Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Small white snail on Illinois bundleflower pods

with 36 comments

Small White Snail on Illinois Bundleflower Pods 0471

Here’s yet another picture from a sumpy property on the Blackland Prairie in northeast Austin on July 29th. I can’t identify the snail but I can tell you that the dark, scrunched-together pods are from an Illinois bundleflower, Desmanthus illinoensis. Despite that species name, this plant is native in Texas and many other parts of the United States, as you can confirm on the USDA map.

© 2014 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 8, 2014 at 5:39 AM

36 Responses

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  1. How and why did the snail climb? I never knew this.. 😉 .. Amazing shot, I can see its patterns and sub-patterns !


    October 8, 2014 at 5:56 AM

  2. The swirls and scrunches complement each other well. Some time back we discussed pearl milkweed and its use in life jackets as a substitute for kapok. You may be interested in this little piece of information I was given today, on the topic of kapok lifejackets. They were invented by a New Zealand woman, Orpheus Newman. http://blog.maritimemuseum.co.nz/2014/07/lifejackets-safety-at-sea.html


    October 8, 2014 at 5:57 AM

    • As soon as I saw that Orpheus Newman was the name of a woman I wondered why she was given what is traditionally a man’s name. The linked article answered my question:

      “Orpheus Newman was born in St Helier, Jersey in 1863. She was named after the ship HMS Orpheus which was wrecked on the Manukau Bar earlier that year, and on which her older brother was believed to have died along with many others.

      “Although it was later discovered that her brother had survived the wreck, as a child Orpheus was haunted by the idea of drowning. She finally overcame this affliction as a 10 year old on the long journey to New Zealand with her family in 1873.”

      I wonder how many other discoveries have come about as a response to a fear.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 8, 2014 at 8:21 AM

      • I wonder too and I also wonder about the burden of carrying a name so associated with disaster. I would not like it. A heavy burden for anyone, let alone a child.


        October 9, 2014 at 7:15 AM

  3. Darn … I’m late in pointing out that patterning of the two subjects appear to mimic one another. Nice shot. If I could see all dimensions of the snail, I could, perhaps, identify it for you .. as it is, I cannot. I can tell you however, that it looks to be six years old. D

    Pairodox Farm

    October 8, 2014 at 6:20 AM

    • You can still second the motion, D.

      Can I infer that you’re saying the snail appears to be six years old because there are six go-rounds in the spiral?

      Arithmetically speaking, 6 is an interesting number because

      6 = 1 + 2 + 3 and also 6 = 1 x 2 x 3.

      The first of those equations makes 6 a triangular number:

      • •
      • • •

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 8, 2014 at 8:15 PM

      • Yup … I learned, as a graduate student, that six whorls meant 6 years. The first is termed the embryonic whorl. Enjoyed your number play! D

        Pairodox Farm

        October 9, 2014 at 6:32 PM

        • I’d heard of tree rings, of course, but never of snails’ whorls.

          Happy number play to you (and to all).

          Steve Schwartzman

          October 9, 2014 at 7:17 PM

  4. What a delightful example of “the same, only different.” The curved pods of the bundleflower look as though they’re trying to form themselves into a spiral. Perhaps the snail climbed up and whispered, “Here. Let me show you how it’s done.”

    The contrast in textures is deeply appealing. As for that stem placement: it’s perfect. It’s as if it echoes a larger, unseen curve, an effect that would be lost with a horizontal or vertical stem.


    October 8, 2014 at 6:40 AM

    • Sometimes I’m fond of diagonals, and this was one of those times. The stalk is slightly curved, just enough to fit the theme set by the much tighter counter-spiraling curves of the pods and the snail. Yay, visual harmonies!

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 8, 2014 at 8:25 PM

  5. Absolut schön !!!


    October 8, 2014 at 6:52 AM

  6. What a marvelous discovery–companions in contrast and texture.


    October 8, 2014 at 7:47 AM

  7. I have enjoyed viewing many of your super-shots here on the blog.
    i love this one – because of the nice and elegant composition of snail, pods and stalk….


    October 8, 2014 at 5:10 PM

  8. I first encountered Desmanthus illinoensis many years ago in Missouri. It took me forever to determine the name of this plant as all I had to go by were the seed pods. As a native Texan I had never seen one of them before. Now, they are one of my favorite plants to see in the wild. I recently harvested some seedpods along the side of a country road and have scattered them on my land. Can’t wait to see what springs forth!

    Thanks for all your wonderful native flora! It’s such a treat!

    Judy Turner

    October 8, 2014 at 5:31 PM

    • Fortunately for me Desmanthus illinoensis is in Marshall Enquist’s Wildflowers of the Texas Hill Country, the book I most often used when learning the common wildflowers in my area. Those distinctive pods made identification easy.

      Good luck with those scattered seeds: may they sprout abundantly so you can have plenty of i-pods, i.e. [Desmanthus] i[llinoensis]-pods.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 8, 2014 at 8:45 PM

  9. Quite a bundle for that little snail! Great shot.

    Susan Scheid

    October 8, 2014 at 6:21 PM

  10. made me 🙂


    October 8, 2014 at 10:48 PM

    • You remind me of the ditty “I made you look, I made you look, / I made you buy a penny book.”

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 9, 2014 at 8:03 AM

  11. Those two make a great pair and I can’t decide which I find the more attractive. The whorled effect of the bundleflower pods and the earthy tones are a great contrast to the snail’s clean and smooth spiral. Both look quite nice against that pleasant background. Well done, Steve.

    Steve Gingold

    October 9, 2014 at 7:50 PM

    • Fortunately there’s no need to choose between the two: you get both for the price of one photograph (and what a bargain price it is). I thought about you because of the way the plant’s stem conveniently misses the corner of the photograph (even if not by much).

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 9, 2014 at 7:58 PM

  12. How cool is this?! I really love the contrast of texture and shape here. Although I’ve heard of this plant, I have never come across it in the field, so I checked the distribution map. I think it is entirely unfair that it skips Lake County, so you can see it all the way out there in Austin and I can’t see it here 😦 Another reason to move to Austin. Don’t suggest I make the trip to Cook County….ugh! While only a few miles from here, another world entirely.


    October 12, 2014 at 11:52 AM

    • There may well still be hope without your having to travel to Cook County, because the distribution maps merely mark counties where people have reported finding the plant. The species in question may well be in other counties as well, and several times I’ve had the experience of finding a plant in a county that wasn’t marked on the USDA map. That’s especially likely in an unmarked county adjacent to a marked one, as was true in the cases where I found a plant where it wasn’t supposed to be.

      Another thing to consider is that distributions can change due to the spreading of seeds by wind, animals, people’s clothing, cars, etc.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 12, 2014 at 4:18 PM

  13. I’ve found this beauty in Kansas this week, which suggests the shape of the swath it cuts through the middle of the county. Your note about cars as vectors reminded me of the cautions not to drive onto prairies like the Nash, Diamond Grove, and so on. I’d never thought about the possibility of spreading invasives that way, but it’s clearly a concern.


    October 25, 2016 at 6:25 AM

    • The very fact of the common name being Ilinois bundleflower indicates that the plant grows at least that far north, and its presence in Austin confirms the swath you mentioned.

      When we went to New Zealand last year we visited several nature places where we had to disinfect our shoes to keep from tracking in unwelcome seeds or spores.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 25, 2016 at 11:16 PM

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