JUNE 13, 2020
It is hard to think about, much less write about, searching for wildflowers when the whole world is crying out for racial justice after George Floyd’s murder in Minneapolis. We’ve been protesting, working to support protesters, and making masks to help people stay healthy in the midst of the ongoing pandemic. But when Kelly needed to drive down to Wisconsin we stopped on the way at Pin Oak Prairie Scientific and Natural Area in hope of spotting two uncommon milkweeds in our effort to find all of Minnesota’s milkweeds, (minus one which is most likely extirpated).
We’d searched here last summer for clasping milkweed and woolly milkweed, following directions from a botanist friend, but both milkweed species were long past blooming, and the prairie had grown so high we couldn’t even find the plants’ leaves.
This time we were hoping to at least spot the leaves so we could come back later to see them in bloom. We had barely searched the hillside for five minutes, though, when we found several wooly milkweed plants with flowers almost open. Shouts and high fives (socially distant ones)!
Would we be lucky enough to find clasping milkweed as well? We wandered along the hillside peering closely at any milkweeds without finding anything that resembled the pictures on minnesotawildflowers.info. Then, almost at the top of the hill, we found them, their wavy clasping leaves and long flower stalks unmistakable—once we’d seen them, we would always recognize them. Kelly thought they looked like lighting fixtures from the fifties, and they reminded me of visitors from outer space.
A day rich in milkweeds got richer when, farther down the highway, we stopped to climb a goat prairie and found narrow-leaved milkweed and green milkweed both in bloom. Add to that the not-yet-blooming Sullivant’s milkweed we’d seen at Pin Oak Prairie, and it was a hat-trick-plus-two milkweed day.
Now we are back working at our jobs, sewing masks, doing what we can to work for racial justice, grateful for the respite of climbing in prairie and finding rare and uncommon milkweeds blooming in the sun.