Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography


with 21 comments

Tansy-Mustard Flowering by Indian Paintbrush 4478

The pictures that Steve Gingold showed yesterday of tansy reminded me that back in the spring I photographed some tansy-mustard, Descurainia pinnata. It’s a native plant that I’ve encountered only a few times, and as no picture of it has ever appeared here, I thought I should make amends and show it to you now, even five months late. The conspicuous red glow in the background is from one of the Indian paintbrushes, Castilleja indivisa, that far outnumbered the tansy-mustard along US 183 in east Austin that day, which was March 20th.

Even though I’ve seldom run across this species, it grows in Mexico, Canada, and almost all of the states in the United States, as you can confirm on the clickable USDA map. That’s one prolific and hardy plant.

© 2014 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 8, 2014 at 5:59 AM

21 Responses

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  1. Pretty and possibly quite tasty.


    August 8, 2014 at 7:26 AM

  2. There are some interesting differences between this tansy-mustard and the tansy that Steve showed, and one important difference: don’t eat or drink the tansy! Tansy-mustard is edible, except for cattle. I found an interesting article about it at a site called “Eat the Weeds.”

    As for those poor cattle, if they eat too much, they may be poisoned. “The first clinical sign is partial or complete blindness…animals wander aimlessly until exhausted, or may stand pushing their head against a solid object for hours.” Actually, I remember experiencing a couple of those symptoms even without the tansy-mustard to help me along.


    August 8, 2014 at 7:34 AM

    • heh 🙂

      Jim in IA

      August 8, 2014 at 7:57 AM

    • That’s an excellent article you linked to. A couple of lines that stood out for me were: “The seeds can also be used to flavor soups, as a condiment ground into a powder mixed with cornmeal, used to make bread or to thicken soups and stews. In Mexico the seeds are made into a drink with lime juice, claret and sweet syrup.” I’d never have expected to find a wild mustard, claret, and Mexico in the same sentence.

      Your description of the way poisoned cattle behave reminds me of accounts I’ve read of animals that have eaten locoweed in west Texas. As for your own symptoms, let’s hope they stay discreetly—and definitively—in the past.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 8, 2014 at 8:12 AM

    • Thanks for the link!


      August 8, 2014 at 11:21 AM

    • Haven’t we all at one time or another. 🙂

      Steve Gingold

      August 8, 2014 at 3:20 PM

  3. Such a pretty shot.


    August 8, 2014 at 10:34 AM

  4. Very nice image!


    August 8, 2014 at 11:22 AM

  5. Life and fiction are blurring for me, as I’m reading a Susan Wittig Albert mystery involving the plants of Texas and Mexico, some you can eat and some you definitely don’t want to. Looking at the petals (sepals?) I’m guessing this is not in the mustard family, as garlic mustard is. Is that correct?


    August 8, 2014 at 12:00 PM

    • I can relate to what you say about life and fiction blurring at times, Melissa. I’ve occasionally had ideas for plots of murder mysteries in which poisonous native plants would play a part. Those ideas have remained in my head because I wouldn’t want to give anyone ideas.

      In contrast to the tansy I linked to that’s in the sunflower family, the native plant shown here is called tansy-mustard to show that it’s in the mustard family. This family used to be known as Cruciferae, a reflection of the fact that the four petals of the flowers of the member plants form a cross. I assume the yellow segments between adjacent petals are sepals or bracts.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 8, 2014 at 12:54 PM

  6. Mustards do seem to be very prolific. We have a couple of species here, don’t ask me which right now, and once you find them they start popping up everywhere. Sometimes there are large swaths of them. Not a single one is the “poupon” species.

    Steve Gingold

    August 8, 2014 at 3:23 PM

    • I don’t know about Grey Poupon, but Ba-Tampte is my favorite kind:


      Steve Schwartzman

      August 8, 2014 at 3:33 PM

      • Many years ago, my father had one of those “elicatessens” the labels speaks of. I believe we had this on the shelves. He made a killer corned beef and absolutely the sourest sour pickles I’ve ever had. The bottled variety in the stores are plain cucumbers compared to his. I used to clean out all the pickle buckets of spears, leaving only the half-sours, and I am not sure if any of his customers had any idea they even existed. Pucker up, baby. We also sold Dr. Brown’s Celery Tonic. I haven’t the slightest idea what that tasted like….aside form the obvious. I could go on and on. I will add that, to this day, I cannot stand a kosher hot dog after the several year overdosage.

        Steve Gingold

        August 8, 2014 at 3:40 PM

        • I read right over the missing D on the label; I wonder what that’s about. Sounds like there are times when you’d be glad to erase all the other letters too, based on your excessive exposure to the family deli in your childhood.

          When I was a kid in New York we used to buy the Dr. Brown’s sodas, and to this day some of them are available in certain hoity-toity stores in Austin.

          Steve Schwartzman

          August 8, 2014 at 3:51 PM

  7. Another beauty. D

    Pairodox Farm

    August 9, 2014 at 7:51 AM

    • This photograph, or more particularly the red part, reminded me of the abstract paintings of Mark Rothko.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 9, 2014 at 8:23 AM

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