Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography


with 18 comments

In July I reported on camphorweed, a yellow wildflower named for the camphory scent of the tiny droplets the plant exudes. Not to be outdone by its sunflower family relative, gumweed positively oozes resin, even to the point that its flower heads are bathed in a clear camphor-scented goo. The gumweed shown here is Grindelia nuda, a species that lacks ray flowers, which is why it is “nude.” Those more modest than botanists have called it curlytop gumweed, based on the upward-curving green bracts that prominently surround the yellow disk flowers.

I looked straight down at this gumweed on the cloudy morning of October 7 and had to use a wide aperture to let in enough light. That made getting the flower head in sharp focus difficult, but it also caused the leaves and the ground below the flower head to go pleasingly out of focus. I was forced to stop photographing not long after I started because of some strange wet stuff that began to fall from the sky. It lasted only a short while, though, and a couple of hours later I came back and continued taking pictures.

For further information about Grindelia nuda, including a clickable map showing the places where it grows, you can visit the USDA website.

© 2011 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 22, 2011 at 5:29 AM

18 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. I like photographing my local gum weed, but mine comes equipped with petals. Very interesting to see the difference. Thank you.

    Galen Leeds Photography

    October 22, 2011 at 8:28 AM

    • You’re welcome. I’ve learned that most gumweed species have the expected ray flowers, but this one, the one I repeatedly see in Austin, doesn’t.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 22, 2011 at 8:40 AM

  2. I love this image, it’s beautiful and the shallow DOF gives it such a dreamy quality. Thank goodness for low light sometimes. 🙂


    October 22, 2011 at 12:30 PM

    • Thanks for liking it, Katie. You’re right that sometimes adversity (in this case low lighting) works in our favor.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 22, 2011 at 7:57 PM

  3. That is so cool. I didn’t know what a gumweed was from your pic so I thought it’s some exotic plant but then I googled it and it’s those plants I see as I walk down the street sometimes . Who knew it could be so beautiful close up! Great shot! ^_^

    Day I Started Reading

    October 22, 2011 at 1:44 PM

    • One of my aims is to transform the commonplace into something special. Or maybe I should say that everything is special but we don’t always realize it. In any case, I’m glad you found the image cool.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 22, 2011 at 7:59 PM

  4. Nice. Has a bit of a surreal quality to it.


    October 22, 2011 at 2:04 PM

    • I’m all for surreality. I was much influenced by Surrealism when I was a senior in college.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 22, 2011 at 8:00 PM

  5. What an interesting plant! A new one for me.


    October 22, 2011 at 11:28 PM

    • I’m always happy when I can introduce you to something different. As my wife says: happy new.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 23, 2011 at 7:36 AM

  6. […] on October 7, when I returned after some brief rain to the place where I’d photographed the gumweed shown in yesterday’s post. Valerie Bugh, who was good enough to identify this small (probably […]

  7. It has all marks of a careful composition 🙂


    October 25, 2011 at 4:15 PM

  8. A marvelous photo. Are the tiny droplets at the bottom (I think I see one or two) rain or goo?

    I love the smell of camphor, and didn’t realize there was a flower that carries the scent. I planted a camphor tree about a decade ago. It was a three-foot whip then. Now, it stands well above the second story of an apartment building. They’re quick growers and produce wonderful shade, as well as being beautifully shaped.


    October 25, 2011 at 9:24 PM

    • Thank you. The droplets are goo; this type of flower head is drenched in it. Like you, I love the smell of camphor, and in Texas we’re fortunate to have both gumweed and camphorweed (which I discovered flowering again this week in a couple of Austin locations). I hope you’ll come across some in your part of the state.

      I wasn’t familiar with the camphor tree until I looked it up after you mentioned it. I found that it’s in the genus Cinnamomum, which calls up olfactory memories of another wonderful fragrance.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 25, 2011 at 9:46 PM

  9. […] on December 22 was gumweed, Grindelia nuda. That species appeared in this blog on October 22, in a looking-straight-down view that showed how gummy these flower heads can be. Today’s view from the side reveals more of […]

  10. The simplicity is utterly beautiful. Thanks for the information on technique.


    January 15, 2012 at 10:37 PM

    • Thanks; I found the simplicity beautiful too.

      The eternal teacher in me is glad to provide information about some of the things that have served me well photographically. I’m still experimenting and discovering new things.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 15, 2012 at 10:50 PM

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: