Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Still Maximilians

with 17 comments

Two Maximilian Sunflower Flower Heads 7823

By late November this year, as in most years, the Maximilian sunflowers in central Texas had largely faded, but on my November 20th reconnoitering of the Blackland Praire in northeast Austin I found some attractive groups that were still flowering on the north side of Howard Ln. Here’s a closeup of two fully open flower heads and several buds below them that weren’t far behind.

When I was at the scene I saw the world in the usual way, with the full gamut of colors, but in looking at this photograph afterwords I noticed that it has just three: yellow, green, and brown.

© 2012 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 9, 2012 at 6:21 AM

17 Responses

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  1. What lovely composition. I like the “threadiness” of the buds, and the slender petals and leaves. They truly are little bits of sunshine.

    I just read the forecast. Don’t forget about the frostweed – its day to “bloom” is coming!


    December 9, 2012 at 6:48 AM

    • Compared to the “common” sunflower, Helianthus annuus, Helianthus maximiliani is slenderer in several respects: its leaves, its ray flowers, the green bracts behind the flowers, and even the profile of the whole plant. The common sunflower, however, is visible in Austin for a larger part of the year, including even now in December in a few locations. (I remember a comment last year from someone up north who said he knew for sure he’d never seen a sunflower in December.)

      Your reminder about the frostweed is well taken, and it reminded me immediately also of this line from Psalm 137 “If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning.” The forecast for Austin early this coming week is a low of 36°, which probably isn’t low enough to trigger the frostweed phenomenon, but I’ll check to see. A few days ago I was on a side trail in Great Hills Park and was already thinking about frostweed ice because that was a place where I saw some a few years ago. Let’s hope I see more this year, but if not, I can do what I did with the grackles, post a “new” picture from a previous year. What gets posted in this blog is only the tip of the photographic iceberg, and there’s much more that doesn’t normally see the light of the computer screen.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 9, 2012 at 8:43 AM

  2. The “maxi” is one of my favorite wildflowers and I have grown it in my yard for many years. It loves the soil here and increase its numbes by leaps and bounds if I let it. I have one, I think, nice pic on my blog of all the profusion of blooms. I have to see which post that one is in. You can never go wrong in my book when you post the the yellow ones.


    December 9, 2012 at 10:05 AM

    • In Texas we certainly have an abundance of yellow flowers in the sunflower family. I’ve shown several (goldeneye, camphorweed, four-nerve daisy) in these pages, and I can understand why you’ve featured a Maximilian sunflower in yours. As we approach the end of summer each year I always look forward to the return of the Maximilian sunflowers.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 9, 2012 at 10:12 AM

  3. In my experience the wild sunflowers are usually teaming with insects. So how did you find a specimen so clean as this? It is beautiful! ~Lynda


    December 9, 2012 at 1:01 PM

    • There are spiders or spider silk on almost everything, it seems, and plenty of small insects as well. If I notice any that appeal to me I play them up in my photographs, as I did with that elongated spider whose picture appeared here a few days ago. Why this plant was so pristine I don’t know, but I took advantage of that, too.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 9, 2012 at 1:23 PM

  4. That really was quite a find – they’re very pretty!



    December 9, 2012 at 7:38 PM

    • Yes, I was pleased to see the bright group that this was part of, especially so far into the fall.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 9, 2012 at 7:59 PM

  5. I’m amazed at how many gorgeous wild flowers you have photographed since I started to follow your blog. Their sheer variety is breathtaking.

    Mary Mageau

    December 10, 2012 at 3:53 AM

    • I had the same reaction in 1999 when I started looking into the native flora here. Like many people in Austin, I’d been familiar with bluebonnets, Indian paintbrushes, pink evening primroses, and a few other species, but I found that there are literally hundreds more.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 10, 2012 at 6:54 AM

  6. Very lovely and sweet colours. Thanks


    December 10, 2012 at 5:35 AM

    • You’re certainly welcome. Maximilian sunflowers are one of the joys of autumn in central Texas.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 10, 2012 at 7:23 AM

  7. It may be winter in Texas but that picture still looks hot to me! I’m teaching a photography class up here on the Arctic Circle and I have my kids check your site for inspiration. They don’t have any flower pictures yet, but of course we won’t see any until May. Always enjoy your work, Steve!


    December 10, 2012 at 10:46 AM

    • Winter is a relative term, isn’t it, Dave? According to the calendar we still have a couple of weeks till it’s officially winter. In any case, winters in central Texas are a lot milder than the ones I grew up with in New York, let alone than the ones you must experience on the Arctic Circle. It’s hard for people here to imagine a place where there are no flowers till May.

      I used to be a teacher, so I’m glad to find myself being one indirectly for your students—and to be doing so from a relatively warm place!

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 10, 2012 at 11:06 AM

  8. Merci pour ce soleil dans ma journée neigeuse. 🙂


    December 14, 2012 at 4:51 AM

    • Je suis content d’avoir pu te les offrir. Il y a encore des tournesols “communs” (Helianthus annuus), mais peu. La neige est belle aussi.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 14, 2012 at 7:03 AM

  9. […] also a few sunflower plants, Helianthus annuus, and at the left edge the narrower leaves of some Maximilian sunflowers, Helianthus maximiliani, which won’t flower till late summer or early fall. The white dots in […]

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