Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Apache plume

with 37 comments

Apache Plume Strands 0055

When I first saw pictures of Fallugia paradoxa, known as Apache plume, in a blog post a few years ago, I thought I was looking at a species of Clematis. That’s what convergent evolution can do. But no, Apache plume turns out to be in the rose family, and I finally got to see one of those plants in person at the Petroglyph National Monument in northwest Albuquerque on September 23.

© 2014 Steven Schwartzman


Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 18, 2014 at 5:30 AM

37 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. Very attractive.


    October 18, 2014 at 5:42 AM

    • Strands like these hold a special appeal for me. Until this visit to Albuquerque, I’d always answered that appeal in the “person” of Clematis drummondii. It’s abundant in Austin, so I can’t complain, but I still wish I had Apache plume here as well.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 18, 2014 at 8:15 AM

  2. Beautiful photo!!


    October 18, 2014 at 5:50 AM

  3. Looks like a sea anemone – all those waving tentacles. Love the hairs!


    October 18, 2014 at 6:01 AM

    • It’s the hairs that normally make this special, and here the little droplets of water added an extra charm.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 18, 2014 at 8:36 AM

  4. How do you find such rare things ? I am so jealous,jealous,jealous 😀


    October 18, 2014 at 6:25 AM

    • I’m sorry to have aroused your jealousy. There are many appealing things in nature, and in many cases all we need do is take a close look to find them.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 18, 2014 at 8:38 AM

      • yeah 🙂 But its amazing to see how you bring them out ,keep up the good work and I will feel more inspired 😀


        October 18, 2014 at 9:49 AM

        • Okay, it’s a deal: happy inspiration to you.

          Steve Schwartzman

          October 18, 2014 at 11:04 AM

          • 😀 Thanks to you and few others,I have started putting more effort in paying attention to surroundings as well as working on my skills but I have a long way to go. Luckily, I learn something from you and others everyday.. 🙂 I hope you didn’t take my first comment otherwise, it’s just I want to be as good as you someday ❤


            October 18, 2014 at 8:26 PM

  5. At first glance, I thought this was a variety of Clematis. Then I thought, this is what a cross of Clematis with Gulf Muhly might look like. Then I read the scientific name, which reminded me of the differently spelled Fallujah west of Baghdad, which happens to be associated with a different Gulf.

    At that point, I decided just to appreciate the photo, which is gorgeous. I was surprised to read that this is part of the rose family, and it tickled me to learn it’s a monotype. Would that make it a truly unique species?


    October 18, 2014 at 9:12 AM

    • Some of our reactions were similar: I originally thought of a Clematis, and the genus name reminded me of the town in Iraq that’s been in the news this year. You trumped me, though, with your Gulf associations—not surprising, given how close to the Gulf of Mexico you live.

      As for the monotypic genus, my impression is that it does reflect a one-of-a-kind-ness in the plant. And speaking of impressions, when I searched for “botanical montotype” I got hits about something different, given that in the world of art a monotype is a kind of print.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 18, 2014 at 9:24 AM

      • I just read this interesting article about coevolution. At first, I wondered if convergent evolution and coevolution were different terms for the same process, but I’ve decided they’re different processes. While coming to that conclusion, I bumped into divergent evolution, which only added to the complexity.

        In any event, I remembered how often you’ve spoken of convergent evolution, and while browsing your related entries, I found the link above to your article about the chimpanzees, typewriters, and plant evolution. Of course I smiled to see my favorite clematis in there, too, and enjoyed the article very much. You might find the Guardian piece interesting, too.


        March 11, 2016 at 8:29 AM

        • You’re correct that convergent evolution and coevolution are different. The first involves organisms that develop a similar feature completely apart from each other, while the second describes a mutual accommodation of two organisms that are in contact.

          Thanks for the link to that informative article. I had no idea that, in another instance of convergent evolution, ancient lacewings evolved features similar to those of modern butterflies.

          Steve Schwartzman

          March 11, 2016 at 12:50 PM

  6. It also resembles Geum triflora, (If I remember the Latin correctly), or Prairie Smoke, which blooms around here in May. You mention convergent evolution which causes me to wonder what on earth the forces would be that would drive two plants to go in this hairy direction, but I love the effect.


    October 18, 2014 at 11:40 AM

    • Thanks for pointing to Geum triflorum (gotta make the Latin adjective agree with that neuter noun) as another similar member of the rose family. The website for the Missouri Botanical Garden says this: “Perhaps the most distinguishing feature of this North American native prairie plant is not the reddish pink to purplish, nodding, globular flowers that bloom in late spring, but the fruiting heads which follow. As the flower fades and the seeds begin to form, the styles elongate (to 2″ long) to form upright, feathery gray tails which collectively resemble a plume or feather duster, all of which has given rise to a large number of regional descriptive common names for this plant such as torch flower, long-plumed purple avens, prairie smoke, lion’s beard and old man’s whiskers. The feathery seed tails act as sails in aiding dispersal of the seeds.”

      As for “what on earth the forces would be that would drive two plants to go in this hairy direction,” I don’t know, but the photographer was driven in the same direction.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 18, 2014 at 11:59 AM

  7. Love these plants!

  8. I can see why you might take this for a Clematis. Those feathery filaments are quite lovely and well portraited here.

    Steve Gingold

    October 18, 2014 at 6:37 PM

    • I had trouble believing it wasn’t a Clematis, but I’m glad for the existence of another feathery thing for nature photographers in the West to play with.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 18, 2014 at 9:06 PM

  9. Wow. I’ll admit that when I saw this I thought it was either an echinoderm (crinoid):

    or an annelid (polychaete):


    Sorry for the long links. Perhaps this should be considered a case of convergent evolution. Nice shot. D

    Pairodox Farm

    October 18, 2014 at 7:09 PM

    • That’s another whole consideration: a similar feature appearing not just in different botanical families but across the (conventional) divide between plants and animals. Thanks for widening the scope of the discussion.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 18, 2014 at 9:10 PM

      • Absolutely. Convergent evolution is a fascinating, though entirely expected, phenomenon. Let’s face it … there are just so many ways to do certain things in nature. Whales are mammals, trout are fish … but both do lots of things in the same ‘fishy’ way. Birds are birds, flying fish are fish, and dragon flies are insects … but all fly in pretty much the same way, using wings that are very similar (convergent) in form. So your plume struck me in just this way. D

        Pairodox Farm

        October 19, 2014 at 8:36 AM

  10. wow


    October 18, 2014 at 11:11 PM

  11. The most delightful “hairy” little plant, she is absolutely gorgeous!


    October 18, 2014 at 11:15 PM

  12. A little bit of creativity to get in the mood for a new week…Love the photo.

    Charlie@Seattle Trekker

    October 19, 2014 at 1:52 PM

  13. I definitely would have guessed clematis here.

    Susan Scheid

    October 25, 2014 at 9:05 PM

  14. […] aren’t even in the same botanical family. Yet another plant that ends up like this is the Apache plume I saw in New Mexico two years […]

  15. […] or D. octopetala. I learned that Dryas is in the rose family, and its seed heads are similar to those of its family mate Fallugia paradoxa, known as Apache […]

  16. […] or D. octopetala. I learned that Dryas is in the rose family, and its seed heads are akin to those of its family mate Fallugia paradoxa, known as Apache […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: