Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

The best-known wildflower

with 51 comments

Bluebonnet Inflorescence Forming 9349

The best-known wildflower in Texas is the bluebonnet, a name covering five species that are collectively the official state wildflower. (Profound metaphysical question: does a state need an official wildflower or kitchen utensil or sedimentary rock or an official anything else?) The bluebonnet species that thrives in Austin is Lupinus texensis, whose genus name tells you that the Texas bluebonnet is indeed a lupine. I took a close look at this one developing in the preserve behind the Austin Nature Center on March 23rd.

If you’re interested in photography as a craft, you’ll find that the newly added point 27 in About My Techniques is relevant to this photograph.

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman


Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 2, 2015 at 5:23 AM

51 Responses

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  1. Answer to your profound question: Apparently yes. I heard about a proposal to make hog farm odor the state molecule of Iowa. So far it hasn’t happened. But, considering who we have running things now, it might still happen.

    Pretty flower, by the way.

    Jim in IA

    April 2, 2015 at 7:07 AM

  2. A state flower, as lovely as this bluebonnet, is fine. A State Seal is usually a necessity. But a state molecule? Really?


    April 2, 2015 at 7:28 AM

  3. But it is sort of fun…
    It isn’t easy to be original with such a favorite, but you’ve done it with this shot. It is very lovely.

    By the way, Steve, your photo arrived yesterday and I’m thrilled with it. It looks wonderful there on my wall in its pretty frame.


    April 2, 2015 at 10:33 AM

    • Bluebonnets are especially difficult because they’ve been done to death in Texas. That’s not the flowers’ fault, of course, but finding something different to do with them is quite a challenge. One approach I’ve tried at times is to show them growing with other plants, both from afar (an example of which will appear next time) and close.

      Thanks for letting me know that your photo arrived and lived up to expectations, Melissa. When working through a third party like FAA, I always have to hope that they do a good job with the printing. From what you’ve said, they did, so I’m relieved.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 2, 2015 at 11:17 AM

      • They did, indeed. Have you been happy working with them? I’ve been considering it but hesitate~


        April 2, 2015 at 2:48 PM

        • I haven’t sold much through them, and yours is only the second report I’ve gotten, but it agrees with the first.

          Steve Schwartzman

          April 2, 2015 at 3:12 PM

  4. Lovely shot. love the deep blue colour

    Raewyn's Photos

    April 2, 2015 at 3:11 PM

    • This is one of those wildflowers that some people see as blue and others as purple. I usually lean toward purple, but sometimes bluebonnets have seemed blue to me. In this specimen I see both colors.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 2, 2015 at 3:15 PM

  5. I don’t mind state flowers or birds but then we have to have a state everything and you wind up not caring. But no matter what the state flower is – you always take lovely photos. I think all the flowers are state flowers 🙂


    April 2, 2015 at 3:29 PM

    • Uh oh, that’d mean we’d have to have thousands of states. Let’s just say wildflowers put us in a good state of mind.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 2, 2015 at 3:45 PM

  6. Wonderful!!

  7. I am a lover of lupines, so really enjoyed your captures of the state’s beauty, Steve.

    I am not quite sure what to think of a state molecule, especially if it is Eau de Hog (remember Odie Colognie?) but states are having designated everything, just like every day is World Day of Something.

    Steve Gingold

    April 2, 2015 at 6:51 PM

  8. Beautiful shot


    April 2, 2015 at 7:59 PM

  9. I was going to say what a beautiful colour this is but couldn’t decide whether it was purple or blue – it seems both to me. Then I read your comments about it. Whatever the shade, it has to be one of my favourites.
    As for emblems, well unfortunately I am allergic to the golden wattle, our national floral emblem, so I am a little sad about that! An official state molecule? Now that is intriguing! I wonder what ours would be.


    April 2, 2015 at 11:32 PM

    • Your eyes and mine react the same way to this one, seeing both blue and purple. At other times people have called flowers blue that are unmistakably purple to me. Frailty, thy name is vision.

      I looked up golden wattle and found at


      that it’s a tree with “profuse fragrant, golden flowers” and “flattened leaf stalks instead of true leaves.” Sorry to hear you’re allergic to it.

      I did a brief search for an official Australian molecule but didn’t find one. There seems to be an opening here for you to pick a molecule you like and begin a campaign to get it adopted.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 3, 2015 at 1:20 AM

  10. Gorgeous! Thanks for sharing both the close-up and the field view. My kids who live in Texas are visiting us here in Florida and just yesterday they were telling me about a recent trip they took to see the Bluebonnets! Now I have a better idea why these flowers are so special~!

    Birder's Journey

    April 5, 2015 at 8:22 PM

    • How opportune for you that these two photographs should have appeared in time to accompany your visiting Texas children. Now if only they’d thought to bottle the aroma so you could sample it along with the images.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 5, 2015 at 8:42 PM

  11. The blue/purple color question has become more interesting to me since I read this: “Patients with cataracts see their world through a yellow tint. It’s just like wearing yellow-tinted (”blue-blocker”) sunglasses, which block colors from the lower end of the color spectrum (blues and violets). When the cataract is removed and replaced with a clear implant, you will see these unfamiliar colors again. This is much more dramatic for some patients than others.”

    When I look at the moon with my left eye, it’s white. With my right, it’s yellow. I think I know why the right eye’s getting the treatment first. As for the bluebonnet, I see it as a nice, deep purple. Interesting.


