Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Firewheel up close

with 29 comments

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Although you’ve seen several photographs this spring showing firewheels in colonies, and a picture of a stray one starting to open very early in the season, so far this year you’ve never seen a closeup of a fully open flower head. Let me make up for that now with this picture taken in northeast Austin way back on March 14, a date that shows you how early this species began appearing in force in 2012. The Gaillardia pulchella flowers in this field were all as fresh and vibrant as the one shown here.

© 2012 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 11, 2012 at 1:09 PM

29 Responses

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  1. Wow! That’s beautiful!!

    Carol Welsh

    May 11, 2012 at 1:17 PM

  2. Beautiful shot Steve! 🙂


    May 11, 2012 at 1:59 PM

  3. One beautiful flower!

    Jo Ann Abell

    May 11, 2012 at 2:20 PM

  4. what a beautiful flower this is…and greatly captured…well done Steven!

    H2O by Joanna

    May 11, 2012 at 3:15 PM

  5. This flower has its own Style and Flair – beautiful! Have a Great Weekend!


    May 11, 2012 at 3:22 PM

  6. Beautiful shot Steve!

    Michael Glover

    May 11, 2012 at 7:01 PM

  7. What a pretty face!


    May 11, 2012 at 11:29 PM

    • Good metaphor: as many thousands of times as I’ve seen these, somehow I’ve never pictured a face.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 12, 2012 at 5:19 AM

  8. Lovely shot – it’s almost the same as our Gaillardia we have in the Botanic Gardens here in Melbourne.


    May 12, 2012 at 5:31 AM

    • I looked in Illustrated Flora of North Central Texas and found that Gaillardia is “A genus of 28 species native to North America and temperate South America.” Next time you’re in the Botanic Gardens, perhaps you can check to see which species the gardeners have cultivated there; perhaps it’s the same one shown here.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 12, 2012 at 6:05 AM

  9. […] a flowering colony of Gaillardia pulchella, known as firewheels or Indian blankets; then you saw a closeup of an individual flower head. As time passes, the colorful red-and-yellow rays begin to fall off, leaving behind a globe-shaped […]

  10. I just looked at the flower heads and they are interesting, but the flowers are simply stunning! It seems there is much variety in the coloration of Gaillardias, and did someone mention a scent? I do not recall them having one. ~ Lynda


    May 12, 2012 at 12:11 PM

    • Good that you asked about the scent, Lynda. While this species doesn’t have a traditional perfumy floral fragrance, the plant, including the flowers, does have a scent that I’ve only noticed this year. Eve describes it as a pleasant medicinal scent, but a natural rather than a chemical one, something like the smell of a mint. I find the odor to be somewhat like the fragrance of the resin in a sunflower, which is not surprising, given that firewheels are in the sunflower family. As for color, Gaillardia individual specimens of this species do vary. There’s also another species just east of Austin whose flower heads are mostly all red.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 12, 2012 at 12:38 PM

  11. That’s a spectacular flower and very aptly named. Is it those colours to attract a particular pollinator?

    Finn Holding

    May 13, 2012 at 2:59 AM

    • You raise a good question, but because I’m an etymologist rather than an entomologist, I don’t have a ready answer for you. I’ve seen many kinds of insects on firewheels over the years, but I don’t know if they’re in any way attracted by colors or shape rather than, or in addition to, scent. I’ve read that some flowers have patterns that are visible in the ultraviolet part of the spectrum, which some insects can see, but I don’t know if that’s the case for firewheels. They’re certainly appealing in the part of the spectrum that we can see.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 13, 2012 at 8:41 AM

  12. Beautiful as always, Steve


    May 13, 2012 at 3:01 AM

  13. The matte and hairy purple sepals are a great foil for those stunning petals.

  14. […] colony of Gaillardia pulchella, known as firewheels or Indian blankets; then came a closeup of a single flower head. Next you saw two views of the following stage, as the plants were losing their colorful rays and […]

  15. Stunning!!!


    May 14, 2012 at 2:03 PM

    • Now imagine fields with hundreds or even thousands of these. I’m still seeing dense groups of them.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 14, 2012 at 2:45 PM

  16. […] most prominent flowers here are horsemints, Monarda citriodora. Next most numerous are firewheels, Gaillardia pulchella. There are also a few sunflower plants, Helianthus annuus, and at the left […]

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