Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

The winter without a winter

with 27 comments

A winter without a winter: that’s what we’ve been having here in Austin, with afternoon high temperatures for the last few weeks usually in the 60s and even 70s. One consequence is that all the usual Eurasian invasives think it’s April in the old country and are acting accordingly: when I went to the Mueller Greenway on January 27th I saw flowers of henbit, sow thistle, pin clover, dandelion, and white sweet clover. Because those are all alien in Texas (and the rest of the Americas), I won’t show them in this blog.

But now for the good news: when I visited the Mueller Greenway I discovered that a few of our native wildflowers have likewise been confused by the warm weather and are also flowering before their usual time. What you see in the picture above is an Engelmann daisy, Engelmannia persistenia, a plant with fuzzy lobed leaves and yellow flowers; the ones here are looking a bit bedraggled, as if awakened prematurely from a sound sleep, which in a sense they were, because this species doesn’t normally bloom in Austin until March and April. Notice that underneath the flowers are several buds, the lowest of which is beginning to open. In the vicinity of this plant I found at least two dozen others of the same species, and although only a few of them had buds and flowers, all the rest looked healthy and developed enough to follow suit soon. So welcome to an Austin springtime in January!

© 2012 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 29, 2012 at 5:11 AM

27 Responses

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  1. I loved the yellow, green and blue together – fantastic! Beautiful photo, Steven!


    January 29, 2012 at 5:57 AM

    • Thank you, Nandini. I’m also fond of that combination of yellow, green, and blue. I noticed that you live in India, and that made me wonder whether any country has a flag with the colors yellow, green, and blue. I did an Internet search and found an article showing that the countries whose flags have those three colors and no others are Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Rwanda, Gabon, and the Australian overseas territory of Christmas Island. If you add black to the mix, you have Tanzania. Now you see how my mind works.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 29, 2012 at 8:38 AM

      • Yes, I see..and it’s great too. Thanks for the information. What fun! 🙂


        January 30, 2012 at 5:18 AM

  2. I do believe you cannot take a bad photo! My daughter will be moving there in a month!

    Bonnie Michelle

    January 29, 2012 at 7:50 AM

    • I can and do take bad pictures, but I do my best not so show any of them!

      If your daughter is interested in nature, she’ll get to see in person some of the plants and other things that I’ve featured in this blog. I often mention locations, too, in case she wants to know places where she can find nature.

      If you ever visit your daughter here, let me know.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 29, 2012 at 8:46 AM

  3. Great picture, love the colors and details and the flower for itself. 🙂

    Spiral Dreamer (Francis)

    January 29, 2012 at 12:40 PM

    • Thank you, Francis. Maybe later in the season I can show you other specimens of this species that are even prettier, but for now this was certainly a welcome sight.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 29, 2012 at 2:12 PM

  4. Wow!!! Now that’s drama in a photo. I love how you use different angles of view in your photography.


    January 29, 2012 at 2:13 PM

    • I certainly am fond of different angles, but my body isn’t always so happy after I’ve lain on the ground, which is what I did to get this picture. There are all sorts of inhospitable things on the ground in Texas.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 29, 2012 at 2:18 PM

  5. Actually there are some species of dandelion that are natives. I just did an entry about them: https://nhgardensolutions.wordpress.com/2012/01/25/the-dandelion-debate/ I’ll apologize in advance for the length, but you might find it interesting.
    Excellent photo as usual.

    • The dandelions I’ve been seeing here are the usual Taraxacum officinale, the invasive from Europe. Thanks for your link, because I hadn’t ever heard about Taraxacum ceratophorum or T. californicum. In my area we also have the so-called Texas dandelion, which is in a different genus, Pyrrhopappus pauciflorus. Some wildflower guidebooks call it “false dandelion,” which is ironic, because it’s the one that’s native here; false in this case means ‘not the European dandelion that Anglo settlers were familiar with.’ In any case, I’m glad that you’ve been enjoying the photographs here.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 29, 2012 at 7:48 PM

      • I looked up your false dandelion. It’s an interesting plant. Though the flower looks a bit like a dandelion the plant itself resembles chicory more than the dandelion.
        Yes, I do enjoy your photos very much and look forward to them each day.

        New Hampshire Gardener

        January 30, 2012 at 5:31 AM

      • Yes, the Texas dandelion has some resemblance to chicory, which unfortunately isn’t native. What’s native here that coincidentally looks a lot like chicory is Lygodesmia texana, the skeleton plant. I showed some pictures of it on September 27 and 28, and I expect I’ll show pictures of the the Texas dandelion once it appears in a couple of months (or perhaps earlier than that, given this non-winter winter).

