Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

What is this?

with 19 comments

“What is this?” That’s what I repeatedly asked myself on March 11 on Great Northern Blvd. as I kept seeing more and more of these flowers. My first thought was some kind of goldeneye, but the only Viguiera in Bill Carr’s Travis County plant list is Viguiera dentata, which wasn’t this (in spite of the fact that some goldeneyes in Austin, which normally fade in December, had miraculously maintained a few flowers through the winter and well into March).

After I got home I did some checking and comparing and finally realized I’d photographed a native plant I’d been seeing for a decade in Marshall Enquist’s Wildflowers of the Texas Hill Country and wondering year after year when I’d ever encounter one. But 2012 has been a crazy year, and I’d finally come across bunches of what turned out to be the long-sought bush sunflower. The familiar sunflower is Helianthus annuus, but the bush sunflower isn’t even in the same genus: it’s Simsia calva. Happy new for me, and happy sunflowers in March for all of us.

© 2012 Steven Schwartzman


Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 30, 2012 at 5:26 AM

19 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. What a happy discovery! Congratulations on a new find.


    March 30, 2012 at 5:45 AM

    • Thanks, Georgette. In the beginning everything was new. Now, 13 years later, there are still a few new flowers each year, and this one was in a part of Austin only 4–5 miles from home, and just on the other side of the railroad tracks from the Mopac expressway I’ve mentioned numerous times.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 30, 2012 at 7:24 AM

  2. Steven, your photos are getting better and better! So sharp I almost cut my finger with it! 🙂


    March 30, 2012 at 7:29 AM

    • I’d post a picture of a bandage for you but I don’t have one handy—a picture, that is. Being out in nature and having to walk through vines and kneel or lie on the ground, I get my share of scrapes, pokes, bites, etc., but on this blog you need have no fear. Here’s the naturalist’s version of the familiar ditty:

      The brush you’re in
      May scratch your skin,
      But photos will never hurt you.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 30, 2012 at 8:03 AM

  3. How very exciting for all concerned–for us and for you! It is a gem.


    March 30, 2012 at 7:52 AM

    • You could say gems like these have given me a wealth of photos. Along this stretch of road the bush sunflowers were growing in several places, and they were still flowering when I checked a couple of weeks later. They’re apparently not rare, but for some reason I’d never consciously seen any. Maybe I’d seen the species in other years without recognizing it. As many things as I’ve managed to notice and photograph, I suspect that there are so many more that I’ve missed.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 30, 2012 at 8:09 AM

  4. Hey congrats on your new find and another one to add to your extensive list!!! This photo is super…almost as if I could touch it from here!!!


    March 30, 2012 at 8:37 AM

    • Thanks, David. It’s always fun to find—and be able to identify—something new. Your comment reminds me of “Reach out, reach out and touch someone.” I wish you could touch the things that appear in these pictures.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 30, 2012 at 9:10 AM

  5. Beautiful colors!
    I had already seen and photographed that flower, but I had no idea what it was.
    As you know a lot about flowers, I would like you to check my post “Day 164”, it’s a flower that my aunt got but we have no idea what kind of flower is it, maybe you know it.


    Pablo Buitrago

    March 30, 2012 at 10:19 AM

    • I’m afraid my botanical knowledge is narrowly constricted to central Texas, Pablo, so I don’t recognize the flowers in your post. As for the one here, it may look a lot like what you’ve photographed in Colombia, but it could well be something else. Botanists talk about DYCs, or Darn Yellow Composites, because there are so many hundreds of species of yellow daisy-type flowers, and they can be hard to tell apart.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 30, 2012 at 2:58 PM

  6. My first thought was sunflower, but your “…not in the same genus” statement surprised me. However, the fact that you didn’t know what it was surprised me even more!

    You are a good sleuth to have searched and found its identity! ~ Lynda


    March 30, 2012 at 11:11 AM

  7. Great shot. Focus is so sharp & the lighting just right.


    April 5, 2012 at 9:05 AM

  8. This has to be one of my favourites — if only there was a double like button!

    Mufidah Kassalias

    April 8, 2012 at 9:37 PM

  9. p.s. just shared to Facebook 🙂

    Mufidah Kassalias

    April 8, 2012 at 9:39 PM

  10. […] the Edwards Plateau of central Texas and nowhere else in the world. Like the recently encountered bush sunflower, this is also a species I’d been seeing for 13 years in Marshall Enquist’s Wildflowers […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: