Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Horsemint a little closer

with 19 comments

Click for greater clarity.

The last picture of Monarda citriodora didn’t make clear that an individual horsemint flower—which happens to remind me of a wide-open hippopotamus mouth—may have dark spots on it. This photograph of a whorl of horsemint flowers lets you see some of those spots. Whether you also see wide-open hippopotamus mouths is a function of your floral IQ (Imagination Quotient).

The south-central United States is the heartland for this species, but it grows in other places, too, as the state-clickable map at the USDA website confirms.


Thanks to leap-year, today is my 367th consecutive day of posting, and WordPress tells me that this is my 443rd post. Now it so happens that 367 and 443 are both prime numbers, so I’ll take this opportunity to say that I feel doubly in my prime. And that’s the end of this tribute that nature photography pays to arithmetic.

© 2012 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 6, 2012 at 1:04 PM

19 Responses

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  1. Congrats on all of the posts! That’s a lot of hard work and dedication!

    Michael Glover

    June 6, 2012 at 1:41 PM

    • Thanks, Michael. It has been a lot of work, and yet the things that I haven’t shown far outnumber the things that I have shown. There’s a lot of stuff out there in nature.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 6, 2012 at 2:01 PM

  2. Congrats on the stats!!! And on the super photo!!!


    June 6, 2012 at 2:23 PM

    • I like the sound of “Congrats on the stats.”

      You could say that I’m
      Happy with your rhyme.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 6, 2012 at 2:47 PM

  3. Hippo-yawns indeed! Beautiful shot. I appreciate your IQ and your (traditional) IQ – I do believe you might be in your prime. Congratulations.

    Cindy Kilpatrick

    June 6, 2012 at 6:47 PM

    • Ah, a fellow hippo-mouth-seer. I’m primed to believe your statement that I might be in my prime.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 6, 2012 at 7:57 PM

  4. Beautiful flower!!!


    June 6, 2012 at 10:49 PM

  5. Beautiful photography! I loved looking through your photos :))


    June 7, 2012 at 6:08 AM

  6. I understood the math tribute, but didn’t get the yawning hippo analogy. Then I followed your link. It was an “Aha” moment. These are beautiful flowers, Steve.
    ~ Lynda

    PS: Of course, it may be that this was because the last time I saw a hippo up close was when my little sister was heard to exclaim with glee, “I want pet the hippo’s nose!” at Sea World, and then promptly tipped over the rail! There were only 4 of them in the tank, but hey! They were giant hippos! Thankfully, Levis jeans makes study belt loops, and adrenaline gives you super powers, so I was able to save her from certain death. I can still see them smiling and jostling in the water as she was going over. 😉


    June 7, 2012 at 12:35 PM

    • That’s quite a story, Lynda. Your sister must be glad that you had such quick reflexes (and that the belt loops in those jeans were so sturdy).

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 7, 2012 at 12:45 PM

  7. The structure of the flowerhead is amazing – is it designed that way to attract a particular pollinator?

    Finn Holding

    June 7, 2012 at 2:41 PM

    • Yes, these are structurally fascinating. Your question is a good one, but I’m sorry that I don’t know the answer.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 7, 2012 at 3:00 PM

  8. Actually, my first thought was of orchids, not hippos – though at second glance I see that resemblance, too. Your reference reminds me that as with flowers, so with animals. In Liberia, there’s a dwarf variety of hippo that prowls the rivers, called the Pygmy Hippo. They’re cute, too.

    They’re also endangered. Estimates are that about 2,500-3,000 remain in the wild. In 1927, Harvey Firestone of Liberian rubber plantation fame sent Calvin Coolidge one of the creatures, named Billy. Most of the pygmy hippos in our zoos are descendents of Billy.

    And now I know what a prime number is. Congratulations on your perseverance!


    June 8, 2012 at 7:53 AM

    • I, too, might have thought of orchids if I’d had more exposure to them. The most common species in Austin—which flowers in the fall and has yet to appear in this blog—doesn’t look like an archetypal orchid.

      It’s a shame that so many species have become endangered—or extinct. We lost our passenger pigeon and almost our buffalo. There’s one rare wildflower species in Austin that I’ve been meaning to show a picture of but somehow haven’t gotten around to.

      Now that you know what a prime number is, you can also speak of being in your prime. And if flowers have the greater resonance for you (which I know they do), then think about the way a primrose is etymologically a prime rose, a first rose, and French printemps is the ‘prime time’ of the year.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 8, 2012 at 9:16 AM

  9. I love the subtlety of color that the close-up reveals.


    June 8, 2012 at 12:40 PM

    • There are so many things that only become clear—or visible at all—in a closeup. That’s why I’m drawn to take so many of them and to include a lot of them here.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 8, 2012 at 1:35 PM

  10. […] The tan halo around today’s prairie agalinis is from the seed head remains of a horsemint, Monarda citriodora. (This spring you saw fresh horsemints en masse in posts on May 23 and May 24, and individually on June 6.) […]

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