Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Straightening up

with 54 comments

As each little stalk of Heller’s plantain matures, it straightens up and develops flowers. I photographed this flowering Plantago helleri stalk on April 9 in a wildflower meadow in my northwest Austin neighborhood. The inflorescence that you see here was about an inch long. Still cute.

© 2012 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 14, 2012 at 1:01 PM

54 Responses

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  1. Such crisp perfection!

    Painter Lady

    April 14, 2012 at 1:11 PM

  2. The petals are so delicate they look like translucent silk.

    Marcia Levy

    April 14, 2012 at 1:12 PM

  3. What beautiful paper-thin petals.


    April 14, 2012 at 1:19 PM

    • And only to be appreciated with a very close look: from normal eye height you can’t see much of anything.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 14, 2012 at 1:59 PM

  4. This is only an inch long?? Magnificent!!!
    gotta get a macro…


    April 14, 2012 at 2:57 PM

    • A could take only a small fraction of the pictures I do if I didn’t have a good macro lens.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 14, 2012 at 3:54 PM

  5. Beautiful!!!


    April 14, 2012 at 3:00 PM

  6. Steve, this is sandy from four winds photo. Thanks so much for your comment. I have decided that I really enjoy nature photos more, so have gone back to my original blog. Maybe you could visit me there.


    I have been enjoying your wildflowers, I spent years 4-18 in Oklahoma, and am kicking myself for not paying enough attention to the wildflowers there.


    April 14, 2012 at 3:06 PM

    • A happy return to nature. I grew up in New York but paid little attention to the native flora there. It was only after I’d learned the rudiments of plant life here in Texas that I began to recognize wildflowers that I saw on return visits back there—flowers like goldenrod that must have been there during my childhood but that I have no memory of.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 14, 2012 at 4:03 PM

  7. That was a strange and unknown one. And beautiful of course..


    April 14, 2012 at 3:32 PM

    • There are species of plantain in Europe—including some that have made their way into lawns in New York—so perhaps you’ll notice some in Norway. You might, for example, do an Internet search for “Plantago major” and see how far north it grows. The species I show here is native to Mexico, Texas, and New Mexico.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 14, 2012 at 4:07 PM

  8. I have said it before but I’ll say it again, you, the Canon and the macro are a brilliant combination.


    April 14, 2012 at 3:41 PM

    • I’m certainly happy with my Canon 100mm macro lens. I’ve toyed with upgrading to a camera body with a full-frame sensor, but then the lens wouldn’t be able to get in as close.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 14, 2012 at 4:09 PM

  9. That is so beautiful. Thank you for making something so small large enough that the beauty shines through. Plantain is so common but I have never seen it this close up before.


    April 14, 2012 at 3:52 PM

    • Things certainly look different—often better—when you get in close enough to see details like the ones shown here. Now is the right time to see Heller’s plantain flowering in Austin. Even if you don’t have a macro lens, you can carry a magnifying glass with you.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 14, 2012 at 4:27 PM

  10. Stunning in an understated way, Sally


    April 14, 2012 at 5:18 PM

  11. As Marcia said, the petals almost look like silk. What an unusual and lovely little flower. Nice shot too.


    April 14, 2012 at 7:24 PM

    • I’m tempted to try to find out if the flowers feel like silk, but they’re so small I don’t know if my finger would be able to tell. Maybe as an aggregate it could.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 14, 2012 at 7:37 PM

  12. The blooms look rather like mayflies. When I first glimpsed the photo, it looked as though it were covered with tiny insects with translucent wings. So, so beautiful.


    April 14, 2012 at 7:39 PM

    • According to the USDA map, this species doesn’t grow near the coast, but if you’re going to be in the Hill Country any time soon you may be able to see some of them. They’re pretty common on the west side of Austin. There are other species of Plantago in Texas, but this is the most appealing one I know.

      As for mayflies, I wonder if I’ll ever get the chance to photograph a flowering Heller’s plantain with a mayfly on it for comparison.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 14, 2012 at 7:47 PM

      • It took a while, but I found it. I’m stopping in the same place tomorrow to see if I can find some of the still-curved young ‘uns. As soon as I spotted the small group, I remembered seeing it here. I just had to come up with the right search terms to find it. It certainly is one of those that profits from a macro lens.


        April 8, 2017 at 10:08 PM

        • Good finds, both the plant and this mention of it. You’re right that without a macro lens (and probably some lying on the ground) there’s not much you can do with Heller’s plantain photographically.

