Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Bedazzled by a basket-flower

with 12 comments

Click for greater clarity.

It’s May, the time when basket-flowers come to central Texas. Botanists call the species Centaurea americana. I call it wonderful.

Date: May 18.  Place: a piece of the Blackland Prairie in southeastern Round Rock. The technique I used in making this picture is similar to the one I explained in detail when posting the picture of a cattail last December. In short, I got close and aimed the camera in such a way that the basket-flower blocked the sun.

© 2012 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 30, 2012 at 5:27 AM

12 Responses

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  1. How amazing that a basket-flower was your initial photo here, and that it helped to open up this whole wonderful world you share with us. You mentioned it was your best-known photo, at least at that time. It certainly was as dazzling as this one, and deserved any accolades it received!

    This photo’s equally pretty. The flower looks to me rather like a pink dandelion. I can’t remember ever seeing one – now that I know they exist, perhaps I will.


    May 30, 2012 at 7:12 AM

    • When my friend Joe Smith encouraged me to start a nature photography blog a year ago, I had to pick something to be the first picture, and the basket-flower from a decade earlier seemed to me to have the best claim. Today’s picture, by the way, comes from the same property where I took the earlier one, so you can see that the basket-flower colony has held on in the intervening years. When I stopped by there on May 18, I found that about half the lot had recently been shorn into ugliness, but whoever did the mowing left a large portion of the vegetation alone, so I was able to take pictures after all (and after all these years, which though not many in number, coincide with the tens of thousands of nature photographs I’ve made).

      The basket-flower is in the same family as the dandelion, and it’s in the same genus as Centaurea cyanus, which you may know as cornflower or bachelor’s buttons, a popular European flower. Our native species grows in many places across Texas, including some near the coast, so now that you know it exists I hope you’ll run into some in the next couple of weeks, before they come to an end for this year.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 30, 2012 at 7:59 AM

      • Bachelor’s buttons! They were a staple of my grandmother’s cutting garden. That may be what made this flower seem so familiar.


        May 30, 2012 at 8:09 AM

      • I didn’t know about your connection to your grandmother’s garden, but I felt sure you would be familiar with bachelor’s buttons, which I came to know via the basket-flower. (There’s also a native Texas wildflower colloquially called bachelor’s buttons. It hasn’t ever appeared in these pages, but maybe I should do something about that.)

        Steve Schwartzman

        May 30, 2012 at 8:20 AM

      • Oops: I was thinking of Barbara’s buttons, not bachelor’s buttons, and somehow I doubt that Barbara was a bachelor (though she could have been a bachelorette). In any case, Barbara, being no barbarian, is still worthy of a future post.

        Steve Schwartzman

        May 30, 2012 at 2:17 PM

  2. Another great photo Steve…love the technique you used with this one and the cattail. P.S. I also enjoy reading all the comments and replies…very enlightening!


    May 30, 2012 at 8:32 AM

    • Thanks, David. I put varying amounts of information in the text of these posts, but plenty more comes out in the comments and responses to them, as you pointed out. Call it a botanicocultural interchange.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 30, 2012 at 9:25 AM

  3. Ah…I thought for a minute that this was a Chive flower (chives being those onion-like herbs that are great on salads but give you very potent onion-breath, LOL. And you probably know that).

    Our bachelors-buttons look different from these, up north here…when I was a kid my grandmother called them Cornflowers…

    I am not averse, either, to using older photos, even though sometimes the landscape and its circumstances do change, often for the worse…

    Nice technique…next time I have the right setting, I will try shooting flowers that are situated between the camera and the sun. 🙂


    May 30, 2012 at 12:13 PM

    • Right: cornflower and bachelor’s button are two names for Centaurea cyanus, a European (but cultivated here) relative of the native basket-flower shown above.

      If you do try the technique of blocking the sun with a close subject, just be careful not to look at the sun through the viewfinder; avoiding it can be tricky.

      Although I’ve occasionally shown an old picture in these pages, I do my best to use current ones.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 30, 2012 at 12:21 PM

      • Have used that technique before but not for a single plant; it could well be a challenge to position the camera so as to avoid retina burn! I could wear sunglasses but then my image exposure might become guesswork…


        May 30, 2012 at 12:25 PM

  4. […] contrast to the flower head in yesterday’s post, which was mature and showing the first signs of fading, the one you see here was especially fresh […]

  5. […] near the end of May showing Centaurea americana led to comments about the cornflower, Centaurea cyanus, a European genus-mate that’s long […]

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