Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Autumn in the heat

with 24 comments

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Afternoon temperatures in central Texas have been in the 90s every day this month, and sometimes even slightly over 100°, but my eyes tell me that in floral terms we’ve already passed into autumn. For some time now I’ve been finding species of native plants that bloom in the fall, and yesterday on the prairie in far north Austin I came across this goldenrod, Solidago altissima, that was already fully in flower. Note the giant ragweed, Ambrosia trifida, in the background.

© 2012 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 18, 2012 at 6:06 AM

24 Responses

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  1. I liked this, but I don’t know why because you mentioned three bad words in one post. Shame on you!! What am I going to do with you?? First of all, you mention my two worst enemies (goldenrod and ragweed), and then you use the word Autumn! All kidding aside, I am noticing things happening earlier here too. Our temperatures are even cooling off compared to the scorching hot July we had. I guess I’m ok with Fall coming a little bit early, but I sure hope Winter doesn’t do the same :(. Can you tell I’m a summer person?? LOL :).


    August 18, 2012 at 6:16 AM

    • I think you’re the first person ever to accuse me of using bad words on this blog, but I take your meaning. Ragweed is definitely an allergen, and giant ragweed, often standing at 8 or 10 ft., haughtily lords it over sufferers. According to what I’ve read, though, goldenrod seems to have gotten a bad rap. The predominant current take is that people have lumped goldenrod in as an allergen because it blooms at around the same time as ragweed, yet goldenrod gets pollinated by insects, not by the wind, and therefore probably doesn’t affect most people. Of course some people could be sensitive to it, as to any plant.

      As for being a summer person, you should consider moving to Texas, where we have half a year of what many people would call summer. In August I do as much as possible of my picture taking in the morning, while temperatures are only in the 80s or low 90s.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 18, 2012 at 6:34 AM

      • Aww, I hope you didn’t take any offence because I love your blog :). I think you’re right though. We allergy sufferers just lump together all the late summer “weeds”. We don’t really care which ones are the culprits. We just feel like crap from something LOL. My allergies haven’t actually hit yet, but I can feel my nose starting to twitch, so I’m sure they’re on their way. I’ve often said I need to move south because I love the hot weather, but I don’t think I ever really could. This is my home and it’s beautiful, even though the winters are quite a challenge (for me anyway :)).


        August 18, 2012 at 7:08 AM

        • Of course not, Cindy. I was just playing, as you were when you spoke about “bad words.” Although I didn’t think I’d entice you to move to Texas from Ontario, there are people who’ve made a half-way move. They’re known here as snowbirds, and they spend the warm months in the places that they’re from, like Minnesota and Wisconsin and even Canada, but avoid the harsh winters there by spending them in places like the Rio Grande Valley in southern Texas.

          Steve Schwartzman

          August 18, 2012 at 7:30 AM

      • Yes, I think I would love to be a snowbird :).


        August 18, 2012 at 7:35 AM

  2. Really nice Steve… I think you have a lot of shots with a similar background… Is it just me who thinks that way or you really do?? 🙂 The blue sky in the backdrop, the picture looking as if you have knelt down and took the shot looking up at the subject…


    August 18, 2012 at 6:43 AM

    • You’re correct that I have plenty of pictures with a blue sky as a background. That’s one way of isolating a subject and limiting the amount of clutter that would distract from it. And you’re right that to get a blue sky to serve as a background I often have to get down low. In this case, I knelt and hunched over so that my head was near the ground and I could aim the camera upwards. Had I not done that, one or more large towers and the wires passing through them would have been visible and would have spoiled the picture.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 18, 2012 at 7:07 AM

  3. That’s a fabulous photo of goldenrod… with the blue sky in the background! I have some in my garden and am so glad, as it attracts so many different bees and insects (and caterpillars!) and is constantly abuzz. Fortunately we don’t have much ragweed here, but it is spreading and becoming a nuisance in some areas.


