Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Mealy blue sage and friends

with 20 comments

When I went walking in the northeast quadrant of US 183 and Mopac on October 17th, in addition to a colorful greenbrier leaf and some new greenbrier growth I found a resurgence of many kinds of wildflowers. One was mealy blue sage, Salvia farinacea, which makes its primary appearance in the spring but comes up again to a lesser degree in the fall, as you see here. Note the detached but still clinging flower and the bits of spiderweb. The pink in the background is from our seemingly ubiquitous purple bindweed, Ipomoea cordatitriloba.

Even now, a month later to the day, I’m still finding occasional mealy blue sage flowers in Austin. And even now, year after year after year, I’m repeating that mealy blue sage flowers are more purple than blue.

© 2012 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 17, 2012 at 6:15 AM

20 Responses

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  1. Ca fait du bien de voir de fleurs. Pour l’instant, ici, il va nous falloir être patients. J’aime beaucoup la sauge.
    Bon week-end.


    November 17, 2012 at 6:47 AM

    • Je me souviens de la sauge des prés dont tu as parlé en février (et nous sommes déjà novembre?). Ici, les fleurs, oui, il y en a toujours. Et ça me rappelle une poésie de Ronsard:

      Je vous envoie un bouquet que ma main
      Vient de trier de ces fleurs épanies;
      Qui ne les eût à ce vêpre cueillies
      Chutes à terre elles fussent demain.

      Cela vous soit un exemple certain
      Que vos beautés bien qu’elles soient fleuries
      En peu de temps cherront toutes flétries
      Et comme fleurs périront tout soudain.

      Le temps s’en va, le temps s’en va, ma Dame,
      Las ! le temps non, mais nous, nous en allons,
      Et tôt serons étendus sous la lame ;

      Et des amours desquelles nous parlons,
      Quand serons morts, n’en sera plus nouvelle;
      Pour ce, aimez-moi cependant qu’êtes belle.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 17, 2012 at 7:12 AM

  2. A plantsman once told me that a flower’s color was so dark a blue that it was almost purple. I thought it was purple so that shows how much I know!


    November 17, 2012 at 7:07 AM

    • Color names are notoriously subjective. For me, mealy blue sage flowers definitely cross the line and are more purple than blue (and it seems you’re with me on this), but I understand that at least some other people see it differently.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 17, 2012 at 7:16 AM

  3. What’s especially amusing is that the purple bindweed in the background looks pink in comparison to the purple that’s supposed to be blue! Context is everything, as they say.

    But here’s another thought. Is it possible that, over time, some of these colors have changed slightly? Some of these plants were named 150 years ago – that’s nothing in the larger scale of things, but it still is many generations of plants. I wonder if the original namers might literally have been seeing a bluer plant?


    November 17, 2012 at 9:44 AM

    • That’s a great first sentence you wrote. You’re right: “pink bindweed” would sometimes be a better name than “purple bindweed.” I don’t know if the colors of wildflowers have changed in the last couple of centuries. We know that hybrids have been bred in all sorts of non-original colors over relatively short periods. My explanation for the (to me erroneous) “blue” in flower names like bluebonnet, bluebell, and mealy blue sage, is that some colors are felt to be more basic than others. In the history of color names, blue came long before purple (or lavender, or pomegranate). As a result, pioneers looking for names for wildflowers generally resorted to basic color labels. The case of purple bindweed seems to be an exception, unless purple is assumed to have about the same familiarity rank as violet or pink (and of course in the case of violet, we’ve borrowed the name of a flower and used it as the name of a color). In summary, it’s a complicated subject.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 17, 2012 at 10:25 AM

    • Funny, I saw the bindweed as just this side of lavender…
      ~Lynda ‘-)


      November 19, 2012 at 12:05 PM

  4. You read, speak, and write french. I am impressed. Back to mealy blue sage. I see the plant as blue. It happens to be a favorite plant as it is common or should be one of the naitves on a pristine prairie. Beautiful color and lovely macro to show its beauty. I believe that some individuals see color differently.


    November 17, 2012 at 12:28 PM

    • Yes, it does seem that people can see the same color differently (think about color blindness, for example). In addition, there’s the more common reality that individuals have different boundaries for what separates color Y from color X and color Z. Whatever color name you apply to this species, it’s a great wildflower for a prairie.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 17, 2012 at 1:54 PM

  5. Very pretty blossom!


    November 18, 2012 at 12:44 AM

  6. Most of the time I think my favorite color is green, and then today you come along and make a compelling argument for lavender (aka: the other blue in nature’s flora). ~Lynda


    November 19, 2012 at 12:02 PM

    • To paraphrase Shakespeare: That which I call purple by any other name would look as good. In any case, I’m glad this appealed to you and offered you a candidate for favorite color.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 19, 2012 at 12:26 PM

  7. bellissimi colori, molto bella la foto


    November 21, 2012 at 6:41 AM

    • Grazie. This, the first Italian comment that has ever appeared on this blog, finds the colors and the photo beautiful.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 21, 2012 at 8:42 AM

      • How nice! we are happy to be the first, we hope that you will receive another


        November 21, 2012 at 8:45 AM

        • Let’s hope it won’t take another year and half for the second one.

          Steve Schwartzman

          November 21, 2012 at 11:40 AM

          • You continue to post pictures of beautiful as you’ve already done, and we’ll take care, not a year, but now! Hello


            November 21, 2012 at 11:43 AM

  8. […] Last fall you saw several other photographs from the same session: a greenthread flower head, some mealy blue sage flowers, a greenbrier tendril and thorn, and an unusually brilliant greenbrier […]

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