Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Texas thistle bud

with 36 comments

The first Texas thistle buds, Cirsium texanum, were already appearing in Austin at the end of March. By the time I photographed this one on April 6 on FM 969 east of Austin, it was just beginning to open, a process that starts at the top of the globe. The complementary (and complimentary) color in the background came from a colony of phlox.

Now, a month later, the Texas thistles are at their peak and are a common sight in many places around town.

© 2012 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 7, 2012 at 5:34 AM

36 Responses

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  1. I really like how the bud is sharp right in the centre and then the focus fades as you move outwards. It gives this shot a real dreamlike quality. Beautiful!! 🙂

  2. Wow, wow, wow. The picture did not come up when opening the link, but I am curious so went to the front page to check, and I don’t regret. This is an awesome photo. I like it so much. A peculiar plant. I have to say congratulation, because there are so many flower-photos that look more or less the same. Not this one….


    May 7, 2012 at 6:53 AM

    • Thank you, Bente. I’m sorry you had trouble with the link but glad you succeeded in the end. I’m happy to live in a place that produces Texas thistles every spring; I photograph them year after year but never get tired of them. And although you can’t appreciate it from a picture, these flowers have a pleasant scent that I also never get tired of sniffing. I’ll add a little bit of native plant propaganda, too, to the effect that every location has its natural flora, wild and uncultivated, with a huge amount of diversity. One of the reasons I started this blog was to show people the many beguiling plants we have here beyond those of a conventional garden.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 7, 2012 at 7:08 AM

  3. We have many ubiquitous plants in Virginia, like the Texas thistle, and it’s funny how we get so used to seeing them that we tend to under-appreciate their beauty (as well as their value to wildlife). You have superbly demonstrated the exquisite beauty of such a plant in Texas.

    Jo Ann Abell

    May 7, 2012 at 7:15 AM

  4. Je m’attends à une explosion de couleurs…


    May 7, 2012 at 7:44 AM

  5. Gotta love the southwest for prickly beauty! No shortage here. I’d hate to get one of those to a knee. The clarity is fantastic.


    May 7, 2012 at 8:58 AM

    • You said it, Shannon: prickly beauty. I try to emphasize the beauty, but it often enough comes at a prickly price. As always, I give most of the credit for clarity to my 100mm Canon macro lens.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 7, 2012 at 3:17 PM

  6. A beautiful bud, perfect background, perfect photo. Simply great!


    May 7, 2012 at 9:23 AM

    • Thanks, thanks, thanks, and thanks. For me, the out-of-focus phlox in the background made this picture special. I’ve often photographed these thistle buds, but I don’t remember ever having such colorful surroundings (other than a fully open flower head of the same species).

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 7, 2012 at 3:27 PM

  7. I just love the texas thistles. We drove down to San Antonio and saw so many of them – it’s going to be a good year for thistles. It’s amazing how many purple flowers we have here. I hope we get more rain so things don’t dry out as much as they were last year. Thanks again for your lovely photos. I don’t drive past the pond by the Arbor Walk without thinking of you taking photos. The water lilies there are blooming.


    May 7, 2012 at 9:27 AM

    • Yes, it is an excellent spring for Texas thistles; I’m seeing them all over the place. Purple is indeed a common flower color here, and that’s fine by me. I haven’t been back to the Arbor Walk pond since my productive visit in the late fall. Some time after that the land surrounding the pond got mowed, and perhaps that’s why the invasive wild mustard almost totally took over a couple of months ago. That’s mercifully dying back now, so we’ll have to see how many of the natives return. I photographed the water lilies there a couple of years ago. Thanks for letting me know that they’re blooming again.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 7, 2012 at 3:31 PM

  8. This is probably the coolest flower bud I have ever seen! I love how you used the Phlox to compliment the composition. Perfect color combination!


    May 7, 2012 at 2:25 PM

    • Thanks for your superlative, David. I was certainly happy with the way the phlox set off the thistle bud.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 7, 2012 at 3:32 PM

  9. Awesome, Steven!

  10. That’s a great photo and your timing was just right to capture it at that stage.


    May 8, 2012 at 12:22 AM

  11. […] here’s the kind of flower head that the bud of a Texas thistle, Cirsium texanum, opens out into. The date this time was April 19, and during the 15 or so minutes […]

  12. Yep. Been seeing a lot of these lately. There are a few fields east of Camp Tejas that are dominated by these right now, with a prickly poppy here and there. It’s an amazing sight that I have a difficult time capturing in photos. I have also been pleased to see several cases where fields covered by invasive mustard are now covered in Texas thistle.

    Ryan McDaniel

    May 8, 2012 at 3:05 PM

    • Like you, I’m seeing tons of Texas thistles around central Texas now. So far this year I haven’t gotten any pictures of a Texas thistle colony, just individual plants; there’s still a little time left, so maybe we’ll succeed. I’ve also been relieved to see most of the invasive mustard die down—though it’s not entirely gone—and to see some dense stands of native wildflowers predominating now.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 8, 2012 at 3:14 PM

  13. So much beauty wrapped up in a prickly little package.


    May 8, 2012 at 8:22 PM

  14. Absolutely marvelous. I love the perfection of the sphere – and the arrangement of the “spikes”. I do believe you’ve found the M.C. Escher of wildflowers!


    May 9, 2012 at 8:11 AM

    • Often the buds are more elongated, with a slightly tapering upper section, but this one seemed happy being spherical, and I felt the same way (about it, not me). I hadn’t thought about the connection to Escher but I’m glad you pointed it out.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 9, 2012 at 9:31 AM

  15. That’s a great close-up shot, Steve!

    Watching Seasons

    May 9, 2012 at 11:46 AM

  16. I think I definitely prefer this plant as a bud, just like this. It is beautiful. Shame it has to grow up! Liked,


    May 12, 2012 at 5:16 AM

    • The buds do evolve into flowers, and the flowers soon fall apart, but the good news for you is that the buds will be back the following spring and are one more thing to look forward to. Our own budding years, though embedded in our older selves, don’t return.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 12, 2012 at 5:56 AM

  17. I see weird things in most of your pictures. Here, I see a blowfish. 🙂 Maybe I should go see a shrink?


    May 14, 2012 at 10:49 AM

    • I’m fine with the blowfish. The first one I ever saw was when I was a child and we spent a couple of days on the north fluke of eastern Long Island—and the word fluke tells you that people who look at a map of Long Island see it as a whale, so you’re not alone in your visions. No shrink required.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 14, 2012 at 1:17 PM

  18. It’s a beautiful macro !


    January 13, 2013 at 10:11 AM

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