    August 18, 2012 at 7:00 AM

    • Goldenrod: a happy and bright gift to Europe from North America. Your mention of the various bees and other insects attracted to the flowers is evidence in the question of whether goldenrod is an allergen; this species seems to need no help from the wind. I’m sorry to hear that ragweed, which is pollinated by the wind, is spreading in Europe and becoming an invasive nuisance. Growing adjacent to the goldenrod shown here was some Torilis arvensis, called beggar’s ticks, an invasive nuisance that made its way to the United States from Europe a long time ago and has been an annoyance to me ever since I came to Texas in 1976, as the little seeds catch in my shoelaces and socks when I walk around in nature. I’d gladly take back all your ragweed if you’d take back all our beggar’s ticks.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 18, 2012 at 7:21 AM

      • If we could turn the clocks back…! I know beggar’s ticks too. We call the plant hedge parsley, but there’s no special name for those annoying seeds that I know of! Better than real ticks, of which we have plenty in our grasses!


        August 18, 2012 at 2:48 PM

        • I also usually refer to the plant as hedge parsley, but this time I used the name beggar’s ticks to emphasize the annoying seeds. I’ll grant you they’re less harmful than real ticks, which we have in Texas as well.

          Steve Schwartzman

          August 18, 2012 at 3:10 PM

  4. I like to think positive about all plants so have to say the positive thing about beggar’s ticks is that the flowers are nice and it smells like carrots when you weed your yard. I love goldenrod and have been looking for the variety that you can make tea from. So far no luck or I miss it but I’m ever hopeful.


    August 18, 2012 at 9:36 AM

    • I wish I could find a positive way of thinking about Torilis arvensis that would make its seeds not get caught in my clothing! I wish you a happy fruitful search for the goldenrod that you’re after.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 18, 2012 at 10:12 AM

  5. Very pretty!


    August 18, 2012 at 10:33 AM

  6. Wow that’s early! I hope they’re still around when the monarchs come.


    August 18, 2012 at 12:00 PM

    • Yes, it is early, like so many other species this year. I hope they’ll also keep flowering during their regular season in the fall (as the calendar sees fall).

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 18, 2012 at 2:23 PM

  7. It was only a few years ago I learned goldenrod and ragweed aren’t the same plant. When I was growing up, the terms were used interchangeably, except by my grandfather, who liked to use the term “sneezeweed” for anything that irritated him. I’m glad to know goldenrod is a favorite of bees and such – if I were a bee or butterfly, I’d head straight for it. And I do like that clear, blue background. Your efforts to isolate and highlight are one reason so many people here say, “Oh! I’ve never seen it like that before!”


    August 18, 2012 at 3:06 PM

    • Many people seem to have confused goldenrod with ragweed, at least in part because the two usually flower at the same time. As discussed in the first comment and my reply to it, that confusion apparently caused goldenrod to get blamed until recently for the damage done by ragweed’s pollen.

      I do often present a different viewpoint on these plants, both literally and figuratively. Straightforward documentation has its uses, too, but I’m trying to offer something original. I’m pleased that you’re finding it effective. Hard to beat a vibrant yellow against a blue sky.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 18, 2012 at 3:21 PM

  8. Oh, I love goldenrod! I have several types here in the garden, and a local native that is a bit thuggish but does well along the roadside. They bloom with purple asters here, a gorgeous combination. And you are right, they are rarely the allergen producing plant. A great American native plant!


    August 20, 2012 at 11:58 AM

    • Yay, native! It’s good that you have some in your garden. The asters in Austin are mostly white with at best a violet tinge, so we don’t get the combination you mentioned, but we have a different fall-flowering plant here that’s richly purple and that sometimes grows near goldenrod. So far this year I haven’t found them together, but it’s only August.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 20, 2012 at 1:32 PM

  9. Beautiful shot with yellow against the blue background!

    Michael Glover

    August 24, 2012 at 8:30 PM

  10. […] If you’d like a reminder of what this kind of goldenrod looks like when it’s flowering, you can glance back at posts from last October 15 and August 18. […]

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