Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Gauras and paintbrushes

with 24 comments

Click for greater size and clarity.

Loop 360 is a heavily traveled road that makes a large arc through the Hill Country on Austin’s west side. The miles of highway median play host each spring to wildflower displays that vary in their mix and intensity. While the drought made 2011 a bad year for the median, 2012 has so far turned out well for it, as this photograph from March 30 confirms.

The red plants are Indian paintbrush, Castilleja indivisa, which you saw in a picture of either a very late or a very early one that I found on December 22, coincidentally on Loop 360, although a different part of the highway. The pinkish-white flowers are gaura, Gaura coccinea, a species you saw a portrait of from February 1, before mowers cut down all the early wildflowers on Mopac and other Austin highways. In contrast to those earlier close-ups, here you see the sweep of the wildflowers’ springtime profusion.

© 2012 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 2, 2012 at 5:39 AM

24 Responses

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  1. Really beautiful!


    April 2, 2012 at 5:44 AM

    • I’m happy to say that views like this are common here in this flowerful season. I wish you could see them in person.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 2, 2012 at 6:49 AM

  2. Someday, I am going to visit the HIll Country in spring. Thanks for your beautiful photos!


    April 2, 2012 at 6:19 AM

    • You’re welcome, Sandy. Let’s hope your wish to see a Hill Country spring in person comes true before too many more years go by. If I can paraphrase what you wrote in your blog: My steps were careful as I crossed the highway to get to this wildflower garden.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 2, 2012 at 7:10 AM

  3. Those two flowers go perfectly together… nature is so clever! And you are so lucky to have all this on your doorstep!


    April 2, 2012 at 6:54 AM

    • One idea that I’ve had for years for a photo collection goes by the working title Combinations: each picture would show two or more types of local wildflowers growing together. The math part of my brain points out that there are tens of thousands of such combinations; that’s obviously too many to show more than a tiny fraction of them, but there are plenty to choose from. Over the last three days I took lots of pictures along those lines, some of which will make their way into this blog in the weeks ahead.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 2, 2012 at 7:17 AM

  4. what an aerie dance of shapes and shades! THIS is why you do what you do. The gift of giving these precious blooms their place in the sun helps viewers like us stand up for their preservation. Your part in letting the ordinary become extraordinary is so appreciated.


    April 2, 2012 at 7:23 AM

    • And I appreciate your encouraging comments, Lance, and in this case also the great alliteration in your phrase “shapes and shades” and the play on words inherent in giving flowers a place in the sun. Yes, I do hope my pictures create a climate favoring greater preservation. I may be preaching to the nature choir in these pages, but perhaps other people will sing along as well.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 2, 2012 at 7:47 AM

  5. I have given my grandson two books. The Legend of the Indian Paintbrush and the Legend of the Bluebonnet. All young Texans should grow up knowing about these. It still seems to me that bluebonnets are more plentiful than Indian paintbrush.


    April 2, 2012 at 7:36 AM

    • On Saturday Eve and I traced an almost 300-mile circuit from Austin to Goliad to Kenedy to Seguin to San Marcos and back home. I have to tell you that on that trip we saw large colonies of Indian paintbrushes, far outnumbering the bluebonnets. Yesterday, going in the opposite direction as far into the Hill Country as Inks Lake, the situation was reversed. Location seems to make the difference.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 2, 2012 at 7:53 AM

  6. Quelles belles couleurs !! On dirait un tableau impressionniste.


    April 2, 2012 at 4:02 PM

  7. What a gorgeous visual. Thanks.


    April 2, 2012 at 8:12 PM

  8. Hi Steve .. love the name Indian Paintbrush – and I looked it up .. it has a fascinating history .. Austin has some beautiful surrounding country .. love the photos .. cheers Hilary


    April 3, 2012 at 2:54 AM

    • There are stories about the names of several Texas wildflowers that are attributed to the Indians, but I’ve always wondered how authentic they are. What’s certain is that the surrounding countryside looks great when it’s covered with wildflowers.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 3, 2012 at 7:51 AM

      • Hi Steve your knowledge is much better than many … so I’d agree with you – it’s a pity the Indian languages and cultures didn’t survive too well .. and I yet it looks stunning with the wildflowers – we get the poppies amongst the corn here, while near Beachy Head the white daisies and wildflowers cover some of the chalky fields .. lovely to see yours though .. thanks – Hilary


        April 3, 2012 at 7:56 AM

      • It’s reciprocal: I’d like to see the wildflower displays you have, too.

        Steve Schwartzman

        April 3, 2012 at 8:51 AM

  9. […] red, as you saw a couple of days ago in the median of Loop 360, comes from Indian paintbrushes, Castilleja indivisa. The yellow […]

  10. All of these flowers are so beautiful, but I’m really quite surprised at my reaction – lots and lots of tears! It took me just a few minutes to figure out that – it surely wasn’t bad photography! Finally, an answer.
    Every spring I would take my mom out to see the wildflowers, and this is the first spring we won’t make the trip since her death last July.

    It’s amazing how deeply some of the routines of life, associated with the natural cycles, embed themselves into our memories. I hadn’t made a move to take a weekend drive to see the flowers this year – perhaps I’ll do that, after all.


    April 4, 2012 at 7:58 PM

    • I’m happy that you figured out the source of your sudden and unexpected reaction. I think it would be a good idea for you to go for that wildflower drive. Your observation about the cycles of nature embedding themselves in our consciousness reminded me that I have a picture I took of my father surrounded by bluebonnets on one of his visits to Austin during the last decade of his life.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 4, 2012 at 8:17 PM

  11. […] alone in that: agencies and individuals in Texas often plant bluebonnets (Lupinus texensis) and Indian paintbrushes (Castilleja indivisa) on the same plot of ground because their bold colors go so well together. […]

  12. […] it to you now, even five months late. The conspicuous red glow in the background is from one of the Indian paintbrushes, Castilleja indivisa, that far outnumbered the tansy-mustard along US 183 in east Austin that day, […]

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