Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Fairy duster

with 18 comments

Fairy Duster Flower 2472

Still another native wildflower I found at the botanical garden in Tucson named Tohono Chul on October 1, 2014, was Calliandra eriophylla, known fancifully as fairy duster. If you see some resemblance to the flowers of the sensitive briar and fragrant mimosa and feather dalea that have appeared in these pages, that’s because all are in the Fabaceae, or bean family. (And if you’ve ever heard of or eaten fava beans, you’ll understand why botanists chose the name Fabaceae for the bean family.)

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman


Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 11, 2015 at 5:13 AM

18 Responses

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  1. One of the more delicate flowers…at least in appearance…and this has a lovely background, Steve.

    Steve Gingold

    January 11, 2015 at 5:17 AM

    • You know that I often like to have a contrasting color in the background, but this time I outsmarted myself by not writing down or remembering what the yellow flowers were.

      In Phoenix I’d seen a Mexican species of fairy duster, so I was glad to find the native one in Tucson.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 11, 2015 at 5:24 AM

  2. She does look like a fairy duster, I can imagine it perfectly!

    Emma Sarah Tennant

    January 11, 2015 at 5:56 AM

    • On this one you have a more vivid imagination than I do. I’m glad to hear you’ve enjoyed exercising it, but make sure you don’t get too tired out from all your dusting.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 11, 2015 at 6:18 AM

      • I like dusting and cleaning almost as much as I like fairies, Steve! But I’ll try not to tire myself out.

        Emma Sarah Tennant

        January 11, 2015 at 6:20 AM

        • Good of you to own up to it, Emma, because it’s unusual for a ten[n]ant to do so much cleaning.

          Steve Schwartzman

          January 11, 2015 at 6:25 AM

  3. The fairy duster reminded me of the Albizia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Albizia I used to have in my garden. When I checked on Wiki I realized why the flowers looked similar. I had to remove the Albizia because it created too much dust for my nose. Well, that was one reason but the other was that it was diseased and most of the trunk was rotten.


    January 11, 2015 at 6:42 AM

    • The Albizia julibrissin mentioned in your linked article is a common enough sight in Austin. The tree isn’t native to the Americas, but people plant it here as an ornamental, and its flowers are certainly pretty.

      I’m sorry to hear about your allergy to Albizia. It sounds like you did the prudent thing in getting rid of it, especially if it was diseased.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 11, 2015 at 6:58 AM

  4. Actually, it reminds me of Clematis drummondi. At first glance, I was just sure it was a variant of that. The similarities in the leaves is obvious, of course. I’ll say this — it’s the first time I can remember thinking about chianti before seven in the morning. Some movie lines just stick.


    January 11, 2015 at 6:56 AM

    • I thought about that movie line too but decided to be as meek as a lamb and remain silent.

      On the last day of my trip I saw some Clematis drummondii in far west Texas, but to the best of my knowledge I didn’t see any species of Clematis in New Mexico, Arizona, or Colorado.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 11, 2015 at 7:03 AM

  5. Real character for sure! For some reason makes me smile and at the same time sorry, it feels so skinny, so fragile, so light, so vulnerable…yet putting all those aspects aside she is beautiful in her own way, most charming and lovely, just like a fairy.


    January 11, 2015 at 10:38 AM

    • In spite of the seeming fragility, this flower and the plant that produces it can’t be that delicate: they survive and even thrive in the desert, whose harsh conditions create the character you’ve recognized here. Maybe fairies are tougher than we think.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 11, 2015 at 11:03 AM

  6. Unusual, eye catching, and so interesting on review; this is such a great image.

    Charlie@Seattle Trekker

    January 11, 2015 at 4:01 PM

  7. If I were a fairy and needed a duster, this feathery flower would certainly do. But I hope fairies have better things to do than to worry about a little dust.


    February 18, 2023 at 4:16 PM

    • Our word fairy ultimately traces back to the Latin word for ‘the fates.’ Like you, I do hope our fates are busy with more than dusting.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 18, 2023 at 6:38 PM

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