Recap of Summer 2023 Milkweed Season

Cave Creek District Report from Susan Sridharan

It was a hot, dry summer for milkweed sites on the Tonto. In general, however, the more established the plants, the better they handled the stress. Milkweed at our Wildcat site, planted 3 years ago, fared the best. Though they did not receive supplemental waterings, only a few plants were lost over the summer. The 33 that remain (out of 50 originally planted) are mostly robust and healthy.

Rattlesnake Cove milkweed, planted 2 years ago, needed supplemental watering to survive the summer. Volunteers mulched each plant, then watered every one to two weeks and managed to save a majority of the milkweed. Approximately 28 of the original 52 plants remain.

As expected, the young milkweed at Sears-Kay, planted just last November, had the roughest summer. They were already weakened from the unseasonably cold winter (with snow) in their area, and even with mulching and regular summer watering, we lost almost half of the original 52 plants . With regular watering and cooler weather this fall, they will hopefully recover. Thanks to our dedicated volunteers, a new crop of 50 seedlings is ready to be planted at a new site behind the Cave Creek Ranger Station on October 28th from 10:00 am to 12:00 noon. If you’d like to help plant, please register here.


Phon D Sutton Recreation Area Report from Leslie Crabtree

Hot temperatures and minimal monsoon activity made it difficult for all living things. Volunteers of the Mesa Ranger District struggled to keep plants alive, both the ones planted last November, and the new plants being started for planting this November.

On November 12, 2022, 45 plants were added to the project at Phon D. This was the third and final phase for this planting site. Of those 45 plants, 33 make it through the summer. This is a fantastic number considering the unfavorable weather and the amount of public traffic that area gets. Desert plants, including this hardy variety of milkweed, rely on the monsoon rains. We all experienced or heard stories of cacti, including the mighty Saguaro, succumbing to the heat and lack of rain this year. Our volunteers worked hard to keep the new milkweed from going the way of many desert plants this hot, dry summer. Unfortunately, we also lost some of the 3 year old plants. The good news is that the Phon D Sutton Rec Area now has 103 healthy, thriving, and seeding milkweed plants.

The milkweed we use for this project is grown by volunteers. Growing this year was especially frustrating. Our growers initially experienced difficulty with germination. Then, if the seeds did germinate, they had trouble keeping the seedlings alive. No amount of water was going to counter the excessive heat. If this trend continues, it looks like keeping the plants inside under grow lights until the heat passes will be the way to go moving forward.

On November 11, 2023, we will be planting 50 new milkweed at Larry Forbis Group Recreation Site along the Salt River. This area is in the Pebble Beach Recreation Area. If you’d like to help plant, please register here. Volunteers are also needed to water the new plants throughout the coming year. Sign up to water here.