Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Haven’t shown you this for a good while

with 51 comments

2014 was the last time I showed you a flower of the pearl milkweed vine, Matelea reticulata. To compensate for that long lapse, here you have not one but two pearl milkweed flowers I photographed on a vine in my neighborhood on June 22nd. What happy propinquity.

If these flowers weren’t so common here, they’d be rare.* What I mean is that while pearl milkweed readily grows in northwest Austin, it’s easy to forget how seldom we see green flowers, much less any that possess net-like patterns and have a tiny pearly shelter covering their center. Notice that the central structure is curvily pentagonal, with each vertex gesturing toward the tip of a pointy petal. Milkweeds speak in fives.**

–  –  –  –  –  –  –

* Google turned up no hits for “If they weren’t so common, they’d be rare,” so I’ll claim that witticism.

** In this case Google says I’ve just spoken a novel four-word sentence about fiveness.

© 2017 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 12, 2017 at 4:54 AM

51 Responses

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  1. These are so beautiful, at first I thought it was a brooch with actual pearls in the centres. And I love ‘your’ quote 😀


    August 12, 2017 at 5:53 AM

    • You probably won’t be surprised to hear that when I first showed pictures of pearl milkweed flowers years ago, other people—all female, as I recall—suggested earrings and brooches. As far as I know, no one has followed through and made a piece of jewelry that looks like a pearl milkweed flower. Maybe this will be the year.

      As for the quote, I just ran the singular version past Google (“If it weren’t so common it would be rare”) and still got no hit. Yay me.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 12, 2017 at 6:51 AM

  2. Very interesting flower

    Sherry Felix

    August 12, 2017 at 6:57 AM

  3. amazingly beautiful –


    August 12, 2017 at 7:28 AM

  4. I love any milkweed, but these are especially lovely! I don’t think we have this one in Michigan…


    August 12, 2017 at 7:38 AM

  5. I’m envisioning earrings. Seriously, these flowers are exquisite. I’ve never seen them.
    How large are they? Beautiful photo.


    August 12, 2017 at 8:23 AM

    • Yes, these have regularly suggested earrings or other jewelry to people. Each flower is at most 3/4 of an inch across, so the “pearl” is tiny.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 12, 2017 at 11:21 AM

  6. What an interesting plant! I can see why people’s thoughts turn toward jewelry.
    This prompted me to read a bit — I had no idea there was such a huge and varied milkweed family. Living in NY, I’m only familiar with the common milkweed – my parents have a patch in their garden for the monarchs.
    Great Yogi-ism, too!

    Robert Parker Teel

    August 12, 2017 at 8:33 AM

  7. Now those really look like jewels! 🙂


    August 12, 2017 at 8:53 AM

    • They’re jewels to local nature photographers, that’s for sure. The USDA map marks this species for Gillespie County and most surrounding counties, so chances are good you’ll see some one of these days.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 12, 2017 at 11:31 AM

      • Thanks for the info, Steve. Maybe I’ll find some.


        August 12, 2017 at 11:39 AM

        • The word that popped into my head as a reply was Spanish ¡ojalá! Google gives the German translation hoffentlich.

          Steve Schwartzman

          August 12, 2017 at 11:48 AM

  8. Hey, good friend Steve (and Eve!) Ariana and Michael here on a sunny Saturday morning in Dallas, where we’re visiting Ariana’s son and grandsons. Your pearl Milkweed comments were so especially droll and perceptive that I had to shoot an email to thank you for the every-morning pleasures of your posts from Texas and everywhere else. Thank you, brother Steve! Michael


    August 12, 2017 at 9:04 AM

    • Hi, guys. So the weekend finds you not in the largest city in Texas but the second largest. From what you say, it’s a temporary demotion. Happy sunshine up there; we’ve got it in Austin this morning too. Thanks for appreciating the comments and pictures that make their way from these pages out into the world. Words and pictures: what a life! Let us know the next time you visit Austin and we can have a reunion.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 12, 2017 at 11:44 AM

  9. Absolutely stunning! I cannot say I’ve ever seen one.


    August 12, 2017 at 10:41 AM

    • The only American state where this species grows is Texas. You’d have to come down here to see it.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 12, 2017 at 11:32 AM

  10. First time I saw the picture, for a moment, I didn’t believe it was real. Wow, such a beauty!


    August 12, 2017 at 11:33 AM

  11. I can’t believe it’s been four years. I enjoyed all the suggestions for jewelry; I’d still love to see these made into cloisonné earrings.

