Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Sex mania

with 17 comments

Click for greater clarity.

Now you’re privy to one of the in-jokes of native plant people in central Texas, who rarely seem able to resist taking the name of this flower, zexmenia, and recasting it as sex mania. You can hardly blame them, as they’re just following in the footsteps of the botanist(s) who, according to David Hollombe, created zexmenia in the first place by rearranging the letters in the last name of the mining engineer and Mexican rebel officer José Mariano Ximénez* (1781-1811) and adding an -a at the end.

Sex mania may go on forever, but scientific names are not always so long-lived. This wildflower, once classified as Zexmenia hispida, is now known as Wedelia texana. The epithet hispida means hairy, which the foliage and long flower stems are, and texana is a reference to the fact that in the United States this species grows only in Texas (it’s found in Mexico as well). One thing that distinguishes zexmenia from almost all of the other DYCs, or darn yellow composites, in central Texas, is that the color of its flowers usually verges on orange.

Like the previous picture, I took this one along the west side of Bluegrass Dr. in my Great Hills neighborhood of Austin on June 8.


* All the references I’ve found give the family name as Jiménez, but Ximénez was an older spelling.

© 2012 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 1, 2012 at 6:11 AM

17 Responses

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  1. Wow, you had me all excited there for a moment LOL!!!! All kidding aside though, that is a beautiful photo. I love the intricate centre of the flower :).


    August 1, 2012 at 6:15 AM

  2. Zex or sex, very beautiful portrait of this flower it certainly is.


    August 1, 2012 at 6:50 AM

  3. Excellent photo to go along with an attention getting title!


    August 1, 2012 at 11:04 AM

  4. A good sense of humor is a wonderful gift… many thanks… 🙂

    Merrill Ann Gonzales

    August 1, 2012 at 7:13 PM

    • You might be surprised by the humor I’ve found among botanists, especially in the naming of things.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 1, 2012 at 7:23 PM

  5. You had me at the title and the post wasn’t a bit disappointing either. All in all it was an exciting, beautiful and informative post!


    August 1, 2012 at 9:05 PM

  6. […] their stalks, you can make out a set of buds forming. I photographed this Texas milkweed, as I did the zexmenia in yesterday’s post, on June 8 along the west side of Bluegrass Dr. in my Great Hills neighborhood of […]

  7. The name change is interesting. Somewhere (who knows where, now?) I read that once named, always the same is the way it goes with wildflowers. Apparently not.

    And of course I couldn’t let you slip DYC past us without a little extra attention! With 1100 genera and 20,000 species, no wonder they had to find a nice, general term for some of the Asteraceae! I thought it was interesting that the term (in its unexpurgated form!) has been attributed to Lady Bird Johnson.


    August 3, 2012 at 3:14 PM

    • My understanding is that the oldest name takes precedence. Occasionally research shows that someone named a species before a now-long-established name was put into use, in which case botanists revert to the older name. New molecular evidence sometimes causes botanists to change the genus in which a plant is categorized; in that case, the old species name follows along. An example is Ageratina havanensis, which used to be Eupatorium havanense (with an allowance for a Latin change of gender from neuter to feminine).

      Still, with all that, I’ve heard that some exceptions have been made.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 3, 2012 at 5:09 PM

    • I’d never heard that Lady Bird Johnson was the creator of the initialism DYC. Perhaps people at the Wildflower Center can confirm or disprove that.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 3, 2012 at 5:10 PM

  8. […] did a post about Zexmenia entitled Sex Mania. I can only imagine the letdown those seven searchers felt when they got taken to a picture of a […]

  9. […] in 2011 and 2012, these took some (undoubtedly let down) guys to a post about the wildflower called zexmenia. What kinky thing the searchers had in mind, I have no idea. If any of you do, shame on […]

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