamroot (Balsamorhiza deltoidea)
Deltoid balsamroot (Balsamhoriza deltoidea) seed
Deltoid balsamroot (Balsamhoriza deltoidea) seed
Western thistle (Cirsium occidentale)
Western thistle (Cirsium occidentale)
Western thistle (Cirsium occidentale) seed
Western thistle (Cirsium occidentale) seed
Coyote tobacco (Nicotiana attenuata)
Coyote tobacco (Nicotiana attenuata)
Coyote tobacco (Nicotiana attenuata) seed
Coyote tobacco (Nicotiana attenuata) seed
Monarch nectaring on broad-leaved lotus (Hosackia crassifolia) Photo: Jean Pawek
Monarch nectaring on broad-leaved lotus (Hosackia crassifolia) in California. Photo courtesy of Jean Pawek. Check out Jean’s wildflower photos on CalPhotos
Photo courtesy of Tanya Harvey www.westerncascades.com
Monarch nectaring on Western coneflower (Rudbeckia occidentalis) in the Western Cascades, Oregon. Photo courtesy of Tanya Harvey
www.westerncascades.com
Monarch nectaring on pearly everlasting (Anaphalis margaritacea) Photo courtesy of Jean Myers www.casadosrios.net
Monarch nectaring on pearly everlasting (Anaphalis margaritacea) Photo courtesy of Jean Myers, Gilroy, California. www.casadosrios.net

 

 

 

 

POST UPDATE: There has been a great response from the original post! Many people have contacted me with their monarch experiences. The following nine new photos have been submitted! Thanks for sharing your photos everyone!

Monarch nectaring on mockorange (Philadelphus lewisii). Photo courtesy of Tanya Harvey. Taken in Oregon's Calapooya Mountains in August 2012. westerncascades.com
Monarch nectaring on mockorange (Philadelphus lewisii). Photo courtesy of Tanya Harvey. Taken in Oregon’s Calapooya Mountains in August 2012. westerncascades.com
Monarch nectaring on blue dicks (Dichelostemma capitatum). Photo courtesy of Kerstin Commagere. Taken in early April in the Sierra Nevada foothills south of Jackson.
Monarch nectaring on blue dicks (Dichelostemma capitatum). Photo courtesy of Kerstin Commagere.  Taken in early April in the Sierra Nevada foothills south of Jackson. intherangeoflight.com
Monarch nectaring on mountain monardella (Monardella odoratissima) in the Siskiyou Mountains. Photo courtesy of Linda Kappen.
Monarch nectaring on mountain monardella (Monardella odoratissima) in the Siskiyou Mountains. Photo courtesy of Linda Kappen.
Monarch nectaring on mountain monardella (Monardella odoratissima) in the Siskiyou Mountains. Photo courtesy of Linda Kappen.
Monarch nectaring on mountain monardella (Monardella odoratissima) in the Siskiyou Mountains. Photo courtesy of Linda Kappen.
Monarch nectaring on arrowleaf ragwort (Senecio triangularis) in the Siskiyou Mountains. Photo courtesy of Linda Kappen.
Monarch nectaring on arrowleaf ragwort (Senecio triangularis) in the Siskiyou Mountains. Photo courtesy of Linda Kappen.
Monarch flying off from narrowleaf milkweed (Asclepias fascicularis). Photo courtesy of Frank Lospalluto.
Monarch flying off from narrowleaf milkweed (Asclepias fascicularis). Photo courtesy of Frank Lospalluto.

