Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography


with 36 comments

Click for greater sharpness.

With various wildflowers popping up prematurely this winter—yes, in spite of the warm temperatures it’ll still officially be winter for seven more weeks—I was on the lookout for a certain species whose normal bloom period in Austin begins in February: Anemone berlandieri, known as ten-petaled anemone, ten-petal thimbleweed, and wind-flower. When I was on my jaunt along the west side of Mopac on February 1st I finally found my first anemone of the season, which you see here. This specimen had petals that are near the purple end of the species’ color range; individuals can have much fainter coloring, even to the point of looking almost white.

The vernacular names for this species don’t pass truth-in-advertising muster. Even children, as long as they’re old enough to know how to count, can look at this flower and tell us that there are more than ten petals. And botanists, who have parlayed their childhood fascination with flowers into a complicated science, step in and tell us that in this species there are no true petals: the “petals” are technically sepals. Next thing you know, we’ll be hearing that there’s no Santa Claus, either.

For more information, including a map showing the many places in the Southeast where Anemone berlandieri grows, and where Santa Claus is known to have visited in December, you can visit the USDA website.



In one of the comments, Pablo Buitrago spoke about the details in this photograph, so I’ve added the icon below; click on it to see an enlargement of the “thimble” at the center of the anemone.

© 2012 Steven Schwartzman


Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 4, 2012 at 5:41 AM

36 Responses

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  1. So if the purple things are supposedly sepals, then when it is still a bud, are they already that purplish color? Or do they color up as they open? In the background I imagine I can see lots of longish, green, leaf-like objects – but these are not the sepals? Great, stunning image, whatever the petals really are!


    February 4, 2012 at 6:11 AM

    • It’s the inner surface that takes on the coloring. The outer surface, which is what you’d see when the sepals are still covering the bud, is (according to a photograph in my archives that I just looked at) is a slightly silvery white, with just a tinge of purple along the edges. I’m assuming the longer green things in the current photograph are bracts. In any case, I’m pleased that you’re pleased with the image.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 4, 2012 at 7:58 AM

  2. Lovely portrait, Steve. Maybe some folks just count differently.

    Steve Gingold

    February 4, 2012 at 7:24 AM

    • Having been a math teacher, I assure you that some people count differently! As for this species of anemone, the number of sepals varies; according to a wildflower guide I looked at, there can be as few as 10 sepals.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 4, 2012 at 8:01 AM

  3. I highly recommend to see this picture bigger.
    The detail is just amazing!!
    Nice one Steven!

    Pablo Buitrago

    February 4, 2012 at 10:40 AM

    • At the end of the post I’ve added an icon you can click to see an enlargement of the flower’s center.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 4, 2012 at 12:12 PM

  4. Flowers have no petals and there’s no Santa? Life as we know it is coming to an end. 😦

    Spiral Dreamer (Francis)

    February 4, 2012 at 10:42 AM

  5. I’m really surprised by this one. I think of anemones as more poppy-like. (I’ve just learned the name of my familiar friend is Anemone coronaria .)

    I love that sea anemones were named after the flower. Even though there’s no “wind” in the ocean, the currents make them bob and sway just like terrestrial wind-flowers.


    February 4, 2012 at 1:18 PM

    • I looked up Anemone coronaria and I see what you mean: that one is more poppy-like. For me the “unrecognition” goes the other way. I’m familiar only with our native plants, so any relatives that don’t look like them surprise me.

      You make a good case for ocean currents being a sort of wind in which the “sea windflowers” blow back and forth.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 4, 2012 at 1:44 PM

  6. Talk about bursting open! How joyful to see this, when here it is so brown outside. (PS, you are spot-on on the association of the Takemitsu piece with Debussy. It uses the trio configuration that Debussy originated: viola, flute, and harp. Following the trail of that is actually how I found this piece last year.)

    Susan Scheid

    February 4, 2012 at 4:58 PM

    • Yes, that’s why I left the New York of my growing up, to get away from cold winters with long months of brown vegetation—although the drought of 2011 turned a lot of things brown here. (I’m glad that I was able to detect the similarity between Takemitsu and Debussy; what a surprise that you’d followed that trail.)

