When a Plant Causes You to Yell

UK Plant-Aug 2015 With Logo


When I see a plant that I cannot immediately ID I label the photo with UK or Unknown with the date. Often, I go back to identify it by proper common and scientific names. Then there are times I don’t get back to identifying the plant in the file because that’s how life goes.
In going through old research photos from 2015 for a project the other day I came across one such photo. Immediately, I yelled out its name and had a contented moment. I remember the day I saw this plant in the photo above and I recalled who was with me, Laura, who was working at Whiteface CISD at the time. I also remember it was unbearably hot and humid at Comanche Springs Astronomy Campus that day.
The remarkable thing about seeing old photos of plants I labeled as unknown – is the smile and excitement of yelling – Green Milkweed! Maybe not true yelling, but loud enough that the girls come running into my office with looks of concern on their faces.
Meet the Green comet milkweed (Asclepias viridiflora). Viridiflora means green-flowered in botanical Latin. 
I now recognize this important plant from afar or by hiking by it. This milkweed has long slender stalks that grow to about two to three-foot-tall with flowers that resemble little dented half golf balls. The flowers do have a light floral fragrance that I have not been able to pinpoint with a reference yet. They have long slender leaves that are always opposite to each other on the stems.
Green comet milkweed produces copious amounts of nectar that bumblebees and honeybees, as well as moths, hummingbirds, and lots of other butterflies, feed on. One of the best things about this plant is that deer, rabbits, and other animals avoid browsing it.
For the future birth of monarch butterflies, they utilize this milkweed as a host plant for their larvae.

As with any milkweed they have a milky water substance that may be toxic to your hands if it comes in contact with your skin.  This substance contains cardiac glycosides which slow the sodium-potassium pump in heart cells and then it increases the sodium ions in the cells which causes an increase in calcium ions. The increase in calcium optimizes the functionality of the cell.

A couple of facts. First, did you know that milkweed flowers like the green comet milkweed have a special mechanism to tangle the tiny insect legs enough to enable them to pull pollen from the plants? Second, this plant is listed as endangered in Florida and Connecticut.
This green comet milkweed is forever engraved in my memory databank of flora. Now when I see it the deer can get alarmed when I yell out my excitement at discovering it. I just hope there are no skunks nearby.