Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Lindheimer’s senna pods

with 17 comments

Click for greater clarity.

Click for greater clarity.

In a comment a few days ago about the little leaf mysteriously stuck on the spines and glochids of a prickly pear cactus, Ken Bello suggested it was the work of extra-terrestrial aliens and he asked if I’d seen any pods in the vicinity. Actually I had, but they were from a native plant called Lindheimer’s senna, Senna lindheimeriana, a species that until now has been alien to this blog but not to the world of nature in Austin, where I often see it. What I haven’t seen, and hope I never do, is any of the peas in these pods waiting for me to fall asleep so they could take me over, à la the 1956 movie The Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

The Ferdinand Jakob Lindheimer for whom botanists have named this species of senna was a stranger in a strange land, one of many Germans who emigrated to Texas in the 1800s. In his case it was to escape retribution after his support for an insurrection in Frankfurt in 1833. The Germans who fled following the failure of that attempt for political reform came to be known collectively as Dreissiger, which we can translate loosely as ‘[18]30s guys.’ Lindheimer spent time first in Illinois and then in Vera Cruz (Mexico) before moving to Texas, where he ultimately became “the father of Texas botany because of his work as the first permanent-resident plant collector” in the state. The house where Lindheimer lived in New Braunfels still exists and is occasionally open to visitors, of whom I’ve been one.

For a change (especially if you followed the links in the text) you’ve gotten a bigger dose of history than of botany, but variety is the species of life. And I’m not bluffing when I say that, like the last few photographs, this one came from a bluff above Loop 360 near the aptly named Bluffstone Dr. in northwest Austin on January 23.

© 2013 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 4, 2013 at 6:18 AM

17 Responses

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  1. Fantastisches Makro!!


    February 4, 2013 at 6:57 AM

  2. I am not sure what this plant looks in the “in the real.” I looked it up but can not tell from a drawing on Wiki.
    I know that you probaly know a great deal about him since you have been photographing so many of the native plants. There are so many plants named for him. I am German (my mother came from Germany and I grew up in a basically German community here in Texas.) Do you have pics of this plant in bloom to show the entire plant?


    February 4, 2013 at 10:00 AM

    • I do have pictures of the plant when it’s fresh (I like your expression “in the real”). I’ll see if I can post one in the days ahead.

      There are a lot of plants named for Lindheimer, and that’s how I came to learn a little (I can’t say a lot) about the man. Like your mother, one of my grandfathers came to the United States from Germany.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 4, 2013 at 10:10 AM

  3. […] a comment a few days ago about some dry pods of Lindheimer’s senna, Senna lindheimeriana, Yvonne Daniel asked if I could post a picture showing what this kind of […]

  4. […] times in my nature blog this week I played off the familiar English-language saying that “variety is the spice of […]

  5. I’d call this one “Nature’s Abacus” – I love the “inside look” into the pods.


    February 7, 2013 at 8:22 AM

    • Now there’s a novel association: an abacus. If one of my pictures ever reminds you of a slide rule, be sure to let me know.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 7, 2013 at 9:35 AM

  6. […] that you’ve seen some dry pods and some leaflets of Lindheimer’s senna, Senna lindheimeriana, I suppose it’s only fair […]

  7. Some days you’re so punny. Thanks for the history lesson!


    February 8, 2013 at 10:11 AM

  8. What I find ‘punny’ about these seedpods is the fact they ‘hang’ straight out from the branch! Normally, one would expect to see them hang down….extraordinary! Nature is marvellous, isn’t she! Good photo, steve.
    PS: My seedpod pic is up on my blog, right now…..come and have a look! 🙂


    February 12, 2013 at 2:33 AM

    • On a single plant of this species the pods can be oriented in different directions, including various degrees of down. In the unrelated plant called clammyweed, all the pods “hang” upward. (In 2011 I showed a couple of pictures of clammyweed flowers but the pods hadn’t formed yet.)

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 12, 2013 at 6:54 AM

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