Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Just your ordinary highway roadside in Texas in the spring

with 38 comments

Indian Paintbrush and Bluebonnet Colonies 2767

Along FM 1431 in Granite Shoals on April 7th I found these interpenetrating colonies of wildflowers. The red ones are Indian paintbrushes, Castilleja indivisa, and the bluish-purple ones are bluebonnets, Lupinus texensis. This combination occurs naturally in Texas but people across the state are also fond of planting a mix of the two species because they bloom at the same time and their colors go so well together.

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 30, 2015 at 5:30 AM

38 Responses

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  1. fantastic colours, Love the red and blue.

    Ben Rowe Aperturef64

    April 30, 2015 at 5:31 AM

  2. That is so beautiful! I want to walk right out into the middle of it and settle myself in a comfy lawn chair with a good book. I can just imagine the fragrance :).


    April 30, 2015 at 5:46 AM

    • My variation on your proposal is to settle in the middle of it with a good camera, which in fact is what I did (minus the lawn chair) and what I suspect you’d do too, Cindy, at least for part of the time. Bluebonnet colonies produce a delightful scent but I’ve never detected an aroma from Indian paintbrushes.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 30, 2015 at 7:49 AM

  3. Field of splendor…


    April 30, 2015 at 7:57 AM

  4. Not only a beautiful combination but a very practical one, too. ” Planting the two seeds together will also give you a better chance of growing paintbrushes since they are hemi-parasitic on other plants and Lupinus texensis (Texas bluebonnet) is one of the plants that is often used as a host plant. The paintbrushes can germinate without a host, but in order to grow well and bloom they need a host plant for their roots to attach to. The paintbrush receives extra water and, perhaps, some nutrients from the host. This arrangement does not kill the host.” https://www.wildflower.org/expert/show.php?id=2832


    April 30, 2015 at 8:24 AM

    • Thanks for bringing in all that information from the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, where I spent four hours taking pictures today (I’m tired). When I learned about the hemi-parasitic nature of paintbrushes a decade or so ago I was a bit surprised, and I think most people who admire paintbrushes—which is just about everyone—don’t know about that behavior. As your source noted, the host isn’t killed, and in the case of bluebonnets, they seem to do just fine with paintbrushes mixed in among them.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 30, 2015 at 4:30 PM

  5. Ahh such gorgeousness! Makes me long for a drive in the hill country.

    • This view is from three weeks ago. The bluebonnets and paintbrushes have faded in varying degrees now, but new groups of dense wildflowers have been replacing them, as I observed (and photographed, of course) this morning.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 30, 2015 at 4:25 PM

  6. Spectacular!


    April 30, 2015 at 11:48 AM

  7. That is an extraordinary ordinary highway!! Gorgeous shot


    April 30, 2015 at 5:02 PM

  8. I almost need sunglasses to look at this image. It’s dazzling, Steve. It looks better than many cultivated gardens. The colours do go so well together.


    May 1, 2015 at 5:42 AM

    • Welcome again to Texas in the spring. It’s possible that people have sown this plot adjacent to the road, but as far as I know they wouldn’t otherwise have cultivated or organized the plants in any way.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 1, 2015 at 7:32 AM

  9. Showoff! 🙂


    May 1, 2015 at 7:47 AM

    • I’m glad to be one when it comes to Texas wildflowers. Or maybe you were applying the epithet to the flowers themselves.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 1, 2015 at 8:20 AM

      • I never get tired of seeing them, Steve. If I lived there I’d probably drive off the road, looking!


        May 3, 2015 at 9:42 AM

        • There have been times when I’ve wanted to drive off the road and pull over to photograph a particularly good stand of wildflowers but haven’t been able to because the right-of-way has been too narrow or too overgrown to park. Sometimes I’ve found a place not far away and have walked back, but other times the inhospitable margin has continued for too long for me to park and walk back.

          Steve Schwartzman

          May 3, 2015 at 9:52 AM

          • I hear you. There is a perfect oak tree near my home that looks particularly wonderful in the winter with its bare branches silhouetted against the winter light. But it grows along a very fast road so I can only admire it as the car zips by.


            May 4, 2015 at 9:02 AM

            • Perhaps you can go very early on a Sunday morning when there isn’t much traffic. I once did that in Austin so I could stand on the pavement of a highway and photograph an overpass.

              Steve Schwartzman

              May 4, 2015 at 9:30 AM

  10. Wildflowers build a theme of freedom and unity from one sway of wind to another. ~Y. Alvarado


    May 1, 2015 at 10:25 AM

    • I’ve often enjoyed watching wildflowers sway in the wind, but it can make my job as a photographer difficult.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 1, 2015 at 4:48 PM

  11. Lovely, like a painting.

    Raewyn's Photos

    May 1, 2015 at 4:06 PM

  12. That’s got me drooling, Steve. Ordinary to you is extraordinary to me.

    Steve Gingold

    May 1, 2015 at 6:40 PM

    • I was being a little flippant in calling this ordinary, but the fact remains that this is a common sight in Texas in April. These two species are fading now, three weeks after I took the picture, but I saw some gorgeous meadows today with species that have succeeded the other two.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 1, 2015 at 7:40 PM

      • Of course you were and I understood the tongue in cheek quality of the statement. It’s similar to my satisfaction in shooting the same species continually…like the painted trillium…out of appreciation.

        Steve Gingold

        May 1, 2015 at 8:09 PM

  13. A side benefit of mixed fields of bluebonnets and paintbrushes is that, from a distance, the red and blue can suggest purple. It doesn’t always happen; I’ve only seen it a few times. I suppose it depends on the light, for one thing. In any event, this is a glorious photo and a worthy substitute for the real thing.

    Apart from the quality of the photo itself, the fact that I have a new monitor doesn’t hurt anything. My old one had developed an annoying habit of turning itself off. I warned it that it could be replaced, but did it listen? No.

    I got a terrific deal at Frye’s, and moved up to a 24″ screen with 1920 x 1080 resolution instead of the 1440 x 900 I had. It’s amazing how much more detail I can see in a photo like this now.


    May 2, 2015 at 9:21 PM

    • Happy new monitor to you. Having a good one really makes a difference, as you’ve found out. And just think how much more detail there is in the original photographs, which when not cropped have some 40 times as many pixels in them as the half-megapixel versions I show here.

      I don’t think I’ve ever seen the purple effect from the blending of these two wildflowers, but I’m familiar with the principle and have observed blendings in other things.

      The bluebonnets have largely faded and produced pods now, and the paintbrushes are going to seed, but the Indian paintbrushes and Mexican hats are out in force.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 2, 2015 at 9:34 PM

  14. One of the main reasons we went to Texas this spring was to see the bluebonnets. Some of the prettiest we saw were on the Park road to Inks Lake and the highway south of Llano. So beautiful!

    Wandering Dawgs

    May 11, 2015 at 5:14 AM

    • You picked an appropriate region, that’s for sure. Bluebonnets are famous here in the spring but I’m glad you appreciated many other native species as well. We’re now into a second round of spring wildflowers, which have also been good due to continuing rain.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 11, 2015 at 5:22 AM

      • Thanks again for all your help! Now that I’m back home in Georgia I am enjoying our wildflowers here!

        Wandering Dawgs

        May 11, 2015 at 5:37 AM

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