Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Texas milkweed flowers and buds

with 53 comments

On June 12th, after photographing spittlebug spittle, I began making my way back along the clifftop trail above the Colorado River on the west side of the Capital of Texas Highway. After a while I came to a fork. Rather than returning the rest of the way on the same trail I’d come on, I took the path less traveled by, and that made all the difference. It made a difference because I came across first one and then another wildflower I hadn’t seen in years. Both were in mostly shaded wooded areas, yet each was magically lit for a little while by light coming through openings in the canopy. The first was Texas milkweed, Asclepias texana, a perennial whose presence in Travis County botanist Bill Carr describes as “rare in and along margins of juniper-oak woodlands on rocky limestone slopes.”

UPDATE. With regard to the recent post showing spittlebug spittle, Wanda Hill suggested cropping down to the large bubble at the lower tip of the spittle and rotating it 180° so the sky would be at the top. I’ve done that, and if you’d like to see the result, check out the addition at the end of that post.

© 2019 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 12, 2019 at 4:37 AM

53 Responses

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  1. Nice portrait showing the two stages. Following up your question about mountain laurel a while back…did you catch its scent?

    Someone on FB recently shared this video describing milkweed plant parts and pollination. The narrator sounds like a botanical ‘wise guy’. Anyway, nice bit of plant knowledge.

    Steve Gingold

    July 12, 2019 at 4:57 AM

    • Good question: I seem to remember having tried and not detecting a scent. That would be in contrast to antelope-horns milkweed, our most common species, which does give off a fragrance.

      What an idiosyncratic video. The language is a mix of crude and scientific. As for the shaky close-up video, the guy shouldn’t have hand-held everything.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 12, 2019 at 5:53 AM

      • Probably not, but I don’t think he was concerned with photographic quality so much as his dialogue. Anyway, shaky but informative.

        Steve Gingold

        July 12, 2019 at 4:16 PM

  2. Do these milkweed flowers has a wonderful fragrance? It is what we look forward to from the patch we maintain for Monarch butterflies.


    July 12, 2019 at 6:56 AM

    • I didn’t detect a fragrance the way I do with Asclepias asperula, the most common milkweed in central Texas. If I come across another instance of Texas milkweed, I’ll double check.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 12, 2019 at 7:04 AM

  3. Very impressive photo of the milkweed, Steve! Again I like how the dark non-distractive background enhances the beauty of this plant.

    Peter Klopp

    July 12, 2019 at 7:20 AM

    • I’ll agree with you on the impressiveness of this milkweed. Dramatic lighting (and the consequent dark background) will do that for you. I couldn’t have asked for better.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 12, 2019 at 7:26 AM

  4. Beautiful presentation. Milkweed on a platter of green.

    Michael Scandling

    July 12, 2019 at 9:53 AM

  5. 🙂 The path less traveled was the introduction to our high school yearbook, so I’m especially fond of that poem, however cliched. And I’m glad you chose that path – it sounds like it was very rewarding. This looks like the perfect example of a milkweed, everything in place, and fresh.


    July 12, 2019 at 1:04 PM

    • Ah, happy yearbook memories. I’m sure glad I chose that path, too. The uncommon wildflowers and spotlight lighting seemed put there just just for me, who would appreciate them when others might not.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 12, 2019 at 1:38 PM

  6. Your milkweed shot is lovely; I’ve never seen that particular one, as far as I’m aware. I went back to your spittle bug post and clicked on the cropped shot–wow–just beautiful.


    July 12, 2019 at 3:18 PM

    • Thanks for appreciating this Texas milkweed portrait. The species is uncommon in Travis County, so I’m not surprised you haven’t come across it. The strange thing is that after not encountering any for a long time, after this specimen I found another one this past Monday along the path to the waterfall that appeared here on Wednesday.

      Credit goes to my Canon EOS 5DS R, with its 50-megapixel sensor, for letting me crop down to such a relatively small portion of the spittle picture and still have enough pixels left to retain details.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 12, 2019 at 3:58 PM

  7. Gorgeous!


    July 12, 2019 at 9:31 PM

  8. This was a great find, and it sure is a beauty. I don’t know about Wanda’s suggestion….I preferred the droplet the way it was.


    July 13, 2019 at 9:05 AM

    • Yes, and I saw another one this past Monday on my way to Stone Bridge Falls.

      As for the drop, well, we’ll call you true-to-nature on this one.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 13, 2019 at 10:43 AM

      • Nice. And yes, I tend to prefer things not to be manipulated or interfered with. For proof one would only need to look into my garden…or perhaps it would be better if one didn’t!


        July 14, 2019 at 8:16 AM

        • I mostly leave our back yard alone, too.

          Steve Schwartzman

          July 14, 2019 at 8:46 AM

          • It’s better that way! I’m just feeling bitter, because I bought some lovely native plants and have been putting them in. 90 degree temps, mosquitoes, flies, heavy clay and weeds are leaving me feeling disgruntled and bruised.


