Saturday, June 9, 2012

Yellow Carolina Milkvine: Carnage!

May 18th – June 8th. What is it about members of the Asclepiadaceae that attract the destructive instincts of man? It has to be coincidence but… Late last year, a couple of Asclepias viridiflora plants in the Scull Shoals Experimental Forest (Greene County, Georgia) that had developed seed pods were mowed just prior to the hunting season.

And now, a Yellow Carolina Milkvine (Matelea flavidula) plant in Hancock County has been bulldozed. The plant was growing right at the edge of the road. It was clearly in jeopardy if a bulldozer strayed off the established edge of the road but that didn’t seem too likely to happen. Except for extenuating circumstances. That didn’t seem likely but… There’s always a ‘but.’

We think the ‘but’ in this case was tropical storm Beryl which passed along the coast a week or so ago. The road on which this plant grew is an unpaved rural road in Georgia-clay country and, judging by the tracks gouged in it further north, had received enough rain to require the services of a road crew to restore it. ‘Our plant’ was growing at the edge of a level, and more-sandy, stretch of road that didn’t seem to have suffered water damage. The ‘dozer had carved a new ‘turn out’ to divert the water off the road but, instead of backing up and moving forward along the previously established road edge and deepening the ditch, had literally bulldozed its way forward over everything in front of it. Incidentally, it destroyed the previous roadside ditch in the process and left an unstructured mess that will be even more subject to water erosion. Anyway…

The plant may regrow next year. After all, the Asclepias vridiflora plants in Greene County are happily growing and blooming again this year. The tragedy is that this Yellow Carolina Milkvine, rare in Hancock County, was developing a seedpod which would have contributed many new opportunities to establish this species in the county,

Yellow Carolina Milkvine (Matelea flavidula)

May 18th

We found this seed pod, approximately 1-1/2 inches long, and this…

tiny seed pod – about one-half an inch long, just starting to develop.

May 28th

The larger seed pod had elongated into the typical spinypod shape but…

the tiny seed pod had withered, probably due to the drought.

June 8th

Then, yesterday! Nothing but a thoroughly bulldozed section of road. The plant was growing near the small bushes at the edge of the road. Arrrrgh!

So, while we mourn the loss of one M. flavidula seed pod, the good news is that we found a small seed pod developing on one of the other M. flavidula plants in the area. It looks healthy and, since the area had quite a bit of rain recently, we’re hopeful that it will develop to maturity. Now we just have to keep our fingers crossed that the power company doesn’t come and mow the area in their program to periodically clear under power lines to prevent trees from falling and taking down the power lines.
Click on an image to view a larger image

Identification resources:

Allan Cressler: Matelea flavidula

- Houston county:
[Short petal] [Long petal]
- Cook County

Name that Plant. Natural and Naturalized Plants of the Carolinas and Georgia: Matelea flavidula (Yellow Spinypod)


- USDA Plants Database: Matelea flavidula (Yellow Carolina Milkvine)

- University of North Carolina Herbarium: Matelea flavidula

Related post:
- Hancock County, Georgia: Yellow Carolina Milkvine (Matelea flavidula)


Crystal said...

I sympathize with you. I've had trouble with road crews, before. They seem to be outstanding when it comes to wanton destruction. I won't go into my continuing saga with them, but I think it is a common problem. A. tuberosa is a frequent target since it is so colorful and easily seen.
If this yellow milk vine is anything like the maroon one, it will be back. I have a maroon one in my garden that I can't get rid of. I pull it out every time I see it, but it hops up a few inches over.

JSK said...

Thanks Crystal. It's encouraging for me that you can't get rid of your maroon milkvine - even if it isn't for you.
I might not care if it wasn't for the fact that this particular milkvine is rare in this part of Georgia. We'll be on the lookout to welcome it back next Spring.