Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Bright yellow against a rich magenta

with 18 comments

Broomweed Flower Head by Prickly Pear Tuna 4838

In the foreground is a flower head of broomweed, Amphiachyris dracunculoides, whose yellow stands out so nicely against the rich magenta of a nearby tuna, which as you know is the fruit of a prickly pear cactus, Opuntia engelmannii. Each broomweed flower head is small, typically 1/4 to 3/8 of an inch (6.4 to 9.6 mm) across. I’ve isolated this one so you can see its details, but colonies of broomweed can bear hundreds or even thousands of these little flower heads.

I found this scene on August 22 to the west of Morado Circle in my Great Hills neighborhood.

© 2013 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 24, 2013 at 6:16 AM

18 Responses

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  1. Sweetly enticing.


    September 24, 2013 at 7:05 AM

  2. I couldn’t find this in either Enquist or Tveten, so I went over to the Wildflower Center site and found some photos of complete plants – much larger than I’d imagined, and in some cases almost tree-like. It set me thinking about the individual and the collective, and why “portraits” of wildflowers are as important as those impressive wide-angle shots.

    This is lovely, for sure. I especially like the tuna as a background. Its color is strong enough to make it a real presence in the photo.


    September 24, 2013 at 7:23 AM

    • It’s on p. 215 of Enquist, but under two other scientific names, each of which has one piece of the name the Wildflower Center uses. Regardless of the scientific name, Enquist’s index should include “broomweed” but doesn’t.

      Broomweed can grow to be a much-branched plant a few feet tall. The common name comes from the fact that in olden days people would pull out a broomweed plant, turn it upside down, and use it as a broom.

      Yes, the tuna makes its presence known by color alone, and will do so even more abstractly in tomorrow’s picture. The background is often as important as the ostensible subject.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 24, 2013 at 7:59 AM

      • Another lesson learned: if the exact scientific name isn’t in the index, check out the almost-exact names. If I had, I would have found it!


        September 24, 2013 at 8:28 AM

        • In general, yes, but Enquist’s index has some flaws. It’s missing a few names, including the very broomweed in question. Also, some of the names in the index are out of alphabetical order: e.g. some of the Ph- items come after the Pi- items, and similarly Ch- comes after Ci-.

          Steve Schwartzman

          September 24, 2013 at 9:06 AM

  3. This is gorgeous, Steve.


    September 24, 2013 at 7:37 AM

  4. That is a good color contrast. The tiny flowers are often overlooked. Center stage is taken by the showy ones. I notice a lot of aster-like little flowers along our walk paths.

    Speaking of small, I noticed a comment on my calendar from last year that said the last hummingbird was seen here in E IA Sept. 27. We still have some visitors to our feeder this week. Not for much longer.

    Jim in IA

    September 24, 2013 at 7:37 AM

    • Ah, I just mentioned contrasting colors in my reply to the previous comment, and now I see you beat me to it and said the same thing. Good for you for noticing some of the less-conspicuous flowers, of which there are many.

      As of this weekend, Central Texas, too, has finally cooled down a little bit in the mornings, but that means the afternoon temperature will be “only” in the low 90s.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 24, 2013 at 8:10 AM

  5. Wow!!!


    September 24, 2013 at 11:04 AM

  6. Wow from me, too. The colours are wonderful.


    September 24, 2013 at 11:48 AM

    • I’ve never been one to turn down a wow, so thanks. Wait till you see tomorrow’s pastel portrait.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 24, 2013 at 11:57 AM

  7. So beautiful! I just love those colors together. 🙂


    September 24, 2013 at 11:50 AM

    • Me too, Inga. Tomorrow’s take on the subject, likewise colorful, will add an animate element.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 24, 2013 at 11:58 AM

  8. Little showoff you found there! Small but mighty, against the backdrop of the tuna.


    September 25, 2013 at 2:13 PM

    • The broomweed flower head is showing off, isn’t it? Usually these flowers gather strength in numbers, but this one borrows the contrasting color of the tuna to make itself stand out.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 25, 2013 at 2:21 PM

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