Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

A different floral profusion

with 26 comments

Mixed Prairie Wildflowers 9552

Click for greater clarity.

Put yourself at the scene of the last photograph and imagine walking a couple of hundred meters east on Meister Lane, crossing to the field on the south side of the street, and finding this oh-so-different profusion of wildflowers. The pale flowers in the foreground (and some also in the background) are horsemints, Monarda citriodora. The dark seed heads (and some fresher flowers heads) that share the foreground are clasping-leaf coneflowers, Dracopis amplexicaulis. The violet-colored flowers a little further back are California loosestrife, Lythrum californicum, which despite their name are native in central Texas as well, and which along with the clasping-leaf coneflowers make their debut in these pages today. Rising between the two main groups of loosestrife are the mostly reddish-brown heads of Mexican hats, Ratibida columnifera. The little mounds of new greenery in the distance are young Maximilian sunflower plants, Helianthus maximiliani, which will get a lot taller and bloom at the end of summer or in the early fall. Scattered among all those things are a few firewheels, Gaillardia pulchella, seemingly ubiquitous here this spring and most springs.

The photograph dates from May 28th on a part of the Blackland Prairie along the Round Rock-Pflugerville border.

© 2014 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 22, 2014 at 6:05 AM

26 Responses

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  1. And this profusion is all self-sown?


    June 22, 2014 at 6:11 AM

    • Aye, this selfsame profusion is self-sown, as was the one in the last photograph—about which, after your comment yesterday, Steve Gingold asked the same question. My answer was:

      “When Anglo settlers came to Texas in the 1800s, they found miles and miles of wildflower colonies like this in the spring. Farming and ranching and settlement put an end to a lot of it, but whenever land here is left alone for a few years, the wildflowers often return—even if it’s only until the land gets built on, as I expect this plot will be before too long. In the meantime, I hunt for places like this for as long as I can.”

      From the vantage point at which I took today’s picture, not far behind me was the parking lot of a company’s building. I’m sorry to say that almost all this land will get filled in with homes, offices, stores, etc., but for now I get to enjoy the natural state of things.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 22, 2014 at 7:57 AM

      • It’s good to know there is a certain resilience in the wildflower population.


        June 22, 2014 at 8:12 AM

  2. I have to leave a comment today as you used one of my favourite words (ubiquitous), but also because the horsemint you show is different to what I call horsemint. Ours is Mentha longifolia. Is it also the same family? And does your horsemint smell of horses, like ours does?


    June 22, 2014 at 6:21 AM

    • Yes, the two are both in the Lamiaceae, or mint family. Not being familiar with Mentha longifolia, I looked it up, and from the pictures I found online I can see that its inflorescence tapers at the top, whereas a horsemint inflorescence is closer to cylindrical in its overall shape.

      I’ve read that some people do indeed liken horsemint’s scent to that of horses, but I don’t have enough experience with horses (I’ve only ridden one once in my whole life) to judge that claim. What I can say is that the scientific name citriodora matches the claim that horsemints have a lemony smell. According to the Wikipedia article at


      some people find that aging horsemints remind them of oregano (ah, common ground between your experience and mine). Because you’re so interested in cooking, you might want to check out the culinary section of that article.

      As for ubiquitous, it’s based on Latin ubique, which meant ‘everywhere’ and was based on ubi, which meant ‘where’ and which evolved to French and Italian ove.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 22, 2014 at 8:18 AM

  3. You make my heart sing! This area used to be one of my favorites to wander around and find all sorts of good things. Mostly developed in that area now if I remember rightly. It broke my heart so to see so much disappear because of development, what we, in this country, like to call progress, that for a long time I’d avoid that area.
    Not long ago, though, I drove past what we used to call the MoKan Prairie. It has been ruined by selfish, thoughtless people.
    Do I sound preachy? It’s Sunday!


    June 22, 2014 at 7:09 AM

    • For all the times I went to the Meister Place site with NPSOT groups (including you) in the early days, and repeatedly by myself in the years since, not until 2012 did I venture a quarter-mile east to Meister Lane, where I found the great basket-flower colony. And not till this year did I ever photograph on the south side of Meister Lane. I don’t remember seeing this many wildflowers on the south side, but maybe I didn’t notice because there was so much to see and photograph on the north side.

