Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

A down that precedes an up

with 22 comments

In order to end a down day with a better sort of down, here’s another wildflower picture I took on February 1 on the Mopac embankment. This view shows the typically drooping bud of a greenthread, Thelesperma filifolium, as well as the characteristic green “prongs” that frame it; later the flower stalk will right itself and open into a daisy with yellow rays and a dark orange-brown center.

This week’s mowing down of a few dozen or a few hundred greenthreads, though unfortunate and unnecessary, is ultimately not so great a loss: this is one of the most common wildflowers in Austin, and some of them may come up even on the same ground later in the season. Just this morning, while doing my damage assessment, I noticed that a few groups of fully flowering greenthreads have survived along Mopac because they’re growing close to or under highway guardrails where the mowers couldn’t get at them.

© 2012 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 8, 2012 at 4:57 PM

22 Responses

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  1. Steve, it is a lovely photo. The out-of-focus purple and blue-green background contrasts beautifully with the hard, symmetrical bud and its sharp, protective sepals. Do I detect a somewhat happier mood than what you were experiencing when you wrote this morning’s post? ~Kyle


    February 8, 2012 at 5:04 PM

    • Thank you, Kyle. That faint out-of-focus pastel purple seems to be the same as the one in the picture of the Mexican hat last week. I couldn’t identify it then, and now that everything’s been cut down there’s no chance to go back and see. As for mood, I’m trying to make the best of things and be as resilient as the wildflowers.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 8, 2012 at 5:41 PM

  2. Much better:)


    February 8, 2012 at 5:20 PM

  3. Love the curvature of the stem.

    Bonnie Michelle

    February 8, 2012 at 6:40 PM

  4. what a great shot! the faded colors of the background make the yellow/green really pop. really nice!


    February 8, 2012 at 6:51 PM

    • Thank you. I’m fond of using soft and muted colors in the background—when I’m not using soft but bright ones.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 8, 2012 at 7:55 PM

  5. let’s anthropomorphize it by comparing this beauty to an athlete marshalling her forces before taking that sprint and lifting up on the bent pole to sail up over the bar into the sunlight and the roar of an adoring, nationalistic public!

    This may yet prove to be the Official Wildflower of the 2012 London Olympics!


    February 8, 2012 at 10:04 PM

    • When I see such a vivid imagination, I understand why you’re a painter. With the description you’ve given, I’ll bet you’d stand a good chance of wangling this picture into becoming an emblem of the London Olympics. Then you can become an Olympian official artist.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 8, 2012 at 10:15 PM

  6. I loved this one! Very cool 🙂


    February 9, 2012 at 7:21 AM

  7. I’ve noticed the TxDot mowers out in full force. I’ll never understand why the state of Texas mows to the extent it does and then likes to tout how much they spend on reseeding the roadsides. Instead of spending money on mowing perhaps they’d better serve the wildflower loving community by paying crews to weed-pop all the bastard cabbage that continues to wipe out wildflower colonies. I know, it’s not “cost effective”…

    Agnes Plutino

    February 9, 2012 at 7:59 AM

    • Some of the comments in the previous post show that the problem isn’t limited to Texas, either. One fringe benefit to the Mopac mowing is that all the bastard cabbage that had been coming up got mowed down too, but I expect it’ll come back along with the wildflowers. I’m with you on having the maintenance people remove the invasives and leave the natives alone.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 9, 2012 at 9:03 AM

  8. Love the composition Steve!!!


    February 9, 2012 at 10:11 AM

  9. almost like a painting…beautiful !

    I was going to suggest a cropped version (just for comparison sake) which hides the stems on left (makes it a bit more mysterious as to why it’s hanging upside down), but no, the more I looked at it, the more of that background including the stem adds to the appeal.

    abu zar

    February 9, 2012 at 12:26 PM

    • It’s true that softer photographs can look like traditional paintings. I’m glad that you like it, and also that you changed your mind and ended up preferring this version over a cropped one. For me, that tall arc of the stem adds a lot, and it happens to be the reality of the way this species grows.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 9, 2012 at 12:48 PM

  10. Soo beautiful, I would almost say perfect!


    February 9, 2012 at 7:16 PM

    • I’m happy to send this vision of almost-perfection from Texas to Norway, where it will be a long time before you see wildflowers this spring. Please visit again if you need another dose of wildflowers this winter.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 9, 2012 at 7:23 PM

  11. […] because of the thread-like segments of the plant’s leaves. On February 8th I showed you a greenthread bud that I’d photographed before the mowing. I later said that these are among the most common […]

  12. […] Another kind of wildflower I saw on June 20 at the Wild Basin Wilderness Preserve was Navajo tea, Thelesperma simplicifolium, a species making its debut in these pages today. If these flowers remind you of the greenthread that has appeared here several times, it’s because the two are closely related members of the same genus. The “prongs” visible at the base of each Navajo tea flower head are similar to those on the base of a greenthread bud I showed early last year. […]

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