Monarch butterflies have been making their way through the Klamath-Siskiyou for over a month now. They have made their way from their overwintering grounds on the southern California coast along their ancient migratory path. On April 18, 2015 I saw the heartleaf milkweeed, or Asclepias cordifolia (ASCO), in full bloom in the Kangaroo Roadless Area, south of the Red Buttes Wilderness, and just above the Klamath River. With this first sight of the season of blooming milkweed I knew that the monarchs would soon be on their way. I was not sure, however, if monarchs use ASCO within the Klamath-Siskiyou range, as I hadn’t come across any literature to show it does (that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist, I just hadn’t seen any). I had a mission: find and document proof that monarchs use ASCO plants in the Klamath-Siskiyou bioregion.
ASCO populations tend to be more scattered and remote than the more familiar showy milkweed (Asclepias speciosa) and narrowleaf milkweed (Asclepias fascicularis) that are common in the lower elevations and valley bottoms of northern California and southern Oregon.
Just a week later, on April 29, 2015 I observed the first monarch eggs laid on a showy milkweed patch in my garden. The monarch chose to lay her eggs on the less mature and smaller plants within my milkweed patch. As the eggs hatched I have brought the tiny caterpillars into a rearing cage to allow them a safe place to develop. Once they emerge from their chrysalis as a butterfly they will be tagged for monitoring purposes and released back to their wild migration. Currently I have 18 caterpillars in the rearing cage. They eat milkweed endlessly and need to have the cage cleaned of their “frass” a couple times a day. They are so much fun to watch and observe. I have given 12 caterpillars to two other monarch advocates associated with the group Southern Oregon Monarch Advocates, who are helping make sure the vulnerable caterpillars have a secure place to mature. I needed the help, as raising caterpillars is no easy task. Out of the 104 eggs initially laid there have been 30 caterpillars to make it. Predation is a very serious issue for monarchs, with wasps being a very big threat—well, besides human threats, but that’s another story. To see more you can watch my Youtube video of the caterpillars moving around on milkweed plants within the rearing cage.
On May 15, 2015 I visited the Kalmiopsis Wilderness where I observed another patch of flowering ASCO. This patch was quite extensive, but it was also isolated; I didn’t observe any ASCO anywhere else on an overnight backpacking trip in the area. I searched the ASCO up and down for any signs of eggs or caterpillars and didn’t find any. Because I knew that monarchs had already started to lay eggs I was disappointed not to see use of this big ASCO patch.
The Upper Applegate Valley of southern Oregon also has some isolated plants of ASCO. I was able to visit a couple of these plants and they too were devoid of any monarch activity. At this point I was starting to doubt that monarchs use ASCO plants.
On June 4, 2015 I finally found what I had suspected: monarchs do use Asclepias cordifolia in the Klamath-Siskiyou area! I was able to document through photo and video monarchs ovipositing on ASCO in the Dakubetede roadless area in the Little Applegate Valley of southern Oregon, an area that the BLM has identified as “an area with wildland characteristics.” I knew of a population of ASCO located on and near a rock outcrop on a south-facing spur ridge. The rock outcrop is surrounded by sloping grassland with oak woodland and mixed conifer forest nearby. Check out the Youtube video I made about this experience by following the link below.
Youtube video: Monarch butterflies use heartleaf milkweed (Asclepias cordifolia) in the Klamath Siskiyou
When I posted my Youtube video I noticed that someone else had just posted a video showing that monarchs use ASCO in the Sierras, near Emigrant Gap. That video was posted on May 31st, 2015 and can be viewed here.
My hunch was right: Monarchs use ASCO plants as they migrate through the mountains, in between stops at milkweed patches in the valley bottoms. This milkweed species that is adapted to a more rocky, exposed and mountainous habitat sustains the monarch through the mid- to high-elevations along its ancient migratory path.
Plant milkweed in your garden or yard for monarch butterfly recovery. Wild patches have become more rare and should be protected!
The flora of the Klamath-Siskiyou is unique, but it is also a blend of all the surrounding bioregions: high desert, interior valley, Pacific Northwest, California, and the Coast Ranges. In order to learn about the flora of the Klamath-Siskiyou, one must search out information from all these other areas, as there is no comprehensive guide to the region as a whole.
