Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

A moth that keeps to the straight and narrow

with 40 comments

Those of you who have been following this column since its early days may recall the Yin-Yang, celestial orb picture of a buttonbush flower head, Cephalanthus occidentalis, from early August of 2011. This bush (or even small tree) thrives near water, so it’s no surprise that I found one on September 5 of that year when I visited Twin Lakes Park in the town of Cedar Park, a rapidly growing suburb adjacent to the northern boundary of Austin. Not only did I find flowers, and below them buds, but on the already open flowers I found an Ailanthus webworm moth, Atteva aurea. Because of its elongated shape, colorfully patterned body, and often diurnal wanderings, the moth surprises some people by being, in fact, a moth.

© 2012 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 4, 2012 at 6:03 AM

40 Responses

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  1. Wow, that’s a moth? I never would have guessed that!! The colours and markings are beautiful that’s for sure :).


    September 4, 2012 at 6:08 AM

    • I’ve been learning that there are a lot of elongated moths in central Texas, though most are more toned-down than this one.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 4, 2012 at 11:07 AM

  2. I would have not guessed that it was. It almost looks like a fancy bead. We are supposed to have buttonbush here, but I have never seen it.


    September 4, 2012 at 6:24 AM

    • The best place to find a buttonbush is along a creek or close to a pond or lake. I hope you find one, because the flowers have a wonderful scent.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 4, 2012 at 11:08 AM

  3. Was für ein wundervolles Makro!!


    September 4, 2012 at 6:42 AM

  4. Fantastic photo.


    September 4, 2012 at 7:00 AM

    • Thanks, Bente. I had this picture ready to post a year ago, and somehow it kept getting bumped. Now that it has seen the light of day, I’m pleased that people like it.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 4, 2012 at 11:10 AM

  5. Someday, someone’s finally going to capture a shot of the variegated link-hopper. I didn’t expect to be seeing a pygmy grasshopper that looks like a horned toad this morning, but around here it’s impossible to predict what’s next!

    These are beauties – flower and moth both. I had the same thought about the moth – it looks like an African trade bead with antennae and feet.


    September 4, 2012 at 7:38 AM

  6. Nice click!


    September 4, 2012 at 8:27 AM

  7. Steve, This is a beautiful photo, and thank you for the link to the moth information. I think I have seen a few of its cousins both here and in California.


    September 4, 2012 at 11:03 AM

  8. The diversity of plants and animals in your area just amazes me! Super photo!!!


    September 4, 2012 at 12:26 PM

    • We do have a lot of plant species here, but they’re way outnumbered by the number of insect species, as I believe is true everywhere. I’ve taken pictures of various plant species that haven’t appeared yet in these pages, though they eventually will, and I still occasionally find more. I often see new insects.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 4, 2012 at 12:37 PM

  9. I am a big fan of the Buttonbush. Great place for Bees and Butterflies to stop by and savor its nectar. Also the deer here seem to love them. We have several stands of them on our place.

    The Jagged Man

    September 4, 2012 at 10:28 PM

    • How nice that you have several stands of buttonbush on your own property (I always have to go somewhere to see one). As you say, their fragrant flowers are great attractors of insects.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 4, 2012 at 10:32 PM

  10. Jamás había visto una polilla así, me gusta esta imagen, colores preciosos, besos


    September 5, 2012 at 4:45 AM

    • Manoli says that she’s never seen a moth like this and that she likes the beautiful colors in the image.

      Para mí también pareció extraña la primera vez que vi esta especie de polilla, pero la veo de vez en cuando.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 5, 2012 at 6:33 AM

  11. […] you saw a picture of a buttonbush, Cephalanthus occidentalis, getting a visit from a colorful moth. Now it’s time to show you that after the plant’s creamy white, wonderfully fragrant […]

  12. Congratulations on a great fashion shoot.


    September 5, 2012 at 8:20 AM

  13. Truly an artistic endeavor, much more than a photo!

    Bonnie Michelle

    September 5, 2012 at 9:18 AM

  14. That’s a beautiful photo!


    September 5, 2012 at 11:26 PM

  15. […] in the seed core. This time the blue in the background is the sky, not the water that appeared in the moth-enhanced photograph from last year that you saw two posts ago. That’s because the creek along which this buttonbush was growing […]

  16. The moth’s a beauty, and the design of the flower is very special. Lovely shot against the blue sky.

    Finn Holding

    September 9, 2012 at 3:14 AM

  17. Beauty of the nature — in its flora and fauna is a promise to human senses–to enjoy and be happy!


    September 12, 2012 at 10:05 PM

  18. […] of plants with globose flower heads like buttonbush and sensitive-briar, here’s yet another: Cirsium texanum, the Texas thistle. You saw an […]

  19. […] It seems that search engines have lost none of their prowess in deciphering misspellings. In this case the searcher was after a buttonbush. […]

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