Portraits of Wildflowers

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Archive for October 8th, 2013

A closer look at snow-on-the-mountain

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Snow-on-the-Mountain Flowers 6055

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A couple of days ago you saw a picture from September 5th showing a flowering colony of snow-on-the-mountain, Euphorbia marginata, in the town of Cedar Park. Now from the same colony here’s a closer look at some of those flowers, but where are they? That may sound like a silly question, so let me repeat what I wrote two years ago:

“You may think you see the flowers, but this species… isn’t quite what it appears. From a distance, and even from closer up, many people assume that the long, tapering, white-fringed structures with green running down the center are petals, but those are actually modified leaves called bracts. Most people who make it past that illusion assume that the “scallops” of the white collar at the center of each flower group are the petals, but that also turns out to be false. The five (if none have come off) would-be petals are actually gland appendages, together making up what is generally called an involucral cup, more specifically known in this family as a cyathium. No, the real flowers are the nondescript, pale yellowish-green little things at the center of each scalloped ruff, hardly what we normally think of as flowers. But in spite of our misconception the plant seems to have no trouble with its own conception and manages to get fertilized and produce seeds in abundance….”

Although this photograph is from five weeks ago, snow-on-the-mountain continues flowering on the west side of Austin, which is its habitat here.

© 2013 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 8, 2013 at 6:00 AM

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