Although many people will tell you that books are becoming irrelevant in the internet age—I beg to differ. Books are still an invaluable resource for native plant knowledge, identification, propagation and gardening. I will feature a limited list of some of my favorite resources.
Real Gardens Grow Natives: Design, Plant & Enjoy a Healthy Northwest Garden
By Eileen M. Stark
“IMAGINE A GARDEN that genuinely belongs in its setting and reflects the natural world, where bumblebees and woodpeckers thrive amid beautiful plants that require less effort to grow. This is a real garden, and Real Gardens Grow Natives shows you how to design such a dynamic, wildlife-friendly space using Northwest native plants. From colorful, sun-loving borders to lush, shady retreats, native plants form a spectacular outdoor setting, while also providing important habitat corridors for birds, butterflies, and other creatures local to your neighborhood.” -Real Gardens Grow Natives
This new publication has beautiful photos and is full of valuable and useful information. Although the author is writing from Portland, Oregon, and the book is focused on northwest native plants, many plants featured in the book are also native to the Klamath-Siskiyou bioregion, or can be substituted with a Klamath-Siskiyou equivalent.
Growing California Native Plants
By Marjorie G. Schmidt
“A few California native plants have been in cultivation for a hundred years or so, but widespread consciousness of natives is relatively recent. It has arisen partly because of the recent drought, which natives survived more readily than exotics, and partly because of growing awareness that many natives have become rare or endangered, and may be preserved and perpetuated by cultivation for their ornamental qualities. The book is in full accord with the new trend in landscaping in which the environment, climate, and restricted water supplies are taken into account—not only for gardens but also for parks, roadside plantings, and other large-scale landscaping.” –Growing California Native Plants
Published in 1980, this book is still relevant and useful today. There have been some new methods developed for propagation of some plants that may supplant the methods in this book, but the information is still invaluable. You may find that some of the botanical names have changed since this book was published. This book looks at California flora as a whole, and many plants are not native to the Klamath-Siskiyou bioregion, but the ideas and concepts are very relevant to the area, and many of the plants are Klamath-Siskiyou natives.
Propagation of Pacific Northwest Native Plants
By Robin Rose, Caryn E.C. Chachulski, and Diane L Haase
“Propagation of Pacific Northwest Native Plants, the first publication of its kind, provides propagation information on nearly one hundred and forty native plants. Designed for use by both nursery professionals and home gardeners, this working manual presents the most current and comprehensive information in this emerging field. Drawn from forestry and agricultural journals, as well as gardening and horticultural handbooks and personal sources, the techniques presented here offer invaluable direction to the any who wish to grow native plants.” –Propagation of Pacific Northwest Native Plants
This book is well organized and easy to follow. There are a lot of good tricks of the trade to learn from this book to get you well on your way to native plant propagation. Although the book focuses on northwest native plants, the techniques are useful for related plants in the Klamath-Siskiyou. This book was first published in 1998.
Collecting, Processing and Germinating Seeds of Wildland Plants
By James A. Young & Cheryl G. Young
“Collecting seed is the responsible way of introducing splendid plants growing in the wild into your garden, it it is not a siple process. Gathering seed at the optimum time calls for knowledge of the plant’s life cycle; germinating seed successfully requires an understanding of the particular requirements for each species. James and Cheryl Young have drawn on thier years of practical field experience and exhaustive study of the research literature to provide the kind of detailed information needed by the gardener, naturalist or professional propagator.” -Collecting, Processing and Germinating Seeds of Wildland Plants
First published in 1986, this book covers native wildland plants from throughout the United States, including the Klamath-Siskiyou region.
Seed Propagation of Native California Plants
By Dara E. Emery
This book could be seen as the Bible for native California plant propagation as it includes suggested treatments for over 900 different species. It is so useful, that if you are going to try your hand at native plant propagation, you should not be without it. The reference system is easy to use and the techniques presented are a must-have for the serious propagator and weekend gardener alike.
