Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Texas toadflax in Bastrop

with 9 comments

Toadflax Flowers and Buds by Burned Trees 0985

Click for better clarity.

Even in April of 2012, just half a year after the Bastrop County Complex Fire, I found wildflowers coming up again in their usual way. On March 4th of this year I returned for the first time since then, as you saw in the previous two posts. This latest trip was a month earlier in the spring, so there was less new growth than on the last visit, but among the burned ruins of the forest I still found wildflowers coming up. Shown here is one of them, Nuttallanthus texanus. People call it Texas toadflax—what it has to do with toads is anybody’s guess—but it grows in various places in the United States, not just Texas, as you can confirm on the state-clickable USDA map; it also grows in parts of Canada and Mexico.

© 2013 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 22, 2013 at 6:12 AM

9 Responses

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  1. Steve,

    I just recently discovered your “Portraits of Wildflowers”, and it is most timely.  Many of your recent posts have been of McKinney State Falls and now Bastrop.  I visit both places often on nature walks…love your photos and informational quips.

    keep ’em coming!!!  Esther

    Esther Wilson

    March 22, 2013 at 6:33 AM

    • A-coming they will be, Esther, including some more pictures from Bastrop, a few from a return visit to McKinney Falls State Park, and quips aplenty. I appreciate your enthusiasm.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 22, 2013 at 6:52 AM

  2. It looks so much like the European Toadflax, or Flaxweed (Linaria vulgaris), I wonder if immigrants applied the old name to a new plant, with a nod to Texas in the process. In any event, here’s one explanation of how the toads got involved:

    “The Toadflax… belongs to the scrofula-curing order of plants, getting its name from linum, flax, and being termed “toad” by a mistaken translation of its Latin title Bubonio, this having been wrongly read bufonio –belonging to a toad — or because having a flower (as the Snapdragon) like a toad’s mouth: whereas “bubonio” means “useful for the groins.”


    March 22, 2013 at 7:35 PM

    • Thanks for pointing out that the New World toadflax was named after the old. The explanation of the popular name based on a misreading is plausible; such things have been documented with other words. I’ll see if I can find out more.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 22, 2013 at 10:04 PM

  3. Pretty blossoms! I’m always impressed by how quickly wildflowers return to a burned area. That creates some interesting contrasts.


    March 22, 2013 at 11:01 PM

    • It certainly does, and I’ve fortunately been able to document those contrasts two springs in a row.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 23, 2013 at 4:29 AM

  4. I remember the first time I saw a hill prairie the spring after a prescribed burn went through. It was simply breathtaking. Fire had been suppressed for upwards of 50 years, but the seeds were there, waiting their chance all that time. Since then we have learned a lot about how many of our native plants have co-evolved with fire. That’s here; is it the same in Texas?


    March 26, 2013 at 1:36 PM

    • Yes, it’s the same here. One reason for the dense stands of Ashe juniper trees and prickly pear cacti in central Texas is the long-term suppression of fire. Conservationists sometimes carry out prescribed burns to eliminate invasive species, both alien and native.

      Unfortunately the Bastrop fire was of such scale and duration that it did a lot more harm than good.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 26, 2013 at 1:55 PM

  5. […] members of the Scrophulariaceae, or figwort family, that you’ve seen here include Texas toadflax, prairie agalinis, cenizo, and—perhaps best known of all—Indian […]

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