Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography


with 23 comments

Yesterday I mentioned that the groundskeepers of an apartment complex in my neighborhood have mostly left alone a little roadside embankment where I’ve been able to photograph native plants year after year. Not so with the highway crews, who two weeks ago mowed down a colony of greenthread, Thelesperma filifolium, that came up late in the season and, until the untimely mowing, brightened the same plot of ground that had produced the dense rain-lilies you saw in September. I didn’t manage to photograph the latest colony before it got annihilated, but here’s a portrait of a single greenthread flower head from October 17th in the northeast quadrant of US 183 and Mopac.

If you’re interested in photography as a craft, you’ll find that points 1, 2 and 4 in About My Techniques are relevant to this photograph.

© 2012 Steven Schwartzman


Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 19, 2012 at 6:15 AM

23 Responses

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  1. So bright and cheery :). Thank you for a beautiful start to my day!


    December 19, 2012 at 6:20 AM

  2. Interesting name Greenthread. From your photograph one would assume it gets its name from the long green stem? Such a lovely thing. ~Lynda
    (Do the mowermen have no sense of beauty?)


    December 19, 2012 at 6:52 AM

    • The name comes from the plant’s leaves, which are made up of thread-like segments. Those leaves are one way to tell this DYC (darn yellow composite) apart from so many others whose flowers look similar.

      As to your second question, the simple answer is no, alas.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 19, 2012 at 7:00 AM

  3. This poor baby looks like it’s shrinking away from those forces of mechanical evil. It’s such a beautiful flower. It took me a minute to realize the petals are segmented – it has eight petals, not twenty-four! Even better, now that I’ve seen the leaves and stems, I think I know where I can find some colonies next year.


    December 19, 2012 at 8:05 AM

    • Your imagination can retroactively read shrinking into this, though the picture dates from some six weeks before the latest round of mowing. Greenthread is among the most common wildflowers in Austin, and it grows in many parts of Texas, so your chances of finding some are good.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 19, 2012 at 9:02 AM

  4. Don’t get me going to roadside maintenance crews. No common sense whatsoever. It’s not the crews though, it’s the management. If you talk to a mower dude he will tell you he is doing what he is told to do. That’s it!!! Texas is the WORST when it comes to maintaining roadsides properly. Poor Lady Bird must be rolling in her grave…


    December 19, 2012 at 9:02 AM

    • Oh, Agnes, the times you and I have commiserated about the mowers. I doubt we’ll live long enough to see the situation change. In this case, the property is across the street from your old haunt, Camp Mabry, where 45th St. and Perry Ln. come together.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 19, 2012 at 9:07 AM

  5. Beautiful bright and sunny flower.. I went to read about your techniques and I learned a lot, unfortunately I am limited with my camera.


    December 19, 2012 at 9:43 AM

    • Yes, greenthread is bright and sunny. This past spring I showed how densely they can grow. The colony that recently got mowed down was one that came up late in the year, so it wasn’t as lush as the one from the spring, but it still looked good.

      As for cameras, having a good one is clearly an advantage, but even with a point-and-shoot camera some of the techniques I described could be useful. The most important thing is the way one looks at a subject.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 19, 2012 at 9:58 AM

  6. I like greenthread- it is quite showy if blooming en masse. The mowing crews are the fault of the cities and states. There should be a contract in place that stipulates no mowing until the majority of the seeds of the flower groupings have ripened. It is simply crazy and I believe that the contract crews mow as fast as possible in order to make more money. Where the government is concerned, there should be no hurry and someone should be directing them regarding the proper time to mow. All of the mowing nonsense is yet another symptom of a society that is or has gone by the wayside or I should say to pot.


    December 19, 2012 at 10:11 AM

    • The problem with the mowers is that they have literally gone by the wayside! I’ve sometimes complained to the relevant authorities, and at least once it did some good. Perhaps if more people complain more often….

      While you were writing your comment, I included a link inside my answer to the previous comment so people who aren’t familiar with greenthread get to see how showy it can be en masse.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 19, 2012 at 10:22 AM

  7. Thanks Steve. I am going to contact my friend who is still involved in Audubon. Surely that group should be able to present a relevant complaint to the highway department and to the city to get them to stop the inane mowing at all of the wrong times. I think you were able to pull some weight because you are a “name” and write a blog, etc. But I will definitely ask my friend to see what can be done about what I perceive to be a definite problem.


    December 19, 2012 at 11:47 AM

    • I don’t know what sort of weight a small blog like mine carries, but I’m glad to have headed off some mowing. Good luck with your endeavors to get authorites to be more responsive to the condition of plants and to stop blindly following a schedule.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 19, 2012 at 1:24 PM

  8. Beautiful! Like a bright sunshine on a gloomy day.


    December 19, 2012 at 1:14 PM

    • I can see why this is especially welcome for people who live in places where the sun now sets at 4 o’clock in the afternoon. Luckily the solstice is at hand, and soon the amount of daylight will start increasing.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 19, 2012 at 1:26 PM

  9. Magnifique!


    December 21, 2012 at 9:15 AM

  10. […] morning of April 2. The yellow-orange patches of color farther back correspond to a few interloping greenthread flowers, Thelesperma filifolium. I’m an interloper, too, from the species Homo […]

  11. […] these pages: old plainsman, Hymenopappus scabiosaeus; prairie verbena, Glandularia bipinnatifida; greenthread, Thelesperma filifolium; firewheel or Indian blanket, Gaillardia […]

  12. […] simplicifolium, a species making its debut in these pages today. If these flowers remind you of the greenthread that has appeared here several times, it’s because the two are closely related members of the […]

  13. […] my visit on April 28. The white flowers are old plainsman, Hymenopappus scabiosaeus; the yellow are greenthreads, Thelesperma filifolium; the bits of purple at the right are prairie verbena, Glandularia […]

  14. […] wildflowers of various kinds. 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 […]

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