The Jepson Manual: Vascular Plants of California (Second Edition, Thoroughly Revised and Expanded)
Edited by Bruce G. Baldwin, Douglas H. Goldman, David J. Keil, Robert Patterson, Thomas J. Rosatti, and Dieter H. Wilken
“The Second Edition of the Jepson Manual thoroughly updates this acclaimed work, the single most comprehensive resource on California’s amazingly diverse flora. Integrating the latest science with the results of intensive fieldwork, institutional collaboration, and the efforts of hundreds of contributing authors, this new edition is an essential reference on California’s native and naturalized vascular plants.
This edition includes treatments of many newly described or discovered taxa and recently introduced plants and it reflects major improvements in plant taxonomy. Nearly two-thirds of the 7,600 species, subspecies, and varieties that the volume describes are now illustrated with diagnostic drawings. Geographic distributions, elevation ranges, flowering times, nomenclature, and the status of non-natives and native taxa of special concern have been updated throughout. The second edition also allows for identification of 240 alien taxa that are not fully naturalized and features a new chapter on the geologic, climatic, and vegetation history of California.” -The Jepson Manual
Hand’s down this is the best book for plant identification in the Klamath-Siskiyou region. Botanists may have disputes regarding the accuracy of classification between the first edition and the second edition of the Jepson Manual, but that aside, this book is undoubtedly the real Bible for plant knowledge in our region.
California Native Plants for the Garden
By Carol Boornstein, David Foss, and Bart O’Brien
The three authors of this book bring a combined level of experience that has created this wonderful and highly respected publication. As a comprehensive resource, this book features 500 plants and is illustrated with 450 color photographs. This book appeals to all types of gardeners and habitat restoration practitioners. The book offers great advice for plant care and plant selection.
Klamath-Siskiyou Native Seeds had a booth at the Rogue Valley Seed Exchange and Seed Circus — put on by Families for Food Freedom — yesterday, in Ashland, OR. What a fun event! Seed lovers and plant enthusiasts of all kinds came out to join in the festivities to further develop and engage community seed networks. Native seeds have an integral role to play in sustainable agriculture and land management. It would be great to see more communities having events that encourage community seed networks, such as this one in Ashland. Thanks to everyone who helped make the event a success!
For more information about the seed circus visit: https://www.facebook.com/events/614561075341437/
Tucked into the borderlands of northern California and southern Oregon, the Klamath-Siskiyou Mountains are a place of raw, rugged beauty renowned for their biodiversity. The region is home to more species of conifer —32 of them—than any other temperate conifer forest in North America. The Klamath-Siskiyou ranks second in North America in terms of endemism (organisms found nowhere else in the world), and third in total species richness.
The region rises abruptly, creating a jumbled mass of rugged and diverse mountains, jagged peaks, wild rivers, and deep forest. Ancient and complex bedrock defines the Klamath-Siskiyou region as a whole. This seemingly haphazard patchwork of rock types creates and supports an unusually diverse and contrasting mosaic of habitat types, microclimates and plant diversity.
The following is a description of the Klamath-Siskiyou by the World Wildlife Fund. The Klamath-Siskiyou Region is on WWF’s “Global 200: The Most Outstanding and Representative Areas of Biodiversity.” For their complete description please visit the link below. This description was written in the 1990s, but is still relevant to this day.
https://www.worldwildlife.org/ecoregions/na0516“Temperate Coniferous Forest: Located in northwestern California and southwestern Oregon, complex terrain, geology, climate, and biogeographic history have created one of the Earth’s most extraordinary expressions of temperate biodiversity in the Klamath and Siskiyou Mountains. Although well known among biologists, few North Americans realize the uniqueness and importance of the species and communities in this ecoregion. Indeed, logging, mining, road building, and grazing continue to be intensive and pervasive threats to this area.
