Sunday, April 27, 2014

Searching for Asclepius

 Didn't find Asclepius, but did find lots of Asclepias.  The former being the Greek god of healing, or one of them.  I drove around 5 miles up the Caribou Road from Highway 70 early Monday morning and found quite a few plants specimens of Asclepias cordifolia, mostly with buds but a few blooming.  The above view is from my car window, and they're easy to miss when surrounded by other roadside vegetation.  But I remembered this spot from last year when friends and I came here to view the Stream Orchids and Azaleas.  In rambling around the cascade that supports the latter two species, we came across quite a few A. cordifolia.  The species name describes the leaves which are heart-shaped.  The genus, Asclepias, is named after the aforementioned Greek healer and was given its name by Linnaeus. 
 I took quite a few photos of the various flower clusters and was lucky enough to come across one that was playing host to a Goldenrod Crab Spider (below), the first one I've seen this year.
 You may click on any of these photos for a closer view.  The flowers of Milkweeds are quite impressive.
This next photo might also be Asclepias cordifolia, but it has white flowers!  I spotted this one last summer and wondered if it was a new (to me) species or a mutant cordifolia.  I got distracted by dozens of others species beginning to bloom around the same time and never the research.  I need to get down there with my Jepson's manual and see if I can figure it out.  The leaf shape and overall look of the body and the flowers seem to be identical to the Hear-leaf Milkweed, but it might differ in some detail I'm not noticing and actually be a different species.  Still searching.
The next five photos were taken between Oakland Camp and Gilson Creek this past Friday.  This spot is around 1,000 feet higher, so the season is not quite as advanced.  The several species of Milkweeds have broken ground, but none are yet blooming.
This first one could easily be mistaken for grass, but I returned to a spot where I've been watching this species for several summers.  It's the Narrow-leaf Milkweed, Asclepias fascicularis.
Click on the above photo for a close-up which makes the latex oozing from a leaf I snipped more obvious.  This species plays host to quite a nice variety of insects and spiders over the course of the summer including the Monarch Butterfly.
This newly-sprouted specimen of Asclepias cordifolia (above) is quite purple which explains its other common name - Purple Milkweed.
Here are two more views of slightly more mature specimens showing that there are many flowers about ready to bloom.  These two shots also make the heart-shaped leaves more obvious.
I'll be visiting my various "milkweed spots" a lot more often this coming spring and summer because I've gotten to know a UC Davis doctoral student who is studying them.  He discovered me and my milkweed photos and commentary of prior years via this blog and got in touch with me and asked for a tour.  I gladly obliged this past Friday and will be interested to see his project develop.  On Friday I didn't have my camera along, so I went back on Saturday and found quite a few new spring arrivals.  My next few posts will catch up on blooming wildflowers I saw in the Feather River Canyon on Monday and around Oakland Camp on Friday and Saturday.

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