Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Another early arrival

with 13 comments

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2012 has been a year of early flowering for many species in Austin. On July 20, when I wandered along the east bank of Waller Creek adjacent to Chesterfield Ave. in north-central Austin, I encountered another early arrival, but one not likely to thrill the hearts of even the most fervent native plant lovers. What I found flowering at least a month before its usual time, and in quantity, was Ambrosia trifida, giant ragweed, the bane of many an allergy sufferer. Like other ragweeds, this one relies on the wind to do its fertilization, so the plant produces lots of pollen that gets blown hither and yon. Notice how some of that yellow pollen had gotten caught in the conspicuous spider webs that covered this stalk.

If you’d like a look back at a few previous articles on this species, you can check out these posts:


A family resemblance

A strange embrace

For those of you who are interested in photography as a craft, points 1, 2, 6, 7, and 17 in About My Techniques are relevant to this photograph.

© 2012 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 12, 2012 at 6:14 AM

13 Responses

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  1. Arrgggghhhh, ragweed!!!! Get it away from me! Yes, I am one of those allergy sufferers you were talking about :). Your photo is so clear, I can almost feel a sneeze building!! Achoooooo LOL.


    August 12, 2012 at 6:33 AM

    • I’m sorry to have started off your morning this way, Cindy. The plant shown in the photograph had gotten way ahead of schedule, but most of the giant ragweed that I’ve seen around Austin recently still hasn’t flowered. For allergy sufferers in central Texas (and Canada), the worst is yet to come.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 12, 2012 at 6:39 AM

  2. The same thing is going on up here in the Northeast, both in the garden and in the wild. The berries and seeds seem to be the same, so I am sure the wildlife will not suffer food this winter. I am wondering how next spring will be, though.


    August 12, 2012 at 7:38 AM

    • One thing I noticed in my early time of paying attention to nature in Austin is how different things can be from one year to the next. A species that puts on a great show one spring can be staid the next, even at the same site and under what seem to be similar conditions. Many people attribute this year’s advanced appearance of many species in central Texas to the very mild winter we had from 2011 into 2012—almost no winter at all.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 12, 2012 at 7:49 AM

  3. Ironic that the giant ragweed has such tiny flowers. Strange, too, that they’re called flowers. They look to me like some mutant bit of obnoxousness from another galaxy.

    I’m terribly sensitive to the stuff. I don’t sneeze or itch, but walk around with tears streaming down my face. I had a couple of weeks’ worth of the problem in July, and couldn’t figure it out because I thought it was too early for ragweed. Apparently not!


    August 12, 2012 at 11:45 AM

    • “… some mutant bit of obnoxousness from another galaxy.” Does that mean that you don’t like these flowers? Okay, I get it. I’m sorry that you had to deal with the problem earlier than usual this year. So far I’ve been lucky and haven’t had any symptoms, but I doubt I’m off the hook.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 13, 2012 at 12:35 AM

  4. I love this photo. Although ragweed makes many suffer it is still elegant in its own way, especially draped with spider webs! Just pulled 500 ragweed plants today in a wildflower area I planted. Thinking the seed came in on the loam that was placed there.


    August 12, 2012 at 6:23 PM

    • Wow: 500 ragweed plants pulled. That sounds like a labor worthy of Hercules. I’m glad that you like the webby drapery and can find the flowers elegant in their own way, despite the suffering they cause so many people.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 13, 2012 at 12:37 AM

  5. So this is the culprit…I never knew what it looked like..


    August 12, 2012 at 6:38 PM

    • This is giant ragweed, which lives up to its name by often growing 10 feet tall. There are several low-growing species of ragweed that also offend people’s mucous membranes.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 13, 2012 at 12:39 AM

  6. Draped with antique lace – very beautiful!

    Cindy Kilpatrick

    August 13, 2012 at 6:03 PM

  7. […] Austin I came across this goldenrod, Solidago altissima, that was already fully in flower. Note the giant ragweed, Ambrosia trifida, in the […]

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