        Steve Schwartzman

        January 30, 2012 at 8:53 AM

  6. Your switch back to flora wasn’t hard at all for me, because this picture is spectacular!
    I usually love the contrast between yellow and blue, if those colors exist in the photo, to me the other colors are not that important, but the green here adds a lot to the picture!
    Nicely done Steven!

    Pablo Buitrago

    January 29, 2012 at 7:08 PM

    • I’m pleased you were able to switch back, because after yesterday’s heron I think some viewers will feel a bit of a comedown.

      Since you like the contrast between yellow and blue,
      Central Texas would be a scenic place for you.

      We have a slew of native yellow daisy-like flowers here, and many yellow wildflowers of other types as well. And we often enough have clear blue skies that I’ve taken and will keep taking plenty of pictures with the same color scheme as the one above or one similar to it. The next one is due Tuesday, in fact.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 29, 2012 at 7:57 PM

  7. Hi Steven… following your blog for quite sometime… from the other side of the world. Your blog revived my childhood memories…

    …As a kid, used to spend my playtime identifying wildflowers, weeds…
    ..and visiting woods & streams to find some lesser known birds and unusual colorful insects…

    Those days are gone… Now i live in a busy city…In artificially lighted buildings…
    Lucky you are… You still get the opportunity.
    .. and probably… luckier me ..that i came across your blog.

    Thanks! And keep posting Portraits of Wildflowers….


    January 30, 2012 at 3:07 AM

    • I’m happy to keep bringing you, even vicariously, some of the kinds of things you remember from childhood. One advantage to living in Austin is that it has cultural amenities and also still enough pieces of nature that I don’t have to go very far to find them. On the other hand, Austin is still growing, and every year development robs me of another place where I was once happy to wander and take pictures.

      Thanks for letting me know you’ve been following this blog for a good while now.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 30, 2012 at 7:26 AM

  8. […] I visited the Mueller Greenway on January 27th I found more than Engelmann daisies coming to life: I was also happily surprised to come across a coreopsis plant fully three feet tall with plenty of […]

  9. Hi Steve, I posted an article about the same topic of what seems to be a warm winter here in Central Wyoming. However, when I looked at the temp data for the last few months and compared it to the long term average, it’s about, well, average. I wonder if we just remember the really cold winters and they loom larger in our minds.

    At any rate this part of the country is known for extremes and unpredictable weather. I had seedlings sprouting in December – both native and non-natives. It will be interesting to see how things pan out in the garden this spring.

    Just bought my digital SLR camera so I’ll be learning how to use it. Your macro shots always inspire me; sort of the beauty within the beauty.


    January 30, 2012 at 3:33 PM

    • Thanks for pointing us to your article, which I read. As you said, the numbers—assuming, as with your numbers, that they’re accurately recorded and not manipulated—don’t lie. Fluctuation in natural phenomena is normal, but, as you also pointed out, one person’s experience is often too limited to see the broader picture. So it turned out that your Wyoming winter, in spite of seeming warm, was just average when seen in the context of the last century. Here in Austin and many other parts of Texas, 2011 did set records for heat, but I haven’t compared this current month with historical data to see if it really is warm or only seems that way; I know what the plants seem to think, though.

      Happy use of your new DSLR, and here’s to discovering “the beauty within the beauty.”

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 30, 2012 at 5:06 PM

  10. What a springlike flower!

    It’s been a warm winter in Ohio, too. The previous winter was fairly average temperatures (with the lowest lows just below zero) and extra snow, but this season it’s been warmer (the lowest lows so far around 10 degrees F.) and highs up in the 50s on occasion- unusual for this state.

    Watching Seasons

    January 30, 2012 at 4:53 PM

    • The Engelmann daisy is definitely a spring wildflower; I don’t recall seeing one as early as February before, much less January. Sounds like your wildflowers may be out earlier than their typical time too.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 30, 2012 at 5:08 PM

  11. […] part of the same plant so you can see what the buds open up into. Yes, I’ll admit that like the rays of the Engelmann daisy from two posts back, those of the lowest of the three flower heads here also look a bit bedraggled, […]

  12. See? I’m not the only one that gets all wuzzy and bedraggled when prematurely awakened! It’s just a lot more attractive and endearing on the daisy.


    January 31, 2012 at 9:15 PM

  13. […] firewheels and Indian blankets. The red flowers in the back are phlox. The yellow flowers are Engelmann daisies, Engelmannia peristenia. Above the center of the photo you can make out some white flowers that are […]

  14. […] a few Engelmann daisies made a super-early appearance here in January, I commented that they looked somewhat bedraggled, as if having been awakened prematurely from […]

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