Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Old man’s winter beard

with 26 comments

Clematis drummondii Fluff Weathered 1396

I’ve showed zillions of pictures—all right, maybe a dozen—of the native vine Clematis drummondii, known colloquially as old man’s beard because of the prominent tufts of fibers produced by the plant’s flowers. Those tufts often last through the winter, turning a dingy brownish-gray as they age. The one shown here from February 21 even had a matted look to it, perhaps the result of sleet and freezing temperatures in the preceding weeks. Bedraggled and battered though this tuft may have been, it still held on to some of its seeds, and that persistence manages to spread out the plant’s seeds in time, just as the wind spreads them out in space.

I took this late-afternoon picture along Brushy Creek near Parmer Ln. in the town of Cedar Park, a large suburb adjacent to northwest Austin.

If you’re interested in photography as a craft, you’ll find that points 1, 2, and in this case the Rembrandtesque 19 in About My Techniques are relevant to this photograph.

© 2014 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 15, 2014 at 6:01 AM

26 Responses

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  1. we have a local clematis where i am in australia, called old mans beard and the seeds look like this. summer is our “down time” so they wait for autumn rain before growing in winter & spring


    March 15, 2014 at 6:44 AM

    • From what I’ve read, it seems that the vernacular name “old man’s beard” originated centuries ago in England, which is why we use the name colloquially in English-speaking countries like the United States and Australia.

      I typically see Clematis drummondii, by far the most common native species of the three found in Austin, flowering in one place or another from April through December, so the “beards” are with us for much of the year. This is the first time I’ve showed such a dingy one, but I showed it because it’s part of the cycle, and today’s picture is a representative view of what an observer here can expect to see in the winter. If you’d like to see stages in the life of this species that you’ll probably find more appealing, voilà:


      Steve Schwartzman

      March 15, 2014 at 8:05 AM

  2. This is what we call Old Man’s Beard http://www.doc.govt.nz/conservation/threats-and-impacts/weeds/common-weeds-in-new-zealand/old-mans-beard/ and it is not loved one little bit. Your kind of clematis looks much better behaved but then our NZ native clematis is well behaved too.


    March 15, 2014 at 8:07 AM

    • Ah yes, Clematis vitalba is an invader from Europe. I did a search, and at


      I found an article about Clematis paniculata, which is native to New Zealand and looks lovely. Apparently the names it’s known by include puawhananga (‘flower of the skies’), white clematis, New Zealand clematis, and bridal veil.

      It’s interesting that the two comments so far about this post are from Australia and New Zealand. In response to that first comment, I gave the link


      in case you in the Antipodes would like to see some less-dingy views of Clematis drummondii, which is by far the most common of the three species native in central Texas.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 15, 2014 at 8:50 AM

      • Well, that is the closest and most extensive look I will ever get at a clematis drummondii. Beautiful photos. I think my neighbour has a clematis paniculata. I will try to remember to photograph it next spring.


        March 16, 2014 at 6:04 AM

        • Those photos give more-detailed looks even than the ones most people get here, where the vine is common. Only within inches are its best features revealed, and few people take the time to get that close.

          Good for you if you remember to play with your native Clematis paniculata next spring.

          Steve Schwartzman

          March 16, 2014 at 6:21 AM

  3. wonderful image and even more so the title!


    March 15, 2014 at 9:20 AM

    • As a lover of words I’m glad that you like not only this photograph but also the title of the post.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 15, 2014 at 10:30 AM

      • That might just be one more thing in common, I spend hours thinking of titles, so I guess this one stood out for me!


        March 15, 2014 at 10:52 AM

  4. The birth of life is my instant response: a prelude to Spring.


    March 15, 2014 at 11:49 AM

    • As dingy as this tuft looked on February 21, and in spite of a couple of bouts of cold and even icy weather since then, we’re in full spring mode now, with things greening up all over the place and a bunch of our familiar spring wildflowers putting in appearances. Some of them will start turning up in these pages before too long.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 15, 2014 at 1:49 PM

  5. The hardiness of a delicacy captured in the irony of weathering Nature’s finest.

    Readier than ever to bud, Uncle Tree 🙂

    Uncle Tree

    March 15, 2014 at 3:03 PM

    • I like the contrast you’ve made between hardiness and delicacy.
      As for buds, we have plenty of them in Austin now.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 15, 2014 at 5:16 PM

  6. Wonderful


    March 15, 2014 at 4:25 PM

  7. lovely


    March 16, 2014 at 12:21 AM

  8. Nice image, Steve. It possesses a feel of monochrome while still hinting just a bit at color. Enjoyable composition too.

    Steve Gingold

    March 16, 2014 at 10:03 AM

    • Yes, I liked the overall sepia quality, and without any artificial toning at all because these were the natural colors of the scene. Color aside, these tufts strike me as somewhat flame-like.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 16, 2014 at 10:11 AM

  9. I hope to find some ‘tufts’ of something too. The name is sure very appropriate. I came across “bolls” which are the seed of cotton. didn’t know it existed as “bolls” with the “o”, I thought of them as simply “balls” with an “a”.

    • I’d say most English speakers know the word boll primarily from the boll weevil, an insect that is a menace to cotton crops. The word boll came into English from Middle Dutch bolle, which meant ’round object,’ and which is in fact related to the word ball.

      I hope you find some photo-worth tufts.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 16, 2014 at 10:51 AM

  10. What lovely a picture, I really enjoyed this post.

    Emma Sarah Tennant

    March 17, 2014 at 11:47 AM

    • This has been one of my favorite native species to photograph over the years. I’m glad you enjoyed it.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 17, 2014 at 11:50 AM

  11. Nope, looks like Old Woman’s Winter Hair, a.k.a. what I see in the mirror in the morning. 😉


    March 17, 2014 at 2:21 PM

    • It’s the female plants of this species, after all, that produce the seed-bearing tufts. Who knows what would happen if they had to look at themselves in the mirror each morning.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 17, 2014 at 2:28 PM

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