Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Purple isn’t always purple

with 18 comments

White Liatris Flower Spike by Broomweed Flowers 4733

Although most flower spikes of Liatris mucronata are purple, it’s not that unusual to see an occasional white one. I photographed this white gayfeather spike east of Interstate 35 in the town of Buda on October 8th. By now you may recognize that the many yellow wildflowers in the background are broomweed, Amphiachyris dracunculoides.

© 2014 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 31, 2014 at 5:25 AM

18 Responses

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  1. I’ve found, with peonies at least, that the lighter the color the more fragrant the scent. Was that true with the Liatris?

    Steve Gingold

    October 31, 2014 at 5:39 AM

    • To tell the truth, Steve, my nose hasn’t detected much scent from any Liatris stalks, regardless of color.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 31, 2014 at 8:08 AM

  2. Could the broomweed be a nod to Halloween?


    October 31, 2014 at 7:21 AM

    • You’re welcome to think I scared this spike white, Georgette, or that it was the ghost of a purple one. Hard to believe tomorrow will already be November.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 31, 2014 at 8:10 AM

  3. I love this plant, and have never seen a white one. At one time the chalky slopes in the Duncanville (just south of Dallas) subdivision where I used to drive my now-26-year-old son to elementary school were covered with L. mucronata. Alas, no more. One of the things I like best about this flower is that the stalks bloom from the top down, whereas most flower stalks start blooming at the bottom and move up.


    October 31, 2014 at 8:34 AM

    • Out of the thousands of Liatris spikes that must have been in the area, I noticed three or four white ones. The fact that they were relatively close to each other makes me suspect a genetic link.

      I’m sorry but not surprised to hear about the loss of dense Liatris spikes in Duncanville. Each year I write off another property (or several) where I was once able to see abundant nature.

      In a post earlier this fall,


      I made the same observation as you about the buds of Liatris opening from the top down.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 31, 2014 at 2:54 PM

  4. Nature’s “tricks” can be wonderful treats. It seems there’s always a surprise lurking, and this one’s beautiful. I’ve seen plenty of white flowers mixed in with the pink evening primrose, and we have those occasional white bluebonnets, but this is special. We’re so lucky to have you out there roaming around, proving that there’s always something new to see.


    October 31, 2014 at 9:00 AM

    • An early botanical observation of mine was that purple wildflowers seem more likely than those of other colors to have white variants. Some examples, in addition to this Liatris, are the bluebonnets that you mentioned, plus wild petunias, bluebells, and spiderworts.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 31, 2014 at 3:00 PM

  5. Blue, yellow and white were the colour choices for my posy ring featured in my post on the Totem pole. Nature seems to enjoy this colour combination so I just brought it inside and put it in a vase.


    October 31, 2014 at 9:47 PM

    • I’ve carried on an intermittent discussion over the 3+ years of this blog about wildflowers with blue in their name, like bluebells, bluebonnets, and blue curls. Most of the time my eyes see those “blue” flowers as purple. From your comment, I’m wondering if your eyes see the Liatris spikes in the background of this photograph as blue, because I see them as distinctly purple.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 31, 2014 at 9:58 PM

      • Um sorry Steve; that was a typo of sorts. I must have been thinking about the bluebell comments when I wrote so my fingers typed blue although my brain was thinking purple. I meant to write purple!
        My flower arrangement was mostly purple, yellow and white. There were a few blue flowers in my posy but the blue flower was a borage which as it ages fades to a pinkish purple.


        October 31, 2014 at 10:04 PM

      • And yes the liatris appears distinctly purple to my eyes.


        October 31, 2014 at 10:04 PM

  6. That looks very much like Purple Loosestrife that we know over here in the UK except that is….purple!


    November 4, 2014 at 12:16 PM

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