Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Fasciated flowers

with 20 comments

Click for greater clarity.

After yesterday’s post about the fasciated stalk of a Liatris mucronata plant, John Mac Carpenter asked whether flowers are ever subject to that deformity too. I said that they are, and here’s an example to prove it. You’re looking at a fasciated flower head of Gaillardia pulchella, commonly called Indian blanket and firewheel. The darker disk that you see in the middle would normally be at the center of a “wheel” of colorful rays, but in this case the disk makes an upside-down U perpendicular to the plane of the U made by the visible rays, continuing over the top of the center and down the back of the flower head; in other words, the view from the opposite side is about the same as the view shown here. If all that is hard to visualize, here’s a picture of the same flower head from a position 90° to the side:

Click for greater clarity.

I found this deformed flower head on the ranch of our friends in Marble Falls, a town in the Texas Hill Country about an hour west of Austin, on May 8, 2010. That was one of the best seasons in recent years for wildflowers, thanks to lots of rain in the winter and spring.

You can visit the USDA website for more information about Gaillardia pulchella, including a clickable map showing the many places that the species grows.

© 2011 Steven Schwartzman


Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 25, 2011 at 6:00 AM

20 Responses

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  1. oh my god, this is unbelievable – I’ve never seen this! I’ve seen some weirdnesses with the seed arrangement of anemones – check that out here – http://musingsfromdave.blogspot.com/2011/07/i-blame-waiter.html


    August 25, 2011 at 7:09 AM

    • Seeing is believing, as they say (or used to say before Photoshop). Do you know if your anemone developed into a weird flower?

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 25, 2011 at 7:19 AM

      • Those were examples of this year’s seeds – the flower looked normal enough. Yes, it would be good to know what happens to flowers produced from these seeds, but alas…well..l could see if I could find them. The anemone seeds here are still present and accounted for and haven’t dropped from the stems yet…. I also found some bizarre examples of magnolia tree buds doing weird things. http://tinyurl.com/4yn5m48 is one picture, and a few more are here http://tinyurl.com/3dzaqaj One thought, from a bug expert who is a friend of a friend, is that insects and fungi can cause this sort of thing. Your example: do you think it’s genetic?


        August 25, 2011 at 6:20 PM

        • That is a strange magnolia; the deformity seems like it could well be fasciation. I’m no biologist, but from the little I’ve read it seems that there can be multiple causes for fasciation. It seems the condition isn’t well understood.

          Steve Schwartzman

          August 25, 2011 at 6:30 PM

  2. that’s remarkably beautiful, Steven, even for a flower that normally is beautiful. Thank you.

    John Mac Carpenter

    August 25, 2011 at 8:00 AM

  3. Proof you need not be perfect to be beautiful.


    August 25, 2011 at 8:09 AM

  4. A very intriguing flower- I’ve never seen anything like it growing wild!

    Watching Seasons

    August 25, 2011 at 4:57 PM

  5. Beautiful pictures – I especially love the details in the petals on the second photo (that look like they may be backlit). I learn so much from your blog – really enjoying it!!


    September 1, 2011 at 9:44 PM

    • Thanks. You’re right that the second picture does seem to show backlighting. And you’re right that there’s so much to learn in nature.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 1, 2011 at 11:13 PM

  6. […] that firewheels have come up, thanks to yesterday’s photographs of a fasciated one, here’s what a normal flower head of Gaillardia pulchella looks like. This picture is from […]

  7. Oh wow, these are the best. Something so new for me! Brilliant captures. 🙂


    February 23, 2012 at 8:48 AM

    • I’d never seen anything like this either, so I was fascinated. If you follow the link in this post, you’ll see an example of fasciation (and fascination) in a plant that wasn’t flowering. And a few days ago I came across a spiral fasciation that I’ll try to work into this blog when I can.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 23, 2012 at 12:06 PM

  8. […] in a post from last year, where the afflicted plant was a Liatris mucronata. You can also see an afflicted firewheel, the type of flower that appeared most recently in this blog a couple of weeks ago.) From the way […]

  9. […] you have a fascination with fasciation, you can look back at a firewheel and a poverty weed plant that suffered from that […]

  10. […] fasciated Liatris I ran across a couple of years ago. Other posts since then have shown a fasciated firewheel, poverty weed, prairie verbena, and old […]

  11. […] firewheel; […]

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