Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Wildflowers in the wind

with 44 comments

Click for greater size and clarity.

Yes, the wind was blowing yesterday afternoon when I got out of my car near Mopac and Braker Ln. to take pictures of some dense wildflowers on the embankment of the highway. You may remember that in early February, before an unfortunate mowing, precocious spring wildflowers had already been coming up on the median and embankments of the expressway.

One kind of flower that got mowed down then was Thelesperma filifolium, known as greenthread 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 wildflowers in Austin, and that most likely they’d grow back along Mopac, even in the same places where they’d gotten mowed down.

Well, here we are seven weeks later, and the greenthreads have indeed come back. In the picture above, they’re the many flowers you see with yellow rays surrounding smaller brown disks. The mostly 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 their first appearance in this blog.

This is the kind of wildflower display Texas is duly famous for!

© 2012 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 27, 2012 at 5:30 AM

44 Responses

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  1. Beautiful! I’d like this picture as wallpaper in my living room! 🙂


    March 27, 2012 at 5:40 AM

  2. Just wow!

    The Background Story

    March 27, 2012 at 6:20 AM

  3. Lush with wildflowers. More bluebonnets to come, I take it?


    March 27, 2012 at 6:25 AM

  4. They are so lovely – I’m longing for the flowers to finally appear out here…


    March 27, 2012 at 7:20 AM

  5. Wow, it must be quite a pleasure to drive along and see this! I know I would like it! I did a google map of the area…Holy Crap that’s a busy area! Normally all you see around here is farming equipment on the roads that are barely two lanes wide. The population of the nearest town is only about 1800 people…and that’s in a 10 square mile area!


    March 27, 2012 at 7:32 AM

    • Lady Bird Johnson campaigned for highway beautification around the United States, and one legacy is that the sides of many highways in Texas are sown with wildflower seed. That’s true of Mopac, where I stopped yesterday. Of course when I was down on the embankment I had not just the natural breeze but the additional wind caused by all those cars zooming by not far away. The movement and noise were antithetical to enjoying the flowers, though you don’t see that in the picture. In any case, drivers get to see plenty of colorful wildflowers, especially if they’re stuck in traffic. Country living has some advantages.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 27, 2012 at 8:14 AM

  6. Wow! and thank you Lady Bird.


    March 27, 2012 at 10:30 AM

    • Yes, she did a lot for the cause of native plants. The Wildflower Research Center, of which she was a co-founder, was renamed the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 27, 2012 at 3:52 PM

  7. Makes me homesick! We loved all the wildflowers in the spring. Our family has countless pictures our children thru out the years in Easter outfits sitting in the bluebonnets. Thank you for these wonderful photos!

    • I’m glad the picture brings back happy memories, Kathleen. As I’ve checked out large groups of bluebonnets this week, I’ve seen plenty of hollows where people have sat.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 27, 2012 at 4:50 PM

  8. Truly magical. I hope one day to see this beauty in person. For now I will live vicariously through your photographs!

    Bonnie Michelle

    March 27, 2012 at 10:37 AM

    • Just make sure you eventually visit your daughter in Austin at this time of year. In the meantime, if you both have iPhones, she can go out into some dense wildflowers and call you from there so you can see them live.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 27, 2012 at 4:53 PM

  9. Love, love wildflowers!!!


    March 27, 2012 at 11:17 AM

  10. Beautiful! I need to go out and find an area where I can get a shot like that.


    March 27, 2012 at 11:45 AM

  11. Can’t believe you are in my neck of the woods. You are showing me what I’m missing. Thanks.


    March 27, 2012 at 1:49 PM

    • Then you need miss it no more: so many wildflowers have come out now, thanks to the rain we had from winter into spring.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 27, 2012 at 7:08 PM

  12. So lovely, Steve, and I too wish I could see them in person. Glad you like to share! The bud on the green thread and the blossom remind me of Coreopsis. Could they be related?

    ~ Lynda


    March 27, 2012 at 2:50 PM

  13. I am now completely convinced that you live in wildflower heaven.

    Susan Scheid

    March 27, 2012 at 8:38 PM

    • The plants here are busy making up for lost time after last year’s terrible drought. 2009 and 2010 were also good years, so we’re 3 for 4 recently. Texas really is a wildflower heaven, at least when we get enough rain.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 27, 2012 at 8:53 PM

      • Yes, rain is the issue, isn’t it? My mother’s parents lived in West Texas, and I remember visiting once in spring, the place was carpeted with wildflowers. I’d never seen anything like it and haven’t since. Thanks as always for bringing it to us!

        Susan Scheid

        March 28, 2012 at 12:25 PM

      • You’re certainly welcome. The fact that you’ve never again seen anything like the Texas wildflower display you remember from long ago is another incentive to return for a springtime visit.

        Steve Schwartzman

        March 28, 2012 at 12:49 PM

  14. Beautiful work Steve…love your images I have seen of Texas wildflowers, be a great place to shoot sometime !!

    Bernie Kasper

    March 27, 2012 at 10:06 PM

  15. Wow, that really is a display! Wonderful!


    March 28, 2012 at 12:34 AM

  16. This is a joyous scene; especially after the upsetting news I read in February.

  17. Quand la nature fait ce qu’elle veut, le résultat est splendide.


    March 29, 2012 at 12:30 AM

    • L’ancolie bleue says that when nature does what it will, the result is splendid.

      Bienvenue au Texas au printemps, où la nature est bien en train de faire ce qu’elle veut.
      Welcome to Texas in the spring, where nature is indeed in the midst of doing what it will.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 29, 2012 at 2:10 AM

  18. […] the picture that you saw two days ago of colorful wildflowers on an embankment of the expressway called Mopac, bluebonnets played the smallest role. But […]

  19. […] that should be better known. Some of those can also form large colonies, two examples being the greenthreads and firewheels you saw earlier this week. Today’s post introduces another one, prairie verbena, Glandularia […]

  20. […] pages are Missouri primroses, Oenothera macrocarpa, which stand out from the much greater number of greenthreads that are shorter plants and have flowers of a yellow that can shade a little bit toward orange. The […]

  21. […] If you were visiting these pages late last summer, you heard about a plant with the colloquial name snow-on-the-prairie, so called because it has showy white bracts and grows on the prairie. Now here’s another plant with prairie in its common name, but a much lower and smaller plant that flowers in the spring: prairie bishop’s weed, Bifora americana. See how this dense colony of it adjacent to Graham Elementary School in north Austin was turning a section of the prairie white on April 25. I don’t know whether any of the schoolkids or their teachers were taken by the sight, but I do know that when I drove by and saw the wildflower display I pulled right into the school’s parking lot and happily set to work taking pictures of this “snowy” piece of prairie. The mostly red flowers mixed in with all the white are firewheels; the yellow ones are greenthreads. […]

  22. […] shown here plays off the gayfeathers or blazing-stars, as they’re known, against a colony of greenthread, Thelesperma filifolium, a species that has been having a summer resurgence in many places around […]

  23. […] Erythemis simplicicollis. The flowers in the background are Thelesperma filifolium, known as greenthread, a name that accords with the color of the dragonfly, even if greenthread’s disk flowers are […]

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