Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Cocklebur seed head remains by pond

with 17 comments

Dry Cockleburs by Sump 9511

From February 21, 2012, on the Blackland Prairie in far northeast Austin, come the remains of a cocklebur plant, Xanthium strumarium, that was standing in shallow water near the edge of a sump. Like the seed capsules of the European burdock that inspired Velcro, these prickly seed capsules are designed to break off and cling to the fur of animals (and now to the hair and clothing of people).

Although Xanthium strumarium isn’t a rare plant in Austin, today marks its first appearance in these pages.


I’m away from home. You’re welcome to leave comments, but please understand if I’m slow in responding.

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman


Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 20, 2015 at 5:15 AM

17 Responses

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  1. I really like the soft pastel gradient in the background, Steve. Nice detail in the seed head too.

    Steve Gingold

    February 20, 2015 at 5:24 AM

    • Your talk of the color gradient here reminds me, if I can change topics, that when I taught math, students would sometimes ask me to grade on a curve. My answer was that I always grade on a curve, the special curve we call a straight line.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 20, 2015 at 1:40 PM

  2. We also have this species in Australia and it’s an invasive weed – often called Noogoora burr and introduced from your country. I have memories of my sons attaching these burrs to their little sister’s hair or clothes as a joke and she was not impressed to say the least. I like your picture though. They are certainly well designed for dispersal and if you forget that they are a burr, they are quite attractive in a modern art way with their delicate hook-like ends.


    February 20, 2015 at 5:45 AM

    • Sorry for this American export to Australia, Jane, so let’s play up the modern-art angle (literal and figurative) while suppressing the connection of burrs to little girls’ hair. But now you’ve made me wonder whether so-call high fashion, with its often bizarre styles, might ever latch on (again literally and figuratively) to burrs as element of adornment in women’s hair.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 20, 2015 at 1:45 PM

      • Your comment made me smile. There are some very strange fashions out there so I wouldn’t rule it out!


        February 20, 2015 at 3:38 PM

  3. Our burr is the biddy-bid, http://www.teara.govt.nz/en/photograph/18589/piripiri-or-biddy-bid and the Acaena novae-zelandiae variety has invaded parts of the US. I do not care for biddy-bids or burs in real life.


    February 20, 2015 at 6:08 AM

    • Thanks for that link, which is interesting not only for the plant itself but for the way English speakers heard the Maori word piripiri (though I still wonder why the Anglos didn’t hear the term as biddy-biddy). I hope I get to see one here in its native territory, because I wouldn’t want to encounter it as an invasive in the U.S.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 20, 2015 at 1:50 PM

      • They probably did hear biddy-biddy but simply became lazy after awhile so the word was contracted to biddy-bid. Why use your lips more than you have to!


        February 20, 2015 at 2:57 PM

        • I saw something at Zealandia this morning that I thought might be biddy-bid (conditioned as I was by your comment), but the guide said it was whau. I told him it looked real enough and not at all faux.

          Steve Schwartzman

          February 21, 2015 at 3:26 AM

          • I have not seen a whau but the photos show it with a type of bur/thistle. Hope Zealandia gave you lots of whau-to opportunities.


            February 21, 2015 at 3:40 AM

  4. Cockleburs!!! For years my Arabian horses enjoyed being let out in a large rather unkempt pasture, and every Spring their tails and manes would be matted with these darn things. Hours would be spent with baby oil and combs attempting to eradicate them.

    So Steven, thanks for the memory…the horses are now gone, but not the cockleburs!

    Esther Wilson

    February 20, 2015 at 12:10 PM

    • Cockleburs are tenacious in more sense than one, Esther, as you confirm when you note that your horses of yesteryear are gone, but your cockleburs persist.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 20, 2015 at 1:52 PM

  5. Love the gorgeous detail and rich color…Such an interesting and eye catching image.

    Charlie@Seattle Trekker

    February 20, 2015 at 10:48 PM

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