Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

It seems a metalsmith was here before Rembrandt

with 2 comments

Close view of the decomposing head of a Texas thistle; click for more detail.

Yesterday’s dark-toned photograph showed the head of a Texas thistle, Cirsium texanum, when it begins to come apart. Today’s picture is a closer view of the purposeful chaos inside a decomposing thistle seed head. Botanists use the term pappus to describe the tuft of hairs attached to each seed of a thistle (and other plants), and they use the adjective plumose to describe the feathery appearance of such a tuft. Plumose the tufts may be, but the structure that supports them looks man-made and metallic as it gleams in the sunlight.

© 2011 Steven Schwartzman

2 Responses

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  1. Makes you wonder about the aerodynamics involved, and what factors cause seed release. And I love this quote from the Flora of North America: “One of the most challenging aspects for a taxonomist studying New World Cirsium is the presence of species complexes that are apparently evolutionary works in progress.” An interesting task for a hot day would be to review every photo of Texas thistle you’ve taken….are they really all the same?!?


    July 9, 2011 at 9:16 PM

    • I’ve had a hard time understanding how that little metal-looking ring fits into the base of the flower head. Maybe I should take a head apart before it comes apart by itself to see where all the pieces start out.
      Thanks for the quotation about New World Cirsium. As for comparing the hundreds of photos I’ve taken of Cirsium to see if the specimens are all really the same species: can I assign you the task the next time you visit Austin? Free empanadas and biscotti while you work on it.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 9, 2011 at 9:58 PM

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