Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

A trace of red

with 11 comments

Marsh fleabane gone to seed; click for greater sharpness.

Just as it’s true that “Not all that glitters is gold,” it’s also true that not all that doesn’t glitter isn’t gold (there can be dull gold, for example). Well, I’m here today to tell you that, in spite of a seeming lack of resemblance, the plant that you saw blossoming on August 9 and in a later stage on November 23, marsh fleabane, Pluchea odorata, is a member of the same botanical family as sunflowers, asters, thistles, tatalencho, mistflowers, and Mexican devilweed. Many of the insect-pollinated plants in this huge group share a trait: after their flower heads go to seed, they turn fluffy, like a dandelion (which, though not native to the Americas, also belongs to this family). Today’s picture is a much closer view than the previous one of marsh fleabane, and it reveals that before the plant turns gray it can retain some of its red floral color even as it dries out and gets fuzzy. The receptacle that is revealed at this time appears to many people as the conventionalized sunburst or starburst that is another widely shared family trait. (You saw a variation on the theme in a photograph of goldeneye.)

I took this picture on August 9, 2011, at Meadow Lake Park in Round Rock, a large suburb north of Austin. That was the same place where, on a follow-up visit, I first photographed the Mexican devilweed that appeared in a post last month.

To find out more about Pluchea odorata, including a state-clickable map showing the many places in North America where this species grows, you can visit the USDA website. For those interested in photography as a craft, points 1, 7, and 18 in About My Techniques are relevant to today’s picture.

© 2012 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 17, 2012 at 1:22 PM

11 Responses

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  1. beautiful, love this

    dianne - life as i see it

    February 17, 2012 at 1:27 PM

    • In addition to all the obviously appealing pictures of wildflowers in their prime, I’ve been mixing in occasional views of less conventionally attractive stages in the lives of our native plants.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 17, 2012 at 1:31 PM

  2. This is a fantastic photo, Steve. I had a friend who lived in Round Rock. I loved the area the few times I visited.
    Although i don’t normally comment here, I read your posts daily and am very impressed, especially with the photos. Thanks.

    ken bello

    February 17, 2012 at 4:10 PM

    • Thanks, Ken. I’m glad you’re enjoying what you see here. Other than local subscribers, you’re probably one of the few people who have been to Round Rock. I was happy to discover Meadow Lake Park there last summer because on my several visits it provided lots of pictures.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 17, 2012 at 5:00 PM

  3. So many seeds guarantee their return, in spite of the lawnmower man…
    Its red remains remind me of straw flowers. ~ Lynda


    February 17, 2012 at 7:10 PM

    • A good thought. Actually this species may outwit the mowers by usually growing in wet ground or even shallow water, where the mowing machines would probably get stuck in the mud.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 17, 2012 at 7:13 PM

  4. This is such an amazing shot. I really like the golden shades and the texture.


    February 18, 2012 at 11:51 AM

    • Thank you. I’m pleased to find additional people liking this image of a developmental stage long past the one that’s conventionally the prettiest.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 18, 2012 at 12:07 PM

  5. I know I am looking at flowers gone to seed…but they almost resemble sea creatures.
    Great photo Steve…the detail is amazing!


    February 21, 2012 at 10:11 AM

    • Thanks, David. Now that you say it, I can imagine an underwater scene complete with a “starfish.” Good imagination.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 21, 2012 at 1:13 PM

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