Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Something pointy in Texas that doesn’t puncture your skin

with 36 comments

At last, and especially in contrast to yesterday’s picture, here’s a Texas plant that looks menacing, that in fact looks like a bunch of hypodermic needles just waiting to break through your skin, and yet miraculously the would-be needles are pliable and don’t hurt at all (unlike the spines of the white prickly poppy, which are real, and which I can tell you do hurt). These intriguing and happily harmless flowers are Onosmodium bejariense, called false gromwell or marbleseed. I photographed them in McKinney Falls State Park in southeast Austin on April 5.

I was surprised to find from the USDA map that this species grows in most American states and Canadian provinces.

© 2012 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 25, 2012 at 5:31 AM

36 Responses

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  1. What a strange little plant – and attractive. I’m especially fond of that bit of green on the flower. The name intrigued me and made me wonder if a “true” gromwell exists. Indeed it does – but all of those are part of the lithospermum clan. It is interesting that this carries the name marbleseed, while many of the lithospermum are known as stoneseed. Thus endeth my scientific exploration for the day!


    April 25, 2012 at 6:24 AM

    • I look forward to seeing these each spring in certain places, and this year there was no shortage of them at McKinney Falls, which has the largest number I’m aware of.

      I don’t like names with false in them because they seem to (or do) slight the plant they’re given to. The Texas dandelion, seen recently in these pages, is listed in some flower books as the false dandelion, even though it’s the true one in Texas, the more familiar dandelion being an interloper from Europe.

      The plant shown here goes on to produce seeds that do look like tiny marbles, whence the second common name. And so endeth my response to the first comment of the day.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 25, 2012 at 7:25 AM

  2. I love the title! I was immediately refreshed.


    April 25, 2012 at 6:48 AM

  3. Steve, I’m going to have to research this plant. I don’t recognize either the photo or the name but it’s quite lovely. Looks like something we should be growing as an ornamental or at least as an interesting plant. Thanks for giving my brain a jolt……sometimes it needs a jump start

    John Mac Carpenter

    April 25, 2012 at 8:22 AM

    • It’s good to be able to present something pointy in Texas that’s a jolt to the brain and not to the skin.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 25, 2012 at 9:17 AM

  4. love the depthness of the photo. 🙂


    April 25, 2012 at 9:43 AM

    • In looking at the photo’s metadata I see that I was able to stop down to f/10, a small enough aperture to give reasonably good depth of field. The flowers were so bright in the sunlight that the background appeared completely black to the camera’s sensor by comparison.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 25, 2012 at 9:51 AM

  5. Wow, beautiful flower! Never seen that before.


    April 25, 2012 at 9:45 AM

    • I think of these flowers as strange, but then I was surprised to find them so widely distributed in the United States and southern Canada. Perhaps they’re not common in some or many of the places where they grow.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 25, 2012 at 9:53 AM

  6. I like this one…something similar grows here but blooms in August. I haven’t learned the name yet. I finally found a Lakeside Daisy in bloom this week! was terribly excited, and plan to post it on my blog soon.


    April 25, 2012 at 2:12 PM

  7. I moved from College Station, Texas, to San Diego, where anything will grow if we meet its watering needs, yet I’m still somehow intensely attracted to cactus and succulents.

    Russel Ray Photos

    April 25, 2012 at 2:33 PM

    • I’ll bet there are plenty of cacti and succulents native to the San Diego area to keep you have. In 1974 I had an offer to teach high school math in San Diego but I didn’t take it; I wonder what my life would be like now if I had.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 25, 2012 at 5:14 PM

      • SDSU offered me a violin scholarship in 1973 when I graduated from high school. I often wonder how my life might have been different if I had taken it.

        Russel Ray Photos

        April 25, 2012 at 6:09 PM

      • So we both wonder about the road not taken. And there’s another coincidence: my 13 weeks of Peace Corps training in 1967 were at San Diego State University.

        Steve Schwartzman

        April 25, 2012 at 6:21 PM

  8. I believe you when you said they don’t prick, but it doesn’t stop me from getting the ‘ouch’ feeling looking at the photo. Great shot!


    April 25, 2012 at 4:24 PM

    • That’s the beauty of this one: you can get that ‘ouch’ feeling as much as you want without experiencing any pain. I’ve done my share of suffering to bring you some of the other pictures on this blog, but happily not in this case.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 25, 2012 at 5:16 PM

  9. Superlatives not deleted . . . choose whatever you would like, they are all applicable!

    Susan Scheid

    April 25, 2012 at 5:49 PM

  10. Reblogged this on Found Round & About and commented:
    Ahhh, Texas in the spring!

    Tisha Clinkenbeard

    April 25, 2012 at 5:51 PM

    • And 2012 has been a particularly good spring, especially in comparison to last year’s, when the drought was already under way.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 25, 2012 at 6:18 PM

  11. I saw a couple of these at Walnut Creek the other day. In the last 4 or 5 years that I’ve been paying attention to wildflowers in the area, this is only the second time I have seen this flower, but they can be easy to miss. I think the other time was at Bull Creek in ’09.

    Ryan McDaniel

    April 26, 2012 at 12:32 AM

    • Thanks for letting me know the locations where you’ve seen these flowers. I don’t often walk along Walnut Creek, but I live in the Bull Creek watershed and have occasionally seen one of these plants (though maybe not its flowers) in my own Great Hills Park.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 26, 2012 at 6:09 AM

  12. On dirait effectivement des seringues, comme dans un film de Tim Burton! 🙂


    April 26, 2012 at 9:22 PM

    • Neurobancal confirms that these flowers really do resemble syringes, and he imagines them as something out of a Tim Burton movie. Et pourtant ces fleurs ne sont pas du tout nocives ni néfastes ni nuisibles—oh, quelle allitération—and yet these flowers aren’t at all harmful or hurtful or hateful.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 26, 2012 at 9:31 PM

  13. That’s really pretty!


    April 26, 2012 at 10:54 PM

  14. Wow love the drama of this photo. Neat plant…I’ll have to look for it here in Pa.!


    April 27, 2012 at 10:06 AM

  15. I missed this when it first came around. Glad I found it. It is an amazing photograph. Technical question that is not covered in your list of helps. What causes the halo effect on the background color where it meets the flower’s edge? I have seen this on other photographs too.
    Thanks Steve! ~ Lynda


    April 28, 2012 at 7:30 PM

    • Sometimes a halo is formed along the border between one solid area and another. It’s technically an artifact of the way lenses work, and lens manufacturers do various things to try to minimize the effect, but sometimes it still happens. There may also be differences from one computer monitor to another in the way the same picture is rendered. In any case, I’m glad you found this picture and this wildflower.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 28, 2012 at 10:40 PM

  16. Thanks for letting me camp out in your blog today. I had a great time and tried to leave my campsite as clean as when I arrived.

    Russel Ray Photos

    May 14, 2012 at 11:31 PM

    • You’re welcome. You succeeded in leaving your campsite clean, as the only trace of your visit that I noticed is this comment.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 15, 2012 at 6:44 AM

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