            July 14, 2019 at 9:00 AM

            • Yes, I can see why those conditions would leave you feeling disgruntled and bruised. Our back yard has lately been home to four rock squirrels. There could be more, but four is the greatest number we’ve ever seen at one time.

              Steve Schwartzman

              July 14, 2019 at 9:44 AM

              • Ah, the carrying capacity of rock squirrels for your yard has been reached.
                There seems to be an exceedingly high capacity for tree squirrels in our yard, and it enrages my little bestie. I typed Westie, but spell check changed it to bestie, for some odd reason. It works, so I’ll let it stand.


                July 15, 2019 at 9:17 AM

                • I guess whoever programs spell check thinks it’s hip to throw in as recent a term as bestie. Better a bestie than a beastie.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  July 15, 2019 at 1:33 PM

                • Definitely.


                  July 15, 2019 at 2:51 PM

  9. Oh my, I just watched the video Steve G. linked to, and am amazed. That guy sounds like a Chicagoan of a certain type, transplanted to my favorite region. What a hoot!


    July 13, 2019 at 9:12 AM

    • Thanks for placing the accent. I wondered where it was from.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 13, 2019 at 10:43 AM

      • You don’t hear it much anymore. Chicago is much more cosmopolitan these days but in certain circles you’ll still hear it. That video really made my day.


        July 14, 2019 at 8:14 AM

        • Then happy Day Having Been Made to you.

          Steve Schwartzman

          July 14, 2019 at 8:45 AM

          • Haha, thanks. I confess when we moved here and I heard that awful, grating accent, I hated it and felt it was one more reason for us to move back to the coast immediately. After all these years I feel a nostalgic fondness for the people who speak that way.


            July 14, 2019 at 9:02 AM

            • You’re welcome. The New York metropolitan accent still sounds familiar to me. You could say it hasn’t decayed after many a decade.

              Steve Schwartzman

              July 14, 2019 at 9:48 AM

  10. Eason does categorize this one as ‘locally common,’ so the fact that you found another so quickly makes sense. With luck, you’ll find many more. It’s certainly a beautiful plant, and somewhat reminiscent of our white swamp milkweed (A. perennis), although it’s primarily the color that leads to the association. You really were lucky to catch that lighting. Five minutes in either direction, and you might have lost it.

    I like the way you vertically stacked three stages of the flower, and the leaves are a nice complement. They’re different from any milkweed I’ve seen — at least, that I can remember.


    July 13, 2019 at 12:01 PM

    • The other Asclepias species in Austin have larger flowers and therefore inflorescences as a whole. Some look a bit coarse, whereas this species excels in its delicacy.

      While Texas milkweed may be locally common, my experience is that Austin isn’t one of the locales where that’s true. In the 20 years I’ve been photographing native plants here, I doubt I’ve seen the species a dozen times. That’s why finding a second specimen just a few weeks afterwards struck me as particularly unusual.

      In terms of composition, the still relatively low light dictated that I make a plane out of the flower cluster and the nearer bud cluster. The leaves then happened to arrange themselves quite nicely.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 13, 2019 at 12:20 PM

      • Our green milkweed certainly seems a bit coarse. Your green antelope horns are less so, partly because of the size and symmetry of their flower heads. Of course, for sheer size, I’ve never seen anything to equal the A. syriaca that I found in Kansas. Some of the plants, especially in gardens, were nearly as tall as I am.


        July 13, 2019 at 12:43 PM

        • It was the green milkweed whose coarseness I was thinking about. You’re right that the inflorescence of antelope horns is symmetrical, in fact globular, which is one thing I like so much about it. I remember when I first came across it in Cedar Park about 40 years ago, long before I got interested in native plants, but it seemed to unusual I stopped to check it out even though I had no idea what it was.

          I can’t remember if the A. syriaca plants I saw in Massachusetts and then Illinois were as tall as the ones you showed, but I sure took advantage of the opportunities to photograph the flowers. How a native North American plant came to be named after Syria is strange.

          Steve Schwartzman

          July 13, 2019 at 3:20 PM

          • Here’s what I found, via my big, fat Kansas wildflower book, Wiki, and iNaturalist: A. syriaca was one of the earliest North American species described in Cornut’s 1635 work Canadensium Plantarum Historia. Linnaeus reused the specific epithet because Cornut had confused the plant with a species from Asia Minor.


            July 13, 2019 at 4:04 PM

  11. […] one could fault you for adding the name ribbonflower or bowflower. As happened minutes earlier with the Texas milkweed, this wildflower grew in a tree-shaded area and yet a shaft of sunshine coming through the canopy […]

  12. Dang! Enough of the spittle already.


    July 14, 2019 at 3:28 PM

  13. I happen to love spittle bug spittle! Our tall grasses in the orchard must be a good spot for them – the spittle is just everywhere. I wish the same were true about the milkweed plant. I stumble across one every once in a blue moon.


    July 15, 2019 at 5:46 AM

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