Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Cephalanthus occidentalis

with 29 comments

Buttonbush Flower Globe 6174

As you heard last time, I got more than a hundred chigger bites from my outing on June 27th. That affliction put me into prudent mode and I ended up not returning to nature for a week and half, by which time the bites had stopped itching and were mostly gone. On July 7th I ventured back out and spent some time along Bull Creek in my northwest part of Austin. One of the results was this chiaroscuro photograph showing a flower globe on a buttonbush, Cephalanthus occidentalis. These flower globes, by the way, are quite fragrant, so if you’re in one of the many areas in the United States or Canada where buttonbushes grow, make sure you stop and smell the buttons.

© 2014 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 10, 2014 at 5:50 AM

29 Responses

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  1. Chiggers are the worst!


    July 10, 2014 at 5:55 AM

  2. I really like this photo, with the clarity at the centre. An unusual looking flower. I hope you did not get bitten while taking it?


    July 10, 2014 at 6:01 AM

    • Given the difficulty of getting everything sharp, I focused slightly in front of the globe itself in an attempt to get the tips of at least some of the frontmost stamens sharp too.

      In this plant (as would be the case for a sunflower or daisy) you’re looking not at a single flower but at a group of tiny flowers. Here they’re all of the same kind (as opposed to ray flowers versus disk flowers), and they’re packed around the surface of a sphere. Botanists use the term exserted to describe the protruding stamens.

      This outing proved delightfully chigger-free, perhaps because I wore hip-high waterproof boots.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 10, 2014 at 6:20 AM

      • Thank you. 🙂 Very informative and interesting. And glad to hear you did not get bitten – tho I must still google “chigger”!


        July 10, 2014 at 11:23 AM

        • You can follow the chigger link in yesterday’s text and another in one of the comments. Both have good information.

          Steve Schwartzman

          July 10, 2014 at 1:46 PM

  3. Absolutely gorgeous!


    July 10, 2014 at 6:11 AM

  4. ooohhhhh !!!!!!!


    July 10, 2014 at 6:24 AM

  5. Chiaroscuro; it is, beautifully so.


    July 10, 2014 at 6:30 AM

  6. Beautiful photo, Steve!

    Mind Margins

    July 10, 2014 at 9:15 AM

  7. Oh that is gorgeous! One of your best. A year ago I planted a button bush in my rain garden..”feet in the water?” I anxiously asked the nursery man. “Yup, right down in there,” he responded. Alrighty then, that is what I did and this year boy did we have water. The bush was up to its neck for weeks. And now, ta-dah! Little tiny buttons are forming. I can’t wait until they look like this.


    July 10, 2014 at 10:18 AM

    • I usually find this spcies near creeks and lakes, so buttonbushes apparently not only need to be there but can tolerate lots of water. I hope your buttons develop soon and are as photogenic as this one.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 10, 2014 at 1:39 PM

  8. Steve…much prettier than chiggers. Been fighting off a lot of them and putting on clear fingernail polish on the bites. Although I guess there is no magic to the clear other than being, well clear, as opposed to a hot pink…….monos en theos…jim

    Developing A New Image

    July 10, 2014 at 10:42 AM

    • These are definitely much prettier than chiggers, and we don’t need a microscope to see them. I’m sorry to hear you’ve been having your battles with chiggers too. From what I’ve read about the bites (including in the articles that were linked in a couple of yesterday’s comments), the nail polish reduces itching by preventing air from coming in contact with the affected bits of skin.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 10, 2014 at 1:43 PM

  9. Ahhh. Now, you and I both know that ALL of your images are beauties … but this one is especially so. That pin-point focus on the right really catches my eye … and it (the point-of-focus) just happens to catch the light on that knife-edge of shadow. I wonder whether you planned all of this or whether you were pleasantly surprised when you reviewed the images? Really nice. D

    Pairodox Farm

    July 10, 2014 at 3:44 PM

    • You raise a good question, D. Certainly some of the pictures I take surprise me, and unfortunately the most common kind of surprise is finding out that an image I envisioned a certain way ended up deficient in one or more aspects. In this case, though, I’ve photographed buttonbush flower globes a bunch of times over the years, and this image came out pretty much the way I wanted it to. I’m glad you find it one of the best you’ve seen here.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 10, 2014 at 4:21 PM

  10. Nice image for sure. As much as I do like it, I have to say that I think the most memorable part for me is the end of the post. We do have buttonbush here and I’ll be sure to follow your advice.

    Steve Gingold

    July 10, 2014 at 8:13 PM

  11. No disrespect to Mimosa nuttallii, but I think buttonbush far outshines it. Of course, I prefer white flowers over pink, so that plays in. I did check out my hunch and found that, yes, indeed, “exserted” applies to sensitive briar, as well.

    When I was reading about chiggers, I learned that a tube forms after their bite. It becomes a kind of “straw” they use to sip on dissolved tissue. It occurs to me: better an exserted stamen than an inserted chigger tube!


    July 11, 2014 at 6:49 AM

    • We can alter “chacun à son goût” (each to his own taste) to “chacun à son globe” (each to his own globe). Buttonbush flower globes are larger and much more fragrant than those of the sensitive-briar, and their stamens are more conspicuously exserted, so there’s plenty to like—along with white for people who prefer that to pink.

      I’ll make a concerted effort to echo your “better an exserted stamen than an inserted chigger tube!”

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 11, 2014 at 7:36 AM

  12. I just posted some of these on my page today, though mine were loaded with wildlife. This is a perfect specimen, Steve! Apparently, the bush is very adaptable as mine is growing right in the edge of our pond.

    On chiggers: I just read that a good spraying, and thorough drying of your pants will keep the little nippers out. I also noted that the effects of treatment are supposed to be safe for humans (after drying) and that a single treatment will last through several washings! (5 to 7) It was said that professional treatments are available that can last up to 70 washings, but I thought that was stretching my sense of security and safety a bit. Oh, yes, and it works for ticks too. 😉


    July 11, 2014 at 10:35 AM

    • That’s a nice coincidence, Lynda. Yes, I’ve noticed buttonbushes along creeks and lakes, and sometimes even in partly submerged places. They apparently need a fair amount of water and can also tolerate a lot of it. You’re right that the flower globe I photographed here was a great specimen—in fact it was the only one within easy reach, so I lucked out.

      As for chiggers (and ticks, which I haven’t found to be a problem in the Austin area), on Steve Gingold’s blog I recently read a similar thing about spraying permethrin on clothing. If I know I’m going to be crossing or working in a creek, I wear my hip-high rubber boots, and they do a great job of keeping chiggers off me, provided I don’t sit on the ground much.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 11, 2014 at 12:25 PM

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