Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

An asymmetric Maximilian sunflower

with 6 comments

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The last post showed you the top part of a flowering Maximilian sunflower plant, Helianthus maximiliani, looked at sideways and from slightly below. Today’s view lets you see one of this species’ opening flower heads, though a strangely asymmetric one it is: maturation has taken place unevenly, with the left side getting well ahead of the right. If you look closely at the right side, you’ll see part of a dark beetle that has burrowed into the crease between the disk flowers, still closed, and the yellow ray flowers that are opening. There’s an even smaller insect below the lowest of all the unopened disk flowers.

Like yesterday’s photograph, I took this one on September 7 at the prairie restoration on the south side of Austin’s former Mueller Airport. And as I said last time, because of the continuing drought, skies in most of the recent photographs in this blog have been a very bright blue. If the sky in today’s picture seems more pallid, it’s not an illusion. No, there was a haze in the sky on September 7, and unfortunately it was due to drifting smoke from the wildfire that continued to burn large expanses of the forest (and over 1400 houses!) in Bastrop County, some 30 miles east of Austin.

© 2011 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 13, 2011 at 5:59 AM

6 Responses

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  1. Fascinating! Do you think the insects are the cause of this asymmetrical development, or is there another theory?

    missusk76

    September 26, 2011 at 4:37 PM

    • I wish I knew, Cindy. If any specialist sees this and has an answer, I’d be grateful to hear it.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 26, 2011 at 5:07 PM

  2. I’ll be watching!

    missusk76

    September 26, 2011 at 5:14 PM

  3. […] Maximilian sunflowers, Helianthus maximiliani, that appeared in this column on September 12 and September 13? By now many more of them have come up and flowered, including this colony at the edge of a sump on […]

  4. […] Helianthus maximiliani, that I was happy to find flowering on the prairie, as you’ve seen in the last post and the one before it, I noticed that the tip of a giant ragweed plant, Ambrosia trifida, had […]

  5. […] the composite family (Asteraceae) for flower heads to open asymmetrically. One such species is the Maximilian sunflower, and another is goldeneye (Viguiera dentata). Here’s a closeup of a goldeneye flower head […]


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