Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

White prickly poppy

with 12 comments

When I was on the noisy embankment of the US 183 freeway adjacent to the Gateway Shopping Center in Austin on December 1 taking the pictures of the buffalo gourd flower and tendrils and the purple bindweed flower you’ve seen in the last few posts, I also photographed this white prickly poppy, Argemone albiflora. In fact I’d come to the embankment for it, having been surprised to see the plant’s delicate white petals when I drove past on the highway earlier in the morning. I say “surprised” because this is normally a spring-blooming species, but apparently the recent bit of rain and the warm temperatures fooled the plant into thinking it was spring again.

This view looks into the center of the flower, and if you’ve ever wanted a picture to symbolize matriarchy, here is it, with one velvety dark red female stigma rising above a subservient retinue of male stamens (that coincidentally are of the same yellow-orange color as the nearby buffalo gourd flowers). To give you a sense of scale, I’ll say that the globe of stamens was about an inch across. Note the faint smudges of yellow pollen on the rippled white petal in back and also the spines on the plant’s leaves below; not for nothing is this plant called white prickly poppy.

For more information about Argemone albiflora, including a state-clickable map showing where the species grows, you can visit the USDA website.

© 2011 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 6, 2011 at 5:11 AM

12 Responses

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  1. So lovely, and lethal looking. The flower’s form reminds me of the Matilija poppy I saw so much of when I lived in California. However, the leaves on this one are just wicked looking! the surprise for me was the USDA map! I expected the flower to map out from Texas to the west, but it didn’t. It went east and to the north instead. That was surprising! ~ Lynda


    December 6, 2011 at 6:07 AM

    • There have been many times when I’ve gotten poked by the spines of the white prickly poppy, which is the only member of the poppy family native to Austin. The spines cover just about the whole plant except for the pretty flowers.

      I don’t blame you for thinking a spiny thing would take root in the Southwest, when the reality turns out to be otherwise. The map surprised me too because it shows this species on Long Island (New York), which is where I grew up. I’m guessing the plant must be rare there, perhaps originally an escapee from cultivation, while it’s quite common here.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 6, 2011 at 8:01 AM

  2. Your photographs are amazing!

    Nicole Ftacnik Photography

    December 6, 2011 at 6:28 AM

  3. Fantastic shot! You get such amazing detail in all your photos. And the colours in this one are great too! Cheers!


    December 6, 2011 at 8:47 AM

    • I’ll give some of the credit to Canon for its 100mm macro lens. And for the colors I’ll give credit to nature.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 6, 2011 at 9:13 AM

  4. An absolute stunner–how lucky you are to still have flowers (wild or not) in bloom. Although I have to say that my pineapple sage and its delicate red tunnel-shaped flowers have survived the light frost. Really enjoy your images, Sally


    December 6, 2011 at 3:13 PM

    • Thanks, Sally. The weather here got colder in the days after December 1, with overnight temperatures now in the 30s, but I’m still seeing occasional wildflowers on the medians and embankments of highways. The light rain (!) of those days has tapered off, and if the wind would just follow suit I’d go back out and see what else I can find before a hard freeze does its damage.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 6, 2011 at 3:37 PM

  5. I’m a great fan of poppies, but only this year came across the white ones, including the Matilija that Lynda mentions – a blog friend has it growing at her cabin in the California high desert. I’m delighted to see we have our own white poppy, prickly or not. I suspect I’ve seen it without knowing what it was, and I’ll begin watching for it.


    December 6, 2011 at 9:06 PM

    • Writing in Wildflowers of Houston (a book I recommend if you’d like to learn more about native species in your part of the state), John and Gloria Tveten say of Argemone albiflora: “…it forms large colonies in open fields. Plants frequently spring up in the Houston area in the disturbed soils along roadsides and railroad tracks.” So I suspect you have seen it, and maybe you’ll still be fortunate enough to see one out of season the way I did. The Tvetens give the normal bloom period in Houston as “April–June, sometimes later.”

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 6, 2011 at 9:31 PM

  6. What a beautiful flower!


    December 6, 2011 at 10:14 PM

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