Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Barbara’s buttons opening

with 25 comments

Barbara's Buttons Opening 5623

On a May 9th visit to the Doeskin Ranch in Burnet County I found some Barbara’s buttons, Marshallia caespitosa. This member of the Asteraceae, or sunflower family, has no ray flowers, so all the florets you see opening here are disk flowers. Notice how these flowers do things in fives, which is better than being at sixes and sevens, right? And speaking of confusion, I’ve yet to find out who the Barbara was that inspired the common name of these “buttons.”

For a refresher on disk flowers and ray flowers, you can look back at the text from a few days ago. If you’d like to, you can also take a glance at a Barbara’s buttons flower head in a more advanced state of opening.

© 2014 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 7, 2014 at 5:54 AM

25 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. Well, whoever Barbara is, she has a very pretty button.


    July 7, 2014 at 6:21 AM

    • After reading your comment, I suddenly got the idea that an institution like the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center or the Native Plant Society of Texas could hold an auction each spring in which anyone named Barbara could bid to be designated the Barbara of Barbara’s buttons for a year.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 7, 2014 at 6:53 AM

  2. My grandmother’s cutting garden included bachelor buttons, Centaurea cyanus, which are native to Europe and naturalized here in every state. When I looked at their information, I noticed they also lack ray flowers and look somewhat like Barbara’s buttons. Perhaps someone longing for the old country gave them their name.


    July 7, 2014 at 6:36 AM

    • Even before I got interested in native plants I became aware of bachelor’s buttons, not because I’d ever consciously seen one of those widely cultivated plants, but because I’d heard the song “Cornflower Blue,” written and sung by Kate Wolf (who unfortunately died young a few decades ago but who I managed to see live when she came to Austin). Cornflower, it turns out, is another common name for the plant.

      By coincidence, just yesterday I got a notification sent out by biologist Chuck Sexton, who announced that another invasive European Centaurea species had recently been found for the first time in our area. Here’s his announcement:

      On June 7, while leading a NPSOT field trip to Balcones Canyonlands NWR, one of our participants (Prof. Arthur C. Gibson, recently retired from UCLA Botany Dept. to Georgetown) found a plant which was later identified as Spotted Knapweed (Centaurea stoebe ssp. micranthos), a serious invasive from the Midwest and Western U.S.

      http://www.invasivespeciesinfo.gov/plants/spotknapweed.shtml http://www.eddmaps.org/distribution/usstate.cfm?sub=3013

      This is apparently the first report for Texas. A voucher specimen was collected. I went back the next day and found 3 plants, saved several more vouchers and eliminated the three plants. Subsequent staff efforts located about a dozen more plants, all on disturbed areas and spoil piles in the same area; all plants were removed and a monitoring protocol has been established.

      Several agencies and organizations were notified via email and or website contacts. I entered two reports in the Early Detection & Distribution Mapping System maintained by the University of Georgia:

      http://www.eddmaps.org/county.cfm?sub=3013&id=us_tx_48453 http://www.eddmaps.org/county.cfm?sub=3013&id=us_tx_48453

      http://www.eddmaps.org/distribution/usstate.cfm?sub=3013 http://www.eddmaps.org/distribution/usstate.cfm?sub=3013

      and notified Texasinvasives.org (Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center) and others.

      The Refuge staff is continuing to investigate the potential origin of the plants. They either came from a seed mix used for revegetating some disturbed areas or on equipment brought in to do some heavy earth work (removal of some earthen dams). Despite the negative aspect of having a new invasive species show up in Texas–and on a NWR of all places–we hope this occurrence and our response will be a model for how to deal quickly and effectively with new invasives.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 7, 2014 at 7:17 AM

  3. Cette fleur est une vraie beauté et comme toujours tes piqués sont fabuleux. Tu es vraiment un artiste.


    July 7, 2014 at 6:56 AM

  4. Interesting how several have a twisted inner petal.

    I have some bachelor buttons growing in my small garden this year. No blooms yet.

    Jim in IA

    July 7, 2014 at 7:58 AM

    • That’s a good observation about the twists. They give the picture some added dynamism, which I welcome, but I don’t know what caused the curving.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 7, 2014 at 8:03 AM

  5. I like your perspective on a flower that I’ve never encountered. Nature has created an unusual arrangement to woo us. Thanks for the introduction.


    July 7, 2014 at 8:11 AM

    • You’re welcome. I’ll take your reference to perspective in both the literal and figurative sense.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 7, 2014 at 8:55 AM

  6. Darn, I was going to ask you who Barbara was! A delightful flower and beautifully photographed as usual Steve.


    July 7, 2014 at 9:55 AM

  7. Nothing at all like, and not related to, the Bachelor’s-Buttons I have seen around and also grown in flower gardens…Centaurea cyanus. But, being of simple mind, I hear buttons so I think of something that is called buttons.
    I take umbrage, sir, on your dismissal of 7s. One of my faves is the Starflower…..Trientalis borealis… which is a series of 7s–seven sepals, seven petals, seven stamens and often seven leaves. Umbrage, I tell you! 😉

    The details and color look quite nice against that soft muted background.

    Steve Gingold

    July 7, 2014 at 12:30 PM

    • As long as I get to stand in the shade while you take umbrage, sir, that’s all right with me. I couldn’t resist the phrase “at sixes and sevens” after I’d mentioned fives, but of course as a math person I have a lot of good things to say about the numbers 6 and 7, though I’ll refrain from mentioning them here. I won’t refrain from giving a link to your excellent pictures of the starflower:


      On the matter of buttons, I suspect you might not have seen the comments above yours that mentioned bachelor’s buttons. I replied to one of those with an announcement about another non-native Centaurea that has recently been documented in central Texas, alas. I’ll put in another plug for the native Centaurea species later this month.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 7, 2014 at 12:42 PM

      • I have to admit…I don’t always read all the comments so I did not see the previous. Shame on me.
        Thanks for sharing my Starflower image.

        Steve Gingold

        July 7, 2014 at 1:38 PM

  8. Nice photo of this nice flower.


    July 7, 2014 at 3:30 PM

    • Thanks, Bente. This is a species I don’t normally see in Austin, but a little to the west of town. This specimen and the others I saw were quite fresh.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 7, 2014 at 4:00 PM

  9. Lovely image – beautiful, elegant unfolding petals. To both Steves – I like starflower too!


    July 7, 2014 at 9:22 PM

  10. oh! LOOK at that!!!


    July 8, 2014 at 7:02 AM

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: