Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography


with 21 comments

Snake-Cotton Turned Cottony 2030

Okay, so you didn’t get cottony water yesterday, but here’s some snake-cotton, Froelichia gracilis. When I photographed a small group of these on August 7th in the fringe of Great Hills Park near the Taylor Draper entrance, it was the first time I’d ever found this species in Austin, much less my neighborhood, so I was happily surprised. Before then, the few times I’d found snake-cotton I was a bit east of Austin, near Bastrop. In preparing this post I was further surprised to learn that this species grows across much of the United States, as you can confirm on the USDA map. One more thing: I believe this is the first member of the amaranth botanical family ever to appear here.

© 2014 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 15, 2014 at 5:57 AM

21 Responses

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  1. It looks very silky, as though it would make a lovely cotton thread, but I can’t find anything to say that it does.


    August 15, 2014 at 6:28 AM

    • You’re ahead of me on this one: it never occurred to me to remove a little clump of those hairs to see how strong they are or if it seems they could be turned into thread. Thanks for searching, even if the search turned up nothing.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 15, 2014 at 7:53 AM

  2. If I’d come across this in the wild, my first thought probably would have been that a web-spinner had covered it with silk, as psocids sometimes do to the live oaks around here.

    The cottony covering reminds me of dodder. I wonder what purpose it serves, if any. It’s unusual, that’s for sure.


    August 15, 2014 at 7:31 AM

    • I never thought about “bark cattle” for the simple reason I’d never heard (or “herd,” as the article says) of them. Another case of live and learn. If I ever learn the answer to your question, namely what purpose the hairs serve, I’ll pass it along. As for dodder, it’s been a long time since I showed any, and I did photograph some this spring, so maybe a photograph is will be forthcoming.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 15, 2014 at 8:21 AM

  3. Interestingly exquisite plant. I’ve never seen one, or even heard of them. Thank you for this post – my brain has one more wrinkle this morning. 🙂


    August 15, 2014 at 8:06 AM

  4. I don’t remember seeing that plant before. I will watch for it. Seems it is in IA.

    Jim in IA

    August 15, 2014 at 8:13 AM

    • In an agricultural state like Iowa so much of the land is cultivated that native plants can be hard to find, but they are still there.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 15, 2014 at 11:16 AM

  5. A fabulous shot of a curious looking plant – I’ll check out the Amaranth around here to see if they’re at all similar.


    August 15, 2014 at 9:55 AM

    • It is curious, and therefore photogenic (I gave it the Rembrandt treatment). There are other members of the amaranth family in central Texas, but many are alien species from Eurasia.

      For your area, a good book is Plants of Coastal British Columbia, by Pojar and Mackinnon, which I bought a copy of when I was in Vancouver in 2000. I knew I wouldn’t have much chance to use it, but I liked its style and organization and brought it back as a model of a good way to put together a plant guide.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 15, 2014 at 11:26 AM

      • The Rembrandt treatment :)….I have that book as well – excellent reference! It seems there are no native Amaranth species here though people grow Amaranth plants ornamentally in the summer. I shall try to get a picture of one!


        August 15, 2014 at 1:38 PM

  6. What an interesting and intriguing plant…Love the photo, the detail is stunning.

    Charlie@Seattle Trekker

    August 15, 2014 at 1:00 PM

    • This plant is like nothing else in central Texas, so when I first saw it on August 7th, even from a distance I knew what it was and had trouble believing I was really seeing it at the edge of my neighborhood nature park.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 15, 2014 at 2:34 PM

  7. Very interesting plant. Although it does occur here, according to the map, I’ve never seen it or a picture of one until today. Thanks. I’ll keep my eyes open.

    Steve Gingold

    August 15, 2014 at 4:57 PM

    • Do let us know, preferably with a photograph, if you run across this plant.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 15, 2014 at 6:07 PM

    • I should add that the map shows it in your part of Massachusetts as well as on Long Island, where I grew up and could have seen it without knowing it.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 15, 2014 at 6:09 PM

  8. This is absolutely adorable! I don’t speak the language of a botanical expert so I just express my impressions of what I see, for now I would say this is the cutest, fuzziest little plant I can got to see and examine so close! Thank you for the treat!


    August 16, 2014 at 11:49 PM

    • It’s North America’s answer to the Eurasian pussy willow. (I don’t know all that much about botany either, so I likewise think mostly in terms of appearances.)

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 17, 2014 at 8:16 AM

  9. […] You can also review the only other post in which a species of snake-cotton has appeared here. […]

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