 

Monarch nectaring on sneezeweed (Helenium bigelovii) on Grayback Mountain in Southern Oregon. Photo courtesy of Frank Lospalluto.
Monarch nectaring on sneezeweed (Helenium bigelovii) on Grayback Mountain in Southern Oregon. Photo courtesy of Frank Lospalluto.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Monarch nectaring on sneezeweed (Helenium bigelovii) on Grayback Mountain in Southern Oregon. Photo courtesy of Frank Lospalluto.
Monarch nectaring on sneezeweed (Helenium bigelovii) on Grayback Mountain in Southern Oregon. Photo courtesy of Frank Lospalluto.
Monarch nectaring on rubber rabbitbrush (Ericameria nauseosa) along the Little Grayback Trail in the Upper Applegate Valley of southern Oregon in August
Monarch nectaring on rubber rabbitbrush (Ericameria nauseosa) along the Little Grayback Trail in the Upper Applegate Valley of southern Oregon  on August 30, 2015. Photo courtesy of Jakob Shockey
MG_0439
Not a monarch, but this shows evidence of butterfly use of western thistle as a nectar plant in the Klamath-Siskiyou. Pale swallowtail (Papilio eurymedon) nectaring on western thistle (Cirsium occidentale), near Baby Foot Lake in the Kalmiopsis Wilderness, July 2011. Photo courtesy of Marvin Kellar. saunteringoregon.com

 

 

Back to the original post:

Information on the specific species of native plants that the western population of monarch butterflies uses for nectar is not well known. There are individual observations, photos, and generalized butterfly plant lists, but so far there isn’t a compilation of specific information on the use of monarch nectar plants. The Xerces Society is working on compiling a list of observed/documented monarch nectar plants for fourteen regions throughout the continental U.S. At the moment, Xeces says their most complete lists are for the eastern part of the country, but they have now started reaching out to folks on the west coast to get similar data for the western monarch population.

Due to the current dearth in information, Klamath-Siskiyou Native Seeds has made an initial attempt at compiling observed/documented monarch nectar plants native to the Klamath-Siskiyou bioregion of southern Oregon and northern California. This effort has been created through personal observation, observations by folks involved with Southern Oregon Monarch Advocates, extensive research to find photos, and correspondence with the Xerces Society, naturalists, botanists, native plant gardeners and fellow monarch enthusiasts.

Photo courtesy of Tanya Harvey www.westerncascades.com
Monarch on Western coneflower (Rudbeckia occidentalis) in the Western Cascades, Oregon. Photo courtesy of Tanya Harvey.
www.westerncascades.com

All plant species included in this blog post are native to the Klamath-Siskiyou bioregion. Many observations of monarchs using these plants have occurred outside the region, but it is a safe assumption, that if a monarch uses these species in a different part of the Western U.S., that it will also use the same species in the Klamath-Siskiyou as well. For this reason, we are including observations from outside this region as long as the plant is native here.

Please let Southern Oregon Monarch Advocates (SOMA)  know if you have observed an adult monarch butterfly using a native plant as a nectar source. Help us expand this list and expand our understanding of the monarch’s habitat. Email me at klamathsiskiyou@gmail.com, or Tom Landis from SOMA, at tdlandis@aol.com, to give us your observations. We are compiling this list to help citizen science inform land managers regarding the conservation and restoration of monarch nectar sources. The list will also be used by backyard gardeners, schools, parks and other community groups to identify the best species to use for monarch butterfly plantings and “waystations.” Together we can help advocate for ecologically appropriate plantings with the most useful and beneficial native plants for monarch butterfly habitat restoration and waystations.

If you have a photo of a monarch nectaring on a native plant, please share, as that is the best way to document use.

Check out the recent radio interview with folks from Southern Oregon Monarch Advocates (SOMA) on the Jefferson Exchange. Suzie, from Klamath-Siskiyou Native Seeds took part in the interview, along with Tom Landis from SOMA, and Linda Kappen from the Applegate School monarch project .  Listen to the interview here.

