Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Where the coreopsis stood

with 15 comments

Mexican hats and snow-on-the-mountain; click for more detail.

Early one recent morning I posted a photograph of a dense colony of coreopsis as it had appeared in the rain-rich spring of 2010. Made curious by my own post, a few hours later I drove up to Brushy Creek Lake Park to see what the site of that fabulous colony was looking like in this year of the Great Drought. I found almost no coreopsis, and the few flowers I did find were small. But where that once-mighty colony had been, and even farther afield, standing tall and green I found a slew of Euphorbia marginata, probably more than I’ve ever seen on one expanse of ground. They’re the plants shown here, whose leaves tend to rise into positions that are close to parallel to the stalks they spring from. At this stage their green belies the popular name snow-on-the-mountain; within a month or two, though, these plants will produce bracts conspicuously fringed with white—and that’s the “snow” of the popular name. I’ll go back to this location in late August or September, and if no one has cut the plants down I’ll report on what they look like when they’re all brightly bracted.

To take this picture on July 26, I lay on the ground and raised my head and camera up at an oblique angle. It was hard to get a traditional orientation, but this tilted view, unorthodox though it may be, gives the dynamic feel of what I saw from that strange position. Notice that flowering beneath the snow-on-the-mountain plants were two Mexican hats (Ratibida columnifera). That species, though making its first appearance in this blog, showed no sign all through the spring of being hindered by lack of rain, and flourished in many places around town; it has now mostly wound down for the season, but a few plants keep flowering here and there.

© 2011 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 1, 2011 at 6:03 AM

15 Responses

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  1. It’s interesting to me how different plants can be given the same common name in different parts of the world. I had a garden plant called “snow on the mountain” with soft, varigated leaves that was so agressive I had to finally give up on it. I can’t see any resemblance to this stong, erect plant.


    August 1, 2011 at 8:05 AM

    • Your comment is a good example of why biology went with scientific names in an attempt to have a unique identifier for each species. I say “attempt” because even in the twelve years that I’ve been aware of such things, botanists have changed the scientific names for disconcertingly many species. Of course the changes are based on continuing research, especially evidence gathered from DNA, so they aren’t a bad thing, but it can be a struggle to keep up with them.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 1, 2011 at 8:30 AM

  2. What a lovely, lyrical image.


    August 1, 2011 at 10:58 AM

    • Thanks, Ariana, for the epithet lyrical. Wait till you see how lyrical these plants can become in their prime (assuming the drought doesn’t interfere).

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 1, 2011 at 11:15 AM

  3. The orientation of the photo makes it all the more interesting! I find this image conveys a sense of movement and music, too – ‘lyrical’ makes perfect sense.

    farmhouse stories

    August 1, 2011 at 8:48 PM

    • I’m glad you like the unorthodox orientation; and thanks for seconding the lyrical. The scene really did appear different—and moving—to me when I was down on the ground looking at the plants askew.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 1, 2011 at 8:57 PM

  4. I’m there with you, looking up. Beautiful, Steve. Whenever I choose to lay down and look up at the sky, I can feel the earth move. This photo is like that.


    August 1, 2011 at 9:52 PM

  5. Hey Steve!

    Thanks for the note on lichen. I know you, you know. Met you in Austin when I lived there. I’ve moved out
    of the middle of the state to the far West. I live on the Big Bend Ranch State Park, 35 miles from nowhere,
    27 of them over roads that frequently require 4 wheel drive, and sometimes are impassable. I love it though.

    So glad to find your blog. It’s beautiful.

    Gary Nored


    August 1, 2011 at 10:29 PM

    • Well how ’bout that, meeting up again on the Internet. You must have opportunities for all sorts of great photographs out there. I’m pleased that you like this new blog.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 1, 2011 at 10:59 PM

  6. […] Creek Lake Park, the scene of last year’s coreopsis colony and this season’s expectant snow-on-the-mountain colony, I also came upon a dead prickly pear cactus (Opuntia engelmannii). When this type of cactus dies, […]

  7. […] have been following this blog since at least August 1 may recall that in my post for that day about a colony of snow-on-the-mountain plants that was growing tall and healthy but hadn’t yet flowered, I wrote ” I’ll go back to […]

  8. […] species, Euphorbia marginata, has made an appearance several times in this column: expectantly on August 1, disconsolately on August 27, wistfully for the two days after that, and with renewed hope on […]

  9. […] On August 2 I introduced you to a wonderful native plant called snow-on-the-mountain, Euphorbia marginata. You first saw this species flowering on August 27 and had a closer look at its flowers and bracts on August 28. You also saw snow-on-the-mountain in a few posts after that. […]

  10. […] called upright prairie coneflower, made its flowering debut in this column in a supporting role in a July 26 picture showing a couple of Mexican hat flower heads beneath a snow-on-the-mountain plant that hadn’t […]

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