Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Yellow against yellow

with 18 comments

Click for greater size and clarity.

Yes, mid-April is definitely wildflower profusion time in Austin. The relatively tall and lemony yellow flowers that you see making their first appearance in these pages are square-bud primroses, Calylophus berlandieri, also called sundrops. They stand out from the much greater number of greenthreads that are shorter plants and have flowers of a yellow that can shade a bit toward orange. The red flowers are Indian paintbrushes, Castilleja indivisa.

The date was April 17, and the location was not a dell but a field across the street from one—from one of the many buildings of Dell Computer scattered across the flat terrain of what has become a commercial section of northeast Austin. This piece of the Blackland Prairie knows nothing of such things, but it does know how to keep on being a prairie. Eventually, of course, something will be built on it, but at least for the week or two after I took this picture the many drivers passing by will have gotten to enjoy the sight—if they’ve looked.

© 2012 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 26, 2012 at 5:31 AM

18 Responses

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  1. The way you’ve got that primrose yellow to stand out is simply amazing! I really like evening primroses as they encourage some lovely big moths to my garden. We get the common Oenothera biennis growing wild here.


    April 26, 2012 at 5:44 AM

    • I wasn’t familiar with Oenothera biennis, so I did a search and looked at some of the images of it: pretty similar to the ones shown in today’s photograph, I thought. Then I read this about your species: “Oenothera biennis (Common evening primrose or Evening star) is a species of Oenothera native to eastern and central North America, from Newfoundland west to Alberta, southeast to Florida, and southwest to Texas, and widely naturalized elsewhere in temperate and subtropical regions.” I’d been expecting to find a European species but instead I found one that’s native not too far from Austin, in the easternmost part of Texas.

      As for the differing shades of yellow, I struggled with that in Adobe Camera Raw, which in keeping the brightest highlights from blowing out shifted the yellow of the greenthreads to too orange a shade. Then in Photoshop a held the yellow of the evening primroses constant and shifted the yellow of the greenthreads to a less orange shade that more closely matches reality. In fact I was in a field of greenthreads yesterday afternoon and I took a look at the color to reassure myself that there really can be a bit of orange in it, most likely, as I’m thinking now, as a carry-over from the brown at the center of the flower heads.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 26, 2012 at 6:43 AM

  2. I love how you perceive the world and seek out its true colors! I actually took some pictures of my garden thinking I would title it green against green! Spurge against euonymus.

    Bonnie Michelle

    April 26, 2012 at 6:49 AM

    • Yellow against yellow, green against green, and now comment against comment. The question of “true” colors is a philosophical as well as a practical one. You may remember my comments about bluebells and blue curls and bluebonnets not really being blue, at least as my eyes and brain register their colors.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 26, 2012 at 7:03 AM

  3. I was amazed to see the wonderful difference made by clicking over to the larger photo. The differences in color are delightful. I found myself thinking about Einstein’s remark that “nature is subtle, but not malicious”. You’re certainly one of the best at capturing her subtle aspects. Great photo.


    April 26, 2012 at 7:18 AM

    • Clarifying clicks, delightful differences. Yes, I dutifully put my suggestion to click for greater clarity under the horizontal pictures, which suffer more from lack of sharpness after WordPress compresses them than the vertical images do. That’s a good Einstein quotation, though I have to question nature’s lack of malice after I’ve dealt with thorns, prickles, needles, stickers, spines, burrs, nettles, heat, sun, dirt, dust, chiggers, mosquitoes, and the other charms of flora, fauna, and climate in central Texas. But see how I stoically endure them for subtlety’s sake (and maybe I should let my initials begin standing for “subtlety’s sake”).

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 26, 2012 at 7:34 AM

  4. Steve, That is actually Calylophus drummondianus (Calylophus berlandieri), common name Square-Bud Primrose, same family as Evening Primrose. pg. 113 in Enquist. By the way, this makes a great garden plant.

    I just returned from a week in the Mason area and I must tell you that the roadsides are still eye-popping. All the yellows and now the deep orange-red of the Gaillardia.
    I found Old Mason Rd. from Hwy 386 to the end at RM?1222 to be absolutely “the best” for picture taking and especially botanizing. It will be even better IF they get a bit of rain. This is a county road so it is a dirt road. Great unless there is a big rain. Several low water crossings.
    For those who just want to drive and soak it all in, the whole county is still looking good.

    Agnes Plutino

    April 26, 2012 at 7:57 AM

    • Thanks for the correction, Agnes; I’ve changed my text above. it helps to have friends who know more than I do about some of these things. And thanks for the status report on Mason County, which I’ll try to get out to while things are still prime. I was in Llano County a couple of weeks ago and things were still great there, too.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 26, 2012 at 12:55 PM

      • If you need a place to stay let me know and I’ll put you in touch with Tony or Suzanne.

        Agnes Plutino

        April 26, 2012 at 7:36 PM

  5. I love your wildflower photos… 🙂

    Carol Welsh

    April 26, 2012 at 9:09 AM

  6. The primrose yellow is stunning.. I think enhanced by the beautiful red paintbrush.. Very springy today!!

    Just A Smidgen

    April 26, 2012 at 9:26 PM

    • I’m not sure if you mean springy in your northerly part of the world also—but certainly down here, where you’d be more likely to call it summery (high today around 33°C). I’m still finding some great fields of mixed wildflowers even in undeveloped lots as I drive around Austin.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 26, 2012 at 9:35 PM

      • yes.. yellow would feel like spring here, since ours is only just now turning green.. it’s still early for color for us! You’re so lucky!

        Just A Smidgen

        April 26, 2012 at 10:09 PM

  7. there’s only one word for this photo — W O W


    April 26, 2012 at 9:57 PM

  8. […] Austin on February 19. You saw a few of these flowers late last April as part of an expansive, mostly two-tone-yellow wildflower display, but this is the first closeup to appear […]

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