Excerpts from Jim Conrad's
Naturalist Newsletter

from the February 16, 2007, issued from Sierra Gorda Biosphere Reserve, QUERÉTARO, MÉXICO

Vegetation here isn't nearly as brown and parched-looking as usually it is at this time in the Yucatan. Upslope and in certain valleys so many woody plants are sprouting new leaves that it looks positively springy. I hadn't expected this so deep into the dry season.

Still, relatively few native plants are flowering here now. Typically when you spot something blossoming it turns out to be an invasive species. That's the way it is with one of the most common and conspicuous of plants currently blossoming. A native of South America but now established as a weed in much of the world's tropics and subtropics, and common throughout Mexico, it's a milkweed with attractively two-toned yellowish orange and reddish orange blossoms, and known by the Latin name of ASCLEPIAS CURASSAVICA. A picture of one beside our entrance road is shown below:

Tropical Milkweed, Asclepias curassavica

In that picture you can see that milkweed blossoms are very unlike most other flowers. I've set up a whole page describing the milkweeds' unique flower anatomy at http://www.backyardnature.net/fl_milkw.htm.

Though the milkweed species flowering here now is common and well known, it has a name problem. It goes by a lot of names but none is generally accepted and none is really appropriate. Blood Flower, Scarlet Milkweed, Silkweed, Indian Root, Tropical Milkweed, Bastard Ipecac... I think of it as the Milkweed from Curaçao because that's what its Latin name says, Asclepias curassavica. Curaçao is a small Dutch island in the Caribbean Sea off the coast of Venezuela, one of the Lesser Antilles.

Asclepas curassavica is another of those invasive weeds I don't mind too much -- especially when I see how Monarchs and other butterflies visit it for nectar. I suspect that in many parts of the American tropics there wouldn't be any Monarchs if the Milkweed from Curaçao wasn't in the neighborhood.