It must be late summer when you see Snow-on-the-Prairie! Driving along the roads to Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge, this plant with cool appearing green and white leaves actually does look like a light dusting of snow where it is growing en masse. This white flowering plant can blanket a prairie in no time at all, hence the name. Because livestock stay away from the poisonous sap that the plant emits, it doesn't take much for it to cover a field.
|Snow-on-the-Prairie, by Brenda Loveless|
As members of the Spurge Family, both plants have a milky sap that is irritating to humans with sensitive skin, as well as to the eyes and is toxic to cattle. A volunteer at the Refuge told us that beekeepers try to keep bees away from the plant, as it makes the honey "hot".
Poinsettias are members of the same family. Growing 1 - 4 feet tall, in poor soils, the plants multiply by throwing seed, described by Dorothy Thetford in Wildflowers-of-Texas. Thetford says, “This ballistic dispersal of seeds explains the scattered arrangement of plants on the prairie.”
Both plants are annuals in the spurge family. The actual flowers are tiny white blossoms, surrounded by the green and white bracts. The bract of bicolor (in photos) is narrower than that of marginata. The National Resources Conservation Service shows a range for Snow-on-the-Prairie including Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Louisiana, and Arkansas. The bloom time is July – October. Anything that helps us think "cool" at this time of year in Texas is welcome!
NOTE: This is becoming an annual post! Various versions posted in August 2012, 2014, 2015, and 2016.