Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography


with 19 comments

Firewheel or Indian blanket; click for greater sharpness.

Now 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. You can see why this flower is also known as Indian blanket. This picture is from April 27 of this year in northwest Austin.

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

© 2011 Steven Schwartzman


Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 26, 2011 at 5:56 AM

19 Responses

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  1. I am curious about the common name of “Indian Blanket.” Again, you feature a beautiful plant totally unfamiliar to me in the Pacific NW. I got to wondering about what the Native American blankets actually looked like. Interesting image search – type in “native american blanket” into a Google image search.

    Amazing how many blankets are the colors of this flower or have the designs of the petal edges. Except the blankets from this part of the world. Ours are the red and black designs of animals like the hummingbird, orca or thunderbird.

    Man follows nature for design ideas.


    August 26, 2011 at 7:41 AM

    • It was common for Anglo settlers to call unfamiliar plants Indian this and Indian that. Another one that’s well known in Texas and other parts of the American West is Indian paintbrush. It may also surprise you that through the end of the 19th century, corn was often called Indian corn (to distinguish it from the corn that in Britain still means grain in general and often wheat); see, for example,


      I did the image search you suggested and saw the great variety of actual blankets that American Indian tribes have woven. Why the species Gaillardia pulchella should have been singled out as Indian blanket I don’t know, though some of my wildflower books recount a supposed Indian legend about the flower’s creation. Here’s the account in a document prepared by the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center and available as a free download at


      “A wonderful Indian legend tells the story of a great weaver in a tribe of Plains Comanche. This man was a wonderful weaver and made beautiful robes, mats, and blankets. Everyone in the tribe had something that the weaver had made, and it was among their most prized possessions. One day the weaver realized that his time on Earth was drawing to an end. So, he set out to make one last weaving. It would be his death blanket. The weaver worked for many weeks, gathering the plants to create his dyes, preparing the wool, setting up his loom, and, finally, weaving the blanket. Several months later, the blanket was complete. That night, the weaver died in his sleep. Out of their great respect and love for the weaver, the tribe wrapped him in the blanket and placed him on the burial platform. When the Great Spirit came to take the weaver to heaven, he was awed by the beautiful blanket. He was also amazed at the love and respect the tribe held for the weaver. So, as a gift to the people of the tribe, the Great Spirit sends the colors of the weaver’s last creation to Earth every Spring in the flowers of the Indian blanket.”

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 26, 2011 at 8:11 AM

      • I just noticed that the photograph on the front page of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center document is an early one of mine. Synchronicity!

        Steve Schwartzman

        August 26, 2011 at 8:24 AM

      • Thanks for that interesting reply. I love that last story about the weaver.


        August 27, 2011 at 8:07 AM

  2. Gorgeous photo!


    August 26, 2011 at 9:05 AM

  3. quite beautiful!


    August 26, 2011 at 11:50 AM

  4. Thought you might enjoy this short video of the button blankets of this region.


    August 27, 2011 at 8:59 AM

  5. Amazing. I didn’t know flowers could look like that.


    August 27, 2011 at 8:45 PM

  6. Wow. Thanks for the link. I loved this one, as well! 🙂


    February 23, 2012 at 8:47 AM

  7. […] prominent yellow-fringed red flowers are Castilleja indivisa, called firewheels and Indian blankets. The red flowers in the back are phlox. The yellow flowers are Engelmann daisies, Engelmannia […]

  8. […] is found not far to the south and southeast. By now you probably recognize the Indian paintbrushes, firewheels (also called Indian blankets), bluebonnets, and phlox mixed in among the coreopsis. This is yet […]

  9. […] this “snowy” piece of prairie. The mostly red flowers mixed in with all the white are firewheels; the yellow ones are […]

  10. […] By now you probably recognize the white prickly poppies, Argemone albiflora, and the prominent firewheels or Indian blankets, Gaillardia pulchella. The yellow-rayed flowers are brown bitterweed, Helenium […]

  11. […] scabiosaeus; prairie verbena, Glandularia bipinnatifida; greenthread, Thelesperma filifolium; firewheel or Indian blanket, Gaillardia […]

  12. […] that renowned flower photographer Steven Schwartzman has agreed to allow me to turn a few of his amazing flower portraits into works of art.  His photographs are works of art in their own right, too!  I can’t wait […]

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