Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Devil’s claw flower

with 22 comments

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Now here’s a wildflower I don’t often see. In fact, the last time I remember encountering a devil’s claw flower, Proboscidea louisianica, was in the fall of 2009. My streak was broken on August 30 of this year near Tejas Camp in Williamson County, as I wandered along the North Fork of the San Gabriel River. Although this specimen was beginning to turn brown at its fringes, I was still grateful for the chance to photograph it, and to do so against a clear blue sky that complemented the flower’s colors.

© 2012 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 15, 2012 at 6:05 AM

22 Responses

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  1. What a find! In all my years of wandering, I have never seen this plant in the wild. Camp Tejas is a wonderful area for a nature walk.

    Agnes Plutino

    September 15, 2012 at 6:11 AM

    • That surprises me, Agnes, because you’ve seen so many native plants in the wild. It was you who first told me about Tejas Camp some five years ago, so you can take part of the credit for this picture. The first devil’s claw plant I ever came across was in 1999 at the TxDOT property on Bull Creek Rd. at 44th St. in Austin. I was still a native plant novice at the time.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 15, 2012 at 7:47 AM

  2. At the wildflower center site, it mentions the blooms appear after summer rains. That certainly would help to explain the relative absence of the flowers over the past couple of years. They were waiting for a good drink! It’s really a pretty plant. The shape of the flower reminded me of Venus flytrap. In fact, the USDA site says one name is “aphid trap”. It’s one of the Hotel Californias of flowers – you can check in, but you never can leave!


    September 15, 2012 at 6:48 AM

    • I hadn’t heard about the plant tending to bloom after summer rains, and the one shown here would probably have had rain no closer than two or three weeks before I came upon it, and two weeks after. The ones I found three years ago were on land that I later saw was usually a pond but that had gone dry in a predecessor to last year’s drought. I may return to that site to see if any devil’s claw has come back.

      I didn’t know the name “aphid trap” but the picture I have scheduled for tomorrow shows a couple of other insects in the bell of one of these flowers.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 15, 2012 at 7:57 AM

  3. I didn’t see this much when we first moved to Mason Co., but I was always thrilled to see it. Yes, they would come up after a summer rain. The past few years I’ve started seeing them more. It wasn’t unusual for one of my horses to come up with a hitch hiker seed pod on their leg. In fact, I’d often find the seed pods deposited on the ground by the gate to the yard. This year, many fields around here are still recovering from last year’s horrendous drought, but out in one neighbor’s pasture many devil’s claw plants have sprouted. At this point, they look more like weeds in what used to be a lovely big field of coastal. I can only think that the success of this plant around here has been due to its successful hitch hiker seed pod on the legs of livestock, plus the little fluffy airborne seeds it releases. I’ve looked down to see the hitch hiker on my leg also.


    September 15, 2012 at 7:39 AM

    • We’ve had three rainy days in a row in Austin now, so let’s hope more of these plants will come out. I’m envious of your neighbor who has many of them because I’ve never seen more than one or several at a time, and even then only at intervals of years. When I came across the group at the dry pond I mentioned in the previous comment, one of the curved seed pods got caught in my left sock and I had to stop to extricate it. The pod I saw on the plant in today’s picture was still fresh and hadn’t yet turned into a “claw.”

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 15, 2012 at 8:11 AM

      • Walking past there today, I saw lots of devil’s claws down on the ground, but there have been no cows in that field this year. They were never replaced after last year’s drought. The seeds will have to rely on their little wings to spread after the pods open. The plants are well past their prime now.


        September 15, 2012 at 3:42 PM

  4. A good friend gave me one of the seed pods almost 20 years ago. I have often wondered what the flower that could produce such an amazing seed pod would look like. After all these years you have provided the answer. Thanks, Steve!

    Can’t wait to see what the rest of the plant looks like. ~ Lynda


    September 15, 2012 at 8:42 AM

    • Now if only I’d started this blog close to 20 years ago you wouldn’t have had to wait so long to see what one of these flowers looks like. (I realize there weren’t any blogs 20 years ago, but we can pretend.)

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 15, 2012 at 9:13 AM

  5. These are remarkably handsome plants with lovely blossoms……..but brushing against them releases a pungent and unpleasant odor…………I’ve never seen them handled by a nursery but have known a few people who propagated them to bloom in isolated areas of the garden. I like them and their fruits

    John Mac Carpenter

    September 15, 2012 at 11:52 AM

  6. Very pretty!


    September 15, 2012 at 11:54 PM

  7. […] I was doing my best to overcome depth-of-field problems in photographing the inside of a devil’s claw flower, Proboscidea louisianica, I roused a couple of bug nymphs that had apparently been way down inside […]

  8. […] in the post two days ago about Proboscidea louisianica alluded to the seed capsules of this plant, which is known […]

  9. I have seen these at a couple of places this summer, but mostly at Berry Springs Park northeast of Georgetown. I saw one there in early July, and many more(though still not many) when I went back a couple of weeks ago.

    Ryan McDaniel

    September 18, 2012 at 10:44 AM

    • Thanks for your report. I haven’t been to Berry Springs for a few years and I’d heard that the place had been heavily mowed and otherwise mangled, so I’m glad to hear you found something interesting there recently.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 18, 2012 at 12:18 PM

      • They tend to keep much of the east end under the pecan trees mowed. The fields to the west and some of the wooded portion don’t get as much attention. There was a brilliant display of Indian Blankets there this past spring and a lot of standing cypress last summer(2011). The primitive camp has been closed much of the year as I think they are waiting to get money to prune many of the trees damaged by drought. They have also extended the trail over the past few years so that now it goes under I35. Anyway, it’s another spot in Wilco to check out, providing some contrast to stuff around Lake Georgetown.

        Ryan McDaniel

        September 18, 2012 at 5:01 PM

        • Thanks for the additional update. Too bad I didn’t know about the Indian blankets there this past spring. I’ll try to get out there again this fall or next spring.

          Steve Schwartzman

          September 18, 2012 at 5:26 PM

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