Part 3 of 4 — A Texas wildflower adventure — Western Milkweeds — 2018-07-12 through 2018-07-14

First, I must apologize for sending the previous post under this new title. Some of you got the older post and are probably wondering what happened. This blogging thingy is a complicated process which takes me anywhere from 6 to 8 hours to create each post. One of the first actions I MUST do when creating a new post is to make it a Private one while I edit it and get it ready to send out. The default setting is Public. I forgot to change the setting after I had changed the title… Again, sorry for the inconvenience.

Now, back to the subject of Western Milkweeds.

I will list the 8 Milkweed species we found in alphabetical order of botanical name. Each of these was a life-lister for me, having never seen them “in person” before this trip. My thanks, again, go to my friend Matt Buckingham and his wife, Carolina (Caro) Paez for taking the time to show us these wonderful and mysterious plants.

As you, Dear Readers, must already know, Orchids are my passion. But, I believe Milkweeds come in a close second or third. Texas boasts 25 different species of Milkweed species. We did not see them all because of either geographical or bloom-date constraints. Texas shares several species with the east coast, especially the Carolinas and Georgia, and I didn’t see a single one of those on this trip.

So, let’s get down to business:

1. Asclepias asperula or Antelope horns aka Green flowered Milkweed aka Spider Milkweed

Antelope horns Milkweed

Actually, this was tops on my Milkweed list, and it was one of the last that we found. We had stopped on the last day in the Davis Mountains to photograph a panoramic scene on the side of a mountain near the McDonald Obervatory. There was a short retaining wall instead of a guard rail next to the highway. While Walter, Matt, and I were shooting scenery, Caro, in her usual fantastic way, spotted this lone Milkweed at the base of the retaining wall. I was quite excited, especially since we had not seen this one previously. There was only a single flower cluster on the plant, but it was a beauty. According to Michael Eason’s new book, Wildflowers of Texas, it can be found all over Texas except in East Texas and extreme South Texas.

Antelope horms Milkweed

I suppose its flower structure does resemble Antelope horns or even a spider, and it is green, so the common names are easy to accept.

2. Asclepias brachystephana or Bract Milkweed

Bract Milkweed

This one is a bit strange because the flowers in any particular flower cluster do not open at the same time. There seems to be a continuum between buds and spent flowers in the flower cluster. We saw a number of these plants, but it was not, by far, the most frequent of the Milkweeds. Eason states that it is found in the western portion of Texas, primarily in Chihuahuan Desert, north into the western Panhandle. This one was fairly easy to photograph due to its short stature — especially in windy conditions.

Bract Milkweed

3. Asclepias engelmannii or Engelmann’s Milkweed

Now, we have some tall Milkweeds back East, but they all come short of the height of this one. The image below was photographed at standing eye level — for me, about 6 feet (1.8 meters). The stem is relatively narrow, and this created a huge challenge in the windy conditions that existed at the site. I tried to stake the plant with dead tree branches, but almost to no avail. I ended up taking many images of this plant before I got one that wasn’t completely blurry:

Engelmann's Milkweed

Here are a couple of additional shots of this species from the same location:

Engelmann's Milkweed Engelmann's Milkweed

Note how the flower’s corolla tips are strongly recurved and ascending. The leaves are up to 10 inches (25 cm) long but only 1/3 of an inch (.8 cm) wide! They look like threads.

4. Asclepias latifolia or Broadleaf Milkweed

This was the second most frequently seen Milkweed, and it was very easy to spot along the roadside due to its wide leaves.

Broadleaf Milkweed

The flower clusters are located at the intersection of the leaf and the stem. The flower clusters are large, and they open as light green and begin to turn yellow or yellow-green as they age. The plants are about 3 feet (1 meter) tall at maturity, and they tend to grow in large patches beside the road. Here are some additional shots of this species:

Broadleaf Milkweed Broadleaf Milkweed

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Broadleaf Milkweed Broadleaf Milkweed

That last shot (above right) is of a pair of seed capsules — a good sign for future generations of Broadleaf Milkweed plants. Eason states that they can be found in the Panhandle, south into the Edwards Plateau, and southwest into the Chihuahuan Desert.

