Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘milkweed

It doesn’t take long for chaos to ensue

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Milkweed seeds are packed quite neatly into their pods. Once a pod opens, however, the fluff attached to the seeds readily yields to the wind and chaos soon sets in. That’s what you see in this antelope horns milkweed (Asclepias asperula) across the street from the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center on May 26th.

On the same day that these seeds were “migrating” out of their pod, thousands of people were illegally “immigrating” to the United States. With that abrupt turn, let me pause to tell you a little about my background. My father and his brother and parents escaped from the Soviet Union in the 1920s and came to the United States to get away from communism, corruption, and antisemitism. My mother’s father was also an immigrant. One of my nephews is married to an immigrant. I’ve had two brothers-in-law who were immigrants. I have friends who are immigrants. I’m married to an immigrant of a different race from the other side of the earth. Immigration has greatly contributed to the development of this country. I wouldn’t exist without it.

At the same time, I value fairness and order. The United States has set up a system in which people from other countries can apply to move here. Approximately a million people were allowed to do that in 2019. Some say that the number is too low and we should let in two million people a year. That might be okay. As needs change, Americans can decide on an appropriate yearly number that wouldn’t overwhelm the country’s resources.

What many Americans don’t find appropriate is people from other countries circumventing our immigration system and coming here illegally. I’ve heard projections that as many as two million people will have crossed into the United States illegally in 2021 alone. That number is plausible, given a report on National Public Radio that “More than 170,000 migrants were taken into custody at the Southwest border in March, the highest monthly total since at least 2006, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials who have been briefed on the preliminary numbers but are not authorized to speak publicly.” To that must be added the unknown number of people that the overworked Border Patrol didn’t manage to apprehend. Another indication of a huge increase in illegal immigration comes from a June 1st news story in the Epoch Times: “Border Patrol in the Del Rio [Texas] Sector has apprehended 95 sex offenders this fiscal year, compared to six during the same period in fiscal 2020. Apprehension of criminals has topped 813 compared to 161 in the same period in fiscal 2020.”

Those figures are evidence that for the most part our southern border is open. (A cynic would say the way we know the southern border is open is that the current administration tells us it’s closed.) Our government is letting many—perhaps the majority—of the people who enter illegally stay. Whereas applicants for legal immigration are screened in their country of origin to verify who they are, to ensure they’ll have a means of support, and to keep out criminals and people with infectious diseases, we have almost no way to determine the identities of those coming here illegally, what state of health they’re in, or whether they’ve been involved in crime—especially of the many who evade the Border Patrol entirely. During a worldwide pandemic our government is paying large amounts of money to send illegal immigrants into the interior of the country by bus and plane, sometimes without even testing for Covid-19.

People who don’t want any limits on immigration purposely and deceptively use the word immigrant to include those who come here illegally. That’s not fair, just as it wouldn’t be fair to describe someone who broke into your house as a resident. Advocates of unrestricted entry into the country hurl the epithet racist at anyone who distinguishes between legal and illegal immigration. That’s not fair. What’s fair is to establish an orderly immigration policy and to have the government enforce it, not flout it.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 3, 2021 at 4:20 AM

Posted in nature photography

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Green milkweed pod releasing its seeds

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After I took pictures of a large sunflower colony along Gregg-Manor Rd. east of TX 130 on June 10th, I noticed on the other side of the road a green milkweed plant (Asclepias viridis) with a split-open pod whose seeds and silk the breeze was freeing. As is my common practice, I got close to the ground so I could aim upward to position the seeds and silk against the morning’s blue sky. And as has occurred from time to time over the years that I’ve been doing nature photography, a good Samaritan stopped—right in the road, with a few cars behind her—to see whether I was ailing and needed help. After I stood up and turned around she saw my camera and realized what I’d been doing. And now that we’re back on Gregg-Manor Rd., I might as well add another view of the yellowlicious sunflower colony that caused me to pull over there in the first place, and without which I probably wouldn’t have caught sight of the opened milkweed pod.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 21, 2020 at 4:37 AM

Whorled milkweed

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How convenient for a photographer: growing right at the edge of the path we walked on in Bastrop State Park on June 6th were some flowers whose structure yelled out “Milkweed!” Not recognizing the species, I later looked in Michael Eason’s Wildflowers of Texas, which led me to conclude the plant was whorled milkweed, Asclepias verticillata. Below is a closeup showing a developing seed pod, beyond which you can again make out the characteristic color of the iron-rich earth in Bastrop.

While preparing this post I realized that five years ago I showed a picture of a milkweed in New Mexico with a slightly different scientific name, Asclepias subverticillata.

© 2019 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 18, 2019 at 4:49 PM

Antelope-horns milkweed buds and flowers

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You’ve already seen how on April 5th the median in Morado Circle played host to rain-lilies and anemones, wild garlic and four-nerve daisies, and a white bluebonnet. Also growing there was Asclepias asperula, the most common milkweed species in central Texas. This picture is the latest reminder that milkweeds do things in fives.

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 5, 2018 at 4:59 AM

How could I show you one without the other?

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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

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Haven’t shown you this for a good while

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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.**

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* 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

A different kind of fluff

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In contrast to the fluff of the snake-cotton from Arizona that appeared in the previous post, behold the fluff I saw yesterday along Misting Falls Trail in my Austin neighborhood. I was driving to the store when I caught sight of a pearl milkweed vine (Matelea reticulata) hanging in some denuded tree branches. Several pods had opened, and as I watched them the breeze occasionally scattered bits of their seed-bearing fluff.

© 2016 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 28, 2016 at 4:53 AM

A less-common milkweed

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On September 7th, while walking across a field bordering Grand Avenue Parkway in Pflugerville on my way to photograph a few Maximilian sunflowers, one of which you saw last time, I spotted a milkweed that I come across only occasionally, Asclepias oenotheroides. It has appeared in these pages just once before, and I refer you to that earlier post for a closer look at a more advanced stage in the milkweed’s development and to find out more about one of its common names, hierba de zizotes.

© 2016 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 17, 2016 at 5:00 AM

Milkweed buds

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Melisa Pierson: "It is usually less than 2' tall, and the leaves are variable from narrow to wide oval. I do see quite a bit of variation out there, in fact, I thought there were 2 different species but research tells me that it is one species. I am seeing an increase of it at Illinois Beach."

On June 9th at Illinois Beach State Park I photographed this cluster of milkweed (Asclepias spp.) buds. In looking at the picture now, I like the way the curves and lines of the elements farther back complement the buds whose closest tips are sharply detailed in the foreground.

© 2016 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 12, 2016 at 4:53 AM

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Greenity*

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Gall on Common Milkweed Leaf 7886

At the risk of greening you out with a third post in a row that’s heavy on that color, here’s another view of common milkweed, Asclepias syriaca, this time from Illinois Beach State Park on June 14. I no longer remember what cast the pleasantly undulating shadow on the left side of the leaf, but one lobe of that shadow worked to highlight the lone gall there.

© 2016 Steven Schwartzman


* We don’t normally stick a Latin-derived suffix on a native English word the way I’ve done with greenity, but some hybrids (for example outage) have entered our standard vocabulary. In searching the Internet now I see that I’m not the first person to come up with greenity.

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 9, 2016 at 5:12 AM

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