Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

A similar green flower

with 36 comments

Click for greater clarity.

Yesterday you saw a flower of Matelea edwardsensis, a milkweed vine that grows natively in the Edwards Plateau of central Texas and nowhere else in the world. As a follow-up, here are two flowers of its close relative Matelea reticulata. This is a more common species, and one a little more widely distributed in Texas, that not only shares the green reticulation of its genus-mate but also adds the unusual distinction of a mother-of-pearl roof on the top of its tiny central structure. That nacreous covering has led people to use the name pearl milkweed for this vine. I photographed these two pearl milkweed flowers, the larger of which was about two-thirds of an inch across, in a shaded part of Great Hills Park on April 12.

As intriguing as pearl milkweed flowers are, the vine’s leaves have an unpleasant odor that has been described as akin to burned rubber; at times I’ve likened it to not-so-fresh fish. But let’s forget the sense of smell and use our eyes to appreciate the patterns on these little flowers.

For those of you who are interested in photography as a craft, points 1 and the newly added 22 in About My Techniques are relevant to this image.

© 2012 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 17, 2012 at 5:43 AM

36 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. A very beautiful picture of some strange (for me) flowers!


    April 17, 2012 at 6:21 AM

    • All I have to do to see them at this time of year is walk to my neighborhood nature park, but even though they’re readily available I find them as strange as you do. And these vines are so different from the other types of milkweed that we have here, like the antelope-horns you recently saw in a meadow.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 17, 2012 at 6:34 AM

  2. Magnificent photo showing off the delicate pattern of this sweet (if not sweet-smelling!) flower.


    April 17, 2012 at 7:09 AM

  3. The fact that life can exist in such delicate structure and beauty and then be captured by a photographer…so that it is in some way ‘captured’ and ‘sustained’…is, for me, testament to the divine…the entire act of creation in the universe amazes me! Thank you, again.

    Painter Lady

    April 17, 2012 at 7:50 AM

    • I appreciate your philosophical outlook—and also your looking out for a more pristine environment by removing litter to clean up the area where you live.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 17, 2012 at 7:55 AM

  4. No quite as philosophical, I think this photo could be a design inspiration for a brooch with a center pearl.

    Bonnie Michelle

    April 17, 2012 at 9:01 AM

  5. Beautiful photo, and thanks for bringing this flower to my attention. I was curious if we have any representatives of this genus in California. A quick search of Calflora confirmed that we do, but it is not in my area and is also designated “rare and endangered.” Thanks for introducing me to a new, and important, plant.


    April 17, 2012 at 9:12 AM

    • California has majestic scenery (mountains, ocean, deserts) that we can’t compete with in Texas, but we have our smaller wonders that I’m always happy to introduce people to. The related species I showed yesterday is rarer than this one, but still not endangered. Let’s hope you do eventually come across your local species.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 17, 2012 at 1:38 PM

  6. Love your green flowers. Yesterday and today. Thanks for sharing

    Pat Bean

    April 17, 2012 at 10:41 AM

  7. The middle of those flowers almost look like pearls – beautiful!!!


    April 17, 2012 at 11:16 AM

  8. J’oublie l’histoire de l’odeur et … je les veux bien en boucles d’oreilles 😉


    April 17, 2012 at 11:38 AM

    • L’ancolie bleue (the blue columbine) says she’ll forget about the plant’s odor but she’d like to have these flowers as earrings.

      Si tu les fais faire, tu nous enverras une photo, n’est-ce pas? If you have some made, you’ll send us a photo, right?

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 17, 2012 at 1:43 PM

  9. Pretty detailed little flowers..


    April 17, 2012 at 12:06 PM

  10. These would make EXCELLENT earrings.


    April 17, 2012 at 4:00 PM

  11. Interesting about the non-fragrant scent. When Lois, Houston’s famous corpse flower , bloomed a couple of years ago, we all learned the awful smell attracted the plant’s pollinators – carrion beetles. I wonder if this plant has equally unusual friends that help it along.

    It was quite a scene here while Lois was holding court. She had a live streaming webcam and her own Twitter account. After she bloomed, one couple chose to be married in her presence – they closed the museum for a couple of hours for the ceremony. There really was something wackily appealing about sitting around at midnight, watching that flower’s live stream on the computer. We all missed her when she was gone.


    April 17, 2012 at 8:49 PM

    • What I don’t know is whether the flowers have a scent, and if so, whether that scent is similar to or different from that of the leaves. I’ll try to find out.

      Why people would want to get married in the presence of a corpse flower is beyond me—but so are many of the things that transpire in this world. Makes for a good story, in any case.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 17, 2012 at 9:45 PM

  12. They are gorgeous!


    April 17, 2012 at 11:01 PM

  13. Love the flowers with that pearl-like centre. Very unusual.


    April 17, 2012 at 11:10 PM

  14. WOW simply stunning ! I can’t wait until the wildflowers begin to bloom around here…I will really have to search to come even close to the amount of variety you have. You are inspiring Steve!


    April 18, 2012 at 9:27 AM

    • It’s hard for me to imagine places in the 48 states where the flowers have not begun blooming. As you know, we had at least some fall wildflowers here all through the winter, and various spring ones beginning to come out at early as January. Happy inspiration when yours do emerge.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 18, 2012 at 1:11 PM

  15. […] the things I found there was this leaf of a pearl milkweed vine, Matelea reticulata, a plant whose unique flowers you’ve seen several times in this blog. Almost all the vine’s other leaves were a […]

  16. I second the earring comment! That’s the second thing I thought after Oh my the flowers’ designs are exquisite!


    January 27, 2014 at 11:27 PM

    • As far as I know, no one has yet turned these flowers into earrings.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 28, 2014 at 6:16 AM

      • Well they ought to! Perhaps a little fimo clay and a steady hand would do the job…that gives me an idea…lol.

        Really pretty though I’m itching for spring so bad I just want to go to a botanical garden.


        January 28, 2014 at 7:33 PM

  17. […] a colorful and detailed take on the flowers of the pearl milkweed vine that you’re after, I’ve already shown Matelea reticulata that way. On April 25th in my neighborhood the low-angle glancing sunlight was such that I went for the […]

  18. I was dazzled by this photograph, Steve, and your description. I’ve never seen this flower and it’s so unique. Also like knowing that the accompanying smell is unpleasant.

    Jet Eliot

    May 3, 2021 at 9:26 AM

    • Pearl milkweed is a pearl of Texas botany. You’re not alone in being surprised upon first seeing these flowers with a little pearl at the center of each.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 3, 2021 at 5:34 PM

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: