Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography


with 22 comments

Tatalencho; click for greater detail.

The other species that I’ve learned to look for this late in the fall at Austin’s Mt. Bonnell, and that I found there on December 9, is Gymnosperma glutinosum, whose most common name is tatalencho, a Spanish word I’m assuming was taken from an Indian language. The native plant database at Texas A&M University gives a bunch of other names for this plant, almost all of them Spanish or indigenous: nakedseed weed, jarilla, moto, mariquita, motita, cola de zorro, xonequitl, hierba pegajosa, jucu ndede [what language is that ?], zazal, escobilla, and pegajosa. When I came across these flowers a number of years ago my first impression was that they were some sort of goldenrod, but the observation that the plant is bushy did away that idea. Tatalencho is, however, like goldenrod, a member of the sunflower family, and both are in the Asterae tribe within that huge family.

Gymnosperma glutinosum grows in Mexico and in the southwestern states of Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas, as you can confirm at the USDA website. For those interested in photography as a craft, points 1, 2 and 4 in About My Techniques are relevant to today’s photograph. (And those interested in the flowering of mathematics may have noticed that the numbers 1, 2 and 4 are consecutive powers of 2.)

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 13, 2011 at 5:07 AM

22 Responses

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    Lâm Trực

    December 13, 2011 at 6:20 AM

  2. The bokeh’s almost lavender coloration is making the yellow really shine! BTW, This was fun! I looked up xonequitl and it came up being Aztec (found here: http://tinyurl.com/ckgteot ). It seems that the word is attached to a “recurved weapon figured in the hands of the deities.” Looking at the shape of the leaves I wonder if that is how it got its Aztec name? (If you tell me that you were planning on writing about this I will feel really bad, and wouldn’t mind a bit if you didn’t post this for that reason.) ~ Lynda


    December 13, 2011 at 7:10 AM

    • It must have been the overcast sky that caused the darker foliage in the background to take on that coloration that brings out the yellow so nicely. Thanks for your mythological detective work, Lynda—and don’t worry, I wasn’t planning to delve into the origins of those names in this blog. While we’re at it, though, I’ll add that Spanish escobilla is a type of broom (which is apparently one use to which people put the plant), and pegajosa means sticky or gooey, a reference to the plant’s leaves.

      I’ve run across (and into!) my share of plants in Texas that make good use of recurved prickles as weapons, but fortunately tatalencho isn’t one of them, and I came away from my encounter with the plant with photographs but no skin punctures.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 13, 2011 at 7:35 AM

      • Oh, and cola de zorro means fox’s tail, though I haven’t seen anything foxtailish about this plant.

        Steve Schwartzman

        December 13, 2011 at 7:52 AM

  3. Once again – outstanding!

    Bonnie Michelle

    December 13, 2011 at 7:57 AM

  4. Beautiful! And well shot, Steve!


    December 13, 2011 at 7:59 AM

    • Thanks, Steve. The overcast skies and low light made picture-taking difficult, but I had a few successes.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 13, 2011 at 8:26 AM

  5. Beautiful–I love the echo of the flowers in the background.

    Susan Scheid

    December 13, 2011 at 5:39 PM

  6. These photos make me smile everyday. Flowers are just so special and peaceful. Thanks!


    December 14, 2011 at 9:05 AM

  7. Juju Ndede surely is African. Ndede is a common surname in Ghana, and juju as a term for assorted West African religious practices is fairly common.

    My wild guess would be that the plant was used as “medicine” or in rituals by people connected back to West Africa, either through the slave trade or by migration from places like Haiti. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!


    December 15, 2011 at 10:13 PM

    • My impression was that a word beginning with nd- is likely to be African, but it wasn’t clear to me how a flower from Mexico and Texas would get an African name. It would have to have been from slaves brought over from Africa, but I didn’t try to pursue that line of inquiry and track down a specific language. Now you’ve given us a plausible connection to Ghana, and you’re entitled to stick to your story. Thanks.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 15, 2011 at 10:36 PM

  8. As if they are dancing with the wind… Thank you, with my love, nia


    December 16, 2011 at 11:11 AM

    • Wind is a common occupational hazard for a nature photographer here, and I have taken pictures of plants blowing in the wind, for example


      though I think in this case the movement is merely suggested by the angle at which the tatalencho branches are leaning. But you’re free to imagine dancing if you wish. I’ve done the same myself in


      Steve Schwartzman

      December 16, 2011 at 11:26 AM

      • This is like a poem… A poet writes a poem and when it reaches to the readers it is not anymore what he or she wrote… because in every heart/soul/mind the poem will take another voyage… Photography is like that… Million eyes will watch… and probably million different eyes… But you are the only one what is the reality of this photograph that you know… In my mind, these flowers seemed to me as they are dancing by the wind… if you haven’t explained the reality, I would go on to think like that… but now, I know, how leaning they are… They are going down before to die… can you see another imagination starts in my mind 🙂 Thank you dear Steve, you are so beautiful photographer and Thank you for all your replies. With my love, nia


        December 16, 2011 at 11:59 AM

      • Thanks so much, Nia, for all your thoughtful comments and your explanations of the way you interpret things. It’s always helpful for a photographer to know what other people are seeing in his work. Your statement that “in every heart/soul/mind the poem will take another voyage” is an excellent observation.

        Steve Schwartzman

        December 16, 2011 at 12:12 PM

  9. […] Pluchea odorata, is a member of the same botanical family as sunflowers, asters, thistles, tatalencho, mistflowers, and Mexican devilweed. Many of the insect-pollinated plants in this huge group share […]

  10. Tata Lencho was the name of governor Tata Lencho (during the time
    of President Porfirio Diaz) from the town of Santa Maria, Zacatepec. Santa
    María Zacatepec is a town and municipality in Oaxaca in south-western
    Mexico. Why the plant was named after him I do not know.

    Paul Gates

    September 23, 2016 at 7:37 PM

    • Thanks for that intriguing information, which sent me searching. What I haven’t been able to discover is when the word tatalencho came into use in Spanish. I found a bunch of books that said Martín de la Cruz wrote about medicinal uses of the plant in the 1500s, but nowhere have I seen the name under which he described it. The plant has different names in different parts of Mexico, depending on the aboriginal language spoken in each region. In short: was the governor named after the plant, or the plant after the governor.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 23, 2016 at 8:46 PM

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