Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Sachem on Maximilian sunflower

with 22 comments

Sachem Skipper on Maximilian Sunflower 5390

From August 28th on the grounds of the Elisabet Ney Museum here’s the head of a Maximilian sunflower, Helianthus maximiliani, and on it what I take to be the smallish skipper known as a sachem, Atalopedes campestris.

© 2014 Steven Schwartzman


I’m out of town for a while. Of course you’re welcome to leave comments, but please understand if it takes me longer than usual to respond.



Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 4, 2014 at 5:59 AM

22 Responses

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  1. Beautiful, Steve – bronze on gold.


    October 4, 2014 at 8:28 AM

  2. Seems to be all one would want in a Sachem shot….or a Maximiian shot for that matter.

    Steve Gingold

    October 4, 2014 at 12:40 PM

  3. Stunning shot


    October 4, 2014 at 7:40 PM

  4. It’s impossible not to wonder if some of these species evolved together. The gold dusting on the skipper’s wings and the bronzed accents on the sunflower certainly look made for each other. I was reading a little about the Maximilian sunflower and discovered that both “short tongued and long tongued bees feed on it.” That stopped me in my tracks. I wonder who it was who first measured bee tongues? At least the skipper doesn’t seem to be having any trouble getting to the nectar.


    October 4, 2014 at 9:52 PM

    • Like most Americans, I grew up thinking that bee meant honey bee, and there were also bumblebees. That was it. When I began studying native plants, I learned that honey bees aren’t even native in the Americas. They hardly need be, because we have literally dozens of kinds of native bees. Based on what you say, apparently some of those have shorter tongues and others longer tongues. If so, that fact must be part of Entomology 101, a course I’ve never taken. In any case, as you also point out, this skipper has a proboscis adequate even for flowers much more tubular than those of the Maximilian.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 4, 2014 at 10:52 PM

  5. Nice shot. I am developing an appreciate for shots such as this which are (to use my new, favorite, phrase) tack-sharp. D

    Pairodox Farm

    October 5, 2014 at 7:15 PM

    • I’m afraid there are enough sharp things in nature here that I don’t need to resort to tacks, but your pointed comment is still welcome.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 5, 2014 at 9:41 PM

  6. As others have commented, it’s beautiful to see the tones of the sachem reflected in the bloom of the Maximilian…and vice versa. This is probably the best photo of a sachem I remember seeing, for precisely that reason.

    I also like how the pollen is being offered on the tips of the anthers…or are those the pistils with the pollen already dusting their surfaces? Either way, it’s a compelling sight.

    Cynthia, aka Gaia gardener

    October 5, 2014 at 7:33 PM

    • I was fortunate to record this insect-flower study in shades of yellow and brown; thanks for letting me know that that’s the reason this is probably the best sachem photo you’ve seen.

      Like you, I believe the pollen is being offered up on the anthers of the five fused stamens, but now I’m wondering where the pistils are. Where’s a botanist when you need one?

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 5, 2014 at 9:53 PM

  7. I believe they are in the center of the disc, under the skipper. When I think of how hard we in the butterfly network worked to photograph, and correctly ID, skippers, I am just floored by this fabulous shot. You make it look so easy!


    October 5, 2014 at 10:40 PM

    • I don’t think I knew you were in a butterfly network, Melissa. I’ll agree it’s hard to distinguish among all those brown skippers that look so similar. I lucked out on getting a good picture of this one, but many others have gotten away before I could photograph them well, or even at all.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 6, 2014 at 5:25 AM

      • Our procedure was to net them, because they usually won’t hang around for you to count spots. But I found that they would bash themselves against the glass of a jar and I’d get rattled trying to ID them before they’d battered themselves. Some experts suggested squeezing their abdomen gently to quiet them but the only time I tried it I killed the butterfly. After awhile I felt it was better to write “Skipper spp” and move on!


        October 6, 2014 at 9:36 AM

        • I understand your settling on “skipper spp.” after your unsettling experiences. Even after comparing skipper pictures I’ve taken to those in a good field guide for this region, I still often have trouble identifying which species I’ve photographed. Fortunately an image of a butterfly can still be effective even if I don’t know what species it is.

          Steve Schwartzman

          October 6, 2014 at 10:14 AM

  8. What a regal Lepidopteran, with that golden robe flowing behind him!


    October 5, 2014 at 10:59 PM

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