Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography


with 26 comments

Click for greater clarity.

Another precocious wildflower I found on February 19 at the Mueller Greenway in east-central Austin was Gaillardia pulchella, known by the picturesque names Indian blanket and firewheel (and I’ll add that this firewheel, or at least the ground beneath it where I knelt, was pique-turesque and cost me my first two fire ant bites of 2012). The flower head was just opening—and doing so a good month or two before its traditional time—but hadn’t yet formed the familiar “wheel” whose wide rays, which are mostly red and tipped with yellow, form the “spokes.” At this stage you can recognize a family resemblance to the rays of a four-nerve daisy.

For more information, and to see the many places where Gaillardia pulchella grows in the United States and Canada, the USDA website beckons.

© 2012 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 23, 2012 at 5:47 AM

26 Responses

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  1. That’s a pretty firewheel. 🙂


    February 23, 2012 at 6:12 AM

  2. I find it interesting how even the petals appear to be unfurling almost parallel to the disk rather than unlocking them, does that make sense?

    Bonnie Michelle

    February 23, 2012 at 7:25 AM

    • I’m not sure what you mean by “unlocking them.”

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 23, 2012 at 7:30 AM

      • Most petals “open” up as if unfolding to expose the center of the flower. These petals seem to be unraveling around the edge. Is that any better? I just find it unusual.

        Bonnie Michelle

        February 23, 2012 at 7:35 AM

      • The answer to your question is one that surprises most people (as it did me when I first learned what I’m about to say). What looks to us like a single flower here is actually two sets of many small flowers. One set makes up the central disk, which is why those tiny flowers are called disk flowers. The other set radiates out from the circumference of the disk; those are called ray flowers, and if you think back to posts about sunflowers and daisies and other members of this family that I’ve shown, I’ve often referred to rays, meaning ray flowers, rather than petals. This family was historically called the composite family, because of the two types of flowers in each flower head (another term I’ve often used, and that may have sounded strange).

        Steve Schwartzman

        February 23, 2012 at 7:54 AM

  3. Absolutely gorgeous shot, the sense of movement is beautiful. Oh, and do I know about getting nailed by fire ants–used to happen to me every single spring, even though I thought I was looking! May it be the last pique-turesque (love that!) event for you for a good while.

    Susan Scheid

    February 23, 2012 at 8:50 AM

    • Thanks, Susan. Speaking of movement, mine was fast but not fast enough: by stomping my feet repeatedly I managed to shake off almost all the fire ants, but one hung on. I’m sorry to hear about your association with fire ants rather than firewheels. As for pique-turesque, that cross-language pun betrays my long association with French, which doesn’t bite or sting.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 23, 2012 at 11:56 AM

  4. The twist, in the not quite unfurled petals, gives the impression of motion! Phun Photo! ~ L


    February 23, 2012 at 11:18 AM

    • For some reason I don’t think I noticed that twisting in other years, but I’m happy to see that it intrigued you and Susan (in the previous comment), and both of you felt a sense of motion.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 23, 2012 at 11:59 AM

  5. WOW I just checked out the photo of the more advanced stage!! The name certainly fits!!!


    February 24, 2012 at 7:33 AM

    • Yes it does. We’re used to this common wildflower in Texas, but people who see one for the first time are usually quite taken with it. In many specimens there’s no space between the rays, so you get even more of a “wheel.” I’ll have to show one like that later in the spring. This species can also form large colonies; if we have a good season, I’ll try to show that too.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 24, 2012 at 8:39 AM

  6. Great shot as always! Also, I really enjoy the posts that go with them. They are very interesting and informative. Thanks! 🙂


    February 24, 2012 at 10:11 AM

    • As a veteran teacher I find it natural to be informative. I’m glad you find the pictures and the information interesting.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 24, 2012 at 10:16 AM

  7. Stunning and unusual. I also looked at the more advanced one. I don’t recall ever seeing them.


    February 24, 2012 at 11:21 PM

  8. Lovely colours! 🙂

  9. […] mucronata. You can also see an afflicted firewheel, the type of flower that appeared most recently in this blog a couple of weeks ago.) From the way certain ferns look when they unfurl, I borrowed the term fiddlehead for […]

  10. […] red flower heads are called firewheels or Indian blankets, Gaillardia pulchella, of which you saw an early one opening in the post of February 23. The bluish-purple flowers are bluebonnets, Lupinus texensis, making […]

  11. […] prominent yellow-fringed red flowers are Castilleja indivisa, called firewheels and Indian blankets. The red flowers in the back are phlox. The yellow flowers are Engelmann […]

  12. […] seen several photographs this spring showing firewheels in colonies, and a picture of a stray one starting to open very early in the season, so far this year you’ve never seen a closeup of a fully open flower […]

  13. […] The post that this led to mentioned that while photographing a firewheel I got my first two fire ant bites of the year. Was that supposed to be a fun fact? […]

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