Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Ratany has nothing to do with rats

with 18 comments

Ratany Flowers 5787

That’s right: ratany has nothing to do with rats, because the word comes (via Spanish) from Quechua, an indigenous language family of South America. Whatever else you call Krameria lanceolata, its small and intricate and richly colored flowers are distinctive among the flora of central Texas. The upper three petals of each flower are united into a sort of tiny fan, while the lower two petals are separate and stand opposite each other. The five larger structures surrounding each flower are sepals (and therefore not petals, as many people who come across these inconspicuous flowers might falsely assume).

I took this picture at Tejas Camp in Williamson County on May 9th.

© 2014 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 8, 2014 at 6:00 AM

18 Responses

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  1. Beautiful colour.


    July 8, 2014 at 6:19 AM

  2. Have you posted a lesson on sepal vs petal?

    Jim in IA

    July 8, 2014 at 6:51 AM

  3. One of my favorite native Texas plants. What beautiful distinctive color! Once you’ve see it you’ll never forget it. It reminds me of an orchid. Mind you, if you happen to kneel on the seedpods, you won’t forget it either. I think they call the seedpod buffalo bur.


    July 8, 2014 at 8:16 AM

    • I’ve seen more of these this year than some other years, though still not many in absolute terms. Yes, their color sure is distinctive, no question about it, and you’re not the first person I know who has mentioned the resemblance to an orchid. I’ve read about the danger of the seed capsules, but I’m not sure I’ve ever encountered them. In spite of the hazard, I’ll be on the lookout because I’d like to get some pictures of them. I see that the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center website refers to them as sandburs, a name I associate more readily with Cenchrus spinifex, which by coincidence I was thinking just the other day that I should show a picture of. As for buffalo bur, I associate that with Solanum rostratum.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 8, 2014 at 9:52 AM

  4. Wow, such a lovely and deeply colored flower. As Agnes mentioned above…orchidlike.

    Steve Gingold

    July 8, 2014 at 1:59 PM

    • Orchidlike, and therefore compensating me a little for the scarcity of orchids in my part of Texas.

      There are three other species of Krameria in the United States, and I was hoping one might grow near you, but it turns out that all of them live in the western part of the country.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 8, 2014 at 2:43 PM

  5. How beautiful!


    July 8, 2014 at 10:16 PM

    • It is. I’m sorry for your sake that all the Krameria species in the United States are in the Southwest.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 8, 2014 at 10:47 PM

  6. wow


    July 9, 2014 at 12:06 AM

  7. After a lifetime of understanding flowers as those things that have a stem, leaves and petals, I still have trouble sorting out sepals and petals. I’ve read and pondered diagrams, but put a flower like this one in front of me and I very often get it wrong. On the other hand, I’ve finally sorted out ray flowers and disk flowers, so I have confidence I’ll get this eventually.

    I’m really taken with that little fan-like structure. It’s so unusual, and eye-catching.


    July 9, 2014 at 7:00 AM

    • I’m glad to have turned you into a fan of these little wildflowers.

      I can’t always tell what’s a petal and what’s a sepal (or tepal) either, and when in doubt I consult my reference books. I’m no botanist, so I’m glad to find other people who’ve done the work of sorting things out. As you say, telling disk flowers from ray flowers is a lot easier, but even there some species can be deceptive.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 9, 2014 at 7:58 AM

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