If you invite milkweeds into the garden, expect other life to follow

To see a field of common milkweed in midsummer — a sea of a thousand nodding pink flower heads — you would not imagine that anything could ever stand in the way of the genus Asclepias.

Yes, common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca), the most widespread milkweed east of the Rocky Mountains, can colonize disturbed sites and form impressive stands. But it is an exception among the more than 90 recognized North American species of milkweed, many of which often find it not so easy to continue making themselves at home.

“The milkweed is a displaced citizen in its own land,” writes Eric Lee-Mäder in the opening of his new book, “The Milkweed Lands: An Epic Story of One Plant, Its Nature and Ecology.” “Where once it owned the continent, it’s now a kind of vagrant, occupying the botanical equivalent of homeless encampments.”

As one example, he cites 2012 research, by

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Xerces Society and National Pollinator Week

To help raise awareness about the declining populations of many pollinating species, in 2017 the U.S. Senate unanimously voted to establish National Pollinator Week. Because pollinators are crucial not only to our human food supply but to the health of all life on the planet, there is good reason to care about them: our lives are intertwined with theirs. This year National Pollinator Week is from June 20 to June 26.

'The Real Dirt' is a column by various local master gardeners who are part of the UC Master Gardeners of Butte County.
‘The Real Dirt’ is a column by various local master gardeners who are part of the UC Master Gardeners of Butte County. 

A pollinator is any insect or animal that unintentionally, through its movements, carries pollen or the male reproductive part of plants to the female parts of plants, a process that facilitates the reproduction of over 85% of flowering plants. It has been estimated that more than two thirds of the world’s crops depend on pollinators, and the

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