    On the other hand, at this point I’d be happy just seeing the flowers. I’m going to have to put them on my central Texas list, and make a point to search them out next year — or at least put myself in their neighborhood, and see what appears. I can be so slow, sometimes. It just occurred to me today that their genus isn’t Asclepias. I discovered there are fifteen species of Matelea, so there’s more to look for than this particular flower.


    August 12, 2017 at 12:03 PM

    • It’s four years if you count 2014, 2015, 2017, and 2017. That include-both-endpoints kind of counting is at work when historical accounts say that Jesus arose on the third day, while by our most common method of counting we’d say that Sunday is the second day after Friday. The one-unit discrepancy between the results produced by the two methods is something I’ve been meaning for years to write an article about.

      Matelea reticulata is by far the species in the genus I most often see. Once each I’ve gotten to see two others:


      I hope you get your wish of seeing any of the species in this genus. Geyata Ajilvsgi lists April–October as the bloom period for the pearl milkweed vine, so it’s not too late for this year if you’re planning another jaunt or two into the Edwards Plateau.

      As for jewelry, I’m still hoping someone with the requisite skills will run with the idea.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 12, 2017 at 3:24 PM

      • I’ve never thought about the difference in the two ways of counting, but I certainly did use the include-both-end-points method. As for the three days, it’s interesting that the Apostles’ Creed uses the phrase “on the third day” rather than “after three days.” The Nicene Creed doesn’t use “on,” but implies it. There’s a real difference there, which I can’t remember thinking about before. In the grand scheme of things I suppose it’s not important, but it is interesting.

        Speaking of math, did you happen to follow the link that Gallivanta left to the Futility Closet? I subscribed to receive posts, and a few I’ve already received clearly are right up your alley.

        I’m glad you mentioned the April-October bloom period for the milkweed vine. I’d read April-June on the wildflower.org site, and thought I was out of luck for this year. Even with wildflowers, multiple sources are good.


        August 12, 2017 at 8:26 PM

        • Yes, I did follow Gallivanta’s link to the Futility Closet. Math is an endless source of delight—for some people.

          The difference of one unit brought about by the two ways of counting turns up in lots of places. Over my years as a teacher I would often ask my students a question like: if your homework assignment is to do all the questions on the worksheet from #4 through #12, how many questions is that? Students would almost always give the wrong answer, in this case 8, rather than the correct 9. Someone who says 8 is counting the spaces between the questions, not the questions themselves. I used to describe it as the difference between counting fence posts versus counting panels of fence. Each way of counting is correct in some circumstances and wrong in others.

          As for bloom period, another thing working in your favor is the warmer temperatures we’ve had these past few years. You’ve seen posts here where I’ve photographed some flowers before their traditional bloom period and other after their traditional bloom period.

          Steve Schwartzman

          August 12, 2017 at 8:54 PM

  12. You made me laugh! That’s great that Google now has the ‘weren’t so common they’d be rare’ quote!-

    Playamart - Zeebra Designs

    August 12, 2017 at 4:25 PM

    • Thanks for confirming that since this morning Google has indexed this page and given me the one and only hit for “If they weren’t so common, they’d be rare.”

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 12, 2017 at 4:30 PM

  13. […] is, show you pearl milkweed flowers (Matelea reticulata) without also showing you one of the vine’s pods. By June 22nd this one […]

  14. Hi Steve .. a wonderful pic. And yes it is so rare to see green flowers, let alone these which are splendid


    August 13, 2017 at 3:16 PM

    • Splendid indeed, and yet commonplace in the hilly terrain of northwest Austin. How fortunate for me.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 13, 2017 at 4:58 PM

  15. I agree with previous comments. These do not look like plants, but they are stunningly beautiful.


    August 13, 2017 at 10:37 PM

  16. Steve, I’ve just requested your permission to use another photo of yours in a forthcoming “green” post I’d like to put together and found that I’d already saved this photo for the post as well! If its ok with you, I’d like to showcase both photos in my “green” post and you’ll be properly and clearly credited with links to original post and your blog home. You sure capture some wonderful and interesting photos!


    September 15, 2017 at 2:11 PM

  17. This is one of my favorites of the plants you show. You can see the pearls well here.


    October 9, 2017 at 2:15 PM

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