Narrow leaf milkweed (Asclepias fascicularis):

With a very straight forward name, this beautiful and common plant in California has thin, squiggly leaves that whirl around the stem. Though not pictured, this perennial has a showy display of white or purple-white flowers that cluster at the top during bloom. A favorite for many butterfly gardens, this plant is important because it is the larval host plant for Monarch butterflies! Though it is often found in very dry, warm areas, Milkweed exists at Cosumnes River Preserve. You just need a keen eye to detect! If you are planning to use Milkweed in your garden, note that it doesn’t always look showy and you may not want it to be the center of attention. The Monarch caterpillars chomp on the leaves and tit dies back in the winter. However, if you want the chance of having Monarchs in your garden, it will be a great addition!

*What’s that blue bug!? It’s the Cobalt Milkweed beetle! Though Milkweed is poisonous to most, both the Cobalt beetle and Monarch can safely eat its leaves.

Sneezeweed (Helenium Puberulum):

This bright and yellow plant is a perennial herb and annual. At the Preserve, you’ll likely see it growing along the river or sloughs, as it likes being near plenty of water. The flower on this plant is unique and distinct, as each sphere is a bunch of disc florets. With age, the yellow flowers will darken, sometimes to a rich, maroon color. Sneezeweed is a host plant to the Dainty Sulphur moth and is also loved by bees!

Soap Plant (Chlorogalum pomeridianum):

Today’s plant of the day is Soap Plant (Chlorogalum pomeridianum). This wavy-leaved perennial is part of the lily family and grows a lovely display of white or pinkish flowers in the spring. While you may assume the flowers open during the day with sunlight, these flowers open as the sun goes down — their pollinators are night-flying moths! The original people that inhabited the land around Cosumnes River, Plains Miwok, utilized this as soap, hence it’s name. Another important use for Soap Plant was in catching fish. The Miwok people would crush the leaves and bulb and then throw it into the water. The plant would release a toxin that enters the fish’s gulls and “stuns” them, making it easy to catch the fish!