Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

It’s the middle of December and we still have a few sunflowers

with 19 comments

Click for greater clarity.

Click for greater clarity.

We’ve had a bunch of cloudy weather in the past couple of weeks, and I don’t like shooting into a gray or white sky, but here’s a picture of a wild sunflower, Helianthus annuus, that was part of a group I saw yesterday morning behind the Wendy’s on US 183 in my northwest Austin neighborhood. Imagine that: sunflowers on December 15.

© 2012 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 16, 2012 at 6:17 AM

19 Responses

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  1. Wonderful!


    December 16, 2012 at 7:05 AM

  2. Very pretty. It seems that we are slap dab into global warming. I fear for the earth and what the future holds.
    We have not had any sort of winter weather except maybe a few nights here and there. We are reaping what each country’s government has not done to protect the environment.


    December 16, 2012 at 9:20 AM

    • Plants are hardy things, and I’ve often been surprised to find one flowering at a time of year when it’s “not supposed to be.” This sunflower plant (and the others near it) had already been through two nights with temperatures at or near freezing—and yet flowers were still coming out.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 16, 2012 at 9:36 AM

      • It is mind boggling sometimes.


        December 16, 2012 at 6:35 PM

      • Thanks for the reply. Maybe there are micro climate pockets where the temp did not get to freezing or the plants are tolerating the cold at a lower degree. It would be interesting to know what the temp was where the sunflowers were/are still blooming.


        December 16, 2012 at 10:34 PM

        • You raise a good question about the temperature at that site. I wish I knew what degree of cold a sunflower plant can withstand.

          Steve Schwartzman

          December 17, 2012 at 6:38 AM

  3. This Helianthus is so beautiful.. and I love the way you took this picture. Here in the south of France, we w’ill have them in May/June.


    December 16, 2012 at 9:48 AM

    • The middle or end of May is typically when they start here, and the maximum density usually occurs in June; that said, the peak can be earlier, as it was last year. In smaller amounts, these sunflowers continue through the intense heat of summer, the welcome cooling of autumn, and even, as you see here, into December. The giant sunflowers that Van Gogh painted in the south of France are cultivated descendants of the wild Helianthus annuus of North America.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 16, 2012 at 10:46 AM

  4. Nicely portrayed–and how fortunate to have that dainty flower bursting into life in December.


    December 16, 2012 at 9:55 AM

    • This is the second December in a row that I’ve managed to photograph this species here in December, again not too far from home and also on a cloudy day. I’ll check periodically to see how long the current ones last.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 16, 2012 at 10:52 AM

  5. Such a lovely sight… lovely photo. 🙂

    Carol Welsh

    December 16, 2012 at 11:09 AM

  6. After waking up to thunder and lightning at 4:30 this morning, with darkened gray skies and only liquid sunshine, I am enjoying your December Sunflower! ~Lynda


    December 16, 2012 at 1:26 PM

    • It’s also brightening our skies, which look even grayer than the one in the picture. I was awakened this morning by the sound of rain on the skylight, but the rain soon stopped and did the land no good. We could use some of that liquid sunshine you mentioned.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 16, 2012 at 1:37 PM

  7. This is so unusual – not just the sight of the sunflower, but the photograph itself. The cloud-washed sky, the composition, the unusual yellow tinge to the leaves and stem make it look like a watercolor painting. It’s just lovely. And by the way – a few sunflowers are re-emerging here. They’re sturdy little plants.

    (We got 2.25″ of rain today. I’d told Santa I wanted rain for Christmas. You might give it a try!)


    December 16, 2012 at 7:26 PM

    • I think the pale tinge of the leaves is due to end-of-season depletion. There were plenty of sunflower seed heads present in various stages of drying out, along with similarly advanced leaves that were crinkly and tan or brown.

      With your coastal climate being even milder than ours, I’m not surprised to hear that you’ve spotted some sunflowers there as well, nor would I be surprised to learn, if no hard freeze intervenes, that a few had made it into 2013. Your recent rain may make that happen. In contrast, we’ve had only a few drops, and I’m not sure rain is a wishable commodity.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 16, 2012 at 10:12 PM

  8. I really like your wild sunflowers, so unlike the sunflowers grown for cooking oil over here. I think the soft sky background gives this image a slightly painterly feel to it, which I like! If I don’t see you before then, enjoy the Christmas break, if you celebrate it, and I look forward to seeing more of the wildflowers in your State throughout next year. Best to you, :O)


    December 20, 2012 at 2:34 AM

    • Wild they are, these sunflowers, and they have a predilection for springing up on what the field guides call “disturbed ground.” The little group of which this sunflower was a part is all that remains of many more on a property that had been abandoned for some years and is now a construction site.

      The sunflowers that gardeners plant for decoration and farmers for oil were bred over the centuries from wild ones that explorers of the New World took back to Europe. From there the cultivated varieties were taken to places all over the world, with the result that here in the United States we have both kinds.

      Thanks for your holiday wishes, and the same to you on the other side of the earth. I’ll do my best to keep up the flow of Texas wildflowers in the new year.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 20, 2012 at 5:36 AM

  9. […] a post on December 16, 2012, you saw a sunflower that I photograph there the previous day. The little group of sunflowers that […]

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