Here is a shot of a Peucetia viridans or Green Lynx Spider and herd/pack/flock of aphids. It doesn’t appear to be feeding on the aphids, but rather lying in wait for a butterfly or other insect pollinator:

Green Lynx Spider and a bunch of aphids on the leaves of Broadleaf Milkweed

5. Asclepias stenophylla or Slimleaf Milkweed aka Narrowleaf Milkweed

Slimleaf Milkweed

Slimleaf Milkweed

Although the name is Slimleaf Milkweed, I don’t believe the leaves are as slim as those of Engelmann’s Milkweed. Perhaps it was discovered and named before Engelmann’s Milkweed. We found only two of these plants in the LBJ National Grasslands. Eason states that they are found in the eastern third of Texas, north into the Panhandle and into Oklahoma.

6. Asclepias subverticillata or Horsestail Milkweed

Although rather small, this Milkweed species was seen at almost every stop we made along state highway 118 (the main drag through the Davis Mountains). It forms very large groups taking up most of the space along the roadside. Each time I photographed this Milkweed, there were numerous tiny bees on its flowers.

Horsetail Milkweed

Horsetail Milkweed Horsetail Milkweed

Horsetail Milkweed

Eason states that it is frequent in the Chihuahuan Desert with isolated collections elsewhere.

7. Asclepias texana or Texas Milkweed

This beautiful Milkweed reminds me a lot of an eastern species, Asclepias perennis or Swamp Milkweed, especially in its flower color and structure as well as its leaf shape. Eason states that Asclepias perennis can be found in South Texas, so our trip being in West Texas, we did not see any of them on this trip. However, he states that Asclepias texana is found in two separate areas: southern and eastern portions of the Edwards Plateau in south central Texas and the mountains of the Big Bend region, which is south of the Davis Mountains where it seemed to be not uncommon.

We found several large clumps growing near Gary Freeman’s house in the Davis Mountains as well as along the trail within the Davis Mountains Preserve. Here are some shots of this Milkweed species:

Texas Milkweed

Texas Milkweed Texas Milkweed

Texas Milkweed

8. Asclepias viridiflora or Green Comet Milkweed aka Wand Milkweed

As the name implies, this Milkweed has green flowers: viridi + flora. But wait, the one we photographed had decidedly yellow flowers. What up? Apparently, this particular species has a range of color forms, and we happened to come upon the yellow form:

Green comet Milkweed

We saw a number of them in bud, but this one (seen first by Caro, of course) was the only one in flower. Here is a closer shot:

Green Comet Milkweed

Note how the corolla petals are extremely reflexed and parallel with the pedicel. Eason states that this species is widely scattered throughout the state. And it can be said that the flower cluster does resemble an exploding comet.

That brings to an end this blog entry of Western Milkweeds. Had we the luxury of staying a few more days, perhaps I could have found a few more species. But, 8 out of 8 on my Milkweed life-list — there are no complaints coming from my direction.

Many, many thanks, again, go to Matt and Caro for taking us out on this Texas wildflower adventure. Their unswerving patience when I wanted to stop at every sighting of wildflowers was very much appreciated. Now, they are going to have to come to the Carolinas where I can, perhaps, show them some species that they can add to their life lists. I’d surely enjoy that…

The next and final part, Part 4 of 4 of A Texas wildflower adventure, will cover all of the wildflowers and critters that we photographed which did not appear in Parts 1 through 3. I hope you will stay tuned. Again, I apologize for initially sending out the incomplete/wrong version of this blog report.

Until then…

–Jim

4 comments


  • sonnia hill

    Such variety in Texas milkweeds. Did you try to look at the pollinia?

    So glad your hunt was successful.

    July 19, 2018
  • Eleanor

    How many milkweeds are on your life-list? And how many have you seen? We have 18 here in NW Fla and I think Floyd has found them all and shown me. Beautiful post!!

    July 19, 2018
    • Jim

      Lots of them. I’ll send you a list.

      July 19, 2018
  • Jim

    Milkweeds have complex flowers and their pollen is grouped into pollinia, the stamens are fused – somewhat similar to orchids
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asclepias

    July 20, 2018

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