Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

From the mountains, to the prairies…

with 14 comments

Snow-on-the-prairie; click for more detail.

While Austin has no oceans white with foam, it does have two closely related plants that turn white with bracts beginning in August. One of the plants flourishes in the “mountains” (we now call them hills) on our west side, so people grew accustomed to speaking of snow-on-the-mountain. That 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 September 4 (and I hope you’ll forgive me for attributing emotions to the plant as it made its appearances here.)

In contrast to the land to our west, the east side of Austin is generally flat, and that’s where the other species, Euphorbia bicolor, mostly grows—and mostly in other years. Although 2011 has somehow managed to produce a good crop of snow-on-the-mountain, snow-on-the-praire has had a harder time in the drought. I’ve come across less of it this year than usual, primarily in the form of small and scattered plants. But on September 7 in the nature preserve adjacent to Travis County’s Southeast Metropolitan Park I was pleased to find the fairly large snow-on-the-prairie that you see flowering away here, and that seemed particularly vibrant when illuminated by the light of the morning sun in front of me.

© 2011 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 20, 2011 at 6:00 AM

14 Responses

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  1. Nice !


    September 20, 2011 at 6:57 AM

    • Yes, a large snow-on-the-prairie is. I hope someday you’ll be able to see one in person.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 20, 2011 at 7:16 AM

  2. I can just imagine this coating the landscape – must be wonderful to see.

    Journey Photographic

    September 20, 2011 at 8:22 AM

    • It is. Unfortunately, the largest stand of snow-on-the-prairie that I was familiar with was destroyed by development a couple of years ago.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 20, 2011 at 8:38 AM

  3. […] post showed a lush snow-on-the-prairie, Euphorbia bicolor, its lushness due to a pond on whose banks it and some others of its species […]

  4. I enjoy the emotional attributes very much.


    September 21, 2011 at 3:26 PM

  5. Wow, this landscape is absolutely beautiful. And this photo is wonderful. Such a great post. Love it

    Kay aka Babygirl

    September 21, 2011 at 4:53 PM

    • Thanks, Kay. Although Euphorbia bicolor is restricted to the south-central states, the map at the USDA website indicates that the similar Euphorbia marginata (viewable by following the emotional links in the post) has been found in the Bronx and in Suffolk and Rockland Counties, so perhaps you’ll get to see a sight similar to this in your area. Or you can come to Texas.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 21, 2011 at 5:29 PM

  6. […] was on August 24, 2011, when I was out looking for early occurrences of snow-on-the-prairie near the Austin-Pflugerville boundary line, that I found the specimen shown here, with its one dark […]

  7. […] to the prairie in northeast Austin to see if I could find some early occurrences of the aptly named snow-on-the-prairie. While I did locate some, my biggest find of the day was accidental, and it was at the opposite end […]

  8. […] you were visiting these pages late last summer, you heard about a plant with the colloquial name snow-on-the-prairie, so called because it has showy white bracts and grows on the prairie. Now here’s another […]

  9. Excellent! This looks like an oil painting. Love it! 🙂


    December 19, 2012 at 10:31 AM

    • You’ve gotta hand it to backlighting, which lit up this snow-on-the-prairie even more than usual.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 19, 2012 at 10:39 AM

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