Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Another enduring flower

with 10 comments

When I went to the prairie restoration at Austin’s former Mueller Airport on the morning of December 22, I found flowers of another native species that you’ve seen before: Ratibida columnifera, known as Mexican hat. Although this species reaches its flowering peak in Austin in the late spring, scattered plants bloom occasionally through the summer and well into the fall, so once again my late-December find, though certainly welcome, wasn’t unusual.

This picture shows a more advanced stage than the fresh one you saw in the middle of November. Now the “column” is drying out and the rays, quite variable in their distribution of colors from one plant to another, show more yellow than before, and a much redder red. Though these rays are still bright they are clearly starting to curl and shrivel, so if you want to intone Robert Frost’s line that “Nothing gold can stay,” I won’t object. As for the luscious blue sky, you’re free to savor it in any way you like.

For more information about this species, and to see a state-clickable map of the many places in the United States and Canada where it is found, you can visit the USDA website. Mexican hat also grows, appropriately, in northern Mexico.

For those of you interested in photography as a craft, points 1 and 3 in About My Techniques are relevant to today’s picture.

© 2011 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 28, 2011 at 5:04 AM

10 Responses

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  1. Rather than searching for color in an otherwise drab world, I will be searching for shades of brown! I’ve just stumbled upon your “other” blog. As a mother of an English and Writing major and one not as well versed in the English language, I will be a bit wary about my comments and ask forgiveness for any future mistakes! Having worked for a director with her doctorate in English, every sentence written or spoken was scrutinized!

    Bonnie Michelle

    December 28, 2011 at 7:15 AM

    • I also like shades of brown (and gray), and in Texas it’s good for a nature photographer to feel that way because we have two bleak seasons. One is the one we’re entering, winter, which we share with most of the rest of you; the other is the latter part of summer, when it’s so hot here that a lot of the vegetation becomes parched and shriveled (though there are still plenty of wildflowers that have learned not only to tolerate the heat but even to thrive in it). I’ll be showing some pictures of brown and gray in the weeks ahead.

      It’s good to hear that you have an English major in the family, but don’t worry about the English in your comments; I’m happy to have them. I go over and over the wording in my posts, but a few errors still manage to get through. I correct them online when I find them, but I wish I could reach out retroactively and call back all the e-mailed versions of posts with a mistake in them that went out to subscribers.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 28, 2011 at 7:44 AM

  2. It is at about this stage that my chickens decide that they are delectable, and yet they come back reliably in spite of the chicken’s appetite for their petals and seed. However, if I am to enjoy them for a longer season, then perhaps I should plant more in another location. Glad you still have color there! ~ Lynda


    December 28, 2011 at 7:21 AM

    • That’s one hazard that the plants I photograph in the wild don’t have to endure! Yes, I’m glad too that I can still find local color. The weeks of gray skies have ended for the time being, and the weather report says the rest of the week will be mostly fair and mild, with temperatures ramping back up even to the low 70s. That implies there’ll be some wildflowers still here at the beginning of 2012. And then we’ll get clobbered with freezing weather and gray skies again.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 28, 2011 at 7:56 AM

  3. Strangely fascinating flower–but Mother nature has her reasons for such displays, Sally

    Sally W. Donatello

    December 28, 2011 at 5:29 PM

    • Mexican hats are quite common in central Texas, so I suspect most people who grow up here don’t find them as fascinating as you or I do.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 28, 2011 at 7:58 PM

  4. The clarity of your photographs is continually amazing. I am glad, too, that you linked your tips once again. This time, I’ve bookmarked them!

    Susan Scheid

    December 28, 2011 at 8:41 PM

    • Thanks, Susan. Clarity is something I strove for as a teacher, too. (Now that I said that I’m wondering if the two things, photography and teaching, reinforce each other. I’m sure an investigation into that would make a good dissertation for some enterprising graduate student.)

      I’m glad you find the tips in About My Techniques helpful (see, there’s the teacher in me again).

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 28, 2011 at 9:00 PM

  5. […] the gold on the rays of the Mexican hat that you saw two posts back was about to fade, the bright yellow of these nearby goldenrod flowers had just […]

  6. […] variation within the same species. I showed closeups of this type of wildflower on November 15 and December 28, in case you’d like to be reminded of the […]

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