      Yes, development continues in that Pflugerville-Round Rock area, and I don’t know how much longer the land on both sides of Meister Lane will hold out. I can report that the site at Meister Place is also still holding out (after that one building went up a decade ago). In recent years I haven’t done a lot of photography there because that piece of prairie has been kept pretty heavily mowed, but this spring I did find things to take pictures of. On the negative side, the Torilis arvensis has been more invasive there and everywhere this year than I’ve ever seen it.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 22, 2014 at 8:45 AM

  4. Profusion indeed. I envy these naturally occurring swaths of floral magnificence, Steve. If I ever find a field or meadow full of flowers they are most often a monoculture which is nice but a varied bouquet is preferred.

    Steve Gingold

    June 22, 2014 at 8:49 AM

    • I’m with you. Steve. Monocultures can be impressive in their scope and density,


      but mixed wildflowers add a variety of color and often shape. Fortunately central Texas has both kinds of displays, as you’ve seen and will keep seeing here.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 22, 2014 at 9:44 AM

      • I’ve tried to make that point with my neighbor who insists on spraying for weed control but with no success. I am sure he thinks i am just too lazy to treat and causing a weed invasion on his lawn. I’d rather not have a blade of grass in my yard but Mary Beth doesn’t agree.

        Steve Gingold

        June 22, 2014 at 9:56 AM

        • The force of conventionality is a strong one, no question about it. I’m sorry to say that most people care no more about natural landscapes than they do about Latin or trigonometry (but I’m fond of all three).

          Steve Schwartzman

          June 22, 2014 at 10:12 AM

  5. In a meadow like this, do species sometimes sort themselves out by moisture levels? I’m curious because it appears the loosestrife is following little meanders into the upper right-hand corner of the photo. I’m sure the land is relatively flat, but there have to be a multitude of forces shaping how colonies develop, and this photo surely does suggest moisture as one. (Of course, I could be the one all wet, here.)


    June 22, 2014 at 3:29 PM

    • I’ve heard of micro-climates, and the notion of micro-terrains seems to follow. I wish I knew more about botany and ecology so I could say whether your hypothesis, which sounds plausible and makes you seem not all wet, is correct.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 22, 2014 at 8:58 PM

  6. What a glorious profusion of natural beauty a field of wildflowers can inspire in us. Nature rejoices in all her innocence in this lovely photo.

    Mary Mageau

    June 23, 2014 at 4:57 AM

  7. Simply heavenly.


    June 23, 2014 at 1:47 PM

    • Visually there’s no question about it, but I’m sorry to say the price I paid in chigger bites was more diabolical than heavenly.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 23, 2014 at 3:07 PM

      • Yikes! My torturers, yesterday, were mosquitoes. I was tapped to do the programs-&-tickets gig for R’s concert at the church last evening and didn’t realize the yucky humidity in the narthex was because someone had left the exterior doors open. While I understand the hospitable urge, especially in a fundraising concert at a church, I don’t have any sense of hospitality for mosquitoes, and the little devils were chomping on me with glee for awhile before I realized what was so much more uncomfortable than the humidity! Chiggers? YOWTCH!!!


        June 23, 2014 at 5:38 PM

        • I’m sorry to hear about your mosquito-y tribulation. I’m mosquito bait, too, but chigger bites are itchier and last longer, alas.

          By the way, does any word rhyme with narthex (which WordPress doesn’t even recognize as a word)? RhymeZone can’t find anything.

          Steve Schwartzman

          June 23, 2014 at 6:48 PM

  8. […] once before has Dracopis amplexicaulis appeared in these pages, and then only as a small element in a field of mixed wildflowers. This time you get a […]

  9. […] probably don’t remember seeing some California loosestrife, Lythrum californicum, that was in a wildflower meadow on the Blackland Prairie on May 28th. Here, finally, is a closer look at some of those flowers from a part of the Blackland […]

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