Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography


with 8 comments

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You recently saw some pictures of Euphorbia bicolor, colloquially known as snow-on-the-prairie because it grows in the eastern third of Texas, much of which is coastal prairie. Austin is at the western edge of that species’s range, and if you cross to the west side of town and enter what is called the Texas Hill Country, you find a closely related species, Euphorbia marginata, or snow-on-the-mountain (English-speaking settlers here in the 19th century really did call the hills mountains). Roughly speaking, Interstate 35 and the Balcones Fault that it parallels provide a line of demarcation between the two species in central Texas.

I took this photograph of a flowering colony of snow-on-the-mountain on an undeveloped lot between two industrial buildings in Cedar Park, a suburb just to the north of Austin. The date was August 30, by which time I’d already been finding (and photographing) the species flowering for two or three weeks.

There’s a slight pink tinge in the clouds that is not an artifact of processing the photograph. I noticed that faint bit of color when I looked through the camera’s viewfinder; I was puzzled by it then, and I still am.

© 2012 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 9, 2012 at 6:10 AM

8 Responses

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  1. Interesting and attractive plant. Is it scented?


    September 9, 2012 at 1:52 PM

    • My nose has never been able to detect a scent. I tried sniffing some of these flowers just recently to see if I caught a whiff of anything, but I didn’t.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 9, 2012 at 2:01 PM

  2. That’s quite an attractive plant. Are the stems/stalks stiff? They look almost shrub-like. The leaves are interesting, too – not clustered. It’s quite different, of course, but it reminds me of my Christmas cactus.


    September 9, 2012 at 8:34 PM

  3. […] The last view looked cloudward at a dense stand of Euphorbia marginata, known picturesquely as snow-on-the-mountain because it’s found in the Texas Hill Country, among other places. But plants don’t grow in isolation, and here’s a slightly angled-down view to make that point. The flowers sunnying the ground are yellow bitterweed, Helenium amarum var. amarum, making a first appearance in these pages. Like the previous photograph, I took this one on August 30 on an undeveloped lot between two industrial buildings in Cedar Park, a suburb just north of Austin. […]

  4. Steve, I love this plant and envy that it grows wild in your area. I can purchase seeds for it and it grows beautifully in Pennsylvania, but we must get a hybrid because the seeds I save don’t breed true. It is astonishing as a tall backdrop to medium and tall flowers, or in the center of a circular garden. Still, I like flowers best out in the field.


    September 12, 2012 at 12:41 PM

    • I wish you could see large stands of snow-on-the-mountain and snow-on-the-prairie in their natural habitat (maybe a trip to central Texas next September?), but at least you’ve gotten to know some individual plants up close in your area thanks to the seeds you bought.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 12, 2012 at 1:12 PM

  5. […] All the searcher got was a hot-weather view of the wildflower called snow-on-the-mountain. […]

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