          Steve Schwartzman

          April 8, 2017 at 10:14 PM

  13. WOW. An inch? Beautifully done.

    George Weaver

    April 14, 2012 at 7:44 PM

    • Thanks, and with credit as always to my macro lens. The inflorescence on this species can get a little longer than an inch, but in the group I was looking at, this one was the longest I could find to photograph; many others weren’t even half an inch long yet.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 14, 2012 at 7:55 PM

      • An inch was more than enough. This one fascinates me especially because we’d never see it this way if it were not for macro. That opens up a whole world. I told Lemony about you. She said she already followed and learned so much from you. I should have known. She is relatively new to photography and is already so very good. I forget how I ran across your blog, but I am happy I did. I live in Victoria, Texas. (Isn’t it funny how we identify the country or state now in this global community!) I linked this to FB. I just couldn’t help it. 🙂

        George Weaver

        April 14, 2012 at 7:59 PM

        • Yes, the Internet is a great bringer-closer of people. In looking at various blogs, I often see names of commenters I recognize from other sites. Lemony is one of those people; you’re right that she’s got a good eye, and often an offbeat (in a good way) one. She found some of the pointers in About My Techniques to be useful.

          Given that you’re in Victoria, many of the species that I show in this blog grow where you are as well, though probably not this one. Conversely, when I get even half an hour east of my home on the west side of Austin, I begin to see species that don’t grow here. I imagine you get more of the coastal and tropical plants where you are.

          Steve Schwartzman

          April 14, 2012 at 8:13 PM

          • Yes, we get more of the coastal grasses and plants, but we have the same wildflowers, I think. I was never such a fan of wildflowers until I saw yours. I grew up in NC where the big natural show was the fall leaves.
            I do love your photographs! 🙂

            George Weaver

            April 14, 2012 at 8:30 PM

      • Thanks, George. I’m originally from New York, so I know about large-scale fall color, and I miss it, but I’m happy to found smaller-scale fall color in central Texas. I’m also pleased that my pictures of local wildflowers have made you more interested in them.

        Steve Schwartzman

        April 14, 2012 at 9:44 PM

  14. This is one beautiful flower!!!!


    April 14, 2012 at 8:10 PM

    • It’s an unusual one, and it seems to have struck a chord here today. Amos Arthur Heller would be happy.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 14, 2012 at 8:18 PM

  15. What an amazing close-up! So delicate.

    Sheila T Illustrated

    April 14, 2012 at 8:40 PM

    • Thanks, Sheila. I’m fond of this little local species. I’m afraid it’s under-appreciated.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 14, 2012 at 9:48 PM

  16. Breathtaking!

    Susan Scheid

    April 14, 2012 at 8:55 PM

  17. How beautiful!


    April 14, 2012 at 10:01 PM

  18. I was enthused to see what your little furry stem of buds would bring, and knew you would not disappoint us, but this little bit of a beauty is more than I had expected! The translucence of the petals is its charm. And to think that most of us wouldn’t give it a second look when passing it by in a natural setting, or under our mower’s blade…
    ~ Lynda


    April 15, 2012 at 2:14 AM

    • Luckily these little plants tend to grow in out-of-the-way places that often escape mowing—and they’re short, so they can escape if a mower’s blades are set high enough. But I won’t dwell on mowing when we can think about the things you mentioned: translucence and charm.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 15, 2012 at 6:31 AM

  19. Espectacular Steve!!
    Muy bonitos los colores y el detalle!
    Un saludo.

    Pablo Buitrago

    April 15, 2012 at 12:10 PM

  20. Cool. Thanks for posting this. As an amateur wildflower photographer myself, I have been trying to figure out what these are as I have been seeing them a lot in northern Travis county and Willamson county this spring.

    Ryan McDaniel

    April 15, 2012 at 9:28 PM

    • I’m glad to have cleared up the mystery for you. They’re quite common but little spoken of or written about.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 15, 2012 at 9:47 PM

  21. It’s like a fairy in its wispiness.

    • I often apply the word wispy to clouds, but it works well here, too. Now if I could photograph one of these against a background of wispy clouds… but that would be hard, given how small and close to the ground these plantains are.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 18, 2012 at 1:28 AM

  22. Your photos are so gorgeous! It’s like I could reach out and touch the flowers in them. 🙂


    August 8, 2012 at 6:52 AM

    • Thanks, Val. I wish you could really reach out and touch these wildflowers, but I try to offer the next best thing: good pictures.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 8, 2012 at 7:28 AM

  23. […] spike shown above was probably about 2 inches (5 cm) long. And if you’d like to compare a species of Plantago I’m familiar with from Austin, be my guest, especially as it’s been two years since I showed any kind of Plantago […]

  24. Very cute.


    June 10, 2014 at 8:32 AM

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