Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

A different kind of snow on the prairie

with 13 comments

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If you were visiting these pages late last summer, you heard about a plant with the colloquial name snow-on-the-prairie, so called because it has showy white bracts and grows on the prairie. Now here’s another plant with prairie in its common name, but a much lower and smaller plant that flowers in the spring: prairie bishop’s weed, Bifora americana. See how this dense colony of it adjacent to Graham Elementary School in north Austin was turning a section of the prairie white on April 25. I don’t know whether any of the schoolkids or their teachers were taken by the sight, but I do know that when I drove by and saw the wildflower display I pulled right into the school’s parking lot and happily set to work taking pictures of this “snowy” piece of prairie. The mostly red flowers mixed in with all the white are firewheels; the yellow ones are greenthreads.

For those of you who are interested in photography as a craft, points 6 and 15 in About My Techniques are relevant to this image. I’ll add that I used my trusty 100 mm lens not as a macro but as a telephoto; that in combination with a small aperture, f/22, let me compress a swath of the wildflower colony into the two dimensions of a conventional photograph.

© 2012 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 1, 2012 at 5:34 AM

13 Responses

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  1. nice. interesting stuff 🙂


    May 1, 2012 at 5:45 AM

  2. No wonder you pulled straight into the school carpark to take photos, Steve. This field of white blooms is really pretty and I enjoyed your photo very much.

    I believe Western Australia has profuse arrays of lovely wildflowers in Spring and many tourists make a special trip to view them, but living in the city in the state of Victoria, I rarely get out in the countryside to check out my own State’s wildflower displays.


    May 1, 2012 at 7:05 AM

    • Thank you. I do hope you’ll get a chance to see the wildflowers in the countryside in Victoria and then farther afield in the West. And maybe you’ll find that there’s more available even in and around your city than you realize. A lot of the things I show in this blog are in undeveloped lots and along roadsides, so I’m guessing you might have some easily accessible sites for wildflowers as well.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 1, 2012 at 7:29 AM

  3. Beautiful sight, beautiful shot; I would have pulled over quickly, too!


    May 1, 2012 at 7:28 AM

    • Yes, and I know you would have had as good a time there with your camera as I did with mine. I didn’t even get any chigger bites there (though I have in other places already this season).

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 1, 2012 at 7:31 AM

  4. It’s interesting, how much more sensitive I am to the word “prairie” in descriptions and names of flowers since my visit to Nash Prairie. What an amazement the prairies must have been when these flowers simply went on and on for miles.


    May 2, 2012 at 12:18 AM

    • From the little pieces that remain and that can still be resplendent, the original landscape must have been overwhelming and almost unimaginable to us now, not even two centuries later.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 2, 2012 at 6:36 AM

  5. Quelle richesse ces prairies!! Ici, le printemps a du mal à s’installer, donc les prairies sont encore pauvres.


    May 2, 2012 at 4:05 AM

    • D’accord, et c’est une richesse qui ne nous coûte rien. Si le printemps a du mal à s’installer chez vous, ici c’est déjà l’été.

      Val finds the Texas prairies to be quite a treasure. She contrasts our floral display with the slow-to-settle-in spring where she is (in a mountainous part of France). In Austin, afternoons are already summery, and have been for some time.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 2, 2012 at 6:48 AM

  6. I would say these are appropriately named! Quite beautiful!


    May 2, 2012 at 10:17 AM

    • The bishop’s weed in Europe was supposedly named after the lace on a bishop’s sleeve, so the addition of the word prairie was to distinguish the American plant from the one in the Old World. As for seeing anything this pretty as a weed, I don’t.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 2, 2012 at 10:23 AM

  7. […] last post provided an expansive view of a colony of prairie bishop’s weed, Bifora americana, that had turned a field white with thousands of tiny blossoms. From that […]

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