Pacific aster (Symphyotrichum chilense)
Pacific aster (Symphyotrichum chilense) This is a coastal species in southern Oregon and northern California. Observed as a monarch nectar plant by Jean Myers of Gilroy, CA. Photo courtesy of Jean Myers, www.casadosrios.net Las Pilitas Native Plant Nursery has also observed a monarch nectaring on this species. See their photo of a monarch on Pacific aster here.
Monarch nectaring on West coast goldenrod (Solidago elongata) in a meadow on the Siskiyou Crest. It's not easy task getting a photo of a nectaring monarch, as they usually fly off just as you approach. Blurred photos, like this one, are still great for documenting the use of nectar plants by monarchs..
Monarch nectaring on West coast goldenrod (Solidago elongata) in a meadow on the Siskiyou Crest. Photo taken by Suzie of Klamath-Siskiyou Native Seeds. It’s not an easy task getting a photo of a nectaring monarch, as they usually fly off just as you approach. Blurred photos, like this one, are still great for documenting the use of nectar plants by monarchs.
Sierra or Western larkspur (Delphinium glaucum) on Mt. Ashland. Photo courtesy of Hiram Towle. This species grows in moist, mountainous areas in the Klamath-Siskiyou.
Monarch nectaring on Sierra or Western larkspur (Delphinium glaucum) on Mt. Ashland in Southern Oregon. Photo courtesy of Hiram Towle, who, along with Steve Johnson from Southern Oregon Monarch Advocates, observed and documented this nectar plant use. This species grows in moist, mountainous areas in the Klamath-Siskiyou.

Below are  photos taken by Klamath-Siskiyou Native Seeds. These plants are all native to this bioregion, and have all been observed as monarch nectar plants, but unfortunately, we just don’t have a monarch in all the photos…yet! Observations of monarchs using the native plant species below are included in the photo captions.

Oregon false goldenaster (Heterotheca oregona) was observed by Kristi Mergenthaler as a monarch nectar plant, but I don’t have a photo to share for this observation.

Milkweeds are shown at the end. It appears to me, that even when a monarch is presented with multiple choices for nectar plants, if there is milkweed growing in the area, it prefers to nectar on the milkweed. Milkweed is not only the exclusive larval host plant for the monarch, it is also a preferred nectar plant for the adult butterfly.

