Tuesday, May 21, 2013

It's Milkweed TIme

 I love the milkweeds, and of the five local species I've recorded during past seasons, two are now blooming and the other three are close.  The first, Purple Milkweed, Asclepias cordifolia, provides me a lot of excitement.  In the area just northwest of Oakland Camp, they grow in the open between widely spaced oaks and pines and are usually the first milkweed to bloom.  The photo below gives an idea of how the look as I approach.  The photo above shows not only the amazing architecture of the blossoms, but also one of the most frequent guests, the Common Checkered Clerid beetle.
 I probably took a couple dozen photos within a 20-foot radius.  This plant seems to beg to be viewed from many different angles and distances.  These photos were taken on last Friday's outing from which I've already made two posts.  After this, I think I have enough interesting material for two more!  At this point, I'd say only 1/4 to 1/3 of the buds have opened, so there are many weeks of drama remaining.
 My famous left hands provides scale so you can see the relative size of the blossoms and the beetle.

 The overall plant tends to have a purplish color, but its other common name, Heart-leaved Milkweed, as well as the scientific name, come from the shape of the leaves.  I recommend clicking on these photos for close-up looks.  Better yet, take a hike beyond Oakland Camp and take a close look at the real thing.
The Spreading Dogbane is just barely blooming, and I didn't see any insect visitors yet.  The Dogbane and its close cousin, Indian Hemp, and both Apocynums and in the Family Apocynaceae.  The three milkweeds named Asclepias used to be in their own family, Asclepiadaceae, but recently the two families have been combined as Apocynaceae, so I get to say we have 5 local milkweeds.  Maybe more, but I've only discovered 5.
As I wandered around looking for milkweeds, I saw a number of Monarch Butterlies cruising the airways, but none landed on the Dogbane or Purple Milkweed.  I suspect they were waiting for their favorite species to bloom,  That would be the Showy Milkweed, Asclepias speciosa.  In this particular area that could be another couple of weeks.

1 comment:

  1. Milkweed is beautiful. On a hike I did yesterday I found it blooming in profusion. Up on Caribou Road, the white species we found is going to seed -- did we ever determine which variety that was?

    Regarding the Dogbane, I recently learned that atrocious Oleander is in the same family. I loathe Oleander almost as much as I loathe Scotch/French/Spanish Broom, but I love the scent of Spreading Dogbane. Interesting that a plant with such sweet-smelling blossoms can be so poisonous.