Like little purple pineapples
The flower clusters look like little purple pineapples, but they’re not. The leaves and bracts have sharp spines that might lead you to mistake the plant for a thistle, but it’s not. This is eryngo, Eryngium leavenworthii, a richly purple token of late summer and early autumn that turns out to be a member of the carrot family: surprise after surprise.
I photographed this eryngo on August 9 on a yet-undeveloped piece of prairie adjacent to Interstate 35 in northeast Austin. The barrel-shaped part of the inflorescence was about an inch high.
Eryngo grows primarily in the south-central United States, as you can see on the state-clickable map at the USDA website.
© 2012 Steven Schwartzman