Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Whorled milkweed

with 26 comments

Whorled Milkweed Pod, Seeds, Fluff 0456

Woo-hoo for milkweed in New Mexico! I photographed this Asclepias subverticillata, or whorled milkweed, at the Rio Grande Nature Center in Albuquerque on September 24th. You can find more information about this species on a page in Southwestern Colorado Wildflowers.

If you’re interested in photography as a craft, you’ll find that points 1, 12, and 18 in About My Techniques are relevant to this photograph.

© 2014 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 3, 2014 at 5:31 AM

26 Responses

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  1. I tried capturing images of milkweed seeds yesterday but our winds were up and no amount of patience was going to allow any suitable sort of capture. You are either more patient than I or you had no wind on September 24! Nice shot. D

    Pairodox Farm

    November 3, 2014 at 6:08 AM

    • Wind and milkweed seeds can be a hard combination, so I commiserate with you. I don’t remember any wind in Albuquerque that morning and there was plenty of light for this picture, so I didn’t struggle. When I do contend with wind (or moving insects) I usually switch to a high shutter speed to freeze the action, but occasionally I go the other way and use a slower shutter speed to make movement a part of the image. Flash (which I did not use on this milkweed) plus a slow shutter speed can yield a mix of stable and moving.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 3, 2014 at 7:45 AM

  2. Nice one! I’m always tickled when I come across a new-to-me milkweed.


    November 3, 2014 at 8:17 AM

    • Me too. I upped my milkweed count by two on this trip, the second coming a week later in Tucson—and unlike this one, that one still had lots of flowers.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 3, 2014 at 8:24 AM

  3. Nice silken strands just waiting for lift off.

    Steve Gingold

    November 3, 2014 at 1:54 PM

  4. Can’t imagine a better visual definition of ‘gossamer’ than these filaments as you caught them.


    November 3, 2014 at 2:20 PM

  5. Cool shot and thanx for the ID – we saw something similar on a trip to Skyline Drive except the pod was brown – but the seeds are identical


    November 3, 2014 at 4:34 PM

    • One of the reasons I went to the Rio Grande Nature Center (and various others on my trip) is that there are sections where the native plants are identified. Those labels made me less of a botanical stranger in a strange land.

      To the best of my knowledge, most (maybe all) milkweeds produce similar seed-bearing fluff. As you point out, the pods can differ. Some have more prominent bumps than others. In Austin I’m used to tan or brown pods, like the one you saw on the Skyline Drive. My impression is that even within a species the pod color varies somewhat based on age, weathering, etc.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 3, 2014 at 5:05 PM

  6. Love this shot!


    November 3, 2014 at 7:20 PM

  7. Nice shot. Shooting a white subject with strong backlighting and not blowing the highlights is not an easy thing to do.


    November 3, 2014 at 10:33 PM

  8. They remind me of sparklers, possibly because I am listening to fireworks (outside) at the moment.


    November 4, 2014 at 3:47 AM

  9. This the most perfect shot! Every little detail is just deliciously perfect an absolute feast for the senses, I might just add that you made my day with this post, is my favorite!


    November 4, 2014 at 1:51 PM

    • Thanks for letting me know it made your day, Eva. Opening milkweed pods are always fun to see and play with.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 4, 2014 at 11:00 PM

  10. You’re right that the opening pods and fluff are fun to play with. They were one of our favorite autumn toys when I was a kid. I was interested to see Asa Gray’s name associated with this species, and even more interested to see a new name pop up: Vail.

    Of course I made the immediate association, but I found the town was named after the pass, which was named after Charles Vail, the highway engineer who routed U.S. Highway 6 through the Vail Valley in 1940. A little more searching turned up Anna Murray Vail, who started out in New York and studied the taxonomy of Leguminosae and Asclepiadaceae.

    I wonder if members of the dogbane family ever grow together with fleabane?


    November 5, 2014 at 6:02 AM

    • Yes indeed, we’re speaking of the person whose Wikipedia article begins: “Anna Murray Vail (7 January 1863 – 18 December 1955) was an American botanist and first librarian of the New York Botanical Garden. She was a student of the Columbia University botanist and geologist Nathaniel Lord Britton, the force behind the founding of the New York Botanical Garden, and was active in its creation.”

      As astronomers recently demoted Pluto’s planetary status, botanists have recently taken the freestanding status away from Asclepiadaceae (milkweed family) and have placed the former family under the Apocynaceae (dogbane family):


      By whatever name and family association, milkweeds remain fun to play with, manually and photographically.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 5, 2014 at 6:35 AM

  11. Milkweed in fall is so graceful, isn’t it? You’ve captured this one beautifully. I don’t know what species we have here, but I always love to see it.

    Susan Scheid

    November 5, 2014 at 12:19 PM

  12. Great photo- lots of ‘life’ captured!

    Watching Seasons

    November 6, 2014 at 3:25 PM

  13. […] preparing this post I realized that five years ago I showed a picture of a milkweed in New Mexico with a slightly different scientific name, Asclepias […]

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