Mock orange (Philadelphus lewisii)
Mock orange (Philadelphus lewisii) A common shrub in the Klamath-Siskiyou region, and well-loved by pollinators. Observed as a monarch nectar plant by Tanya Harvey in the Western Cascade Mountains of Oregon.
Mule's ears (Wyethia angustifolia)
Mule’s ears (Wyethia angustifolia) Found in sunny, dry meadows and on dry, sunny slopes. Observed as a monarch nectar plant by Lori Humphrys in Buford Park, Lane County, Oregon.
Butterfly on Sulphur flower buckwheat (Eriogonum umbellatum)
Checkerspot butterfly on sulphur flower buckwheat (Eriogonum umbellatum). This is the most common wild buckwheat in the Klamath-Siskiyou Mountains. Observed as a monarch nectar plant by Suzie Savoie in the Upper Applegate Valley of Southern Oregon.
Many butterflies species competing for nectar on Henderson's aster (Symphyotrichum hendersonii). Butterflies love plants in the Aster family, including the monarch butterfly. This photo was taken in our garden in October.
Henderson’s aster (Symphyotrichum hendersonii) Found in moist, high elevation meadows. Observed as a monarch nectar plant in a garden setting by Luke Ruediger in the Upper Applegate Valley of Southern Oregon.
Rubber rabbitbrush (Ericameria nauseosa) in the Applegate Valley
Rubber rabbitbrush (Ericameria nauseosa) Found on dry, exposed sites in the Klamath-Siskiyou.  An important late season nectar plant. Observed as a monarch nectar plant by Kristi Mergenthaler in Southern Oregon.
Golden current (Ribes aureum)
Golden current (Ribes aureus) This plant creeps into the Klamath-Siskiyou from the south and the east, and is known to grow in Siskiyou County and Klamath County. Observed as a monarch nectar plant by  Las Pilitas Native Plant Nursery in Southern California, who say, “monarchs love the flowers in early spring.”
Western verbena (Verbena lasiostachys)
Western verbena (Verbena lasiostachys) Found in dry, disturbed sites. This plant is an undervalued native plant and great nectar source, found growing in disturbed areas, such as roadsides, that are too harsh for many other native plants. Steve Johnson observed a monarch nectaring on western verbena on Point Mountain in Southern Oregon.
Ookow (Dichelostemma congestum) Observed as a monarch nectar plant by Kristi Mergenthaler in Southern Oregon.
Ookow (Dichelostemma congestum) Observed as a monarch nectar plant by Kristi Mergenthaler in Southern Oregon. Check out this photo of a monarch nectaring on blue dicks (Dichelostemma capitatum).
West coast goldenrod (Solidago elongata)
West coast goldenrod (Solidago elongata)
West coast goldenrod (Solidago elongata) grows in abundance in meadows in the Klamath-Siskiyou. This is an important late season nectar plant for the monarch butterfly as it makes its way south through the mountains.
West coast goldenrod (Solidago elongata) grows in abundance in meadows in the Klamath-Siskiyou Mountains. This is an important, late season nectar plant for the monarch butterfly as it makes its way south through the mountains on its way back to its overwintering grounds.
Horsemint (Agastache urticifolia) in the large meadows of the Silver Fork Basin, the headwaters of Elliott Creek in the Siskiyou Mountains.
Horsemint (Agastache urticifolia) A high country meadow plant, growing in abundance in many mountainous regions. Observed as a monarch nectar plant by Luke Ruediger and Kristi Merganthaler in Southern Oregon.
White leaf manzanita (Arctostaphylos viscida)
White leaf manzanita (Arctostaphylos viscida) Monarchs have been observed nectaring on Manzanitas in California, so it is assumed that they will use them here too. Photo of a monarch on manzanita in California
Western thistle (Cirsium occidentale)
Western thistle (Cirsium occidentale) Grows in dry, sunny locations in the foothills. Observed as a monarch nectar plant by Las Pilitas Native Plant Nursery in California. See their photo of monarch on Cirsium occidentale here.
Groundsel (Senecio integerrimus var. exaltatus) on the slopes above the Klamath River. Butterflies love nectaring on plants in the genus Senecio. Linda Kappen observed a monarch nectaring on Senecio triangularis in Southern Oregon.
Groundsel (Senecio integerrimus var. exaltatus) on the slopes above the Klamath River. Butterflies love nectaring on plants in the genus Senecio. Linda Kappen observed a monarch nectaring on Senecio triangularis on the Siskiyou Crest.
Chokecherry (Prunus virginiana var. demissa)
Chokecherry (Prunus virginiana var. demissa) Las Pilitas Native Plant Nursery has observed a closely related variation of this same species of chokecherry, Prunus virginiana var. melanocarpa, as a nectar source for monarch butterflies. See their photo here.
Mountain monardella (Monardella odoratissima)
Mountain monardella (Monardella odoratissima) A lover of dry, exposed, rocky areas. Observed as a monarch nectar plant by Kristi Merganthaler, Linda Kappen, Suzie Savoie and others in Southern Oregon.
Monarch on showy milkweed (Asclepias speciosa)
Monarch on showy milkweed (Asclepias speciosa)
Monarch caterpillar on showy milkweed (Asclepias speciosa)
Monarch caterpillar on showy milkweed (Asclepias speciosa)
Newly emerged monarch
Newly emerged monarch
Heartleaf milkweed (Asclepias cordifolia)
Heartleaf milkweed (Asclepias cordifolia)
Narrow leaf milkweed (Asclepias fascicularis)
Narrow leaf milkweed (Asclepias fascicularis)
The Clipper: Grain, Seed and Bean Cleaner
The Clipper: Grain, Seed and Bean Cleaner made by A.T. Ferrel & Co.

