Family: Asclepiadaceae – Milkweed Family
Asclepias is the only genus from this family represented at Arches National Park. Perennial herbs usually with milky latex; plant 7.87” to 2.6' (2 to 8 decimeters) tall
Leaves: opposite; simple broad leaves; entire; no hairs; 1.6” to 8” (4 to 20 cm) long; 1.6 to 5.2 inches (4 to 13 cm) wide
Flowers: 5 united (lobed or cleft) pale green petals folded downward; 5 parted or lobed sepals folded downward; 5 stamens; 2 pistils; plus a corona (an additional structure sitting between the petals and the stamens) that looks like an extra set of petals. The corona consists of 5 hoods; inside the hoods there may be a beak-like structure (horn) pointing toward the center of the flower. Bisexual; flower lobes 0.44” to 0.48” (11 to 12 mm) long
Pollinators: bees, moths and butterflies
Fruits: pair of follicles; seeds typically have very silky hairs
Blooms in Arches National Park: May, June, July, August, September
Habitat in Arches National Park: disturbed sites, desert shrub, pinyon-juniper and hanging garden communities
Location seen: park road mile 0 to 2.5, across from Park Avenue parking lot, park road near Salt Valley Overlook (around mile 13 to 15), Fiery Furnace
Other: The genus name, “Asclepias”, refers to “Asklepios”, a Greek physician and an authority on the medicinal use of plants and who according to Greek Myth could bring the dead to life. Hades fearing a loss of employment, convinced his brother Zeus to kill Asklepios with a bolt of lightning. The species name, “latifolia”, means “wide leaves”.
The green plants before and during the flowering stage are poisonous to sheep, cattle, and goats. Poisoning has occurred early in the spring before the grass had started to grow.
Did You Know?
Once feared of becoming extinct, desert bighorn sheep are making a tentative comeback in southeast Utah due to reintroduction efforts by the National Park Service. There are roughly 50 sheep in Arches, though their shy nature keeps them well-hidden from most visitors. More...