• December 27, 2014

Multi-faceted milkweed an intriguing plant

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Posted: Saturday, August 24, 2013 4:30 am

Every once in a while, a plant comes along that draws me in and I just can’t get enough of it. The antelope-horns milkweed, or Asclepias asperula, is one of the most interesting plants I’ve ever seen.

I don’t personally have one, but that doesn’t stop me from finding them along the side of the road or in a ditch or pasture.

I’ll stop to take pictures and then look at the images over and over.

There is so much to see, so many features of this Texas wildflower that grab my attention.

Antelope-horns milkweed forms a taproot; therefore, it can grow in rocky terrain and sand.

It gets 8 to 24 inches in height, can tolerate below-freezing temperatures and very little rainfall, its bitter taste makes it deer-resistant, and it blooms in the springtime.

From the time the buds form, it has such a unique look.

The blooms themselves are incredible, forming white, horn-like seed pods rising from maroon stems and soft, green flowers.

It’s a multipurpose plant. The leaves provide food for the Monarch caterpillar and the flowers provide nectar for the ever-declining adult Monarch butterfly.

The toxicity of the plant protects the Monarch by making it distasteful.

These features make the antelope-horns milkweed very important in the efforts to increase Monarch numbers.

Other accolades of this plant are its use in cardiac medicines as well as treatment for rabies bites by Navaho Indians years ago. Its silk near the seeds was used as buoyant down in WWII life jackets, according to the Native Plant Society of Texas website, npsot.org.

Darla Menking is a Bell County Master Gardener and Master Naturalist. Contact her at darla.menking@gmail.com.

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