Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Time for snow-on-the-mountain, or Green and white architecture

with 17 comments

Snow-on-the-Mountain Plants Flowering 6106

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Late August or early September is the normal time in central Texas to begin seeing the white of snow-on-the-mountain, Euphorbia marginata. On September 5th in the Austin suburb of Cedar Park I found this colony adorned with flowers and insects. Notice how several snow-on-the mountain stalks had gotten wind-entangled and formed a green and white lattice.

© 2013 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 6, 2013 at 6:06 AM

17 Responses

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  1. I love that beautiful September sky!


    October 6, 2013 at 6:36 AM

    • Me too, but I’ll have to tell you that throughout September in Austin the afternoon high stayed in the 90s. Only now, a week into October, are things beginning to cool down, especially overnight, but the forecast still calls for a high of 89° later this week.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 6, 2013 at 8:32 AM

  2. How tall does it grow? I guess about 2′.

    Jim in IA

    October 6, 2013 at 7:45 AM

    • Good question. These plants can grow as high as a person, and the tall ones make it easier for me to get below their top parts and aim upward to varying degrees (literally). Adjacent to the field hosting this colony was an industrial building and storage yard, but I aimed at enough of an upward angle to keep them out of any pictures that faced in that direction.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 6, 2013 at 8:48 AM

      • That is pretty tall. Good aim, by the way.

        Jim in IA

        October 6, 2013 at 12:59 PM

        • I think some people are surprised by how tall snow-on-the-mountain can get. As for aiming, I’ve had lots of practice getting down low and aiming up; it’s second nature now (the first nature being the one I’m photographing).

          Steve Schwartzman

          October 6, 2013 at 4:00 PM

  3. Nice Gothic arches starting there! This Euphorb has become one of my very favorite wildflowers here, the way it fills the fields with clouds of lacy white, waving and undulating in the breezes. The only drawback, as far as I’m concerned, is that they do wave around so nimbly that I can never seem to get a clear shot of them. So I’m pleased you gave us this one to savor in stillness!


    October 6, 2013 at 8:35 AM

    • I can’t think of an arch reply (except maybe I just did). From your comment, it sounds like you may have a more persistent wind in north Texas than we have in the center of the state, though we have our share, especially on the prairie, which is home to the similar species called snow-on-the-prairie. (In fact I see that last year I entitled a post Prairie wind blowing snow-on-the-prairie.) On the day I took today’s picture there was some breeze, but it wasn’t too bad. Still, the tangled plant tips proved that the wind had blown harder not too long before. In any case, I’m glad you’re in an area where you get to see this species.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 6, 2013 at 9:15 AM

  4. I like the way you composed with so many diagonals. Beautiful blooms.

    M. Firpi

    October 6, 2013 at 11:09 PM

    • Thanks for appreciating all those diagonals, Marisa. They appealed to me, too. I came to know this species in Texas, so I was surprised to learn that it grows in many other states.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 7, 2013 at 6:14 AM

  5. […] September 5th, once again on a seasonal quest for snow-on-the-mountain plants that might already be flowering, I ended up at the same pond in the suburban town of Cedar Park where I photographed a white egret […]

  6. This became one of my favorites from way back, because of the ‘mower-men’. They look so fresh and lovely against that brilliant blue sky! Also, loving the Gothic arches, as Kathryn Ingrid called them.


    October 7, 2013 at 1:06 PM

    • It’s good of you to remember, Lynda. The would-be colony that got mowed down in Brushy Creek Park in 2011 never reappeared, but this group was only about a mile away. This plant tends to branch into three, and even three again, and I think that three-ness makes it easier for arches to form (or else I’m gratuitously dragging in arithmetic). Yesterday and today in Austin we’ve had that beautiful blue sky again.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 7, 2013 at 3:07 PM

  7. When you showed us snow-on-the-mountain here earlier, I hadn’t yet met snow-on-the-prairie in person. Now that I have, I took a look at this and thought, “But wait! That looks like snow-on-the-prairie, except not quite.” I’d never noticed the bracts on this before.

    It took a little snooping, but I think I figured it out. Euphorbia marginata has the same coloring as Euphorbia bicolor, but the bracts appear to be broader and shorter. They’re both beautiful plants, and this one certainly complements that sky.

    I was out and about Saturday morning and discovered the League City Garden Club has taken over a large swath of land in a highway median for a Wildflower project. There was a sign, stakes, and worked land. I haven’t a clue what they’re planting, but it will be fun to see it develop.


    October 7, 2013 at 7:06 PM

    • In the Austin area the two species are largely segregated, with snow-on-the-prairie on the prairie side of town mostly east of Interstate 35, and snow-on-the-mountain on the hilly side of town beginning a few miles to the west of Interstate 35. You’re correct that the bracts of snow-on-the-mountain are shorter and broader, and those of snow-on-the prairie noticeably narrower. There’s also a bit of difference in the texture. I’ve read that where the species meet they can interbreed, and I confess that a few times I’ve had trouble telling what species I was looking at.

      I hope your Garden Club really opts for wildflowers, by which I mean species native to your area. Maybe you can put in a good word with them (or point them to a copy of Tveten).

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 7, 2013 at 9:21 PM

  8. Nice criss-crossing pattern, Steve.

    Steve Gingold

    October 12, 2013 at 4:00 PM

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