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 4, 2012 at 5:10 PM

  7. Gorgeous! You are really getting me anxious for wildflower season!


    February 4, 2012 at 9:40 PM

    • Our positions are reversed now: half a year ago Texas was very hot and in a drought but you were posting lush wildflower pictures from Montana.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 4, 2012 at 10:06 PM

  8. Beautiful! And with 5 more months of winter over here, it’s nice to get a dose of flowers in February! Thank you!


    February 5, 2012 at 3:40 AM

    • So we’re at opposite extremes: the Texas winter never was, and yours isn’t due to end till a couple of months past the official date. May these wildflowers cheer up your world in the meantime.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 5, 2012 at 8:26 AM

  9. Another gorgeous photo Steve…and I’m going to continue to call them petals…and yes there is a Santa Claus! Thanks for sharing these photos…there is nothing blooming up here yet and it is a real treat to see what is blooming in your neck of the woods.


    February 5, 2012 at 11:14 AM

    • I’ve been doing a bit of floral showing-off in this early—even for us down here—spring. May the sharing cheer up those of you in more northerly latitudes. Maybe Santa Claus will bring you some early petals in 2013.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 5, 2012 at 12:15 PM

  10. Synchronicity: I used the same title for my post today. 🙂


    February 5, 2012 at 7:01 PM

    • Oui, je m’en étais rendu compte. Yes, I’d noticed, and I like your metaphorical use of the title. Happy synchronicity!

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 5, 2012 at 7:22 PM

  11. Beautiful! The color really pops. 🙂


    February 5, 2012 at 8:17 PM

  12. I am updating what I took to be sepals, to ‘bracts’. I’d forgotten about bracts. The close-up image is luscious with the dusting of what looks like a cross between sugar and dew. I have made it my desktop image – hope that’s okay.

    The World Is My Cuttlefish

    February 6, 2012 at 1:01 AM

  13. Well here’s one I can tick off my list and it solved a mystery too! I went looking for this flower in seed or plant and found this site: http://alabamaplants.com/Whitealt/Anemone_berlandieri_page.html
    They listed the plants as being in several counties but not mine… they don’t know it, but I have a whole colony of the white form growing under my big oak at the end of the drive. This is especially nice since that is also the location of my new native garden. I have been slowly adding to this area since we moved here. It was a weedy, trashy, ugly spot right out at the road. The only thing it had going for it was a lovely Chionanthus virginicus or Fringe tree. Thanks for helping me to solve the mystery of my little white flowers, Steve. 😉 ~ Lynda


    February 6, 2012 at 6:45 AM

    • It’s always gratifying to solve a mystery, especially when that means the added presence of wildflowers. On several occasions I’ve found the location maps for Texas to be lacking a county where I’ve seen a certain species, and the USDA website correctly notes that apparent gaps may not be real; with hundreds and hundreds of species in each county in each state, not everything yet been reported. You can try contacting the agency in charge of the Alabama map to see about getting your county added for this species of anemone.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 6, 2012 at 7:53 AM

  14. This looks like the little Carolina Anemone I came across in the Driftless area of northeastern Illinois some years back. Cute little thing, very welcome sight in February.


    February 6, 2012 at 9:27 AM

    • Yes, the two species are pretty similar. The earliest I see in my archives that I found an anemone flowering here in recent years was February 17, so this find beat that by more than two weeks. If I’d come a day earlier I might have found it already there and could have claimed January.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 6, 2012 at 9:59 AM

  15. Dainty little lady!


    February 6, 2012 at 9:07 PM

  16. […] The anemone that you saw on February 4: not a trace remains. […]

  17. […] and wind-flower. I mentioned then that the flower’s color can be much less intense than the purple shown in that post, and here to prove it is a mostly open white anemone I photographed on February 9 in northwest […]

  18. […] with a mixture of the colors you’ve seen separately in posts showing a white anemone and a purple anemone. Unlike those two flowers, which had already opened fully or almost fully and which I viewed from […]

  19. […] you don’t recall what one of these anemones looks like when it’s fresh, you can have a look back at that stage.) The formless purple in the background was all that remained, photographically, of a bluebonnet, […]

  20. Wow, nice photo Steve!!
    For you and Lynda: funny how plants [or Nature in general] doesn’t pay attention to our maps, or clocks or Daylight “Saving”? ; )
    Happy Spring!

    Deb Weyrich-Cody

    March 19, 2016 at 6:31 AM

    • When botanists confront something out of its normal place or season, I’ve heard them quip that plants don’t read field guides.

      I wondered what suddenly brought you to this post from four years ago but then I remembered that WordPress has an algorithm that at the end of each posts adds three suggestions for related posts. Sure enough, when I checked the most recent anemone post, I found this one auto-linked at the end.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 19, 2016 at 7:06 AM

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