Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Center of a basket-flower

with 30 comments

Click for greater clarity.

Here’s what the center of a basket-flower looks like when it’s opening. Can’t you just feel the centrifugal force impelling the flower head to open?

As I’ve said about other wildflowers, it’s too bad I can’t send you the scent of this one, which is quite pleasant.

There are no centaurs growing anywhere outside human imagination, but to see a state-clickable map of the places in America where Centaurea americana grows, you can visit the USDA website.

© 2012 Steven Schwartzman


Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 2, 2012 at 5:43 AM

30 Responses

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  1. Glorious!

    The Wanderlust Gene

    June 2, 2012 at 5:55 AM

    • I’m glad that you see it that way too.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 2, 2012 at 7:14 AM

      • I’ve been looking at your ‘weeds’ with great interest and most of them are exceedingly beautiful, like bugs and other unappreciated elements of nature:)

        The Wanderlust Gene

        June 2, 2012 at 8:10 AM

      • Excellent: you’ve given me a second chance to say I’m glad that you see it that way too. So much out there in nature is underappreciated, especially among the native species. When it comes to wildflowers, for example, I’d venture to say that most people in Texas are familiar with no more than a dozen—bluebonnets, sunflowers, Indian paintbrushes, and some other “superstars”—and yet there are literally hundreds of species of wildflowers here, even if you don’t count the “weedier” ones. I’ll bet there are even people who consider basket-flowers to be weeds. One purpose of this blog is to provide evidence to the contrary.

        Steve Schwartzman

        June 2, 2012 at 8:24 AM

  2. Wonderful! I feel it drawing me in to swallow me up… overwhelming if you’re an insect! It looks so soft and I can almost detect a slight fragrance… oh, that’s the peonies on my table!


    June 2, 2012 at 6:05 AM

    • You can tell I felt drawn in as well, even if any swallowing was done by the front end of my macro lens. Sorry you have to substitute the scent of peonies for that of the basket-flowers. Maybe you’ll be able to come across the Atlantic to Texas some springtime and experience the real thing.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 2, 2012 at 7:44 AM

  3. Beautiful!! Hey Steve, you do a lot of close-up work, so I wondered if you could give me your opinion on something. Have you ever used extender tubes to allow you to get a closer shot? And if so, if I want to experiment a bit without spending a lot of money, do you think inexpensive tubes are worth a try? I know they are cheap because they don’t allow the lens to communicate with the camera electronically so I would have to shoot everything manually, but I was just wondering if it would still help me learn a bit about macro photography. I would love to hear your opinion :).


    June 2, 2012 at 6:49 AM

    • Back in the late ’70s or early ’80s I played around with extension tubes on a normal lens to get closer to things, as I didn’t have a true macro lens then. In “modern” times I’ve had first a 50mm macro lens and then a 100mm macro lens, and the depth of field is already so shallow that I haven’t been tempted to get closer and have to deal with even less depth of field (though on a relatively flat subject that wouldn’t be a problem, and closer might be better).

      When I’m very near to a subject I often turn off autofocus because it doesn’t work well (or at all!) at such close range and with subjects that have components at varying distances from the lens. To my mind, then, extension tubes that require you to focus manually wouldn’t be a problem, and you’d be able to experiment without spending a lot of money. One of the good things about digital photography is that we can throw away bad pictures and they haven’t cost us anything but a little of our time.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 2, 2012 at 7:57 AM

      • Thanks Steve, that was very helpful. I appreciate it :).


        June 2, 2012 at 8:18 AM

      • Another beautiful image and an interesting comment about extension tubes. I think I may place them toward the top of my list of kit I must acquire.

        Finn Holding

        June 2, 2012 at 9:20 AM

  4. Thank you so much for sharing these beautiful photos and including information about how you took the pictures and exactly what we’re looking at, too. It’s a generous service.

    Lynn Somerstein

    June 2, 2012 at 7:37 AM

    • You’re welcome. I’ve mentioned in comments from time to time that I used to work as a teacher, so explaining things to people has become ingrained in me. Given my usual subject, I could even say it’s second nature.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 2, 2012 at 8:00 AM

  5. Strikingly eloquent and energetic, Sally


    June 2, 2012 at 8:29 AM

  6. Beautiful – Happy Saturday!


    June 2, 2012 at 8:39 AM

    • You know that saying from the ’60s (I think): Today is the first day of the rest of your life. Well, today may be the first basket-flower Saturday of your life.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 2, 2012 at 8:54 AM

  7. Gottta love macro!! This is a really cool shot and it does draw the viewer closer for a better look.


    June 2, 2012 at 9:32 AM

    • I’m with you when it comes to loving macro, David. The flower head seems under the influence of centrifugal force, but the effect on the viewer is centripetal (and in saying that, I get the bonus, purely coincidental, of having petal in the word).

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 2, 2012 at 9:55 AM

  8. Nice shot, Steve.
    I always find the centre of a flower interesting.


    June 2, 2012 at 8:12 PM

    • I’ve taken lots of pictures of flower centers over the years, and I still find myself doing it.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 2, 2012 at 9:11 PM

  9. This is what I imagine the big bang looked like. 🙂


    June 2, 2012 at 8:57 PM

  10. Just beautiful!!!!


    June 3, 2012 at 1:30 AM

  11. On centrifugal force, the answer is absolutely! I do enjoy your series, giving us so many aspects of the character of the flower you display. I notice, also, on the USDA website, the big band down the middle of the country, but then two states on the east coast–one of which is New York, though it doesn’t appear to be found in Dutchess County.

    Susan Scheid

    June 3, 2012 at 7:54 AM

    • The fact that New York was colored green on the map caught my attention, too. I’ve been surprised several times to find that species that I know from central Texas grow as well on Long Island, where I grew up. This time, given the presence in New York of basket-flowers in Orange County, I thought about you. Maybe you’ll see one there, or maybe they’ll leap the Hudson over to Dutchess County.

      I’m glad you like the series showing phases in the development of a species. As you see, sometimes I take that approach but other times offer more varied fare. Different viewers have different preferences.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 3, 2012 at 8:35 AM

  12. […] bud begins to open. Notice parts of two dark stamen columns emerging from the pink at the top; from what you saw yesterday, you know that plenty more of them are packed inside waiting to come out and release white pollen […]

  13. I have to confess I don’t “get” the centrifugal force description. I think of centrifugal force solely in terms of rotation, like a centrifuge or merry-go-round. I went to the wiki and tried to read my way through the page, but my eyes glazed over by the time I got to inertial frames.

    So, I’ll just say “pretty”, and thank goodness you can capture things like this, whatever force is at work!


    June 4, 2012 at 6:11 PM

    • “I think of centrifugal force solely in terms of rotation….” And there’s the heart of the matter. While rotation may certainly engender centrifugal force—think of all those carnival rides—there can still be centrifugal force without rotation. I was emphasizing the etymology of centrifugal, ‘fleeing the center,’ as a way of describing the way all the stamens gradually open out from the center of the developing flower head. Regardless, I’ll take “pretty” as a comment any day.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 4, 2012 at 7:14 PM

      • I saw “fleeing the center” in the wiki, and that certainly makes perfect descriptive sense. I just can’t get my mind around centrifugal force without rotation – that seems like the perfect definition of an oxymoron. At least my mind’s been pried open a little – getting a little math and science with my flowers isn’t the worst thing in the world. 😉


        June 4, 2012 at 7:20 PM

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