Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Blue stars

with 20 comments

Click for greater clarity.

Here’s a wildflower that you may never have seen before. It’s not considered rare, but for some reason I rarely encounter it in Austin. It’s Amsonia ciliata, and you can tell why people commonly call it blue stars. I photographed these stylized stars on a March 17 field trip by the Williamson County chapter of the Native Plant Society of Texas to Kathy Comer’s property northwest of Austin. In one of her meadows we found a whole colony of these plants in bloom, more altogether than I’d seen in my previous 13 years of taking pictures. I was happy.

For more information, and to see a state-clickable map of the places in the southeastern United States where blue stars grow, you can visit the USDA website.

© 2012 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 9, 2012 at 5:37 AM

20 Responses

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  1. We have these in our pasture. They grow in little clumps. This year they are very happy w/ the rains. Some of my favorite spring flowers. BTW, I will be sending you some pictures of some yellow Indian pinks growing on our place.


    April 9, 2012 at 7:03 AM

    • It’s great that you’ve got them in your pasture—provided your horse doesn’t eat them (do horses or other animals like them?). Yes, the rain seems to be what brought them out this year—that and the desire to rebound and make up for lost time after the drought of 2011.

      I’ll look forward to your pictures.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 9, 2012 at 7:13 AM

      • About the only thing horses eat in the way of flowers is the wild vetch, and there is lots of that this year. (and then that unusual pin clover) Also, sold my horse. 😦 I keep looking for mutant bluebonnets (remember those multi bloom ones?) but haven’t seen any this year.


        April 9, 2012 at 2:27 PM

      • Sorry about your horse. If you do see any more of the mutant bluebonnets, do please let me know.

        Steve Schwartzman

        April 9, 2012 at 3:24 PM

  2. These are darling…I checked the USDA website…too bad their range doesn’t come this far north. Super photo Steve!


    April 9, 2012 at 8:28 AM

    • Thanks, David. I’m sorry that blue stars don’t make it to your latitude, but that’s one more reason for a springtime trip to Texas.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 9, 2012 at 8:34 AM

  3. How tall are these? They look quite small. Are they related to blue eyed grass? (that’s my favorite wildflower)


    April 9, 2012 at 8:50 AM

    • The plants can grow to about 18 inches tall and the flowers to about half an inch across. There’s no relationship to blue-eyed grass.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 9, 2012 at 12:11 PM

  4. Steve, we are so fortunate that we get those beautiful 5-point flowers here, and even more fortunate that you spot them and bring them to our attention through image and text! I just now looked at the USDA site and thought it odd that the distribution made a solid SE bloc of the US, excepting Louisiana, Mississippi, and Tennessee.


    April 9, 2012 at 9:12 AM

    • You can think of the USDA map for a give species as a minimum distribution. The species may be in counties and states not currently marked for it, but it might not have been observed or reported at the time the map was made. For example, I’ve found a certain plant in Williamson County, but when I looked at the map Williamson County was white.

      One place you may still be able to see blue stars in Austin is Wild Basin Wilderness Preserve, http://www.wildbasin.org. I photographed some there a few years ago.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 9, 2012 at 12:23 PM

  5. Lovely image (of a very pretty wildflower).


    April 9, 2012 at 9:13 AM

  6. I can imagine how beautiful the field was.. perhaps you could share a photo of that as well? I love these little stars:)

    Just A Smidgen

    April 9, 2012 at 10:10 AM

    • Sorry to disappoint you, but I concentrated on closeups of the flowers and buds. It was impressive to see the colony of blue stars in person, but in this case I think a view of the meadow as a whole wouldn’t have done justice to these pale and rather small flowers. What the camera sees and what we see can be very different.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 9, 2012 at 12:30 PM

  7. […] with one comment […]

  8. A sweet little thing! Quite the imitator of a starry sky in such a tiny plant.


    April 9, 2012 at 5:02 PM

    • I see that, like slender vervain, these also grow in your northern part of Texas. They’re nowhere near as common as the vervain, but I hope you’ll run across some.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 9, 2012 at 5:19 PM

  9. They’re said to bloom on the coastal prairie, too, although considered “rare”. Rare is as rare does, of course, and I’ve begun to learn that one definition for “rare” is “I haven’t seen it yet”. 😉


    April 10, 2012 at 10:59 AM

    • I like your equivalence for rare: “I haven’t seen it yet.” I hope blue stars will become unrare in your experience, as they recently did in mine.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 10, 2012 at 1:02 PM

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