Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

The well-defended plant has benign and fragrant flowers

with 20 comments

Two Bull Nettle Flowers 7750

Click for greater clarity.

The only parts of bull nettle, Cnidoscolus texanus, that aren’t covered with chemical-filled hypodermic needles are the flowers. They’re white, somewhat waxy, and fragrant. I’ve dared to lean in and sniff some, and I can say that the scent reminds me of gardenias.

Like the last photograph, this one comes from northwest Austin on July 2.

© 2013 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 18, 2013 at 6:22 AM

20 Responses

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  1. Beauty and the beast! Rather you than me leaning in for a sniff 🙂


    July 18, 2013 at 6:28 AM

  2. beautiful photo


    July 18, 2013 at 6:48 AM

  3. Well, it’s time to reconsider my aversion to bull nettles. I do love white flowers, and gardenia is one of my favorite scents. I’ve never had any luck growing gardenias in pots. Maybe I should give it a go with the nettles.

    I like the pairing here. It reminds me of your photo of the Navajo tea. It’s true that sometimes less is more, but in these cases just a little more adds beautifully to the result.


    July 18, 2013 at 7:52 AM

    • Understandably, not many people want to have bull nettle anywhere near them, and I suspect there’s not a lot of cultivation information available, but if you do try the experiment, let us know what happens. (Oh, and now that you know about the flowers’ fragrance, you may be emboldened to take a sniff the next time you encounter one.)

      I’ve usually photographed bull nettle flowers singly, but the way this pair partially overlapped intrigued me. Good of you to make the comparison to the two Navajo tea flower heads. With bull nettle’s host of stinging hairs, there’s little choice but to speak of more rather than less.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 18, 2013 at 8:22 AM

  4. Ravie que tu aies posté la fleur aujourd’hui. Elle est très jolie et en plus elle est parfumée! Une fleur qui se mérite!


    July 18, 2013 at 8:42 AM

    • Et je suis ravi que tu sois ravie. D’accord que la fleur est jolie, malgré les piquants de la plante.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 18, 2013 at 1:00 PM

  5. […] my other blog today I said that a certain ferocious native Texan plant has benign flowers whose scent reminds me of […]

  6. The flowers look almost like shaved coconut.


    July 19, 2013 at 6:12 AM

  7. Gardenia is what came to mind as I looked at this. Those waxy leaves. I felt I could almost smell that delicious scent.

    Susan Scheid

    July 19, 2013 at 8:12 PM

    • You can smell a gardenia and imagine you’re risking a more-dangerous approach to a bull nettle flower. Or come to Texas and I’ll show you where you can run the risk for real.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 19, 2013 at 11:01 PM

  8. The flowers are sure deceiving aren’t they? Beautiful shot!


    July 21, 2013 at 10:46 PM

  9. I was not enamored with the previous view and description of this plant. However, the blossom is quite fetching and your description of its scent makes it all the more so!


    July 22, 2013 at 8:34 AM

    • This is one forbidding plant, no question about it, so I can see why the last post didn’t thrill you. At least the flowers compensate a little for all the trouble the plant can cause.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 22, 2013 at 9:06 AM

  10. Benign and fragrant, well that sounds like a wonderful combination! 😊


    August 7, 2020 at 2:18 PM

    • The flowers alone are not defended with toxic needles, hence they’re the only benign part of the plant. The pleasant fragrance makes the contrast even greater.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 7, 2020 at 3:17 PM

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