Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Pink joins purple

with 11 comments

Mountain pinks, Centaurium beyrichii.

When I went to the prairie in northeast Austin four days ago to photograph sunflowers, I found a dense group of bluebells some distance behind the sunflowers. Because I’ve seen bluebells growing in that part of town in other years, I was pleased but not surprised, except perhaps for how well the flowers were doing in the continuing drought. But surprise there was, and it came as I wandered away from the main colony of bluebells to look at some smaller groups of them; for then I came across another species that found sustenance on the floor of the sump: mountain pinks! In the photograph above, all the flowers and buds belong to a single mountain pink plant. The purple in the upper left of the picture is from the nearby cluster of bluebells in the background.

As the name mountain pink suggests, this plant is common in the Texas Hill Country that begins on the west side of Austin, where it can seem to grow right out of the limestone cliffs. Only once before had I found this species, Centaurium beyrichii, on the prairie side of town. That was in 2006, on US Highway 290, where a pioneering colony had sprung up. I photographed it several times then and I went back each year in May and June to observe and photograph yet again, until finally last year the site was destroyed during the construction that’s turning the highway into a toll road. A sad and familiar story: one more natural place gone. So let the newfound little group be this summer’s consolation.

© 2011 Steven Schwartzman

(Look here for more information about Centaurium beyrichii, including a clickable map that shows where the species grows.)

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 17, 2011 at 6:28 AM

11 Responses

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  1. There are several hillsides north of Alpine TX on the east side of highway 67 (road to Ft Stockton) that are often covered in mountain pinks in the early summer is damp years, but in an unusually wet year, 1987, they showed up on a ranch south of Ft Stockton along the Marathon highway, 285, covering probably 4 sections of land……the landowners had never seen them there before and were thrilled to see them.

    John Mac Carpenter

    June 17, 2011 at 6:51 AM

    • I’m glad to hear that people in the Ft. Stockton area had the same sort of surprise as I’ve now had twice on the east side of Austin. We know that through the agency of wind, birds, etc., plants do extend their range, but we’re still taken by surprise when we witness the extension taking place. Did the mountain pinks near Ft. Stockton come back, or was their appearance a one-time thing? Next year I’ll see if my sumpy colony in northeast Austin has survived.


      June 17, 2011 at 7:12 AM

      • We’ve never seen them on the ranch again……….but know they are there, waiting for the right combination of time, weather, and moisture, one of God’s gifts. It’s a little greener there this year than last but not much, still ready to burn.

        John Carpenter

        June 25, 2012 at 6:43 AM

      • Thanks for your follow-up. I found bluebells again in 2012 in this sump. Let’s hope you see yours again next year.

        Steve Schwartzman

        June 25, 2012 at 10:06 AM

  2. I think of these as my Birthday flower, early June, as they are nearly always on the road cuts here in the hill country. Too dry this year, but I’ve seen a few on Hwy 71, just past Pale Face Ranch Rd, just west of my studio.
    Love your blog.
    also enjoyed your spread in the Wildflower Center Magazine.

    susie fowler

    June 17, 2011 at 9:59 AM

    • Then happy birthday to you! I saw bunches of mountain pinks on Lime Creek Rd. east of Lake Travis a week or two ago. A native plant friend e-mailed me this morning about some she’d seen on Loop 360, so I went out there this morning. I didn’t see any high on the cliffs there the way I have in other years, but I found a couple of dozen plants at the entrance to Wild Basin and spent at least an hour photographing them. As you said, they’re not so vibrant this year, but the challenge is to take them as I find them and see if I can do anything.

      Glad you liked the article in Wildflower magazine. I’ll have one on fall color in the magazine in the next issue, which is due out, appropriately and not surprisingly, in the fall.


      June 17, 2011 at 12:34 PM

  3. quite lovely
    I love the colors you captured in the background
    and so wonderful that flowers are thriving in a drought

    thank you for your visit, lovely to experience what you share


    June 17, 2011 at 10:53 AM

    • When the opportunity presents itself, I like to combine colors from different plants. I often compose so that one is in focus in the foreground and the other is as out of focus as possible in the background.


      June 17, 2011 at 12:25 PM

  4. […] point, is the bud of the mountain pink. At first white-tipped, its shape and color give no clue to the type of flower that will emerge: neither white nor, once fully open, tall and narrow. Have botanists plotted the […]

  5. […] a close view of the stamens of mountain pink, with their bright yellow, corkscrew-shaped anthers. Notice that some pollen has worked its way up […]

  6. […] I’m bouncing around between bluebells and mountain pinks, with bluebells again this morning. Here’s how they look from above, where you can see their […]

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