Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Texas thistle

with 13 comments

Texas thistle, Cirsium texanum.

Fugitive foxes and armadillos notwithstanding, I won’t stand you up and leave you without a picture today.

With white gradually shading into pink and magenta over the five posts showing clammyweed and the rain-lily, it seems color-appropriate to continue with the Texas thistle. Though the prime time for the species is the printemps, or spring, as the French say, some of these hardy thistles have continued to bloom in the heat of this year’s early summer. I photographed this one in mid-June on the prairie that survives in a thankfully still-undeveloped portion of Austin’s former Mueller Airport. Note that this thistle asserted its individuality: its stem bends and slants, its green bracts tilt a little to one side, and its crown of magenta disk flowers leans overall a bit to the other. Notice also that the flower stalk is so downy it appears a light grayish-green. Like some other members of the sunflower family, the Texas thistle has no ray flowers.

© 2011 Steven Schwartzman

(For more information about the Texas thistle, including a clickable map showing where it grows, you can visit the USDA website.)

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 1, 2011 at 4:37 PM

13 Responses

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  1. Pretty!

    I still have to go back to a huge thistle in the neighbourhood I discovered a few days ago, took pictures of and realized they weren’t as good as they could be, if I used proper settings. I just hope no one cut it down in the meantime.


    July 2, 2011 at 8:03 AM

    • If you lived in Austin, it would have been cut down ten seconds after you left. Forgive the hyperbole, but something’s going on here. Maybe all the mowers have gotten heat stroke: it seems like everywhere I drive I see fields and lots suddenly made barren and ugly.

      In any case, I hope the thistle is still there for you and your camera to play with. Some large European thistles have made their way to the United States, but the most common one in Austin is still the native one that biologists have named for Texas.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 2, 2011 at 8:31 AM

  2. Beautiful! Although we have bull thistle in New England it is quite a bit different from this magnificent plant. When it goes to seed it will also make a beautiful photograph. Really enjoyed your site. I will be sure to return. Terrific photos!


    July 2, 2011 at 3:02 PM

    • Thanks for your complimentary comments, Bill. I’m pleased that someone who has spent as much time in nature as you have appreciates these photographs.

      What you say about thistles going to seed rings true for me; I’ve long been fascinated by the way their seed heads come apart and I’ve taken many pictures of the Texas thistle in that phase. In fact I plan to post one of those pictures in the next few days.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 2, 2011 at 3:12 PM

  3. Nice


    July 2, 2011 at 3:38 PM

  4. That classic thistle color- I enjoy it, even though thistles don’t have many friends out there…though birds such as goldfinches love their seeds!

    Watching Seasons

    July 3, 2011 at 1:03 PM

  5. I loved the thistles that grew at the corner of Brodie Lane & Davis Lane. A strip mall now has eliminated them.

    Pat Laird

    July 3, 2011 at 5:21 PM

    • I’m sorry I never had the chance to photograph those thistles, but I did take pictures of a dense colony of pink evening primroses nearby, on the northwest corner of Brodie and Deer Ln. in the fabulous spring of 2010.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 3, 2011 at 6:30 PM

  6. Excellent shot. It looks similar to my most common Minnesota native thistle – which I believe is Cirsium hillii. It is nice to “meet” you – always glad to know another native plant enthusiast!


    July 5, 2011 at 9:11 PM

    • Thanks, Ann. I’m glad the Internet has made non-meeting meetings not only possible but easy and numerous.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 5, 2011 at 9:27 PM

  7. […] flowers, some species have only ray flowers, some other species have only disk flowers (like the Texas thistle, of which you saw a bud last time), and there are some species in the composite family that begin […]

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