Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Two intermingled wildflower colonies in the Texas Hill Country

with 16 comments

Colonies of Horsemints and Firewheels 1720

How about this profusion of horsemints (Monarda citriodora) and firewheels (Gaillardia pulchella) that I encountered along FM 2766 in Blanco County on June 7th? Most of the horsemints here are more purple than the pale ones in the photograph you saw two days ago, but that’s just natural variation within the species.

© 2014 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 24, 2014 at 5:56 AM

16 Responses

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  1. Wondering why this plant is called horse mint and came across this http://tackandtalk.wordpress.com/2012/04/14/herbs-for-horses/ which I found interesting but didn’t exactly resolve my wondering.


    June 24, 2014 at 6:27 AM

    • Someone recently asked me whether horsemint (Monarda citriodora) smells like horses, and here’s what I replied:

      “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.”

      The article you linked to—which deals with herbs for horses—makes the good point that it’s important to use the scientific names for plants to avoid the ambiguity that popular names can cause when people use the same popular name for different species.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 24, 2014 at 7:17 AM

  2. I suspect it is because horses like to eat it. I have a different mint in my garden that would be a problem, except my dogs like to munch it so they keep the patch within bounds. If only it freshened their breath, but alas, it does not.
    Phabulous Photo!


    June 24, 2014 at 10:37 AM

    • It’s possible that the name is due to more than one thing, e.g. horses liking to eat it. I looked in Ellen D. Schulz’s Texas Wild Flowers from 1929, when a much higher percentage of the population was familiar with horses, and found this: “The strongly scented leaves have given the plant its popular name.” And as for keeping or being kept in bounds, Schulz wrote: “This plant will monopolize any waste space it chooses to occupy, as all other plants are either crowded out or have their beauty hidden by the peculiar gorgeousness of the terraced white or purple sprays of the horsemint.”

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 24, 2014 at 11:36 AM

  3. What a happy pairing this is!

    Susan Scheid

    June 24, 2014 at 12:36 PM

    • A happy and familiar one here, Susan. I saw these two in close proximity in my neighborhood just a couple of hours ago.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 24, 2014 at 1:13 PM

  4. Zounds! That would make one mind-bender of a jigsaw puzzle. Great frame-filler.

    Steve Gingold

    June 25, 2014 at 4:32 AM

  5. Saw this same combo at the entrance to the Metro park in Pflugerville the other day and thought of you.


    June 25, 2014 at 8:36 AM

    • Then we’re on the same wavelength, Judy. It’s pouring in my Austin neighborhood now: happy rain to you.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 25, 2014 at 9:19 AM

  6. […] may recall some horsemints recently shown from a distance as part of a wildflower mix, so now a closeup in isolation (thank you, break in the clouds) seemed in order. The flowers of […]

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