Description Biological Distinctiveness
The Klamath-Siskiyou ecoregion is considered a global center of biodiversity (Wallace 1982), an IUCN Area of Global Botanical Significance (1 of 7 in North America), and is proposed as a World Heritage Site and UNESCO Biosphere Reserve (Vance-Borland et al. 1995). The biodiversity of these rugged coastal mountains of northwestern California and southwestern Oregon has garnered this acclaim because the region harbors one of the four richest temperate coniferous forests in the world (along with the Southeastern Conifer forests of North America, forests of Sichuan, China, and the forests of the Primorye region of the Russian Far East), with complex biogeographic patterns, high endemism, and unusual community assemblages. A variety of factors contribute to the region’s extraordinary living wealth. The region escaped extensive glaciation during recent ice ages, providing both a refuge for numerous taxa and long periods of relatively favorable conditions for species to adapt to specialized conditions. Shifts in climate over time have helped make this ecoregion a junction and transition zone for several major biotas, namely those of the Great Basin, the Oregon Coast Range, the Cascades Range, the Sierra Nevada, the California Central Valley, and Coastal Province of Northern California. Elements from all of these zones are currently present in the ecoregion’s communities. Temperate conifer tree species richness reaches a global maximum in the Klamath-Siskiyous with 30 species, including 7 endemics, and alpha diversity (single-site) measured at 17 species within a single square mile (2.59 km2) at one locality (Vance-Borland et al. 1995). Overall, around 3,500 plant species are known from the region, with many habitat specialists (including 90 serpentine specialists) and local endemics.
The great heterogeneity of the region’s biodiveristy is due to the area’s rugged terrain, very complex geology and soils (giving the region the name “the Klamath Knot” [A noteworthy book titled The Klamath Knot was written by David Rains Wallace in 1983]), and strong gradients in moisture decreasing away from the coast (e.g., more than300 cm (120in)/annum to less than 50 cm (20 in)/annum). Habitats are varied and range from wet coastal temperate rainforests to moist inland forests dominated by Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii), Pinus ponderosa, and P. lambertiana mixed with a variety of other conifers and hardwoods (e.g., Chamaecyparis lawsoniana, Lithocarpus densiflora, Taxus brevifolia, and Quercus chrysolepis); drier oak forests and savannas with Quercus garryana and Q. kelloggii; serpentine formations with well-developed sclerophyllous shrubs; higher elevation forests with Douglas fir, Tsuga mertensiana, Abies concolor and Abies magnifica; alpine grasslands on the higher peaks; and cranberry and pitcher plant bogs. Many species and communities have adapted to very narrow bands of environmental conditions or to very specific soils such as serpentine outcrops. Local endemism is quite pronounced with numerous species restricted to single mountains, watersheds, or even single habitat patches, tributary streambanks, or springs (e.g., herbaceous plants, salamanders, carabid beetles, land snails, see Olson 1991). Such fine-grained and complex distribution patterns means that any losses of native forests or habitats in this ecoregion can
significantly contribute to species extinction. Several of the only known localities for endemic harvestman, spiders, land snails, and other invertebrates have been heavily altered or lost through logging within the last decade, and the current status of these species is unknown (Olson 1991). Unfortunately, many invertebrate species with distribution patterns and habitat preferences that make them prone to extinction, such as old growth specialist species, are rarely recognized or listed as federal endangered species. Indeed, 83 species of Pacific Northwest freshwater mussels and land snails with extensive documentation of their endangerment were denied federal listing by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 1994 (J. Belsky, pers. comm. 1994).
Rivers and streams of the Klamath-Siskiyou region support a distinctive fish fauna, including nine species of native salmonids (salmon and trout), and several endemic or near-endemic species such as the tui chub (Gila bicolor), the Klamath small-scale sucker (Catostomus rimiculus), and the coastrange sculpin (Cottus aleuticus). Many unusual aquatic invertebrates are also occur in the region.” -WWF
Monarch butterflies are an iconic species. Many people remember a time when they were omnipresent in the summer in the United States, but times have unfortunately changed as the monarch butterfly faces more threats to their survival than ever. The monarch butterfly is known by scientists as Danaus plexippus, which in Greek literally means “sleepy transformation.” Monarchs that live east of the continental divide embark on a spectacular annual migration to winter roost sites in oyamel trees in the mountains of Michoacán, Mexico.
