Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Standing cypress

with 18 comments

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And now for the second day in a row here’s a wildflower you haven’t seen in these pages before: this time it’s Ipomopsis rubra, known as standing cypress and Texas plume. I imagine the cypress and the plume are both references to the plant’s feathery leaves, which you can see best at the bottom of the picture, while the standing clearly refers to the plant’s stiff stalk and erect posture. Isn’t it strange, though, that neither of those common names makes any mention of the prominent flowers? In any case, we can go back to the standing and say that these saturated red flowers do an especially good job of standing out against a clear blue sky like the one I worked under on the morning of May 22. (The scientific name for the plant, by the way, does get at the red, which is what rubra means in Latin; a third vernacular name, red Texas star, also makes the point.)

The location was the north side of RR 2222, a busy road that winds its way through the Hill Country on Austin’s west side. And speaking of location, I was surprised when I looked at the USDA map and found that this species grows across much of the eastern United States and even into Ontario. So much for the Texas in Texas plume and red Texas star.

© 2012 Steven Schwartzman


Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 16, 2012 at 5:39 AM

18 Responses

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  1. A beautiful plant and a lovely photo, with the blue sky as background.


    June 16, 2012 at 6:37 AM

    • I’d seen these plants flowering by the side of the road on the 19th when we were on the way to a friend’s house. I took advantage of the clear morning of the 22nd to go back to the site and get down low enough to use the blue sky as a complement to the red flowers.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 16, 2012 at 6:44 AM

  2. Yes, red Texas plume or red Texas star credit the beautiful flowers. I find myself constantly watching for wildflowers whenever I go anywhere.

    Jo Ann Abell

    June 16, 2012 at 7:06 AM

  3. Wow! I love the contrast in color in this shot…looks like it was a perfect morning!


    June 16, 2012 at 2:08 PM

    • Yes, the red against the blue really stood out for me. Since then almost every morning has been cloudy.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 16, 2012 at 2:10 PM

  4. Great contrast and sharp colors. Like the texture of the leaves/stalk

    • It was the sharp and contrasting colors that got to me this time. In other years I’ve also taken pictures of the feathery leaves before the flowers came out. Both things have their appeal for me.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 16, 2012 at 2:27 PM

  5. That’s such a pretty plant!


    June 16, 2012 at 8:12 PM

  6. […] verticality so predominant (oh, how these art people talk!) in yesterday’s picture of a standing cypress inspires me to double up now and show you a second upright species, Schoenocaulon texanum, known as […]

  7. Well, well… A little Latin apparently is good for the soul, since I just had a revelation. Rubra is the root of the word “rubric”. I just learned that back in medieval times – and even later – liturgical rules and instructions were written in red – hence, “rubrics”.

    Now, back to the flower, which is a real beauty. I’ve been thinking how few clear red wildflowers there are – now I see this (new to me) after just yesterday walking around the corner of a house and discovering a patch of Turk’s Cap. The world as learning lab is a wonderful thing!


    June 17, 2012 at 9:31 PM

    • If a little Latin is good for the soul I must have a healthy soul indeed. Yes, Latin rubr- is the root in the word rubric, as it is (without the r) in rubella, with its little red splotches.

      Happy recent reds to you. There are some others that grow here as well, one of which will make an appearance in these pages in a week or so.

      I’m with you when it comes to the joys of learning. I never could understand some people’s lack of curiosity for new things.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 17, 2012 at 9:39 PM

  8. That’s a spectacular bloom, and gorgeous contrast against that sky!

    Finn Holding

    June 20, 2012 at 3:08 PM

    • Yes, it’s a great plant, so tall and with such saturated red flowers, especially in contrast to the rich blue of the sky.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 20, 2012 at 3:13 PM

  9. Sorry Steve- got carried away with the Like button! I was scrolling through the Home page and admiring your amazing collection. I never would have realised Texas had such diversity, with all that heat. I have a friend in Dallas, so am happy she’ll be able to see these.


    July 12, 2012 at 2:32 AM

    • As I see it, there’s never any need to apologize for leaning on the like button. Yes, Texas is hot, but the native plants here are hardy, and it’s even the case that some of them don’t do well unless they get lots of direct sunshine and heat. Things are toned down now in July and August, but a second season of wildflowers will come up in the fall.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 12, 2012 at 6:47 AM

  10. […] the contrast between these two oh-so-different relatives, you’re welcome to look back at a view from last year that gives you a good sense of how tall and slender a standing cypress plant is, and how splendid […]

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