Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

How could I show you one without the other?

with 43 comments

That is, show you pearl milkweed flowers (Matelea reticulata) without also showing you one of the vine’s pods. By June 22nd this one had already split open and was beginning to release its seeds, each attached to a bit of aeronautical fluff. I followed suit and attached not fluff but a flash to my camera because the area wasn’t bright enough for me to get all the important details in focus without an extra helping of light.

By the way, the shiny fibers attached to the seeds explain why an alternate name for milkweed is silkweed.

© 2017 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 13, 2017 at 4:48 AM

Posted in nature photography

Tagged with , , , , , ,

43 Responses

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  1. This one is surprisingly advanced, we still have some just starting to flower. Nice shot.

    Ed Lehming Photography

    August 13, 2017 at 6:19 AM

  2. What a delicate flower pod!


    August 13, 2017 at 7:25 AM

  3. Very striking.


    August 13, 2017 at 7:41 AM

  4. Given the small size of the flower, I’m wondering if the pod also is small. It’s interesting that it has the bumpy, hooked exterior that I associate with milkweed pods, while some of our other milkweeds (e.g., Asclepias linearis) have slender, smooth pods.

    The brown, black, and white color combination’s as pleasing as the details.


    August 13, 2017 at 8:20 AM

    • You’ve surmised correctly: the pearl milkweed pod is relatively small. I’ve wondered about the bumpiness I typically see on milkweed pods. That’s a mystery, as is the contrasting smoothness you mention for Asclepias linearis.

      Like you, I’m fond of the brown-black-white combination in this picture. The use of flash allowed for that dark background; in real life, I saw distracting things beyond the pod.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 13, 2017 at 8:42 AM

  5. And this is how Botany classes should go!


    August 13, 2017 at 8:21 AM

    • Or at least a class in the art of botany.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 13, 2017 at 8:43 AM

      • Haha, either way! The art makes me want to learn more about the object the art revolves around. Oh my. ❤


        August 13, 2017 at 10:07 AM

        • Agreed. I’ve always played both sides of the supposed line between art and science.

          Steve Schwartzman

          August 13, 2017 at 10:30 AM

          • The line is so faint, sometimes it isn’t there. Sometimes, it’s like art and science are but one and the same.


            August 13, 2017 at 11:05 AM

  6. That is a very dramatic and stunning image. Milkweed – the poster hero for our Monarchs… You’ve given it VIP status with this photo; if everyone saw milkweed’s beauty, perhaps they wouldn’t eradicate it….

    Playamart - Zeebra Designs

    August 13, 2017 at 8:39 AM

    • Alas, I’m afraid any plant with weed in its name is going to come in for a hard time from people. Some of my best “friends” are weeds.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 13, 2017 at 8:44 AM

  7. Brilliant photo, Steve. I love milkweed, grew up with it, but it doesn’t grow where I live now. What I like best about this photo is that you somehow relayed the silkiness of the plant threads.

    Jet Eliot

    August 13, 2017 at 9:45 AM

    • And that silkiness is one of the things that make the latter stages of milkweeds so appealing. During World War II there were drives for children to go out and collect milkweed fluff to use in flotation devices for the military.

      I checked the map at


      and noticed several species of Asclepias that apparently grow in the Bay Area. I don’t know how common they are there, but you may be able to see some milkweeds near you after all.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 13, 2017 at 9:57 AM

      • What an extensive set of maps, Steve, this is great news and thrilling too. Interesting history about the milkweed fluff in WWII. My many thanks–

        Jet Eliot

        August 13, 2017 at 10:03 AM

        • You’re welcome. If there’s a native plant organization in your area—and how could there not be in California?—you might check with people there to find out specific locations where milkweeds have been spotted. There might even be field trips you could go along on.

          And yes, we have a lot of Asclepias species in the United States—plus other milkweed-family genera like the Matelea shown in this post.

          Steve Schwartzman

          August 13, 2017 at 11:22 AM

  8. Crisp, gorgeous images!


    August 13, 2017 at 10:55 AM

  9. These are spectacularly good photographs


    August 13, 2017 at 3:52 PM

    • Thank for your appreciation of these photographs. I enjoy finding worthy subjects in my neighborhood.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 13, 2017 at 6:44 PM

  10. Explosive stuff!


    August 13, 2017 at 5:12 PM

  11. Beautiful, particularly the way the silky strands catch the light. And what unusual flowers in your linked post.


    August 13, 2017 at 7:15 PM

    • Ah yes, those silky strands are a photographer’s delight, as are the flowers that came before. All milkweed species have intriguing flowers and pods.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 13, 2017 at 10:31 PM

  12. Great shot Steve .. milkweed magic


    August 14, 2017 at 2:24 AM

  13. Oh, I love this. So delicate, great textures.

    anna warren portfolio

    August 14, 2017 at 2:58 AM

  14. Beautiful milkweed, Steve!

    Lavinia Ross

    August 21, 2017 at 10:12 PM

    • It’s become one of my favorites, growing as it does right in my neighborhood. First there are the unique flowers, then the kind of pod shared by many other milkweeds.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 21, 2017 at 11:57 PM

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