The World Wildlife Fund explained the results of a recent survey of monarch populations as follows: “A new survey of migratory monarch butterflies at their wintering habitat shows a 69% increase in the area they occupied this winter in relation to last year’s winter. Yet this is still the second smallest area occupied by these butterflies in Mexican sanctuaries since 1993.
Monarch butterflies, which hibernate in Mexico, migrate between 1,200 to 2,800 miles from Canada and the United States to establish their colonies in temperate forests in the outskirts of Michoacán and the State of Mexico. The forest area occupied by these colonies serves as an indirect indicator of the number of butterflies that come to Mexico.
To survey these colonies, biweekly trips were made to colonies with a historic presence of butterflies, and the location and perimeters occupied by monarchs was determined using a spatial analysis software. The study was carried out by the WWF-Telcel Alliance and Mexico’s National Commission of Protected Natural Areas. In total, nine monarch butterfly colonies were recorded, both inside and outside of the Monarch Butterfly Reserve.
“The 2.79 acres occupied by monarchs this season should serve as additional motivation for the leaders of Canada, Mexico, and the United States to translate the commitment they made in Mexico in February 2014, to concrete and immediate actions”, said Omar Vidal, Director General of WWF in Mexico. “It is crucial that we restore and protect the habitat of this iconic species in all three countries, but above all that we limit the use of herbicide and land conversion in the United States and maintain efforts to avoid deforestation in Mexico,” he added.”
Monarch butterflies that live west of the continental divide, however, including monarchs that migrate through the Klamath-Siskiyou bioregion, overwinter in various groves of trees along the central and southern California coast. The International Environmental Law Project released a report in 2012 entitled, The Legal Status of Monarch Butterflies in California, which states that “observations from annual counts of overwintering butterflies in California reveal monarch population declines of approximately 90 percent across most sites with some sites faring significantly worse.”
There are many reasons for this significant decline, including agricultural and urban development, pesticides, logging of overwintering habitat in Mexico, climate change, and loss of milkweed, the main food source for monarch larvae.
The following quote from the Center for Biological Diversity’s shows the obstacles the monarch butterfly is currently facing: “The heart of the monarch’s range is the midwestern “Corn Belt,” where most of the world’s monarchs are born on milkweed plants growing in agricultural fields. Because of the ubiquitous spraying of Roundup on corn and soy that have been genetically modified to resist herbicides, the monarch is in bad trouble in the core of its range, where its sole host plant, milkweed, is disappearing. In a one-two punch, climate change is undermining the stable weather conditions and predictable flowering seasons that monarchs need to complete their migration. Climate change also threatens these butterflies’ overwintering habitat in the mountain forests of Mexico. Just as Joshua Tree National Park will soon no longer support Joshua trees, the International Monarch Reserve in Mexico is expected to become climatically unsuitable for monarchs by the end of the century.”
Milkweed has long had a bad rap because of its potential toxicity to livestock. Many farmers consider the plant a weed and either spray it with herbicides or simply plow it under; however, female monarch butterflies lay their eggs exclusively on the leaves of milkweed plants. These host plants are the only food that monarch caterpillars will eat. As the caterpillars ingest milkweed the toxins in the plant are stored in their bodies, making the caterpillars and adults toxic to many predators.
The Klamath-Siskiyou bioregion is home to three native species of milkweed: Showy milkweed (Asclepias speciosa), Narrowleaf milkweed (Asclepias fascicularis), and Purple milkweed (Asclepias cordifolia). Showy milkweed can be spotted along roadsides, in drainage ditches, in unplowed fields, and other locations within the valley bottom. This species ranges from the Midwest to the west coast and north into Canada. This is the largest of the milkweed species in the Klamath-Siskiyou and the most common.
Narrowleaf milkweed has a long, narrow leaf and small, pale pink flowers with a distribution that includes most western states down to Baja California. This plant is rhizomatous and spreads readily. It prefers to grow in full sun in dry or moist conditions. It can also be found in abandoned or unplowed fields and along roadside ditches in low elevation habitat.
