Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Mexican devilweed

with 29 comments

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.


* 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

29 Responses

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  1. It’s like a twisted version of a daisy.

    The Background Story

    January 14, 2012 at 5:54 AM

    • The picture, as close as it is, could give that impression, but the flowers are so small, and the plant so un-daisy-like, that you might not feel the same way if you saw it in person.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 14, 2012 at 7:40 AM

  2. Nice capture! Nothing devilish about this shot, Steve. Keep up the great work!


    January 14, 2012 at 7:40 AM

  3. Most interesting plant. I like to see blossoms in the winter. I’ll bet this devilweed has medicinal properties.

    Jack Matthews

    January 14, 2012 at 7:55 AM

    • Great to hear from you; that implies you’re recovering well. (By coincidence, I commented on your blog just a few minutes ago.)

      Yes, today’s post is part of my informal Flowers in Winter series. Austin hasn’t had a hard, sustained freeze yet, so I’m still finding occasional wildflowers as I wander about. Yesterday I came across some (actual) aster flowers, and there’s still some goldeneye flowering in northern Austin.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 14, 2012 at 8:10 AM

    • I did a little checking for medicinal uses. I found that this species is one of a bunch being studied for that at the University of Michigan. The plant database at


      notes these two ethnic uses:

      Mohave: Young shoots roasted and eaten as a famine food.
      Navajo: Stems chewed for gum.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 14, 2012 at 8:21 AM

  4. I really enjoy your narratives, Steven! (and your photos, too, of course)


    January 14, 2012 at 8:44 AM

    • Thanks, Cindy. This blog is (so to speak)

      A good chance to feed
      Two birds with one seed.

      (And to rewrite the usual sanguinary saying.)

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 14, 2012 at 8:54 AM

      • You are the second person I’ve heard change the saying. Many years ago I had a professor for a preschool language acquisition class. She promoted nonviolence and we examined many violent based sayings and changed them into a nonviolent sayings. To this day I use this form. And yes the flower does remind me of asters especially woodland asters.

        Bonnie Michelle

        January 14, 2012 at 9:54 AM

      • Was the alternate version that your group came up with the same as the one I used? If so, that’s quite a coincidence, because I independently created my rhyming version at the time I posted it.

        Steve Schwartzman

        January 14, 2012 at 10:04 AM

  5. I always like a nice photo with vital information.


    January 14, 2012 at 9:20 AM

  6. Beautifully done, as always! By the way, I’ve nominated your blog for the Versatile Blogger award. Visit here:
    http://curtalefarm.wordpress.com/2012/01/14/versatility/ to read why I chose your blog and to get the directions on what to do next if you want to play! 🙂


    January 14, 2012 at 4:49 PM

  7. […] Portraits of Wildflowers – The best wildflower photographer I follow. […]

    Hidden « Jomegat's Weblog

    January 14, 2012 at 9:02 PM

  8. Beautiful shot. It belies its name.


    January 14, 2012 at 11:34 PM

  9. Indeed this would be a welcome site in January!!


    January 15, 2012 at 1:53 PM

  10. Very beautiful shot!!!

    BoJo Photo

    January 15, 2012 at 2:26 PM

  11. What a fantastic shot, i would be grateful for any flowers around here at the moment but i have a few more months to wait!! c


    January 15, 2012 at 2:50 PM

    • That’s an advantage of living this far south. But then you might not envy us the concomitant heat here in the summer.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 15, 2012 at 6:03 PM

  12. Yes, I can certainly see the aster resemblance and yes, I agree that beauty is particularly relative in the eyes of wildflower/weed beholders. Po-tay-to, po-tah-to.


    January 15, 2012 at 4:01 PM

  13. It’s a pretty little thing. It does remind me of asters. 🙂


    January 15, 2012 at 6:33 PM

  14. This flower is beautiful !


    January 11, 2013 at 3:23 PM

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