Looking For Pearls

When you are out for a walk in the woods is there a particular thing you keep an eye out for? Maybe a type of rock or fossil? Maybe you keep your ears tuned to hear a favorite bird. There is a small plant I look for during walks on the nearby greenbelt trail. It is a small, green vine that twines its stem and heart shaped leaves up bushes and trees. It has the prettiest little flowers in the world. The small flowers are shaped like five pointed stars and are graced with streaks of white. In the middle of the star is a single pearl. At least that is what it looks like to me.

I photographed the first one I ever saw and later found out what it was named. It is in the Milkweed family of plants (Asclepiadaceae) and grows in Central and Eastern Texas. It is a Milkweed Pearl Vine (Matelea reticulata). When I see them I point them out to whoever I am with. They are small and can be easily overlooked.

Their seed pods are not dainty and cute like the flowers, but bulky and spiky. Inside the pod are many flat seeds with long, silky hairs to help them drift away. They are a host plant for butterflies such as the Monarch and Queen.

They are another plant that reminds me of my mother because she loved them too. The first one she ever saw was at McKinney Falls State Park. A few years later, she went through docent training to be a volunteer at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center and chose this plant as her subject to research and write a short paper about. She dug one up on private land near Dripping Springs, Texas. Planted in her backyard it did pretty well.

After our horrible cold snap this past February, I expected so many plants to not come back this Spring. Surprisingly, some plants have come back stronger than ever. This spring I saw more of these Milkweed Pearl Vine flowers in the greenbelt than I have ever seen before. They will disappear next winter, but I am certain to see their sweet faces next year. They will once again be a sweet reminder of my mother.

When you find one of Nature’s little pearls, please share it with a friend.

Resources:

Wildflower.org

“A Hill Country Gem- the Pearl Milkweed Vine”-Barbara Downes

“Wildflowers of the Texas Hill Country” by Marshall Enquist

All photos by Betty McCreary

Published by

bettymccreary7347

Born and raised in Central Texas. Spending time outside brings me joy and I love to share my observations. I also belong to two writing groups and enjoy researching my ancestors. I find people interesting, but Nature keeps me sane.

17 thoughts on “Looking For Pearls”

  1. This is so lovely, Betty! I think I may have seen that vine and flowers growing along some of the trails I walk… but I’m not sure. Iris was my mother’s favorite flower. After she died, and before I lost access to the house I grew up in, I dug up a few of her favorite irises and planted them in my back yard where their rhizomes spread out a bit more each year.  Each spring when their brilliant purple flowers appear, I remember my mother saying when i would come over, “Susie, look at the Irises!” I wish I had given them – and her – more attention. She loved this flower and I didn’t appreciate it when she was alive. My grandmother’s favorite plant was the rubber tree. She had a rather huge one growing in a large pot she dragged out to her apartment porch every spring and summer and dragged back inside every winter.  I can’t look at them without thinking of her. I haven’t yet brought one home, but i will.  That connection to family passed is so important.  Hugs to you, Susie

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  2. Great post, Betty – and indeed a strikingly pretty bloom, great photos. We saw these a week ago at South Llano River State Park (Junction TX) – if Gary hadn’t pointed them out, I probably would have walked right past. But once seen, suddenly they stand out.

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  3. Betty,
    I’ve never, ever seen this plant! But now I will go looking for it ti see if I’ve been overlooking it all these years! Milkweed is prolific in Michigan, so it doesn’t surprise me that the cold didn’t kill it off.
    Thanks for sharing this!

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  4. Hi Betty – here’s a comment I tried to post on your blog but couldn’t figure out how to do it. Thank you so much for sending your blog. Your photos are so wonderful they look professional! Carol 

    Thank you Betty for the lovely photographs and information about Milkweed Pearl Vine. Hearing about your mother and her love of the vine made your post even more meaningful. Lots of pearl vine grows in our backyard where I twine it around fences and up trees so the flowers are more visible. It’s one heck of a climber!

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