Once again I emit my call for readers’ wildlife (or street) photos, as I’m getting a bit nervous when the tank runs low.
Today we have lovely plant photos (milkweed) from reader Christopher McLaughlin. His IDs and notes are indented, and you can enlarge the photos by clicking on them.
I am answering your call for some more wildlife photos. The first three are some recent plant photos from a hike around Gay Feather Prairie Conservation Area in Vernon county MO. My photos are, I hope, adequate as I have only an iPhone 11 and not a lick of artistry when it comes to photography.
Asclepias viridis, the Green Milkweed, also called Green Antelope Horns for some reason. Quite common along the roadsides and highways, so often just overlooked and mowed down. I think they are just spectacular.
A closer view:
Close-up view of an individual flower showing the corona and all the sexy parts.
For comparison, here are three photos of another species, Asclepias syriaca, the Common Milkweed, growing in my yard. Common it may be but it is still spectacular and the fragrance…!
This shows the top view of two flower as showing the corona in a textbook example for Asclepias flower morphology (I’m literally looking at a drawing of this in a wildflower book while typing and trying to make sense of it). Notice the tiny fly sitting on what is called the “horn”. We can also see the reflexed petals underneath the lower flower
Again, a close-up, but side view, showing the petals (pointing up this time, since I was looking down on the flower) as well as unopened flowers around the flower. Can you see the little line on the green bit in the middle? That’s the stigmatic slit, leading to the stigmatic chamber. Sometimes you can find insects trapped here by their legs, or the leg itself, ripped off from the insect who wasn’t strong enough to pull itself out.
Asclepias are fascinating flowers. I’m sure most readers know about monarchs laying their eggs on them and the milky latex sap that contains alkaloids and cardiac glycosides used by the butterflies and other insects as a chemical defense. But there are so many insects which are drawn to this plant that do not take up the toxins. It is quite the popular feeding site at the moment!
There is so much more I need to learn about the Asclepiadaceae and I’m not exactly the brightest bulb here, a rank amateur at best. I could spend two lifetimes studying them and not ever get tired of them but I just wish more people would appreciate them at any level and stop mowing them down. Luckily, there are several species that are easy to grow, easy to find at decent nurseries (choose your local natives, please!) and anyone with a patch of dull, boring, biologically sterile lawn can make a world of difference with a couple of plants, for yourself and your insect neighbors.