Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

A closer look at partridge pea

with 17 comments

Click for greater clarity.

Here’s a closer view of a partridge pea flower, Chamaecrista fasciculata. Don’t you love the curving maroon and yellow stamens, which have shapes similar to those of buffalo bur? And how about the red markings at the base of four of the petals? You couldn’t see those things in yesterday’s photograph, so this closeup was called for.

Strands of spider silk in several places here may have caught, if not some hapless insect, at least your attention, but did you notice one of the spider’s legs creeping out beneath the lower left petal, and two above it? I didn’t when I took the picture, but I do now.

UPDATE: See Spider Joe Lapp’s detailed comment below. It seems that what I took to be spider legs at the top of the lower left petal aren’t, though it’s still not clear what they are.

© 2012 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 25, 2012 at 6:00 AM

17 Responses

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  1. I loved looking deeper into the photo with you.


    August 25, 2012 at 6:18 AM

  2. What a wonderful color combination. I love that plant and I love your work!!!
    By the way, that little spot we like to frequent in RR is ablaze with “Blazing Star” right now. I hope it stays that way, I want to do some seed collecting later on.

    Agnes Plutino

    August 25, 2012 at 8:06 AM

    • Thanks, Agnes. I’m happy to delight you. I drove past the Greenhill site last week, noted the Liatris, and made a mental note to go back. I’ve been finding Liatris flowering in various places on the prairie for a few weeks now and have photographed it several times, including right along the east side of Interstate 35 in north Austin. You should have no trouble getting seeds this year.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 25, 2012 at 8:39 AM

  3. lol! It seems there’s always something for me to say when it comes to spiders here. Those banded protrusions do indeed look like spider legs, but they aren’t. They aren’t part of the flower? Flower streamers are always confusing me at first in the field, until I get a close look. These leggish things just don’t have the right proportions, don’t appear to be segmented, and are missing the all-important spider feet (claws and/or tufts)!

    The dense silk I see at the upper left appears to be part of a spider retreat. Possibilities: a jumping spider retreat, a sac spider retreat, or a crab spider egg sac. The first two cases could also involve an egg sac. Flower crab spiders don’t make retreats like that, but they might take over one made by another spider.

    One more interesting point: these spider webs we see here are all to support the egg sac or retreat that’s just behind the petals. They aren’t catching threads. Similar threads can appear even without a silken structure. In that case they’d be dragline trails — web left behind as the spider travelled about, merely serving as a safety line should the spider fall or something knock the spider out.

    Spider Joe

    August 25, 2012 at 8:57 AM

    • Now I’m really perplexed. As far as I know, the small, slender protrusions aren’t part of the flower. Given the spider silk in several places, I assumed they were spider legs, but thanks for explaining that they lack the all-important feet. And thanks, of course, for all the other spider information you’ve supplied, both here and on other posts. I’ll try to run future arachnid pictures past you before I open my mouth about them.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 25, 2012 at 9:27 AM

      • My mistake! Shoreacres comment below helped me see one leg at the very bottom. I was looking for something protruding above the petal. I can’t tell what kind of spider though.

        Spider Joe

        August 25, 2012 at 9:36 AM

  4. What lovely detail inside the flower. The maroon’s a nice touch. And I was glad to see Spider Joe’s entry. I could see the bottom spider leg, but for the life of me I couldn’t see anything above.

    It took me a long time to figure out that the little webby patches I’d see on the sides of boats were egg sacs. The silk that attaches and protects them is so strong that, if you use a finger to remove it, it will take a little effort to get it off your hand. And plenty of times I’ve knocked a spider loose from its hiding place under a caprail, only to watch it fall three or four feet, hover in the air and then climb back up its safety line!


    August 25, 2012 at 9:23 AM

    • Shoreacres, I see it now! Sorry Steve! There is a spider leg at the very bottom — just one leg. Is that what you’re referring to? The yellow and red banded things protruding from the sac aren’t spider legs though. I can’t make out the kind of spider from that little of it though. Sorry Steve!

      Spider Joe

      August 25, 2012 at 9:33 AM

      • So let’s call it a split decision, with the protrusion at the bottom being a spider’s leg after all. The two small things folded back down over the top of the petal now look to me as if they’re probably attached to the longer, thicker reddish thing sticking up and to the left, which may be part of the plant. The next time I’m close to a partridge pea I’ll take a close look and see if I find anything that could clear this up. So much to learn!

        Steve Schwartzman

        August 25, 2012 at 9:52 AM

    • Yes, the maroon is distinctive. It’s been said, with only some exaggeration, that spiders are everywhere, and now you’ve added maritime associations that I would never make (I didn’t even know what a caprail is, but had to look it up). On the other hand, one advantage that I have is much larger images than the half-megapixel ones I post here. a full-size version of this photograph shows two little somethings at the top of the lower left petal, but apparently I jumped to conclusions about what they are based on the nearby spider silk. It makes me think of criminal trials, where circumstantial evidence may seem to point to one conclusion even though the truth is something else.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 25, 2012 at 9:43 AM

      • And now we know why juries sometimes take weeks to reach a decision. Several pair of eyes looking at the same evidence may take a while to come to a consensus!


        August 25, 2012 at 9:55 AM

        • You said it. And sometimes they never come to a consensus. Worse, they occasionally come to the wrong consensus!

          Steve Schwartzman

          August 25, 2012 at 10:01 AM

  5. What is the little cup shaped protrusion at the top of the composite leaf stem (on the left)?

    NOTE: I have some Cassia growing in my yard and was certain they were related to your specimen, but apparently not. I have now had to pull them out, because I found out that all parts of the cassia plant are poisonous. On closer inspection yesterday I found evidence that my geese had been nibbling on them!

    So thank you for the post that caused me to do some research, Steve. You may well have saved them from an untimely death!
    ~ Lynda


    August 27, 2012 at 7:36 AM

    • I wondered about that little protrusion, too, Lynda, but I’m afraid I don’t know what it is. I see so many things out there that I don’t understand!

      It seems that you’re not alone in thinking of Cassia: I looked in my best reference book and learned that some botanists have included Chamaecrista in that genus.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 27, 2012 at 7:48 AM

      • Mystery solved! I went digging deeper and found this information:

        “Partridge pea is considered an important honey plant, often occurring where few other honey plants are found. Nectar is not available in the flowers of showy partridge pea but is produced by small orange glands at the base of each leaf.” Reference: http://plants.usda.gov/plantguide/pdf/pg_chfa2.pdf

        That is awesome! Don’t you agree? ~ L


        August 27, 2012 at 9:32 AM

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