“Snow on the Prairie”: research for an opioid alternative blooms in our own backyard.

I was just driving my eldest home from ballet class yesterday evening when we passed a large patch of these on the roadside, and I wondered to myself, is this native? Oh how badly I wanted to just pull over (on this road with barely a shoulder) and snap a photo to ID it.

But then the image of the plant just pops up on my local newsfeed. (Do our electronics now have mind reading capabilities? Am I talking out loud unawares to my wireless devices?) Back to reality…

Chances are it’s close to fall and I’m just subscribed to plenty of native prairie and plant groups. According to this tidbit, based on research by Camelia Maier, Euphorbia bicolor may have the capability of an opioid alternative. She even published a paper on the subject in the Journal of Pain in 2016, but would like to conduct further studies.

Looking at some images, the flowers have both female and male counterparts that are quite visually different. And there is an appearance of tiny flowers at the center, which aren’t true flowers after all, but inflorescences (from the image archive of Central Texas Plants, University of Texas, http://www.sbs.utexas.edu/bio406d/images/pics/eup/euphorbia_bicolor.htm).

in·flo·res·cence – the complete flower head of a plant including stems, stalks, bracts, and flowers; the arrangement of the flowers on a plant; the process of flowering.

Apparently it can be a serious skin irritant according to various chat threads and reports. So I won’t be letting my kids handle it anytime soon. It is tall, and a beautiful fall bloom to see on our trips home.

Here is a beautiful image of it by WordPress blogger and photographer, “Portraits of Wildflowers” – https://portraitsofwildflowers.wordpress.com/2012/10/17/snow-still-on-the-prairie/

Banner photo by Joseph A. Marcus for Wildflower Center Digital Library, Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.


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