Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

The prairie comes alive

with 20 comments

The high temperature in Austin on October 3 was still around 90° (32°C), but that’s not unusual here, nor did it hinder the prairie plants from doing their fall thing; in fact it probably encouraged them. Here’s a scene I found that morning at an undeveloped lot on E. 51st St. at Overbrook Dr. The prominent purple flower spikes are Liatris mucronata, known as blazing-star or gayfeather, of which I’d found a surprisingly early harbinger a mile further east way back in May. The stately plants in the background of today’s picture, some as much as 8 ft. (2.5m) tall, are Maximilian sunflowers, Helianthus maximiliani.

© 2012 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 11, 2012 at 6:16 AM

20 Responses

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  1. 90 degrees?!?! I am so jealous as I look at the first bit of snow on the ground outside my window :(. I’m just going to sit and stare at your beautiful flowers all day and pretend I am there soaking up the sun!!


    October 11, 2012 at 7:18 AM

    • Yesterday we got up into the high 80s, with today predicted to be the same. One reason I moved to Texas was the warm climate. I’ll grant that snow looks pretty, but warmth suits my body (and I realized after I wrote it that suits is a play on words). So yes, there’ll be reliable flower pictures here for another month or two.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 11, 2012 at 7:30 AM

  2. Je profite de tes fleurs, car chez moi, c’est fini.La semaine prochaine on attend les 0 degré °c et la neige sur les sommets 😉


    October 11, 2012 at 8:51 AM

    • Profites-en donc, Val, je t’invite à mon voyage floral. Ton commentaire est pareil à celui de Cindy ci-dessus, et toutes les deux vouz pouvez répéter le dernier vers de “La jolie rousse” d’Apollinaire: “Ayez pitié de moi.” À vrai dire, la neige a quand même une beauté qu’on n’éprouve pas à Austin.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 11, 2012 at 9:10 AM

  3. I love the bright colors here. Great shot!


    October 11, 2012 at 9:29 AM

  4. Purple against a brilliant blue sky. So beautiful. The gayfeather is one of my most favorite native plants. It is odd that I do not have some growing in my wild garden. I posted some pics of Maximillian sunflower on my blog. It never fails to bloom and is one of the easiest to grow. It also makes a fairly long lasting cut flower. Those growing in my wild garden are from one plant that I moved from a prairie that was doomed for destruction many years ago. I have never tried Liatris and I need to get some seed from my friend’s farm.


    October 11, 2012 at 1:02 PM

    • Purple and blue did it for me too. I’m glad you’ve had good results with Maximilian sunflowers and I wish you well with Liatris, whose flowers harmonize so well with the other species.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 11, 2012 at 1:47 PM

  5. Another great photo. I too saw some uncharacteristically early liatris this year up at the Balcones National Wildlife Refuge back in late spring or early summer. Had to double check my field guide because I wasn’t ready to be thinking about late summer/fall flowers at that point.

    Ryan McDaniel

    October 11, 2012 at 7:32 PM

    • Thanks, Ryan. I think that once, years ago, I saw some Liatris flowering in Austin in late June, but mid-May this spring was unprecedented in my experience. On the other hand, 2012 has been that sort of a year, with many species blooming atypically after the severe drought of 2011. (Today I found a pink evening primrose flower months after there should be any.)

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 11, 2012 at 7:51 PM

      • Oddly, I saw a primrose at Camp Tejas just today and have seen the odd one just about every where this fall. Not only that I saw some coreopsis as well.

        Ryan McDaniel

        October 13, 2012 at 3:18 AM

        • You’ve cited more examples to show that plants don’t read field guides. Rain and temperature apparently count for a lot, whatever the season would normally dictate.

          Steve Schwartzman

          October 13, 2012 at 5:35 AM

  6. Your mention of the primrose reminds me – Susan Conaty commented on my current entry that she’d entertained people from Illinois who traveled to Texas especially to see the pink evening primrose. Apparently wild asparagus isn’t the only plant life that gets stalked.

    I love this vibrant color – autumn isn’t just for red, yellow and orange!


    October 11, 2012 at 10:03 PM

    • When I photographed the unexpected pink evening primrose this morning I was reminded me that although it’s one of the most common wildflowers here in the spring, I have yet to show a picture of one in this blog (except once as a formless pink glow behind a coreopsis). The same goes for prairie verbena, which I also saw today. I don’t know if I’ll fill in some of those gaps, perhaps this winter when things are sparse, or just wait for next spring when those “missing” species are at their peak again.

      There’s lots of yellow here now, some of which I expect to show in the weeks ahead, but it’s hard to beat that vibrant Liatris, especially when it’s in contrast to yellow. The red and orange of changing leaves is mostly a phenomenon of November and December in Austin, so there’s still time for that.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 11, 2012 at 10:59 PM

  7. What a beautiful color, and so much of it!


    October 11, 2012 at 10:54 PM

    • Yes, and there were plenty more Liatris flower spikes at that location, but I was especially fond of the bulges in the two leaning spikes shown in this photo. In a few days I’ll have a landscape view of a Liatris colony in the Texas Hill Country, including some spikes of a variant color.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 11, 2012 at 11:03 PM

  8. WOW !!!!


    October 11, 2012 at 11:41 PM

  9. Que foto más bonita!
    Me encanta el contraste de las florecitas amarillas con el cielo!
    Que buena foto Steven!

    Pablo Buitrago

    October 12, 2012 at 12:04 AM

    • Gracias, Pablo. En la próxima entrada verás de cerca las flores amarillas contra el mismo cielo azul.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 12, 2012 at 5:02 AM

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