Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Archive for November 22nd, 2011

Happy new

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Helenium autumnale; click to enlarge.

I’ve roamed central Texas looking at native plants for a dozen years now, but the fact remains that there are more species on the plant list for Travis County that I haven’t photographed than that I have. For that reason I’m always happy to encounter something new, especially if I’m able to identify it. Walking in Bull Creek on November 17, I came across an erect plant several feet tall with flowers that looked familiar, even if the plant didn’t. The flowers were similar to those of a much lower species, Helenium amarum, called yellow bitterweed, but this plant was too tall to be that, and its leaves were different. Looking in my trusty Wildflowers of the Texas Hill Country, by Marshall Enquist, I realized that this must be the fall sneezeweed that I’d repeatedly noticed in that book but had never seen for real.

The scientific name Helenium autumnale confirms that this is indeed a species that flowers in the fall. And yes, I did spend a lot of time sneezing and blowing my nose, not because of this one plant, but more likely because of all the sumpweed and ragweed still thriving out there, and because of a high level of mold in the air; all are occupational hazards of this beleaguered nature photographer. But back to the picture: note the still-green buds in several stages of opening at the left, the freshly and fully opened flower head at the right, and the one beginning to go to seed at the left.

When I looked at the map on the USDA website, I was surprised to see fall sneezeweed shown for all the contiguous American states except New Hampshire, and for most Canadian provinces. Helenium autumnale is a relative of another sneezeweed that very early readers of this blog—which is to say almost no one—saw in its fourth post, on June 7.

© 2011 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 22, 2011 at 5:09 AM

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