Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Welcome back to Texas

with 33 comments

Click for greater clarity.

Due mainly to the Northeast trip you’ve been seeing scenes from, it had been three-and-a-half weeks since I’d taken any pictures in Austin, but on July 13th I finally ventured out to see what I could see in my neighborhood. In particular, I went to the right-of-way beneath the power lines that has almost* always proved a supplier of native plants for me to photograph. And so it did, and so I did.

Only after I’d put my camera away and was almost back at my car did I catch sight of this little flower close to the ground: it’s a copper lily, Habranthus tubispathus, a species I don’t often see, but one no doubt called forth by the consecutive rainy days we’d been having.

The USDA’s map for the United States and Canada shows copper lilies in only a few southern states. Its Texas map doesn’t show it for Travis County, where I live, but this picture is proof that it’s here.


* Because of the drastic mowing there late last fall, I had to put in the almost.


© 2012 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 22, 2012 at 6:04 AM

33 Responses

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  1. What a beauty. Some years ago a Houston needlework group helped to make tapestry seat covers for chairs in the Governor’s mansion. Each one was a different Texas wildflower, and this would have made a beautiful design. (I can’t remember if the project was before or after the fire.)

    My first thought when I saw this one was that, stylized only slightly and repeated, it could be one of Alphonse Mucha’s floral borders. The form is pure art nouveau.


    July 22, 2012 at 7:34 AM

    • I did some basic Internet searching but didn’t turn up any pictures of the floral seat covers in the (newly reopened) Governor’s Mansion. If you ever hear that the Houston needlework group is looking to do a round two, you can send them this way to see some of Texas’s less common but no less beautiful wildflowers.

      In around 1989–91, I got a good dose of Art Nouveau from intensely browsing books at the main library at the University of Texas. In particular, a complete set of the magazine Jugend was a wonder to pore over. When I later got into native plant photography, I could re-experience the inspiration that moved the Art Nouveau artists.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 22, 2012 at 8:08 AM

  2. A beautiful “Welcome Back” treat.


    July 22, 2012 at 8:31 AM

    • Thanks, Ken. I must’ve walked past the copper lilies at the beginning of my session, but somehow I noticed them only at the end. That sort of thing has happened to me often enough that I’m not surprised by the “directionality of perception,” as I just decided to call it.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 22, 2012 at 8:43 AM

  3. Just after 9/11, when Camp Mabry was closed to the public, and the grounds crew was otherwise occupied, I spied Copper Lily on the parade field. What a sight!!! I never saw them after that as the crew soon resumed mowing.

    Agnes Plutino

    July 22, 2012 at 9:41 AM

    • Thanks for letting us know about that sighting, Agnes. It was you who tipped me off to the back portion of Camp Mabry, where I used to count on photographing wildflowers in the spring. After 9/11, though, it’s been too complicated to get permission to photograph there, as people are naturally suspicious. One place in Austin where I was pleased to find copper lilies last fall was a lot near the eastern end of Balcones Woods Dr.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 22, 2012 at 10:59 AM

  4. Stunning! How big is this baby?


    July 22, 2012 at 10:20 AM

    • The flower stalks are reported to be as much as 12 inches tall, but in my experience they’ve been shorter, usually no more than half the maximum. The flower itself is rather small, typically no more than an inch and a quarter in length. I’ve had to sit or lie on the ground to take pictures of copper lilies.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 22, 2012 at 11:03 AM

  5. This is glorious!!!


    July 22, 2012 at 12:00 PM

    • Glad you find it so, David. It’s not a species I’ve seen many times, so I was glad to encounter it.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 22, 2012 at 12:18 PM

  6. What good fortune the rain has brought that little beauty to your area! Isn’t it great when searching for something.. you stumble across something even prettier!!

  7. Beeeeeautiful image!!

    Clouds of Colour

    July 22, 2012 at 2:38 PM

  8. Very much like the clarity, color and close up of the flower

    • Thank you. If you browse here a bit you’ll see that the majority of the pictures in this blog are closeups, portraits as I’ve come to think of them. As for clarity, it’s something I carried over from mathematics and from my years teaching it.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 22, 2012 at 5:58 PM

  9. Beautiful vivid colors.


    July 22, 2012 at 9:23 PM

  10. Pour la française que je suis, la fleur de lys reste ce symbole royaliste qui orna bons nombres d’armoiries au siècle des rois. Symbole de pureté et associé à la croyance, les rois en firent leur emblême.
    Lorsque je rencontre des variétés de lys, j’y vois un magnifique cadeau de la nature et rien de royal mis à part son port et sa grâce.


    July 23, 2012 at 3:41 AM

    • Merci de nous raconter tes associations avec la fleur de lys, symbole de royauté et de pureté. Bons nombres de rois français en firent un symbole, c’est vrai, mais souvent de ce qu’ils n’étaient pas: purs.

      Quant à un autre lys comme celui-ci, je suis content que tu puisses mettre à part tes associations royalistes et apprécier le port et la grace de la fleur en tant que fleur.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 23, 2012 at 7:09 AM

  11. […] the last post you saw a copper lily, Habranthus tubispathus, that with a few others of its kind had been called forth on July 13 by the […]

  12. Simplistic beauty.

    Bonnie Michelle

    July 23, 2012 at 7:41 AM

  13. awesome flower portrait !! Looks like it was posing for you. Awesome colors and shades.

  14. Such beauty, very art nouveau looking. ~ Lynda


    July 23, 2012 at 2:42 PM

  15. […] rain, and even named for that behavior, is the rain-lily, Cooperia pedunculata. As opposed to the copper lily, its flowers are white rather than yellow, and this one was blowing a bit in the breeze, as you can […]

  16. The rights-of-way are always the prettiest for field coverage. Just a potpourri of wildly scattered flower variety and they tend to mow only every 4-6 months. I may have to check out a couple of ours when the kids get back to school. I’m sure to be pleased with what I’ll find!


    July 25, 2012 at 8:19 AM

    • As you say, the highway rights-of-way tend to get mowed two or three times a year. What makes the one under these power lines good for my purposes is that it isn’t adjacent to a road and therefore, with the exception of late last fall, hadn’t gotten mowed in the years I’ve been aware of it.

      Happy hunting in your rights-of-way.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 25, 2012 at 10:39 AM

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