Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Ant on silverpuff

with 19 comments

Do you remember the silverpuff, Chaptalia texana, that I found in the parking lot of my neighborhood Costco on February 1? Today’s picture, from March 5 on the property of native plant aficionados Pat and Dale Bulla, shows how the flower heads of this species usually develop: there’s a characteristic nodding posture, and in the upside-down U of the tightly curving stalk the plant’s woolly hairs often fill the space as if they were the strands of a spiderweb. Though there may occasionally be a real spider, this time there was an ant; it kept moving around on the silverpuff, but what it was looking for or trying to accomplish, I don’t know. (I do know that while silverpuff grows only in a small part of the south-central United States, and not at all in Ireland, I thought that on St. Patrick’s Day I ought to follow yesterday’s picture of an olive hairstreak with another one that has some prominent green in it.)

© 2012 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 17, 2012 at 5:31 AM

19 Responses

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  1. Hi Steve .. looking for some sweet excretion from the plant threads perhaps .. brilliant photo though.

    Oh the Olive part of the Olive hairstreak would be excellent for today?! Cheers Hilary


    March 17, 2012 at 6:10 AM

    • That’s a plausible explanation for the ant’s movement. As for the olive hairstrea, too bad I couldn’t get it to land on this silverpuff to have green on green.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 17, 2012 at 7:16 AM

  2. It looks like the bud is being restrained by its own threads. Nice contrast with the shiny ant.

    • Yes, it certainly looks that way here. I don’t remember if I’ve seen any similarly bent young silverpuffs without so much down. Thanks for pointing out the contrast in textures between

      the downy plant
      and shiny ant.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 17, 2012 at 7:38 AM

  3. I love it! Another photo I would add to my gallery!

    Bonnie Michelle

    March 17, 2012 at 8:32 AM

  4. I wonder if the ants are somehow involved in the plant’s opening. I remember similar large ants on our peonies in Iowa – without ants, the buds wouldn’t open, or so I was told. In any event, the buds always were covered with busy ants, and once the plants bloomed, the ants were gone. Perhaps the ant only is appreciating the downiness – it is beautiful.


    March 17, 2012 at 9:05 PM

    • Now that ‘s a hypothesis I haven’t heard, that ants are involved in plants’ openings. I like your idea that the ant is enjoying the downiness.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 17, 2012 at 10:55 PM

      • A little research revealed I was both sort of right and wrong. The ants do like the sweet secretions on the buds, and come to eat that. There is some agreement that lots of hungry ants might make it easier for many buds to open at the same time, but they aren’t necessary for blooming to happen. It was quite entertaining to read the discussions on some peony forums – there are true believers on both sides.


        March 18, 2012 at 4:58 PM

      • The fact that there are true believers on both sides of this and various other issues shows how many things in nature are still not well understood.

        Steve Schwartzman

        March 18, 2012 at 6:25 PM

  5. Hi Steve

    A lovely photo and I really enjoyed seeing the ant.



    March 18, 2012 at 3:40 PM

    • Glad you liked it. This must seem like a tropical and floral world compared to what you’re experiencing in Alberta.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 18, 2012 at 3:54 PM

  6. […] yesterday, is called silverpuff, wonder no more. Note the same nodding posture that characterized this wildflower in its budding stage. Also notice the resemblance to the seed head of the more familiar (and in North America both alien […]

  7. This is truly lovely. Can a flower bud look demure? Somehow this one does. I like the jewels on the ant’s abdomen too! ~ Lynda


    March 20, 2012 at 10:59 PM

  8. Demure: a good choice of an adjective, and applied in a novel way to a bud. The jewels are reflections of light from the ant’s shiny body.

    Steve Schwartzman

    March 21, 2012 at 6:45 AM

  9. The juxtaposition of textures makes this picture just great. I also like the colors. Lynda is right that “demure” comes to mind.


    March 24, 2012 at 11:02 AM

    • It’s interesting that both of you are in accord about demure as a description of the bud. I wouldn’t have thought of it, but I’m glad both of you suggested it.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 24, 2012 at 11:16 AM

  10. […] you remember how the little wildflower called silverpuff is fuzzy and leans over when it first appears? Well, in central Texas we have another diminutive plant, Heller’s […]

  11. […] you remember the silverpuff that appeared in these pages back in March as a bud and as a flower? This little wildflower, which Bob Harms reports can be split (though not easily) […]

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