My excitement level went thru the roof to hear Patagonia was closer than I expected. Unfortunately it is a Patagonia Outlet Store they were directing me to and not a diverse secluded region in Southern South America.
The ditch trail sounds like the exact place that I would expect to hear about native milkweed growing naturally. So I am packing up for my 9-5 job (actually 3:30-00:00) a bit early to set out in hopes of discovering local milkweed plants growing in my community.
Success on my first walk today. I found part of what I was expecting!I parked at Mayberry Park and walked directly to the Truckee Rivers edge. Once I began to look at all the plants growing there I became a bit overwhelmed with the diversity of plants. There are so many plants growing by the river.
Showy Milkweed and Mexican Whorled Milkweed is what I was expecting to find. And Showy Milkweed is what I found! Confused by Dogbane.The first Milkweed plants I found were so abundant that I was in slight disbelief that they were there. It was Dogbane and not Milkweed! It was growing in Droves. I saw two butterflies fluttering thru their vertical stalks. I thought 'they must be milkweed'. It was milkweed paradise. Or was I just confused by a milkweed look-a-like? I collected a few dried seed pods and went about on my way down the path looking for more.
With much luck I stumbled right across milkweed a short distance away. Growing in a slightly different area of loose grass I found another type of milkweed. The Showy Milkweed was in thick clumps a few yards from the rivers edge. In full sun I could there was very young Showy Milkweed growing in between the older, more established plants. It seemed to be very healthy. A few beetles were devouring one of its leaves.
Don't try this at home.Having not seen any milkweed recently I was not positive it was milkweed. I had read that the sap is milky white and has a bitter taste along with mild toxicity. So I had to check for these traits.
I took a small bite.From a small leaf tip I could see the milky white sap oozing out. I nibbled on it like a lettuce leaf. The bitterness was very mild. The leaves are very fluffy and light. I couldn't wait to get back to my car where I had fresh water. I discourage eating milkweed. Leave that for the butterflies!
The first groves that I thought were milkweed turned out to be Dogbane or Hemp Dogbane. It had many similarities to milkweed. First there were the milky white sap when I tore off a leaf. There were the butterflies that I saw. But it didn't all add up to milkweed. The seeds I collected were thin and rounded. Milkweed is known for having pancaked tear shaped seeds.