Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

A week at the Wildflower Center

with 16 comments

Turk's Head Cactus Flowering 2410

Click for more clarity and larger size.

No, I didn’t really spend a week at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, but I did spend a couple of hours there on July 23. In this post and the six that follow you’ll see some of the pictures I took that morning.

The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center mostly hosts plants that are native to central Texas, but it also features some from farther afield in the state, including this Turk’s head cactus from west Texas. The plant’s scientific name is Ferocactus hamatacanthus var. hamatacanthus. If that seems long, all I can say is that botanists get their kicks by creating difficult names like that. Maybe I should go to court and change my name to Stevenus Schwartzmanus photographicus naturae var. excellentissimus. Then I could get put in a botany book along with this cactus.

© 2013 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 16, 2013 at 6:11 AM

16 Responses

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  1. Gorgeous shot. I love your idea for changing your name, but you might need a postcard-sized business card in that case.

    Mike Powell

    August 16, 2013 at 6:37 AM

    • If I had a postcard-size business card, just think of the photographs I could decorate it with.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 16, 2013 at 8:10 AM

  2. I’m with Mike. Try signing checks with that moniker. Someday, our kids won’t know what we mean when we say ‘sign a check’.

    Looking forward to the next photos. Another beautiful day in the heartland.

    Jim in IA

    August 16, 2013 at 6:47 AM

    • That someday is fast approaching. It’s already the case that most checks get scanned. The whole world, not just photography, is turning digital.

      More photos will indeed be coming your way from deep in the heart of Texas.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 16, 2013 at 8:13 AM

  3. Beautiful Cactus Bloom 🙂


    August 16, 2013 at 7:28 AM

  4. Very nice pic of the two cacti! They each look like a light fixture with light emanating from a smallish bulb. Is there a way to talk about backlighting from inside something? BTW, I’ve been having a conversation with a fellow tech writer about scientific terms and botany. From http://www.swcoloradowildflowers.com/plant%20names.htm:

    Scientific names are most often in Latin but Greek is quite common and names may be mixed: The genus, for instance, may be Greek and the species Latin. By international agreement, though, we still say the “Latin name” even if part or all of the name is Greek. One can avoid this humorous contradiction by saying “scientific name”.


    August 16, 2013 at 7:40 AM

    • I can see how the yellow predisposes you to think of rays of light (and many plants grow from bulbs, even if a different sort).

      That’s a thorough article you linked to about scientific names; I encourage readers to take a look at it.

      As for Latin and Greek, the Romans borrowed many words from Greek, usually changing them a little to fit the sounds and patterns of Latin. Scientific names incorporate both Latin and Greek elements, but the overall form is usually Latin, in particular the way a species adjective agrees in gender (masculine, feminine, neuter) with its genus name. As a result, when Aster subulatus had its genus changed to Symphyotrichum, which is neuter, the species component of the name changed to subulatum.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 16, 2013 at 11:41 AM

  5. Superbes et je suis ravie à l’idée qu’il va y en avoir une longue série. Plus facile à retenir ton nom “vernaculaire”…lol..


    August 16, 2013 at 8:51 AM

  6. Oh, how fun! If I ever teach a local flora class I’ll have the students botanize their names! Isn’t it fun to come across a “new plant”?


    August 16, 2013 at 12:33 PM

  7. What beautiful blossoms. Is the color variation due to the light? Or might the greenish one be a newer flower? I know this – that cactus is better defended than any of mine. Those spines could hurt!

    I was intrigued by the “acanthus” hidden in its name. The varieties of acanthus common to the Mediterranean countries gave rise to the decoration on Corinthian columns, and if you look at this flower sort-of-sideways, the resemblance is there. It’s interesting that one of my favorite William Morris patterns is his acanthus. And I certainly can see art deco lamps styled after the blooms.


    August 16, 2013 at 3:17 PM

    • Because this is a species from west Texas, I’m afraid I have no experience to go on when it comes to color variation. As for the spines, one vernacular name for this plant is giant fishhook cactus (another is whiskered barrel).

      The ancient Greeks used akanthos to refer to a plant with thorns. The Oxford English Dictionary says the Greeks probably took the word from an alien language but that people later associated it with the root ak- that meant ‘sharp,’ as in offshoots like acute, acumen, and acid.

      As for the hamat-, it’s from Latin hamatus, meaning ‘hooked,’ which could describe you in relation to the art of William Morris.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 16, 2013 at 4:01 PM

  8. Now there is a place I would be very happy to visit…and visit…and visit yet again.

    Steve Gingold

    August 16, 2013 at 3:18 PM

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