Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Hierba del marrano

with 23 comments

What would fall be without asters? In the case of Symphyotrichum subulatum, a widely dispersed aster, we don’t even have to wait till fall, because this species has a bloom period that begins in July (and typically lasts through November). Although this plant can sometimes be found in lawns, where frequent mowing keeps it cropped to within an inch of the ground, a fully grown plant is diffuse, gangly, much-branched, and at times as tall as a person. Because of that structure, some have called the plant wireweed; others know it as saltmarsh aster, slim aster, and baby’s breath aster. The Spanish name, which has made its way into the vocabulary even of some English speakers, is hierba del marrano, which we can loosely translate as pig plant, or less charitably as pig weed. Today’s picture gives the view from below of a terminal stalk of this type of aster, with a dainty flower head measuring at most half an inch across. No weed, this.

For more information about Symphyotrichum subulatum, including a state-clickable map showing the many places in North America where the species grows, you can visit the USDA website.

© 2011 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 10, 2011 at 5:23 AM

23 Responses

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  1. Love the view from behind!! Beautiful.

    cidnlars

    November 10, 2011 at 5:31 AM

    • I’m pleased that you like it. Taking my cue from a motto of the late 1960s, I’ll say photographically: Back is beautiful.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 10, 2011 at 6:58 AM

  2. I agree, I love looking skyward!

    Bonnie Michelle

    November 10, 2011 at 6:27 AM

    • So do I. Lying on the ground or kneeling with my head upside—things I regularly do for the sake of pictures—can be uncomfortable, but they have their photographic rewards.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 10, 2011 at 7:14 AM

  3. Beautiful view from underneath – like a star burst firework.

    Dawn

    November 10, 2011 at 6:45 AM

    • Ah, the perfect opening for me to add that the word aster means star. I used a macro lens rather than a telescope to photograph this flower, so you can call me an asteronomer.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 10, 2011 at 7:15 AM

  4. Wow – this is a beautiful shot!

    Fergiemoto

    November 10, 2011 at 10:35 AM

  5. Beautiful! Nice perspective.

    Emily Gooch

    November 10, 2011 at 10:46 PM

  6. I really love the colors!

    TBM

    November 11, 2011 at 3:31 AM

  7. […] the Symphyotrichum subulatum that you saw yesterday is a diffuse aster whose flower heads grow in relative isolation, […]

  8. Beautiful shot. Love the delicate colors. I usually drop to my knees (or stomach) to take photos as well. It may be the most uncomfortable position to shoot, but the results are so worth it.

    Gracie

    November 11, 2011 at 10:24 AM

    • You said it, Gracie; some of my best pictures have come from down low. It can take its toll on the physical body, but it adds to the artist’s body of work.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 11, 2011 at 2:07 PM

  9. I’ll spare you the entire story. Suffice it to say a friend who lives in Bellaire called a few days ago, saying, “I’ve got these delightful little lavender daisy-like things growing in my yard, and I’d really like to encourage them, but I don’t know what they are”.

    Now we know. Hers are of the ground-hugging, oft-mowed sort, but some along a fence have grown a bit and are starting to put out seed. We’ve been to the various sites, and learned how to collect seeds, and she’s going to amuse herself trying to propagate Symphyotrichum subulatum.

    I’m seeing them everywhere just now. They remind me of the bachelor buttons my grandmother grew – not for any scientific reason, but because daisies and bachelor buttons were her favorite flowers to embroider on pillow cases and tea towels.

    shoreacres

    November 12, 2011 at 9:33 PM

  10. […] to some of our other asters if you compare the photographs of heath aster and especially hierba del marrano (both of which are now usually put in the genus Symphyotrichum rather than […]

  11. […] as attractive as pigs are alleged to do. Last fall I showed a view of this kind of aster, though from below. Either way, I hope you’ll enjoy this little wildflower, which is common in Austin and its […]

  12. And now, for the rest of the stories. First, the friend I mentioned above was flooded out of her house on Memorial Day. She moved back into her rebuilt home last week, and was pleased to see that, despite it all, the hierba del marrano are back: blooming profusely and apparently none the worse for the flood.

    I recently discovered how tall these flowers can become. At the Brazoria Wildlife Refuge, they’re everywhere, growing in great stands three and four feet tall, and making clear why salt marsh aster is an appropriate name.

    Finally, just last week, I noticed some growing between the boards of a bulkhead at a marina. They were partly underwater and behaving strangely, bobbing up and down. When I looked more closely, I discovered a jellyfish had become entangled in the plant’s submerged branches, and couldn’t free itself. A pair of scissors took care of that. The plant popped up, and the jellyfish swam off — presumably to rearrange its tentacles.

    shoreacres

    November 19, 2015 at 8:20 AM

    • A jellyfish tangled up in a partly submerged aster: who’d’ve believed it? At least you (and your scissors) got to play good samaritan—for the jellyfish, if not the aster.

      It still surprises me that hierba del marrano can be a low little lawn flower, as it was at our previous house on the east side of town, or a whole bush, as I’ve often enough found it in nature.

      Thanks for the update three years later.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 27, 2015 at 8:50 AM


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