Portraits of Wildflowers

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Archive for July 17th, 2013

A well-defended plant

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Bull Nettle Capsule Forming 7743

Click for better sharpness.

It’s bull nettle, Cnidoscolus texanus, making its first conspicuous appearance in these pages. All those hollow needles are intended to be hypodermic with respect (disrespect!) to any person or animal that makes contact with the plant. Once that happens, the needles pierce the offender’s skin, break open, and release noxious chemicals that cause burning and itching. Fortunately I don’t speak from experience. And speaking of speaking, people who speak Spanish have traditionally called this plant mala mujer, which we can translate equally alliteratively into English as wicked woman.

This photograph, taken in northwest Austin on July 2, looks straight down at a developing bull nettle seed capsule. The nuts that develop inside it are edible; again, I don’t speak from experience, but you can read about it in this article.

© 2013 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 17, 2013 at 6:19 AM

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