It may be an old-timer, but this Clipper seed cleaner still does the job. Leather straps, wood, and metal is all this antique electric seed cleaning machine is made of. Modern materials augment some missing parts, but the authentic feel remains. Clipper seed and grain cleaners have been manufactured by the A.T. Ferrell Company, Inc. since 1869. The one that I’m using to clean native seeds from the Klamath-Siskiyou bioregion (pictured above), is thought to be from the 1920s.

Using the Clipper to clean seed in the shop.
Suzie using the Clipper to clean seed in the shop.

The Clipper seed cleaner has many different wooden-framed screens to clean various sizes and shapes of seed. The machine oscillates the screens and a fan blows the chaff to separate it from the seed. Many native seeds can be cleaned using the Clipper, but some still need to be cleaned the real old-fashioned way: by hand.

Joy and Cherie cleaning seeds.
Joy and Cherie cleaning seeds by hand.

October is the month to finish cleaning, processing and packaging seed from this year’s harvest. The Clipper will be running steadily, helping clean native seeds to be used for habitat restoration, pollinator gardens and native plant landscaping this fall and winter.

Please stay tuned for our final inventory list which will be posted soon.

Seed Harvesting

Picking beargrass (Xerophyllum tenax) seed in the Siskiyou Mountains.
Picking beargrass (Xerophyllum tenax) seed in the Siskiyou Mountains.

Right now the native seed harvest is going strong as many species ripen and the summer fades into fall. Fall is a wonderful time of year to get out for a seed collecting backpacking trip — the mosquitoes are gone and the crowds have died down for the season. Fall colors have already begun to show a little here and there, especially the soft pink of dogwood. Colorful berries are cheerfully ripening on trees, shrubs and herbaceous plants. Some species have produced prolific crops this year, despite the drought, while others are holding back their bounty for another year. As a seed collector, the hard part is beating the birds to the berries!

Madrone berries (Arubutus menziesii)
Madrone berries (Arubutus menziesii)

Just this past week I was picking seeds in the high country of the Siskiyou Mountains in snow flurries for about twenty minutes! This week it’s supposed to be in the nineties in the valleys. Such swings in the weather are typical for the Klamath-Siskiyou bioregion in the fall, and it helps the seeds ripen up fast.

Fall colors of Pacific dogwood (Cornus nuttallii)
Fall colors of Pacific dogwood (Cornus nuttallii)

As the seed picking season begins to wind down in late fall we will have a complete inventory list. For now we are prioritizing seed picking excursions and cleaning the seed when we have some spare time. Contact us if you have something in particular that you are looking for.

Enjoy the last warm days of summer! And the beauty of our wonderful late season flowers, some examples of which are seen below.

rubber rabbitbrush (Ericameria nauseosa)
rubber rabbitbrush (Ericameria nauseosa)
western boneset (Ageratina occidentalis)
western boneset (Ageratina occidentalis)
woodland beard tongue (Nothochelone nemorosa)
woodland beard tongue (Nothochelone nemorosa)
Picking coyote mint (Monardella odoratissima) and sulphur flower (Eriogonum umbellatum) in the first snow flurries of the season in the high country of the Klamath-Siskiyou.
Picking mountain monardella (Monardella odoratissima) and sulphur-flower buckwheat (Eriogonum umbellatum) seeds in the season’s first snow flurries in the high country of the Klamath-Siskiyou.
Common tarweed (Madia elegans)
Common tarweed (Madia elegans)

Long before valley-bottom fields, grasslands and open areas in the Klamath-Siskiyou bioregion were covered in non-native and invasive star thistle (Centaurea solstitialis) or dyer’s woad (Isatis tinctoria), some were covered with the dainty, yellow, daisy-like flowers of the native common tarweed (Madia elegans). Tarweed is an annual wildflower in the sunflower family. In the Klamath-Siskiyou it occurs in grasslands and open forest, typically at mid to low elevation. It flowers in summer and early autumn, from northern Oregon through the California Floristic Province and Great Basin Province south to Baja California. The flowers curl up during the daytime, opening late in the day and remaining open until the middle of the next morning. (An explanation of why can be read in this SF Gate article.) The foliage exudes fragrant oil, and the plants are sticky, hence the common name tarweed. It is an often-overlooked native plant that deserves more respect and attention.

