Another cold, snowy day. So I'll just step into a past spring and go with my birding buddy Karen on a day-trip to Moab, Utah.
We could see color on a north facing hillside . . . wildflowers? So we pulled off the road and began to walk up the slope. Desert, a warm sun, quiet, and a blue sky. Couldn't ask for more! I found two species of daisies right at the side of the road and stopped to check them out. Karen began to climb the hill. Then I found some purple loco weed, a blue Penstemon and a prickly pear cactus with bright yellow flowers.
Karen called from the top of the hill saying she'd found an interesting milkweed. So up the hill I went and there were two milkweeds. One of them is known as adobe milkweed, Asclepias cypterocera, and is considered the "jewel" of our 'dobes. The roundish leaves hugged the ground and the flowers were cream and purple. What a find! That was the third time I'd seen it in all these years.
But then I saw another plant about six feet away . . . one that I'd never seen before! Hugging the ground, deep green leaves with wavy white edges. Milkweed flowers are unusual structure: five sepals, five petals, five stamens and one ovary, but there are five more separate segments each with another segment. That's a sure clue for milkweeds, but just to be certain I knelt down and gently pinched one leaf . . . a milky substance seeped out!
We took photos of this new find and then went down the hill. We realized that it was past lunch time! As Karen drove into Moab, I checked the milkweeds listed in Weber's "Flora of Colorado" and there was a line drawing of my plant! No common name was given so I decided to call my plant "mystery milkweed." Botanically it's Asclepias macrosperma because of its large seed (which I didn't see, but that's an excuse to go back).
I've seen butterflies of various species feeding on our ditch bank milkweed, but the most famous one is the orange colored Asclepias tuberose. It's a food plant for monarch butterflies and is worth propagating.blog comments powered by Disqus