Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

What would a Texas spring be if I didn’t show you a Texas thistle?

with 39 comments

Texas Thistle Bud End-On 6227

Here’s the bud of a Texas thistle, Cirsium texanum, that was just beginning to open on the Blackland Prairie in Pflugerville* on the morning of May 13. You see the clear blue of the sky, but you don’t see the adjacent building where I’d gone to renew my driver’s license. I’m pretty sure I’m the only person there who came away from the place with more photos taken than the one required for the license, and I’m pretty sure that not many of the people getting or renewing a license would have been willing to lie down with plants on the prairie for the sake of a picture.

This view reminds me of the cover of a science fiction book I read when I was a teenager, The Big Eye, by Max Ehrlich, originally published in 1949. In searching the Internet now, I see that various editions of the novel had different covers, each with a prominent eye in the sky, but the one I remember is the one shown in Goodreads.


* Ironically, at least for a nature photography blog in a region where almost all of the native prairie was soon destroyed after Anglo settlers arrived in the 1800s, the German word Pfluger means ‘plowman.’

© 2013 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 28, 2013 at 6:22 AM

39 Responses

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  1. Wow, that reminds me of looking through a kaleidoscope. It’s gorgeous!!! By the way, over $10,000 damage to my car from Bambi. Yikes!! Thank goodness for insurance :).


    May 28, 2013 at 6:43 AM

  2. For sheer beauty and symmetry, you can’t beat the thistle. But, once again, your lens has provided an image far more stunning that the usual walk-through-the-field view.

    My first thought was of the Cyclops. When I saw the cover and plot summary of Ehrlich’s book, I had to laugh. Then, it was science fiction. Today, we’re busy trying to decide if it’s science or fiction.


    May 28, 2013 at 7:18 AM

    • As many times as I’ve photographed Texas thistle buds at the stage shown here, this turned out to be the most abstract view, and therefore one that I was especially happy with.

      I’ve thought for decades that mythology would make more sense to us, especially as children, if someone explained that the ancient names were almost always relevant descriptions rather than arbitrary names of the type we use today. Cyclops, for example, means ’round eye’ (think about the words cycle and optometrist), because the Cyclops had one large round eye rather than the two usual almond-shaped ones.

      I guess ancient mythology was the science fiction of its day.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 28, 2013 at 8:26 AM

  3. Love this one! The brilliant blue sky really adds to it. The perfect shape and colors are so pleasing. After reading where you took the shot, makes it that much more impressive.


    May 28, 2013 at 7:34 AM

    • Thanks for your enthusiasm. The clear sky that morning made it special for me, too. In fact we’ve hardly had a completely clear day since then.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 28, 2013 at 8:32 AM

  4. Wonderful and impressive picture.


    May 28, 2013 at 7:56 AM

  5. Striking the way that the colors fan outward.


    May 28, 2013 at 8:26 AM

    • Yes, this view with the opening top of the thistle bud at the center creates that concentric effect, with its rings of colors. I’m glad you’re a fan.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 28, 2013 at 9:18 AM

  6. It seems an impossibility to capture, in one image, the menacing, the comical and the exceedingly beautiful–but you did it, and here it is. Love it. And yes, I did immediately think of a 50s SciFi poster/book cover when I saw it.


    May 28, 2013 at 10:04 AM

    • Thanks. I like your description of the menacing, the comical and the beautiful. Speaking of the comical, your triple threat reminds me of some spaghetti western film titles from the late 60s (which, from having lived in Honduras at the time, I know in Spanish as well, e.g. Lo bueno, lo malo, y lo feo). Seems like we’re on the same wavelength when it comes to sci-fi book covers from the 50s. I wish I still had some of those paperbacks from when I was a kid.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 28, 2013 at 10:34 AM

      • Your reply, in turn, reminded me of another such title (or, in this case, subtitle), that of a book collection of Saki tales–I love HH Munro!–‘Humor, Horror and the Supernatural’. I always thought it would make a perfectly good subtitle for life in general!


        May 29, 2013 at 8:52 PM

  7. This is fabulous. It’s worth it to lie down on the ground to get that special photo!


    May 28, 2013 at 10:26 AM

    • Thanks, David. I’m happy with many of the pictures I get by lying on the ground, not so happy with the scratches, punctures, and chigger bites my poor body sometimes comes away with. The things we do for our art….

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 28, 2013 at 10:37 AM

  8. Fantastic detail.


    May 28, 2013 at 4:39 PM

    • They say that the devil is in the details, but while this kind of thistle is prickly, I wouldn’t call it diabolical. It’s provided me with lots of good pictures over the years.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 28, 2013 at 4:42 PM

  9. Spectacular photo, Steve – fantastic detail. It does look a bit like the alien eye, now that you mention it!


    May 28, 2013 at 9:32 PM

    • Something so small really can be a spectacle, can’t it? I’m pleased that you and others see the eye that my mind’s eye saw.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 28, 2013 at 10:12 PM

  10. I love this shot Steve! Sometimes lying on the ground is the only way to capture your vision!

    Michael Glover

    May 28, 2013 at 10:03 PM

    • You’re not lying when you say that. Now if we could only get the ground in Texas to be more hospitable to human skin….

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 28, 2013 at 10:14 PM

  11. Une macro parfaite, bravo Steve!


    May 29, 2013 at 4:52 AM

  12. […] of a Texas thistle, Cirsium texanum, that’s come a longer way toward being fully open than the bud you saw last time. I took this picture, like the previous one, close to an office building, but the building was on […]

  13. […] noticed (or not) the return of the two Benny Simpson databases at Texas A&M, and the removal of Portraits of Wildflowers and Return To The Natives nature photography blogs. Reasoning behind the move is that the Links are […]

  14. Nature’s coloring is downright amazing… Such perfection. What an interesting capture; I didn’t even see the eye comparison at first (duh), but a little firework.


    May 30, 2013 at 7:01 AM

    • Usually Texas thistle buds are mostly upright, but this one was drooping off to the side; that’s why I was able to lie on the ground and surround it with the clear blue of the sky beyond it.

      Don’t feel bad about not seeing an eye; I never would have seen fireworks, so we’re even.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 30, 2013 at 7:12 AM

      • As a sci-fi fanatic, I’m stunned I didn’t see that eyeball. 🙂 But it’s a gorgeous explosion of color.


        May 30, 2013 at 9:28 AM

  15. You must be fun to watch! I still don’t know how it is you don’t pick up chiggers.


    June 8, 2013 at 7:54 AM

    • Who said I don’t? A couple of weeks ago they got worse than they’d been since I don’t know when. They’re an occupational hazard of nature photography in this part of the world, alas.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 8, 2013 at 8:15 AM

      • I react violently to their homemade “straws,” an itch more maddening than poison sumac, oak, or ivy, and always in the wrongest of places! It makes me think doubly-triply twice about the ground I may lay in. You are a brave, brave young man.


        June 8, 2013 at 8:24 AM

        • I’ve been lucky in never having suffered from any of those poison X’s, but chigger bites sure are itchy, no question. I’ve found that an internal antihistamine (e.g. Allegra) reduces the itchiness.

          As for being a brave young man, I can only vouch for the last of those words.

          Steve Schwartzman

          June 8, 2013 at 9:09 AM

  16. […] years since 1999, had become a construction zone. A visit to that site on May 13, 2013, produced the abstract Texas thistle photo you saw in these pages shortly afterwards. Here are four pictures of other things that were there […]

  17. Perfect natural mandala.


    June 22, 2016 at 3:25 PM

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