Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Antelope horns milkweed fluff and a cast-off spider exoskeleton

with 21 comments

Antelope Horns Milkweed Fluff with Molted Spider Exoskeleton 3491

Near the end of our nature walk at David and Jolyn’s place in Dripping Springs on May 30th, I knelt to photograph the first split-open pod I’d seen this year of an antelope horns milkweed, Asclepias asperula, and in the fluff I noticed a spider’s cast-off exoskeleton. Color aside, it does look something like one of the milkweed’s silk-bearing seeds, don’t you think?

To see the many places in the southwestern United States where this species of milkweed grows, you can check out the USDA map.

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman


Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 28, 2015 at 4:48 AM

21 Responses

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  1. Yes it does, and the pod looks very like an antelope horn. Funny that. When I glanced quickly at the photo, I thought how clever of Steve to find a dried antelope horn covered in fluff. I guess I do need the new glasses I got last week but haven’t yet worn.


    June 28, 2015 at 5:28 AM

    • If you were so easily able to see this pod as an antelope horn, maybe you should favor the world of the imagination and forgo those new glasses of yours (except when safety calls for clarity).

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 28, 2015 at 6:05 AM

  2. I’m strangely fond of milkweed. I delight in watching the fluffy seeds float away. I’ve never heard of this variety before. The brown antelope horn thingy reminds me of dried up prickly pear cactus a little. It would be easy to mistake the spider exoskeleton for something else. Your eye for detail picked it up though as usual.


    June 28, 2015 at 6:02 AM

    • I don’t find your fondness strange at all. I think many people, especially children (and adult children), are fond of watching milkweed fluff emerge and blow away in even the slightest breeze. The spider’s exoskeleton was a novel addition (at least for me), and now I’m wondering if it was strongly enough attached to some of the silk to be blown away with it once a breeze arose.

      You’re right that “the brown antelope horn thingy” (which is a drying half of a milkweed pod) is reminiscent of a prickly pear cactus in a similar state—and speaking of state, Texas has plenty of prickly pears and plenty of milkweeds. There’s no reason for you to have heard of the antelope horns milkweed shown here, but I’ll add that it’s the most common Asclepias species in Austin. I don’t know how frequent it is in other locations, but I just learned that it grows across large parts of the American Southwest, and at the end of the post I’ve added a link to a distribution map.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 28, 2015 at 6:20 AM

  3. I really miss the sight of these delicate strands of milkweed fluff that I used to see all the time when I lived up in the north. How fascinating to see the spider’s exoskeleton stuck in there. I would have thought it was a live spider.

    Birder's Journey

    June 28, 2015 at 10:43 AM

  4. I still haven’t been able to find antelope horn in my area, although, when I checked the map again, I saw that it’s listed for Harris County. It occurs to me that Armand Bayou Nature Center is in Harris County, and it might be worth a trip over there just to see what I can see. I haven’t seen fluff of any sort in my varnish this year. Maybe all the rain has kept it grounded.

    Yesterday morning I was drawn to spend a couple of hours with my camera, and I found some Asclepias tuberosa blooming: so I’m not entirely milkweed deprived. And basket-flowers? They’re everywhere. In fact, I found one isolated stand — only four stalks — that was covered with flowers and at least ten feet tall. It was in a vacant lot and right next to a tree line, so the mad mowers haven’t been able to get to it.


    June 28, 2015 at 11:01 AM

    • When we were in the area last month I noticed a sign for the Armand Bayou Nature Center, and on a non-wedding-oriented visit I’d have been tempted to go there. I went only once before, years ago, and late in the day, so I had little time to explore before the place closed. You, being close, have your pick of time and date. As you know so well, a big advantage of a nature center is that native species are promoted, aliens are often extirpated, and mad mowers are kept at bay (though if I had my druthers I’d throw them into the bay, or at least their mowing machines).

      I don’t think I’ve ever seen a basket-flower plant 10 ft. tall, so all that rain seems to have brought about a prodigy.

      In the month since I photographed the milkweed fluff in this picture, I haven’t seen any more, so I’m with you in wondering if the surplus of rain suppressed the splitting of pods and therefore the dissemination of seeds.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 28, 2015 at 11:28 AM

  5. Una foto muy bonita, me gustan mucho como han salido las semillas. Saludos!

  6. Nice photo.

    Raewyn's Photos

    June 28, 2015 at 3:28 PM

  7. So much interest to see and enjoy in one photograph.

    Mary Mageau

    June 29, 2015 at 4:38 AM

  8. What a difference a few thousand miles and several degrees latitude makes. Our milkweed has just started flowering and we should not see silk for a couple or three months.

    Steve Gingold

    June 30, 2015 at 3:06 AM

    • Actually it’s “only” about 1600 miles from here to there, but that’s more than enough to give us such different seasons and milkweed growth. I’m still hoping to see more milkweed fluff this year, if not from this species, then from another.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 30, 2015 at 6:31 AM

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