Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Blazing-star all blazed out

with 19 comments

Liatris Stalk Turned Fluffy 7836

When blazing-star, Liatris mucronata, gets all blazed out in the autumn like a spent candle, it turns into the type of fluffy gray stalk shown here on the Blackland Prairie in northeast Austin on November 19th of last year.

If you’d like a reminder of how vibrant this species looked in some parts of central Texas just three weeks earlier, you’re welcome to glance back at a colony in full flower.

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 2, 2015 at 5:40 AM

19 Responses

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  1. Beautiful field of wildflowers. And to think I thought Texas was only worth visiting in the spring for the showing of wildflowers in Texas. Time to rethink my travels 🙂


    January 2, 2015 at 8:40 AM

    • You’re right in thinking that the peak wildflower displays here are in the spring, but after the summer heat subsides there’s a secondary set of wildflowers that liven up the autumn. Liatris is one of those. You could visit here at almost any time of year and see at least some wildflowers, so come on down.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 2, 2015 at 8:51 AM

      • I see that you have come on down, so welcome to Texas, even if this is the time of fewest wildflowers.

        Steve Schwartzman

        January 2, 2015 at 9:35 AM

  2. I love it that you are showing plants in later phases as well as full bloom. Some of my favorite times with friends out in the field have been when we were “forensic” botanizing. We walk along looking at interesting seedheads, musing what they are.


    January 2, 2015 at 9:16 AM

    • I wish every plant were as easy to identify in its last stage as this one. I’ve learned to recognize some of our late-stage native species, but when I’m out walking I still see the remains of many plants that I can’t identify. I fantasize that some day there’ll be a device that when put close to a plant tells you what it is, but I think that such a device is many years away and therefore won’t come soon enough to be of use to me.

      That’s a great phrase, forensic botanizing. Maybe you can start a television series called FBA, for Forensic Botanizing Adventures.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 2, 2015 at 9:59 AM

      • Oh, that would be fun! It is mortifying to gaze at a plant late in the season and draw a blank, when you know perfectly well you could have identified it a month or two ago!


        January 3, 2015 at 9:00 AM

        • I’m often not so great at the identification a month or two earlier, either. I need to nurture my inner botanist.

          Steve Schwartzman

          January 3, 2015 at 9:46 AM

          • Haha! I like that…inner botanist. You are too modest.


            January 3, 2015 at 10:01 AM

            • Modesty is reality, as I reconfirm whenever I get to tag along with people who really know their botany.

              Steve Schwartzman

              January 3, 2015 at 10:39 AM

              • Oh, boy, do I know what you mean! I can be reduced to blithering idiot in seconds. “You know this one, don’t you? Oh, you don’t???” Sigh. But it is still so rewarding. Even better than crosswords to keep our minds sharp 🙂


                January 3, 2015 at 3:47 PM

                • I try to keep my pictures as sharp as my mind—or is it the other way around?

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  January 3, 2015 at 9:02 PM

  3. This looks like a really bit version of one of those fuzzy caterpillars… interesting…


    January 2, 2015 at 2:57 PM

  4. I hesitate to say it, but this image reminds me of the small bottle brushes we have by the kitchen sink.

    Ridiculous comparison aside, it is a handsome seedhead and our garden variety Liatris does not dry to such an attractive specimen. Just dry, brown and brittle.

    Steve Gingold

    January 2, 2015 at 6:47 PM

    • I can see a bottle brush too, so there’s no reason to hesitate.

      There are various species of Liatris, but this is the only one in Austin and therefore the only one I’m familiar with. To my mind, the feathery appearance you see here is the way Liatris is “supposed to” look when it dries out.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 2, 2015 at 11:35 PM

  5. I didn’t see a bottle brush, but this is the first time I’ve looked at spent liatris and seen one of those feathery dusters attached to a long wand. My mom had one, in a particularly nauseous pink. The Liatris is far more attractive, in any of its phases.


    January 3, 2015 at 9:08 AM

    • One vernacular name for this plant is gayfeather, but I don’t think anyone had a duster in mind, even if gayfeather flower stalks are sometimes pink. Growing in the same places as Liatris here in the fall is broomweed, which settlers really did use as brooms, and for all I know as dusters too.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 3, 2015 at 9:53 AM

  6. There is so much gorgeous beauty and detail in the later phase of bloom…You do such an amazing job of capturing that.

    Charlie@Seattle Trekker

    January 3, 2015 at 8:43 PM

    • Thanks, Charlie. I do my part to extol the later phases along with the easier-to-like younger ones.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 3, 2015 at 9:05 PM

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