Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Asclepias physocarpa (Gomphocarpus physocarpus)

"Asclepias physocarpa (Gomphocarpus physocarpus)", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2013

Asclepias physocarpa (also known as Gomphocarpus physocarpus, commonly known as the balloon plant) is a species of milkweed. The plant is native to southeast Africa, but it has been widely naturalized. It is often used as an ornamental plant. The name "balloon plant" is an allusion to the swelling bladder-like seed pods.

Asclepias physocarpa is a perennial herb, that can grow to over six feet. The plant blooms in warm months. It grows on roadside banks, at elevations of 2800 to 5000 feet above sea level.

The terminology for this plant is a little confusing. It is a native milkweed of South Africa and in 2001 its name was changed from Asclepias physocarpa to Gomphocarpus physocarpus to reflect that it is in the family of African milkweeds. Now its true scientific name is Gomphocarpus physocarpus but most people still know it and refer to it as Asclepias physocarpa.

A Monarch butterfly is ready to emerge from a chrysalis on
Balloon plant  Source: Sandy Austin reproduced
under Creative Commons

A Monarch butterfly is ready to emerge from a chrysalis on Balloon plant Source: Vicky TGAW reproduced under Creative Commons

The plant is a food source for the caterpillars of Danaus butterflies, and is a specific Monarch butterfly food and habitat plant. It is also popular in traditional medicine to cure various ailments.

All of the milkweeds are named for a milky sap in the plant's stem and leaves. After the Monarch caterpillar has metamorphosed into a butterfly, the alkaloids from the sap they ingested from the plant are retained in the butterfly, making it unpalatable to predators.

The two photos above are taken from the web site:  They took them from Creative Commons (see link under pictures above).

The have a fascinating web site filled with information of all sorts for all ages, especially regarding the relationship between plants and butterflies.  I would recommend that you take a look there if you or your children are interested in gaining more information on this subject.



A delightful photo taken by my good friend, Glen Clifford, at the Toronto Zoo back in 2006.
The photo shows two adult  (Olive-coloured) Baboons tending their youngsters (I see a little arm behind the baby in front)



A photo of a younger, slimmer Suki
I was talking to Suki yesterday about the weight she has gained over the past 4 years -- she has a birthday coming up this Friday and will be turning 4.

I was trying to convince her that she needed to watch her weight now that she is getting a bit older as there is nothing more embarrassing than an obese cat!  Everyone who sees the cat has to tell you about the dangers of having an overweight cat -- that it is actually animal abuse to allow a pet to get overweight, etc.

I have already started getting such comments from occasional visitors and I must admit, they do make me feel guilty.  Of course, the person giving me the lecture is not here at 10 p.m. when I want to go to sleep and am unable to because Suki is hungry!

I know, that is just an excuse for why I give in too often to her frequent requests for food.  Even though I only give her small amounts each time, she still seems to be packing on the pounds.

Of course, part of it is my fault as I have just been too ill and fatigued to play with her for such a long time now.  I used to spend a lot more time letting her chase the laser light or shaking the fishing pole with the dangling feathers over her head while she jumped for it. 

I have tried to get her interested in playing on her own and she does do a bit of it each day, but soon tires and either feels it is time to eat again or time for another nap.  Woe is me -- I feel like such a bad caregiver.  Maybe I should go and have a bowl of ice cream or something to make myself feel better!!

Seriously, I am doing reasonably well and have no plans to have a bowl of ice cream at this time of day.

I had the sutures out on Monday and while I am feeling a bit better, I still look very funny with these eyebrows composed of suture marks and red splotches.  I still have a good bit of bruising on the right side of my face which I hope will disappear before Easter gets here.

The best news is that I continue to be able to walk more than I have in years.  Not sure exactly what has happened, but I am grateful for any little blessing that comes my way.  I find that I am not using the wheelchair at all now -- just the walker.  I continue to amaze myself each time I go out now by how far I am able to walk without any discomfort.  God is indeed so very good to me.

As well, the new "stay awake" medication seems to be working well and giving me more awake time each day than I have had in years.  It is really quite wonderful to be able to sit here at the computer without constantly having to fight to keep from falling asleep over and over again.  I had forgotten what it is like to be awake during the day!

So, let us give thanks to God for all His goodness to us.  As well, I will continue to ask St. John of God (whose feast day is on the 8th, Suki's birthday) to pray for us all -- asking God to grant us true peace and joy.

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