Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography


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Cynanchum Vine Flowering with Pod and Crab Spider 8129

Click for greater clarity and larger size.

On the way back from my discovery of meadow parasol on July 3rd, I discovered that on the outward-bound portion of my hike through the Bull Creek Nature Preserve I’d walked right past a plant that I have seen before, but only a couple of times. It’s Cynanchum barbigerum, a delicate vine (some call it thicket threadvine) in the milkweed family, and this one had plenty of small flowers on it.

I’ll add that the vine has a rather unpleasant smell that might be described as rubbery or fishy, much like the odor of the pearl milkweed vine that’s a lot more common in central Texas. Notice the mature pod, quite svelte, which I estimate was about an inch and a quarter to an inch and a half long. Note also the pale spider in what seems to be a defensive position near the lower right corner of the photograph; I didn’t even see it at the time I took the picture.

© 2013 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 23, 2013 at 6:14 AM

13 Responses

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  1. I never would have guessed this vine to be as diminutive as you said. And isn’t funny how we can spend so much time composing a shot, and when we get home and view the photos on a big screen, something shows up we weren’t even aware of at the time the shutter released.


    July 23, 2013 at 9:07 AM

    • This is the smallest of all the milkweeds I’m aware of in central Texas. In fact today’s picture gives a good overview of the vine, but tomorrow I’ll show you a closeup of a few of the tiny flowers so you can appreciate how delicate they are.

      As a long-time photographer, David, you’ve certainly had plenty of experience discovering some small detail in a photograph that you didn’t know was there when you took it. Our modern monitors, as large as many of them are, make those discoveries easier. Call it progress.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 23, 2013 at 9:20 AM

  2. Will monarch caterpillars feed on this vine? I’ve been concerned about the increasing disappearance of milkweeds, and how many fewer monarchs because of that.


    July 23, 2013 at 12:24 PM

    • I’m afraid I don’t know if monarchs will feed on this vine the way they do on various other milkweeds. Either way, we have cause for concern about the reduction in milkweeds overall due to habitat loss from human construction.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 23, 2013 at 1:42 PM

  3. Ahh..a pod? When I saw this at first I thought the pod was actually a lizard.


    July 23, 2013 at 6:07 PM

    • How good of your imagination to see a lizard here. If only real lizards would hold as still as a pod so I could photograph them.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 23, 2013 at 6:39 PM

  4. My first reaction to the pod was “what an odd looking bug”. The I read your text. Interesting plant, Steve.

    Steve Gingold

    July 24, 2013 at 4:39 AM

    • That makes two of you who saw the pod as something animated, a lizard and an odd bug, while I initially missed what actually was alive, the little spider.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 24, 2013 at 7:06 AM

  5. Spider is at lower left, right?


    July 24, 2013 at 8:32 AM

    • I think what you’re seeing on the leaf at the lower left is a drying flower. The pale spider is at the far fight, slightly above the leaf that’s cut off at the right edge of the frame.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 24, 2013 at 8:38 AM

  6. I had to look twice, to see the spider and to see that the central-left part of the image was NOT a lizard of some variety! Nicely composed, and congrats of the spider surprise!


    July 25, 2013 at 8:19 PM

    • The spider came as a surprise to me (and many of you), and at the same time I was surprised that a couple of you saw the slender pod as a lizard. I’d seen the pod in person so my imagination wasn’t free to recast it as a reptile.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 25, 2013 at 8:39 PM

  7. […] a follow-up to yesterday’s post, here’s a close look at three Cynanchum barbigerum flowers, each of which is only about 1/8 […]

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