Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Not from Syria

with 26 comments

Asclepias syriaca Buds 7533

From the Volo Bog State Natural Area in Lake County, Illinois, on June 7th, here are some buds of common milkweed, Asclepias syriaca. Its distribution across America is wide, but that doesn’t excuse the botanist who jumped the Atlantic and the Mediterranean and named this species after Syria.

© 2016 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 7, 2016 at 4:56 AM

26 Responses

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  1. Beautiful greens and detail.

  2. Perhaps if he had actually jumped the Atlantic and the Mediterranean he would have realised this milkweed was not Syrian.


    August 7, 2016 at 6:46 AM

    • That would have been a long jump suitable for the Olympics and beneficial for botany. Historical names take precedence, but just as the Olympic committee has excluded people for doping, botanical authorities should be allowed to exclude scientific names that transgress.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 7, 2016 at 6:53 AM

  3. Stunning detail, could have that printed and framed.


    August 7, 2016 at 7:43 AM

    • Speaking of detail: in the full-size image the tiny hairs on the closest buds are sharply defined, but unfortunately that clarity doesn’t hold up in this smaller blog photograph.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 7, 2016 at 7:50 AM

  4. Beautiful photo!


    August 7, 2016 at 7:43 AM

  5. With a portrait like that, it is no commoner and is ready for a career in Hollywood.


    August 7, 2016 at 8:35 AM

  6. My, but you’re up early today–or was it just another late night? And I must agree with Pete–this is a grand grouping of gorgeous greens.


    August 7, 2016 at 9:03 AM

    • You may be judging earliness from the 4:56 AM posting time, but I schedule almost all my posts, so you can’t go by the time the post appears. Some mornings I am up by 5:00, but today I think it was later. In any case, good greens galore go great.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 7, 2016 at 10:01 AM

  7. I adore them because they are native and lure the monarch. BUT once is planted, they sprout everywhere. Luckily they are easy to remove. The ones that remain act as a stopping point for monarchs as they feed in autumn to transform into something else.


    August 7, 2016 at 12:24 PM

    • This was one of those times when I got to see a species that grows in your part of the world but not mine. I knew it was widespread but didn’t realize how readily it takes hold in a place.

      Another milkweed species also grows up there in Lake County, Illinois, and I saw it too.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 7, 2016 at 1:28 PM

  8. The greens are so vibrant and clear, and the little cloud of fuzziness around the buds is delightful. The leaves seem different to me: crisper, thicker, crunchier. They look like they’d taste good with salad dressing.

    I found what I’m almost certain is Asclepias linearis at the Brazoria refuge yesterday. Initially, I’d thought it was A. verticillata, but the leaves of the plant were opposite, not whorled. The USDA county map shows it as present and native in Brazoria, so there we are. If it hadn’t already put out seeds, I would have missed it. They aren’t very big plants, and could easily have been confused with grass.


    August 7, 2016 at 6:06 PM

    • In the booklet at

      Click to access tpwd-texas-milkweed-identification.pdf

      I looked up Asclepias linearis so I could see what it looks like because it’s not a milkweed I’m familiar with. (If you weren’t aware of that Texas Parks and Wildlife booklet, you’ll find it a good resource.) It’s always gratifying to identify a new species.

      As for the crisp and crunchy leaves of the common milkweed, I think you’d immediately spit out any mouthful, given the “milk” in the plant.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 7, 2016 at 9:17 PM

      • That’s a wonderful resource. I didn’t know about it. It included a bit of description I’d not read elsewhere, and that makes me even more sure of the identification: “leaves opposite (orientated at almost 90 degree angles).” That was something I’d noted about the leaves in my photo. They aren’t perfectly opposite, but are closer to a 90 degree angle.


        August 7, 2016 at 9:30 PM

        • I’ve found it helpful to have multiple sources for a species because, as you noted, some point out things that others don’t mention.

          Steve Schwartzman

          August 7, 2016 at 9:43 PM

      • Maybe I’d spit out the leaves, but look what that TPWD pamphlet says about the sand milkweed: “Smells distinctly of bacon-cheeseburgers from a distance of up to 500 m. The smell is diagnostic for this species.” That’s laugh-out-loud funny.


        August 7, 2016 at 9:36 PM

  9. This was a terrible year for milkweed here. The plants were nowhere near as lush as your picture, the leaves turned brown early and the flowers were short-lived but did produce ample pods.

    Steve Gingold

    August 10, 2016 at 3:44 AM

    • Oh, sorry to hear about the bad year for milkweed in your part of the country. It seemed to be doing reasonably well in the Midwest, where I found it in several of the places I took pictures. At least you got ample pods, so maybe next year will be back to normal for you.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 10, 2016 at 4:12 AM

      • Lack of rain. I take the pods and shake them around the part of the yard where we allow them to flourish although the wind does its usual good job of spreading them.

        Steve Gingold

        August 10, 2016 at 4:21 AM

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