Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Archive for January 14th, 2012

Mexican devilweed

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What are we to make of a wildflower called Mexican devilweed? That it’s native to Mexico (and even Central America) as well as Texas I’ll grant you, and that some people find the plant on the weedy side I may grant as well; but if weedy is in the mind of the beholder, devilish is still more so, and not at all in mine when I portray even the lowliest of our native species in a positive light. And what the devil could be wrong, I might ask, with a wildflower that blooms northward across the border and yearward from 2011 into the first days of 2012?

Botanists call it Chloracantha spinosa, the only species in its genus.* As chlorine gas is green, so, conspicuously, are the stems of our Chloracantha. Thanks to chlorophyll they’re evergreen at that, and it’s a good thing for the plant, which is mostly leafless, and which The Illustrated Flora of North Central Texas describes as “strictly erect.” And yes, sometimes this erect species does develop thorns (Greek akantha), though I’ve not seen any so far on the specimens I’ve encountered in central Texas. The flower heads are numerous but small, measuring about half an inch across. Small, but welcome in January.

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* This plant used to be (and sometimes still is) placed in the genus Aster, and you can certainly see the resemblance 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 Aster).

© 2012 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 14, 2012 at 5:01 AM

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