The seeds of tarweed are eaten by many birds and small mammals, such as mourning doves, quail, blackbirds, finches, Oregon juncos, California horned larks, western meadowlarks, American pipits, sparrows, towhees, mice, ground squirrels and chipmunks. Being a late bloomer, tarweed is an important late nectar source for butterflies, bees and other beneficial insects.

Common media is a host plant for the owlet moth (Heliothodes diminutiva)
Common madia is a host plant for the owlet moth (Heliothodes diminutiva)

Once, while picking tarweed seed, I discovered that there was a particular green caterpillar found in abundance in the large tarweed patch. After research I learned that the owlet moth (Heliothodes diminutiva) uses tarweed as it’s host plant, eating the reproductive organs (i.e flowers) of the plant as it grows, sometimes sterilizing the plant entirely.

Tarweed seeds were also historically used as food by the local indiginous people; documented use of tarweed is known for the Hupa, Takelma, and Shasta tribes.

Examples of how tarweed seeds were historically used include:

  • Seeds parched and pounded into flour.
  • Seeds roasted with hot coals, pounded or rolled into flour.
  • Pulverized seeds eaten as a dry meal.
  • Seeds used to make pinoles, where seeds were roasted and eaten alone or mixed with manzanita berries, acorns and pine nuts.
  • Ground tarweed seeds mixed with ground hazelnuts and camas.

Many people are familiar with the use of camas and acorns as indigenous food sources; however, small seed crops, such as wild grass and tarweed, were also vitally important to the indigenous diet. The Klamath-Siskiyou tribes developed extensive land management practices to enhance all wild crops they relied upon. Techniques such as burning, pruning, tilling, weeding, and selective harvesting were most likely used. Additionally, the act of harvesting itself helped spread seeds for subsequent crops.

Common tarweed (Madia elegans)
Common tarweed (Madia elegans)

In 1841, Titian Ramsay Peale of the Wilkes Expedition, traveling through what is now Ashland, OR, wrote in his journal, “Indian signs were numerous, though we saw but one, a squaw who was so busy setting fire to the prairie and mountain ravines that she seemed to disregard us….She had a large funnel shaped basket which they all [women] carry to collect roots and seeds in.” It is assumed that this woman probably was burning to obtain tarweed or grass seeds, or at least to enhance their future growing conditions.

George Riddle, who settled in southern Oregon in 1851, described in his book, History of early days in Oregon, tarweed gathering among the Takelma-speaking Cow Creek Indians along the South Umpqua River: “During the summer months the squaws gather various kinds of seeds of which the tar weed was the most prized…. When the seeds were ripe the country was burned off. This left the plant standing with the tar burned off and the seeds left in the pods. Immediately after the fire there would be an army of squaws armed with an implement made of twigs shaped like a tennis racket with their basket swung in front they would beat the seeds from the pods into the basket. This seed gathering would only last a few days and every squaw in the tribe seemed to be doing her level best to make all the noise she could, beating her racket against the top of her basket. All seeds were ground into meal with a mortar and pestle.”

Common tarweed (Madia elegans) can commonly be found in roadside refugia.
Common tarweed (Madia elegans) can commonly be found in roadside refugia, where the land is untilled and unirrigated.

Consider encouraging this wildflower if it already exists on your property or in your area, or plant some seeds for the future. As an annual it is really easy to grow from seed and self sows in open soil! The historical and ecological value of tarweed could enhance your own land or local ecosystem. Tarweed would be ideal for gardeners or restoration practitioners attempting to mimic a native prairie and/or grassland landscape. Tarweed seed is best planted in late winter to allow for a deep root system to develop before summer; however, in a garden setting infrequent summer watering will be tolerated by this species .

 

Klamath-Siskiyou Native Seeds