Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

It’s time again for those little purple false thistly pineapply thingies

with 29 comments

Eryngo Flower Head 5242

So there I was at the Elisabet Ney Museum on August 28th, as you’ve heard a bunch of times. Not far from the Maximilian sunflowers, and contrasting nicely with their yellow, were the purple flower heads of an eryngo, Eryngium leavenworthii. Despite appearances, this plant isn’t related to pineapples or thistles but is in the same botanical family as carrots, parsley, and celery. Just because eryngo isn’t a thistle doesn’t mean its spines don’t hurt. They do.

© 2014 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 15, 2014 at 5:46 AM

29 Responses

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  1. Speaking of thistles, I saw the Scottish thistle while climbing Arthur’s Seat in Scotland in August, and I finally got to see hills covered in heather. We were there at just the right time because it doesn’t bloom for long. Oh, how I love purple!! It was beautiful :).


    September 15, 2014 at 6:01 AM

    • That’s a great experience to have had, Cindy. I’ve heard about heather all my life but have never seen it. Now if we could both go somewhere and actually see King Arthur, that would really be something.

      Purple used to be the color of royalty because it was hard to make purple cloth before the era of artificial dyes. After this Thursday’s vote, we may soon be talking about the era before Scotland became an independent country again.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 15, 2014 at 6:46 AM

      • It was a wonderful experience!! You should have seen me jumping up and down when I spotted my first patch of heather :). King Arthur?? Yes, we should totally go on a quest to find him. Now I really want to read an Arthurian tale you know!

        The debate over the big vote coming up this week in Scotland was in full swing while we were there, and it was really interesting hearing the views lf the locals. I can’t wait to see the results.


        September 15, 2014 at 5:37 PM

        • I just finished watching a 10-minute public-television story on that. Recent polls are about even, so we’ll see what Thursday (or maybe Friday, if rural areas are slow to report) brings.

          Steve Schwartzman

          September 15, 2014 at 6:56 PM

  2. Not a shy plant!


    September 15, 2014 at 6:46 AM

  3. That’s an unusual member of the family. I guess every family has one or two.

    Jim in IA

    September 15, 2014 at 7:04 AM

    • The prickly plants in the genus Eryngo certainly stand out from your run-of-the-mill members of the Apiaceae (the family that includes celery, carrots, and parsley). You might say eryngo is the purple sheep of the family.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 15, 2014 at 7:12 AM

  4. Beautiful ! Thank you for sharing


    September 15, 2014 at 8:24 AM

  5. I like the colour. I do not fancy the prickles.


    September 15, 2014 at 9:16 AM

    • Some color comes at a cost, which I do my best to minimize in this case. Sometimes I succeed and other times I say ouch.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 15, 2014 at 12:59 PM

  6. Hahaha! Prickly purple sheep! 🙂


    September 15, 2014 at 9:35 AM

    • If we’ve got prickly purple sheep, shouldn’t you have said baah baah baah rather than hahaha?

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 15, 2014 at 2:07 PM

  7. I love the detail and bold color…Great image to start Monday and the week.

    Charlie@Seattle Trekker

    September 15, 2014 at 10:50 AM

  8. I love the blue eryngium! Great plant for bees too 🙂 This purple looks a bit larger than the blue but I love its vibrancy!

    Sarah Longes - Mirador Design

    September 15, 2014 at 2:44 PM

  9. I hadn’t bumped into the new USDA map yet — very nice. And this is one of my favorite “plants that I’ve never seen in the wild.” It’s so beautiful, and looks so dangerous, and impossible of description. I’d say “purple false thistly pineapply thingy” is just right: unless we decided to use Eryngium mataharii.


    September 15, 2014 at 9:53 PM

    • I just slid the slider on the new USDA map and saw that Eryngium leavenworthii is shown for Harris County. Now is the time for that species, so good luck in finding some near you soon. I remember looking through Wildflowers of the Texas Hill Country when I got started with native plants in 1999 and wondering when I would finally come across this strange-looking plant. I still recall where I finally encountered one that fall: it was close to Lake Georgetown in Williamson County.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 15, 2014 at 10:31 PM

  10. Those spines do look threatening. The hue of purple is a comfort for the eyes as well as giving the idea of pineapple a bit of a psychedelic twist.

    Steve Gingold

    September 16, 2014 at 3:49 AM

    • I’m pretty sure little purple pineapples are what almost everyone thinks of when they see these, but your phrases “psychedelic twist” reminded me of a different fruit in the name of a psychedelic rock band from the 60s: Strawberry Alarm Clock.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 16, 2014 at 7:31 AM

  11. That is an extraordinarily beautiful plant, but I sure wouldn’t want to try to handle it.


    September 17, 2014 at 3:51 AM

    • No, handling it can be anything but fun. The needles are small enough and sharp enough to easily penetrate human skin.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 17, 2014 at 7:47 AM

  12. Non-green plants are such fun.

    The World Is My Cuttlefish

    September 21, 2014 at 2:35 AM

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