    April 6, 2015 at 7:35 AM

    • Do you know if there’s any real effect (as opposed to a supposed effect hyped in blue-blocker commercials) from seeing things with a yellow tint?

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 6, 2015 at 7:56 AM

      • I talked to a couple of professional fishing guides today, and they said the answer’s “yes.” Both yellow and amber increase contrast. The yellow are good for early morning, or cloudy and overcast days, while the amber improves clarity when fishing over sand, stream beds, or grassy bottoms, and help differentiate between blue skies and darker water. Various shades (yellow, amber, copper) block more or less of the blue end of the spectrum, but they’re generally better than gray, which simply reduces the amount of light.


        April 6, 2015 at 9:13 PM

        • Well blow me down, I wouldn’t have thought there’d turn out to be any real value to those glasses.

          In the days of black and white film photography I often used a red filter to turn blue skies black. I occasionally used a yellow filter, but the darkening effect is less on blue skies. I remember once in the winter of 1970–71 photographing a snowy landscape with color film and using a yellow filter to warm things up.

          Steve Schwartzman

          April 6, 2015 at 9:52 PM

  12. Me, I’m delighted to know that at least Illinois has a State Snack Food. (Popcorn.) Yep. So important, those things! 🙂


    April 6, 2015 at 11:12 PM

    • I suspect the choice of popcorn has a lot to do with agribusiness, but at least popcorn is pretty natural.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 6, 2015 at 11:26 PM

  13. my first thought when i saw this lovely blue flower was, ‘that looks like the lupine ‘chochos’ that are grown in the andes… does this produce a legume? the ‘chocos’ are very popular as a food in the andes. sometimes the lupines and quinoa grow together and are stunning… there are several shots of the quinoa and chochos here: https://playamart.wordpress.com/2014/11/26/ecuadors-colourful-andes/

    • Yes, bluebonnets are in the legume family and they produce seed pods, which are nicely fuzzy.

      I’d never heard of chocho, Lupinus mutabilis, but from your picture I’ll say it looks quite a bit like the Texas bluebonnet.

      I’ve eaten quinoa but had never seen a picture of the plant until I looked at your blog just now.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 7, 2015 at 5:44 PM

      • Chochos look like cross between soybean, garbanzos and small ‘butter peas’ (what we called them in Mississippi)

        A field of quinoa reminds me of grain sorghum. It’s beautiful when at its peak before harvest.

        • This time I had to look up butter peas. At


          I found that “butter peas are small lima beans, packed with a sweeter flavor than mature lima beans.”

          Steve Schwartzman

          April 7, 2015 at 9:25 PM

          • ha! your reply made me laugh, as i meant to do that and give a link. i’ll blame the ‘detour’ that turned a 7-hour bus ride from quito to the pacific coast into 10-hour one! yes, they are sweet and much rounder than the lima beans.. they are much more difficult to shell by hand as well, and i learned to pick only the very-mature ones for ease in shelling.

            down here they would call them lee-mahs, and i never suspected in all of my southern days that the origin for those legumes might have been lima peru….

            they are in the local markets most any day, as are ‘cow peas.’

            • Seven hours would already have been plenty long, so I’m sorry you had a ten-hour ordeal.

              Wikipedia says this about lima beans: “Phaseolus lunatus is of Andean and Mesoamerican origin. Two separate domestication events are believed to have occurred. The first, taking place in the Andes around 2000 BC, produced a large-seeded variety (lima type), while the second, taking place in Mesoamerica around 800 AD, produced a small-seeded variety (Sieva type). By around 1300, cultivation had spread north of the Rio Grande, and in the 1500s, the plant began to be cultivated in the Old World.

              Steve Schwartzman

              April 8, 2015 at 7:19 AM

              • Thank you so much for this information! The markets in Quito have so many unusual plants and tubers; I’ve visited random ones in the past, but this past week I stepped into the largest one, which was like a child stepping into a candy store! My mouth was surely agape, though I didn’t dare pull out my camera; I already was carrying flowers and a bag of paints and a few frames…

                The soil and climate and perhaps the latitude of the Andes combine to become a magical mescla for plant materials to thrive….

                • I hope you’re getting plenty of chances to sample those exotic (to us) foods. If you find any to be especially yummy, maybe you can start a business to export them to the United States.

                  I like your phrase magical mezcla, which is itself a mezcla of languages.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  April 8, 2015 at 8:49 AM

                • yes, i do sample many of those and understand why we don’t see them in faraway supermarkets.. some are very perishable. figuring out the spelling and finding the scientific names sometimes are difficult tasks! there’s one fruit called ‘air-ah-SAH’ or something like that. that grows from sea level up to the cloud/rain forest around 5,000 feet. the aroma is heavenly and the flavor is surely equal to the forbidden fruit! the apple-sized fruit looks a bit like a guava but is extremely soft when ripe. there are many seeds inside, about the size of small native pecans.. it is traditionally blended with milk for an unforgettable drink!

                • Steve Schwartzman

                  April 8, 2015 at 9:38 AM

                • you are so great! thanks!!! my very own personal researcher!

                • So will you increase my salary?

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  April 8, 2015 at 9:41 AM

                • I’ll pitch that query to the board of directors!

                • Or you can say what I sometimes say to Eve: “I’ll double your salary.” Unfortunately, two times zero is still zero.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  April 8, 2015 at 9:57 AM

  14. […] you to a thread of conversation between Steve Schwartzman and me;  Steve’s photo of the “best-known wildflower in Texas” (the bluebonnet) set off a dialog that morphed from bluebonnets to lupines to […]

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