We moved into our home 7 1/2 years ago. Since then, we have traveled 71st Street to Hoover Rd., going to and from Wichita, at least twice each week. Conservatively, then, I'd estimate that we've driven by this one spot roughly 100 times a year, for a grand total of about 750 times since we moved here.
Despite driving the same route so many times, it wasn't until yesterday that we spotted beautiful, big butterfly milkweed plants in the ditch along our normal route! That's right. Butterfly milkweed, a.k.a. Asclepias tuberosa, with its vivid bright orange blooms. It's not like this plant is a shy, quiet little mouse, hiding down among the grasses. No, this plant is a hussy, shouting, "Look at me, world!!!" And we'd missed it, time and time again.
In our defense, of course, the county road crews have been ridiculously vigilant about mowing the roadsides to a dirty, ragged stubble most years.
Truthfully, we almost missed the butterfly milkweed yesterday too. I caught one glimpse of the vivid orange as we drove by, so I asked Greg to turn around so I could verify that there was a plant there. The orange of butterfly milkweed is incredibly distinctive, so I was pretty sure what I'd seen. Not only was there one plant, there were FOUR!
You can't dig native milkweed. The roots are too deep and you'll kill the plant. That goes double for attempting anything at this time of year, when it's hot and the plant is blooming. So I couldn't rescue them that way. No seeds likely and no transplanting possible. What to do?
Greg did a little research on the web and started seeing reports of taking milkweed cuttings. It didn't seem like a viable option, but several sites were reporting success. The county would be butchering these plants soon anyway - why not try a couple cuttings and see what happened?
So this morning, armed with peanut butter jars of water, clippers, and my camera, we set forth.
Back at home, I carefully removed lower leaves, blooms, and flower buds, dipped the end of each cutting in rooting hormone, and stuck them in wet perlite. Plastic bags went over the cuttings to keep the humidity of the air up around them until (hopefully) they start to root. This is my little forest of butterfly milkweed cuttings on the kitchen counter.....