Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

The plight of one plainsman

with 17 comments

Old Plainsman Buds Fasciated 8398

Although the colony of old plainsman, Hymenopappus scabiosaeus, that I found on April 12 at the corner of Corral Ln. and I-35 in south Austin was remarkable for its size and density, one detail caught my attention: a single old plainsman plant that had become fasciated.

A post from August 2011 explained “what botanists call fasciation, a word based, with some imagination, on the Latin fascia that meant ‘a strip of material, ribbon, band, bandage, swathe.’ As Dr. T. Ombrello wrote: ‘One interesting type of mistake that is occasionally found in plants is known as a fasciated or crested growth form. It is usually the result of a growing point changing from a round dome of cells into a crescent shape. Subsequent growth produces a flat stem. In some cases fasciation is the result of several embryonic growing points fusing together, with the same flat-stem appearance.'”

In this close photograph of old plainsman, the lower group of buds looks pretty normal, but the upper group is clearly fasciated, with its buds flattening out into a row rather than forming a round cluster.

If you have a fascination with fasciation, you can look back at a firewheel and a poverty weed plant that suffered from that condition.

© 2013 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 21, 2013 at 6:18 AM

17 Responses

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  1. The cluster of buds are “fascinating,” but I enjoyed the explanation about the variation in them.


    April 21, 2013 at 7:51 AM

    • It’s a strange phenomenon, isn’t it? I still remember where I saw my first instance of it about 13 years ago.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 21, 2013 at 9:25 AM

  2. Quite interesting info. I learned a new word today. I was reading a bit carelessly and thought that I was seeing fascination but the info you gave your readers today is fascinating. 🙂 Hope I spelled those correctly. Ooops I see that Sally’s comment is similiar to mine. Oh well, this one will remain.


    April 21, 2013 at 9:40 AM

    • It’s hard to resist the temptation to play with the one-letter-different words fasciation and fascination, especially because fasciation is such a fascinating phenomenon. I couldn’t resist playing with the words in my first post on the subject, the one referred to in the first link above. I expect today won’t be the last time I treat the topic, either, given that I come across one or two instances of fasciation each year.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 21, 2013 at 9:47 AM

  3. Looks pretty fascinating to me! I’m glad you took the time to explain.


    April 21, 2013 at 10:13 AM

    • Now that you know about the phenomenon, let’s hope you find a fasciated plant in nature to be fascinated by.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 21, 2013 at 10:20 AM

      • Actually, my Shasta daisies do this all the time, and I also see it in Oxeyes out in the field as well as in my feverfew and chamomile now and then. I had thought it was only a habit of single composite flowers, not entire clusters, but the more the merrier! and the stems need to be strong to hold up those big flower heads!


        April 21, 2013 at 10:35 AM

  4. Further interesting to me is the way that the innocuous or even benign concept of ‘binding together’ became the titular reference used for fascism. Clearly plants have a kindlier way of expressing the concept!


    April 21, 2013 at 8:46 PM

    • It was the ancient Romans who used the fasces as an emblem of their power, and that was the tradition Mussolini was trying to follow. I’ll follow your lead and stick to plants (which sometimes stick to me).

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 21, 2013 at 10:45 PM

  5. I remember when you wrote about fasciation before. This photograph is brilliant to begin with, but that it’s also instructive about fasciation is, well, fascinating. Hmmm, do those two words (fasciation/fascination) come from the same root?

    Susan Scheid

    April 22, 2013 at 3:11 PM

    • None of my dictionaries claims there’s any connection between the Latin originals, so it seems to be a coincidental resemblance and nothing more. The primary meaning of Latin fascinum was ‘an evil spell.’ What’s fascinating, though, is that a secondary meaning of fascinum was ‘a phallic-shaped amulet.’

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 22, 2013 at 3:57 PM

  6. […] May 6th at McKinney Falls State Park I found the first fasciated prairie verbena, Glandularia bipinnatifida, that I’ve ever seen. The previous post showed you […]

  7. […] If fasciation is new to you or you’d like a refresher, you can find a discussion of the phenomenon in a post about a fasciated Liatris I ran across a couple of years ago. Other posts since then have shown a fasciated firewheel, poverty weed, prairie verbena, and old plainsman. […]

  8. […] old plainsman; […]

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