Purple milkweed is a spectacularly beautiful species that is native to parts of California, Nevada and Oregon. Purple milkweed has a more dispersed distribution within the Klamath-Siskiyou than the showy or narrowleaf milkweed and is less well known. Purple milkweed prefers to grow on rocky slopes or outcrops in woodland and coniferous forests. Native Americans used the fiber in milkweed plants for the creation of ropes and nets. Anthropologists found a 40 foot long deer net made from purple milkweed that required an estimated 35,000 plant stalks to construct.
The monarch population continues to decline at an alarming rate. If we don’t act soon to increase, protect and restore monarch habitat we may see the population of this majestic and iconic species dwindle. Consider planting milkweed for monarch butterfly recovery; you will be glad you did. Within a short time the monarchs will find your patch of milkweed and begin using it for their reproduction and migratory needs to insure their survival into the future. You may not personally be able to do much to help other endangered species, like polar bears for instance, but there is a tangible thing you can do to help the endangered monarch butterfly: plant milkweed! You can help an endangered species right in your own backyard.
Responding to a petition from environmental organizations and butterfly advocacy groups, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) opened a “status review,” a step in the right direction toward future recovery of monarch butterflies. This week marks the end of the public comment period for the status review, in which the USFWS was asking for public input on whether or not monarch butterflies warrant endangered species protection. Let’s hope the USFWS does the right thing and lists the monarch as an endangered species under the Endangered Species Act.
Klamath-Siskiyou Native Seeds currently has both showy milkweed and narrow leaf milkweed seeds for sale. Hopefully next year we will also add purple milkweed to our inventory.
To view a photo essay of the monarch butterfly lifecycle in the Klamath-Siskiyou, see a blog post we wrote for The Siskiyou Crest Blog at: http://thesiskiyoucrest.blogspot.com/2014/07/monarch-butterflies-in-siskiyou_4.html
For millennia people have been planting and cultivating native plants that grow wild around them for food, medicine, ceremonial or ornamental purposes. In the Klamath-Siskiyou region indigenous people — the Karuk and Takelma, for example — historically cultivated native coyote tobacco (Nicotiana attenuata) and Indian tobacco (Nicotiana quadravalis) for smoking according to tribal customs. This tradition still lives on in some places.
In M. Kat Anderson’s pivotal book, Tending the Wild: Native American Knowledge and the Management of California’s Natural Resources, she explains how other plants were either deliberately planted, transplanted, or otherwise encouraged for better growth or a more convenient harvesting location by Indians, namely near village sites. These include, but are not limited to, Hind’s walnut (Juglans californica var. hindsii), hazelnut (Corylus cornuta var. californica), oak species, such as the preferred black oak (Quercus kelloggii) or tanoak (Notholithocarpus densiflorus), and many bulbs, tubers, or corms, such as camas (Camassia quamash and Camassia leichtlinii), yampah (Perideridia spp.), mariposa lilies (Calochortus spp.), lomatium (Lomatium spp.), and brodieaeas (Brodiaea, Dichelotstemma, and Triteleia spp.), to name but a few.
As modern humans living in this same, yet altered landscape, we can continue this relationship to native plants that surround us in the Klamath-Siskiyou bioregion. We may not be harvesting camas to eat it anymore — although some still do — but we can plant camas and other native bulbs to add to the ecological diversity of our own backyards, landscaping and homesteads to provide beauty for ourselves, and habitat for the wild critters that still depend on native plants to thrive.
While the modern nursery industry is hell-bent on developing the next, newer, and supposedly better cultivated strains to keep commercializing and patenting plants for commercial production, the option of sticking to native, localized plant genetics — unaltered by the manipulation of industry — remains for plant enthusiasts who want to encourage a healthy and vibrant native ecosystem. We can all do our part to keep native plant populations alive and well by growing natives. Grow Native, Grow Wild!
Shipping prices are normally 50 cents per pack, but please contact us for exact shipping prices for your order, or for bulk shipping prices: email@example.com or call us at 541-890-1483. Thanks! Plan ahead for next year and let us know what seed you need us to pick for you this coming summer and fall. Advanced orders are welcome! To download the seed availability chart — or to see it in bigger font — click on the following link: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/m7zu6989eakaptn/AADtjGevy2fnfVZZa1cBpBRya?dl=0