Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Milkweed flower globe

with 32 comments

Antelope Horns Flower Globe 0643

The last thing I’ll show in this series from my visit to the Doeskin Ranch in Burnet County on April 8 is a flower globe of antelope-horns milkweed, Asclepias asperula, the most common milkweed species in central Texas.

© 2016 Steven Schwartzman


Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 2, 2016 at 5:14 AM

32 Responses

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  1. stunning !!!


    May 2, 2016 at 5:17 AM

  2. Excellent work, Steven.


    May 2, 2016 at 7:00 AM

  3. lovely, like a mandala of nature.


    May 2, 2016 at 7:53 AM

  4. I’m so confused. I’ve been trying to sort out the difference between Asclepias asperula and Asclepias viridis, and I’m not having much luck.

    I thought I’d found antelope horn: A. asperula. Then I was told it was green milkweed: A. viridis. Now, I’ve read that A. viridis is called green antelope horn — but Wildflower.org says of green antelope horn, “The flowers are distinct in that they lack horns.” When I compared this photo to closeups I found of Asclepius viridis, I couldn’t see much difference in the flowers.

    So, the question is — which part of the flower are people referring to when they talk about the “horns” that are, or aren’t, part of it?

    What I have figured out is that there’s a clear difference in the leaves, so that’s helpful. And I found this splendid, detailed description of the parts of a milkweed flower and the complicated process of pollination while I was digging around. One thing I learned is that the curling stalks that attach the developing pod to the plant aren’t an aberration, but a feature.


    May 2, 2016 at 8:34 AM

    • You’ve reminded me of the computer world, where a company representative will say that such and such a thing in a product or program isn’t a bug but a feature.

      As you said, the leaves of a milkweed plant are a main distinguishing feature, and that’s how I know that the flowers shown here are Asclepias asperula. As for horns, the article at


      says: “This milkweed gets its name from the seed pods that look similar to the horns of an antelope.” But then at


      I see the contradictory claim that it’s “named for the shape of the leaves.” Of course both statements could be simultaneously true.

      Shinners and Mahler’s, the Bible of botany here, describes Asclepias asperula flowers as having “hoods widespreading, without horns.” It seems, then, that two different kinds of “horns” are in play, the one in the popular name and the one in the botanical description, as illustrated in your link. Therein lies the confusion.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 2, 2016 at 9:03 AM

    • By the way, here’s how Shinners and Mahler’s distinguishes between the two species you’re interested in.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 2, 2016 at 9:11 AM

      • Thanks for that, and thanks, too, for telling me about Shinners and Mahler’s book. I have the online site marked now, but I also have my very own copy of that very weighty tome sitting on the dining room table. I found a used copy online, for a much reduced price, and ended up with what looks like a new book. The title page even has the autographs of the three authors, and another signature I can’t decipher.

        Once I saw the line drawings of the two milkweeds, it was easy to see the difference in the leaves. I’m really looking forward to using the book. I can understand why it has such rave reviews.

        Have you come across this new feature at the Wildflower site? I discovered it today. Each refresh of a category provides a different collection of flowers. I scored 100% on three beginner wildflower quizes, tried the milkweed and missed two, and then gave an intermediate quiz a whirl. I missed three, but did correctly identify two plants from herbarium sheets. It’s not only a great way to check current knowledge, it’s a good learning tool — and great fun.


        May 3, 2016 at 9:20 PM

        • It’s good that you located a second-hand copy at a low price and in practically new condition. The BRIT team is at work on the second and third of the three hefty books for your area. The first, which covers the monocots, ferns, etc., has been out for years already:


          I hadn’t seen that new feature on the Wildflower Center site, so thanks for pointing it out.

          Steve Schwartzman

          May 3, 2016 at 9:47 PM

  5. kaleidoscopic! ~ fascinating photograph, Steve.


    May 2, 2016 at 8:54 AM

    • You’ve described it well, Lance. The image is kaleidoscopic (a word whose Greek roots mean ‘beautiful vision’).

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 2, 2016 at 9:05 AM

  6. Superb, looks like a mandala.


    May 2, 2016 at 9:23 AM

  7. This looks like those glass globes made in France and England in the 19th century. Nice work, and I agree it also looks like a mandala

    Raewyn's Photos

    May 2, 2016 at 2:58 PM

    • A 19th-century European glass globe is a good association to make. I’m fond of Art Nouveau (even if it’s over a century old and therefore no longer nouveau).

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 2, 2016 at 3:05 PM

  8. That would make an awesome, and extremely challenging, stained glass piece.

    Steve Gingold

    May 2, 2016 at 6:49 PM

  9. The detail is amazing ..


    May 3, 2016 at 1:07 PM

  10. Cool!!


    May 3, 2016 at 8:08 PM

  11. The globe is gorgeous. An article about the problem with names which you and Linda may appreciate http://www.ox.ac.uk/news/2015-11-16-half-world%E2%80%99s-natural-history-specimens-may-have-wrong-name


    May 6, 2016 at 6:00 AM

    • Thanks. That’s an excellent article you’ve found. I often have trouble telling what species of plant I’m looking at, but if the experts also frequently get it wrong, we’re in taxonomic trouble. The ray of hope mentioned at the end of the article is something I’ve thought about too: DNA analysis.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 6, 2016 at 6:27 AM

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