Saturday, August 1, 2009

Humongous Hoods

One of the plants that I wanted to see while in Colorado was Asclepias speciosa. While this native species is nothing more than a roadside weed around Boulder, it is certainly worthy of its common name, Showy Milkweed, as you will see below.

One reason why I wanted to see this species is because it is known from the Chicago Region, along a few railroad tracks, where it is considered introduced. I wanted to make sure that if I ever ran into it, I wouldn't confuse it for Asclepias syriaca. No way. Look at those hoods! They're enormous - over a centimeter long, in fact. In milkweeds, the hoods are the parts of the flower that arch upwards. The corolla lobes are reflexed. The horns are the incurved appendages coming out of the hoods.

In Asclepias speciosa, the pedicels, peduncles, backs of the corolla lobes, and the upper stems are densely white hairy, another character than can be used to distinguish between this and similar species.

Asclepias speciosa is found throughout the western half of the United States, as well as in Minnesota and a few counties in Iowa, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Michigan. It is typically a grassland species, but can also be found in riparian areas and in savannas with small trees.


Tom said...

Very cool Scott, milkweeds are some what of an enigma to me. I need to make it a priority to get out and see all of our midwestern species.


Justin said...

That is one showy, and I mean showy, Milkweed.

Scott said...

Thanks Tom. Milkweeds have beautiful and interesting flowers, for sure.

Yeah, Justin... showy...