Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Frog fruit

with 25 comments

The strangely named frog fruit, Phyla nodiflora, is a low-growing plant that can form “mats” or “tangles.” Its flower heads are tiny, no more than half an inch in diameter, and as you can verify in this picture, the individual flowers form a ring around a purplish core.

To see the many places in the United States where this species grows, you can check out the state-clickable map at the USDA.  According to the Germplasm Resources Information Network, frog fruit is perhaps native only in the Americas, but it now grows in most parts of the world.

© 2012 Steven Schwartzman


The daily posts that you’ve become accustomed to will continue while I’m away from Austin. Feel free to comment if you’d like, but please be aware that it may be a while before I can respond.


Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 2, 2012 at 5:34 AM

25 Responses

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  1. Ein wunderschönes Foto!!


    July 2, 2012 at 6:40 AM

  2. That was a very unusual beauty. Nice photo. My problem in flower photos: how to get most of the flower sharp, and at the same time rub out the background. This is a success in all ways.


    July 2, 2012 at 6:58 AM

    • Yes, it can be difficult. If we use too large of an aperture, the background gets pleasingly blurred but important parts of the flower may end up out of focus. If we use too small of an aperture, the flower is sharp enough but so is the background that we don’t want to see. I often aim sideways or upwards in order to maximize the distance between my subject and the background.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 2, 2012 at 7:36 AM

  3. This is another interesting flower. I checked the map to see if it grows up here in Pa…it does, but I have never seen this one before. Super photo Steve and I love the background!


    July 2, 2012 at 7:50 AM

    • Thanks, David. Frog fruit is quite common in central Texas, but I don’t know how widespread it is in your area. Happy hunting!

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 2, 2012 at 7:57 AM

  4. That’s one I’ve not seen before living here. What an interesting flower.


    July 2, 2012 at 8:41 AM

  5. Soooo pretty with its rings of flowers! How on earth did it get its name?!

    Just A Smidgen

    July 2, 2012 at 9:10 AM

    • The name remains a mystery. In the reading that I’ve done, I’ve never found a convincing explanation. The plant is also sometimes called fog fruit, but that’s most likely an altered pronunciation of frog fruit.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 2, 2012 at 9:21 AM

  6. Reminds me of a scoop of raspberry sorbet with candied flowers encircling. Thanks for introducing me to a strange floral delight, Sally


    July 2, 2012 at 10:01 AM

    • Funny you should say that, Sally. The other day we went to a restaurant that offered a dessert consisting of a white chocolate “flower” filled with raspberry sherbet.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 2, 2012 at 9:35 PM

  7. Nominated you for the Sunshine Award! Go here http://adriansphotoblog.wordpress.com/2012/07/02/nominated-sunshine-award/ for more info.


    July 2, 2012 at 10:33 PM

    • Congratulations, Adrian. I’m pleased to see that readers enjoy what you’re doing on your blog, as well they should. Thanks also for thinking about these views of nature in central Texas. When the question of awards first came up last year, I thought about it and eventually decided that this blog and people’s comments on it would be reward enough for me without any overt awards. Thanks again, and I hope you’ll understand my decision.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 3, 2012 at 5:28 AM

      • I understand. I don’t think I’ll be accepting any more awards from now on.


        July 5, 2012 at 6:52 PM

  8. What an unusual and pretty plant that is! I even like the name!


    July 3, 2012 at 12:35 AM

    • The name is strange and unaccountable, so I can understand why it would strike your fancy—and perhaps you have a fondness for frogs as well.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 3, 2012 at 5:32 AM

  9. I wonder if this is one of those plants that looks non-descript form a distance (even a few metres) then leaps at the close-up lens.

    • You’ve hit it. Being so small and so close to the ground, individual frog fruit plowers and even the whole flower ring don’t seem to attract much attention from the height at which our eyes usually see them, but a macro lens reveals a different picture.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 3, 2012 at 5:37 AM

      • You’re exactly right about the difference between seeing a flower like this in real life, and seeing it through a macro lens. Believe you me, my admiration and respect for your abilities with the camera only increased last week when I ran into frogfruit in front of the Presidio. I was at ground level, trying to take photos of salvia, when these caught my eye. I remembered them, and couldn’t believe how small and inconspicuous they were.

        How you manage to get down to the level of plants like this, and capture them so artistically, is an amazement to me, but I’m glad that you do.


        June 13, 2015 at 5:17 PM

        • Thanks for the vote of confidence, but, as you’ve said, without a macro lens I couldn’t do justice to such small flowers. Even with a macro lens it can be a struggle, and lying on the ground is de rigueur. Part of the struggle comes from the fact that very little is in focus when you’re that close, but the fringe benefit is that many of the details in the background go away, as in this picture.

          Steve Schwartzman

          June 13, 2015 at 5:32 PM

  10. I tried and tried to find a reason for the name, without success. It’s a lovely thing – looks rather like a girl wearing a garland of flowers in her hair. Well, at least it does if you allow for purple hair.


    July 5, 2012 at 6:53 PM

    • Hey, what’s wrong with a little purple hair? Or with a girl whose head is a quarter of an inch across?

      Seriously, I’ve searched as well from time to time and have found nothing convincing. Buttercups are in the genus Ranunculus, which means ‘little frog’, and which strikes me as an equally strange name.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 5, 2012 at 9:03 PM

  11. […] I’m surprised anyone wanted a frog portrait, but what the search engine led to was a photograph of a little wildflower called frog fruit. […]

  12. […] This flower-topped column of frogfruit, Phyla nodiflora, is an advanced stage that began with a ring of flowers down near the stem on a small core that was initially globular. As that core slowly grew into a longer and longer cylinder, a new ring of tiny white flowers replaced each previous one, and the remains of all those successive floral rings bedeck the narrow column. If you’d like to see an early stage in the process and also get a better look at some of the individual flowers, you’re welcome to check out a post from two years ago. […]

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