Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Foretelling fall

with 20 comments

Maximilian Sunflower Opening 3848

Click for greater clarity.

It was only the first day of August, and the afternoon temperature would climb above 100° again, *but that morning in Round Rock I found what I’ll take as a token of fall, and my first for this time of the year*: a Maximilian sunflower already flowering. Helianthus maximiliani is a species that usually reaches its peak bloom here in late September or October, and I’ve occasionally seen a few of its flowers at the end of August, but I don’t remember ever seeing any at the beginning of the month. I recorded this early prodigy along the Greater Lake Creek Trail.


*Did you notice that what’s between the asterisks is in anapestic meter?

© 2013 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 3, 2013 at 6:09 AM

20 Responses

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  1. As the years pass and we age time seems to go by faster. I shouldn’t be in a hurry for the calendar pages to flip but I am looking forward to Autumn in a big way. So while we already see our late Summer flowers like goldenrod and some of the sunflowers, I am happy to see your harbinger of fall. Cool days, at least here in New England, crisp air and lots of ground fog will be so refreshing after this unusually hot, again for us, Summer season. Yellow and blue are complementary and look great in this image, Steve.

    Steve Gingold

    August 3, 2013 at 6:32 AM

    • I’ve certainly noticed the apparent speeding up. Sometimes I’ll think about an event and when I check its date find out that it was significantly farther in the past than I thought. Here in Texas, people of many ages look forward to the fall as a relief from our half-year of summer. Goldenrod is prominent then here too, but I haven’t seen any here yet this year, not even flowerless plants, the way I’d been seeing Maximilian sunflower plants for some time and looking forward to the days when they’d flower in the fall. This time I didn’t have to wait that long for the first appearance. As for the Northeast, I still remember those first cooler nights that can come at the end of August. It won’t be long now for you.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 3, 2013 at 7:15 AM

  2. I noticed the meter even before reading your note, and felt its familiarity. As soon as I saw the word “anapestic”, I went straight back and found your mention of it here. Thanks for the reminder!

    I looked up the Maximilian sunflower in my newly arrived copy (!) of the Tveten’s book, and noticed that another name is “Michaelmas Daisy”. That helps to confirm this one’s early arrival, since the Feast of Michaelmas is September 29. I love the sense of movement in this photo. It looks like it’s leaning into a stiff wind.


    August 3, 2013 at 7:35 AM

    • Could the article you linked to really be over a year old already? It’s another example of the speeding up of time that Steve Gingold mentioned in the previous comment. One curiosity of the word anapest itself is that it’s actually an anti-anapest, otherwise known as a dactyl, i.e stressed-unstressed-unstressed.

      It’s good that you’ve already consulted your newly arrived Wildflowers of Houston and Southeast Texas. I’d forgotten about the name Michaelmas daisy, which certainly confirms what I said about the one in today’s post being way ahead of the traditional schedule for this species.

      As for wind, there wasn’t one Thursday morning, but I took this picture at an unconventional angle, and that may account for the sense of leaning you felt. Unconventional leaning is part of my job description, but the falling over that occasionally follows isn’t common enough for me to include it.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 3, 2013 at 8:03 AM

  3. This is beautiful! I am wishing that I could put my nose into it and feel it upon my cheek.


    August 3, 2013 at 7:37 AM

    • I wish you could, too. Do Maximilian sunflowers grow in your area? If so, you have one more thing to look forward to.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 3, 2013 at 8:15 AM

  4. I don’t think I’ve seen this type of sunflower in Alberta. Very interesting. And if your weather patterns are anything like ours this year, fall may come earlier than expected (although I certainly hope not!) 🙂


    August 3, 2013 at 12:29 PM

    • I just checked the map at


      and found that the Maximilian sunflower does grow at least somewhere of Alberta, so perhaps you’ll get to see one after all. Let’s hope so, because it’s a great wildflower.

      As for the seasons, this year seems pretty typical for Austin, so unless there’s a change, we’re not expecting an early fall here (and I’ll add that what passes even for winter here would be a mild autumn by the standards of Alberta).

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 3, 2013 at 2:28 PM

  5. Are you a poet as well as a naturalist and photographer? Love the photo.


    August 3, 2013 at 1:36 PM

    • No, I’m afraid I’m no poet, but I’m very interested in language, and especially etymology. I first learned about anapests and other meters in high school, though I suspect that such things are rarely taught now.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 3, 2013 at 2:32 PM

  6. This is a real beauty Steve!

    Phil Lanoue

    August 3, 2013 at 3:54 PM

  7. Ha! Great minds think alike … did you see this … http://wp.me/p1yRFa-3ly. Whereas I assume yours is wild, mine is surely cultivated. D

    Pairodox Farm

    August 3, 2013 at 6:17 PM

    • Yes, we’re on the same wavelength. It’s good that you have your sunflower to play with, too, even if it’s cultivated. The native sunflowers, of whatever species, don’t have the large or enormous heads that most of the bred ones do.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 3, 2013 at 7:29 PM

  8. I’ve got a lot of sunflowers in my backyard this year. It’s my first time to plant them. Two of them are about three meters in height! 🙂

    Also I’ve got three different colours: yellow, orange, and dark orange. 🙂

    Here they are:





    August 22, 2013 at 1:44 PM

    • Happy sunflowers to you, Inge! It’s good that you have so many right at home. I see sunflowers only when I drive around town.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 22, 2013 at 2:00 PM

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