Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Autumn in spring, take 3

with 26 comments

Click for greater clarity.

As I was driving along E. 51st St. on May 14, I caught a glimpse through my car’s passenger window of a spike of violet-colored flowers by the side of the road. That flowering spike shouldn’t have been there, but there it was, and who am I to argue with reality? So I drove on until I could find a place to park, then I walked back along the undeveloped margin of the street, through various expected native wildflowers like firewheels and horsemints and greenthreads and bull nettle, till I came to the Liatris mucronata, known as blazing-star and gayfeather, that had caught my attention.

Like the species in the last two posts, this is another one that normally blooms at the end of summer or in the fall, but here it was flowering well before its time. There turned out to be two spikes of flowers, along with plenty of healthy green plants nearby that promised more blossoms in the weeks ahead. In the background you can see a couple of those still-green spikes framing the flowers that have already appeared.

(Those of you who are interested in the strange plant phenomenon called fasciation may want to take a look at a picture from last year showing a fasciated Liatris mucronata plant.)

© 2012 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 16, 2012 at 5:36 AM

26 Responses

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  1. I am not surprised. This has been a very strange weather year, everywhere.


    May 16, 2012 at 5:42 AM

  2. I will be curious to follow your posts to see if all these beauties keep blooming through their “normal” season, whatever that may be now!

    Bonnie Michelle

    May 16, 2012 at 7:00 AM

    • Me too. I’ll let all of you know how long the strangeness continues and whether there are any new abnormalities.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 16, 2012 at 7:05 AM

  3. Thank you for this one Steve. I only heard of Liatris a few days ago, when someone posted pictures with the fresh green spiky leaves. Now I know what the flowers look like and I am “begeistert”, which doesn’t translate very well, but means something like “love ’em!” I hope you’ll post some more photos of them at some stage!


    May 16, 2012 at 7:09 AM

    • You’re welcome. Last year I posted pictures on September 23, September 24, and August 24. I do expect to have more this year.

      I’m assuming that the geist in begeistert is the cognate of English ghost in the sense of ‘spririt’, so I get your spirited comment.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 16, 2012 at 7:38 AM

  4. We will not get these beauties until summer. Do you ever have an issue with posting dates. For example, I posted this morning. But the calendar has yesterday as the launch date, and even on the post in small letters it says that I posted yesterday. It has happened the last few times. Ever have that happen? Thanks, Sally


    May 16, 2012 at 9:59 AM

    • Do you happen to know what species of Liatris you have up there?

      As for posting dates and times, I wonder if it has to do with the time zone setting you’ve chosen (or defaulted to) in WordPress. If you go to the WordPress Dashboard, the last item in the column down the left side of the page is Settings. You can check there to see if your posts have somehow ended up getting stamped with the wrong time zone. A remote enough time zone from your correct one would also entail a date that’s off by one day.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 16, 2012 at 10:10 AM

      • Thanks, will check the time zone–hope that solves it. I’ll check on the species of Liatris. I have them in multiple places throughout my gardens. Will let you know, Sally


        May 16, 2012 at 10:15 AM

  5. Another lovely find spotted by your eagle eye as you were driving by. What’s your thought on why so many wildflowers are blooming out of season? I know everything up here is out of whack, after the mild winter and unusually hot April. Right now, our rhododendrons are in full bloom, and they’re supposed to wait for my mom’s visit in early June!

    Susan Scheid

    May 16, 2012 at 10:21 AM

    • Here in central Texas I attribute it to the winter that wasn’t, and which gave us some much-needed rain that has continued on and off into the spring. There’s also the notion that after last year’s terrible drought, a lot of species are doing their best to make up for lost time. I don’t know if plants can “remember” and have intentionality, but they’re acting as if they can.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 16, 2012 at 10:35 AM

  6. This is so pretty.. you’ve got such a sharp eye to pick this one out amongst the others.. but I suspect you have years of practice:) I can’t wait for your photo of them all in bloom!

    Just A Smidgen

    May 16, 2012 at 10:25 AM

    • You and Susan may be giving me too much credit. There’s no other native plant around here that has spikes of flowers like Liatris, so even though I didn’t get a good look as I drove by, what I saw was distinctive enough that I knew immediately what it must be. It may also have helped that I photographed this species along that stretch of 51st St. in previous years—though always toward the end of summer or in the fall.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 16, 2012 at 10:39 AM

  7. Beautiful:)


    May 16, 2012 at 4:39 PM

  8. That’s really pretty, both color and form.


    May 17, 2012 at 12:26 AM

    • I was pleased because I don’t think I’ve ever framed a flowering Liatris stalk with two green ones the way I managed to here.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 17, 2012 at 7:28 AM

  9. I saw of couple of these blooming out at the Balcones National Wildlife refuge (Doeskin Ranch) earlier in the week and actually saw a very ragged one blooming there about a month ago. I had to double check my field guide because I wasn’t expecting those during this time of year.

    Ryan McDaniel

    May 17, 2012 at 11:25 AM

    • Thanks for letting us know about those sightings that were even earlier than mine. What a strange year!

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 17, 2012 at 1:24 PM

  10. Very pretty…I’ve never seen this variety before…let alone growing wild!


    May 18, 2012 at 1:46 PM

  11. […] latest of our early visitors this year is the Maximilian sunflower, Helianthus maximiliani. This species normally flowers in Austin […]

  12. […] This wasn’t freakishly before the usual time, as you saw in a post in May, but just a matter of […]

  13. […] flower spikes are Liatris mucronata, known as blazing-star or gayfeather, of which I’d found a surprisingly early harbinger a mile further east way back in May. The stately plants in the background of today’s picture, […]

  14. […] driving in east Austin and finding some Liatris mucronata, called blazing star and gayfeather, that was flowering on May 14th. The normal time for the species to begin blooming here is late summer, so that mid-May date was […]

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