Finding members of the Asclediadaceae (Milkweed) family is always a treat. Some species are very vulnerable and rare, particularly because the grasslands they occur in are heavily exploited for development. Asclepias albens is quite common and widespread throughout the eastern summer rainfall parts of South Africa, where 52 species occur. It is found in sunny, rocky spots which are frequently burnt.
Perennial Asclepias albens is about 30 cm tall, with multiple stems from the base. The inflorescence is carried ‘mop like’ (umbel) at the end of the stem and one needs to gently lift it to enjoy the sweet fragrance and full spectacle of the plum and lime colours of the 20 or so flowers which make up the crown-like corona. The dark green, hairy leaves have prominent veins and milky latex. Leaves are edible and cooked as spinach.
Asclepias albens flowers in the magnificent grasslands of Sitamani in Boston. The Midlands CREW group (Custodians of Rare and Endangered Wildflowers) plan an excursion to explore the area in January – they may still be in flower. If you would like to join Midlands CREW to search for, and record, rare plants email firstname.lastname@example.org.