Weeding Around the Desert Milkweed

April 27, 2020

One of the native plants we picked up at a Mojave Desert Land Trust plant sale in 2019 was the Desert Milkweed (Asclepias erosa). In fact, we got two plants. We planted them with a mesh barrier for protection from our snacky resident critters. They were relatively small and did ok that first summer. By fall, they died away.

At a MDLT event in late fall of 2019, I chatted with Madena Asbell, who is the Director of Plant Conservation Programs at MDLT, about the milkweed. She gave me the best advice: Be patient. They will come back.

So we waited and waited for warmer weather to hopefully "wake up" the plants. I regularly checked their areas for any signs of new growth.

All I was getting familiar with was the amount of other springtime plants loving that disturbed soil within the barriers.

And then, one day in March, I saw leaves that didn't look like the grasses and mustards that were invading the space. It was the milkweed! It was emerging in one of the barriers

Desert Milkweed amongst the invading plants.
Above: Desert Milkweed amongst the invading plants. Its lighter (almost silvery blue) leaves are larger than the other plants.

In order to give it as much help as we could, I decided to weed inside the barrier.

Desert Milkweed area has been weeded.
Above: The soil around the Desert Milkweed has been rid of all other plants. The dried plant material on the right is the dead plant from last year.

Close up of the emerging Desert Milkweed.
Above: Close up of the emerging Desert Milkweed.

The milkweed continues to grow and now has some huge leaves! I'm excited to see it flower when it finally does.

Progress on the Desert Milkweed.
Above: The Desert Milkweed making lots of progress. This photo is from April 23.

Even more good news! The other milkweed has begun to emerge as well!

The second Desert Milkweed showing signs of life.
Above: The second Desert Milkweed shows signs of life. Photo from April 23.

Both Desert Milkweeds survived and just needed a little bit of patience.