The story of a boring little vacant lot

This "vacant lot" sits near the entrance to our neighborhood, a place we've lived for almost 14 years. Although my husband and I have walked around this corner hundreds of times, until last summer we had never walked across it. Even after we started doing iNaturalist, we never walked across this field. It's slightly elevated, maybe three or four feet higher than the street, and you can't really see the top of it from the sidewalk. I cannot stress enough how unimpressive looking this little corner is! Not particularly bad: it was mowed if the grass got too high, no illegal dumping or anything. Just so completely unassuming that it was barely noticeable. Late last spring, we started using iNat to survey in the Stewart Creek Wetlands, which is just across the street from this little plot of land. Every week or two, we walked down to the Wetlands, walking right around this corner to get there. We made iNaturalist observations in the Wetlands, as well all along the roadside as we walked there. After we had made 4 or 5 of these trips, on one summer trip we decided to walk across this corner on our way home. I don't remember why we decided to walk across rather than around it; maybe it was a shortcut because we were tired. Right away we noticed an abundance of green milkweed. (Asclepias viridis) Sure, it's a common plant, but there's not much of it around this neighborhood, so it was a lovely surprise. What's more, we had already noticed that there was very little milkweed of any kind down in the Wetlands. So, it was good to know this patch was nearby.

Not long after this, though, we heard from the HOA property manager,Rhonda, that it looked as if the fire station was finally going to be built. We lamented the loss of all that milkweed, and explained the importance of milkweed to monarchs. Rhonda asked whether the milkweed could be rescued. Couldn't it just be dug up and planted somewhere else? We had no idea whether that was possible, but luckily, we knew just the person to ask! We went to Carol Clark, our resident monarch and native plant expert. She said, yes it could be done. It turned out that the people managing the wetlands very much wanted the milkweed, and were willing to help dig it up. Not only that, they had greenhouse space to nurse it over the winter, and expertise to help re-plant it later.

We were energized by the way the whole save-the-milkweed project was coming together, so we got serious about surveying this little field regularly. On Labor Day, we talked our son into going with us for our survey, and we found a plant we hadn't seen before. It came up on iNat as Whorled Milkweed (A. verticillata ) and we thought it looked pretty close, so that's how we id'ed it. By the time we got home, though, we had a correction from @milkweedguy. He identified it as Slim Milkweed (A. linearis) - which happens to be a very uncommon milkweed for North Texas. Carol asked for more pictures and sent them off to various experts; the experts had varied opinions. (Possibly my not-so-great photography skills contributed to the identification challenge.) Finally, Carol and a few others had to come see for themselves, and all agreed: it certainly appeared to be Slim Milkweed. We are still waiting on the final DNA analysis, but all the experts who have seen it themselves seem to be in agreement. It is indeed Slim Milkweed! It's hard to describe just how much FUN we had with this whole episode!! All right there in this incredibly uninteresting corner!

We've had two "milkweed pulls" and have rescued close to 600 plants. (Although I maintain that calling them "pulls" is very misleading! There is no pulling up these plants - it's definitely a DIG, not a pull!) Word is that the plants are doing well, and plans are in the works for planting sessions soon. We've found some other interesting plants here, including lots of Big Bluestem, several Gum Bumelias, lots of Gayfeather, to say nothing of all the butterflies, dragonflies, and other insects.

Because of iNaturalist, we stumbled upon some treasures that no one would have guessed were right there, waiting. Now, I can't help wondering what surprise could be hiding in any little patch of green I see!

Posted on 24 January, 2019 00:42 by lisa281 lisa281


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