Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Indian paintbrush inflorescence against clear blue sky

with 56 comments

Indian Paintbrush Inflorescence 3409

The Indian paintbrushes, Castilleja indivisa, were their usual bright selves this spring. Here’s a close look at one along Loop 360 near U.S. 183 on April 13th. All the rich red elements that hold your gaze are bracts, which is to say modified leaves; the flowers are the unadorned pale green thingies poking out here and there. Surprise.

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 26, 2015 at 5:19 AM

56 Responses

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  1. Lovely, as was yesterday’s dandelion.


    May 26, 2015 at 5:45 AM

  2. It’s almost like a little posy of flowers or a red rose with little ribbons. That’s got to be one of the prettiest “flowers” I have seen. Your use of the words “green thingies” made me smile. It is reassuring to know that even you sometimes use the word “thingies” too! 🙂


    May 26, 2015 at 6:03 AM

    • Sometimes I like to mix registers of language, as here with thingies and inflorescence in the same post. As a user of thingies yourself, I expect you’ve also “mixed it up” from time to time.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 26, 2015 at 6:28 AM

      • I certainly have “mixed it up” on many an occasion, but usually unintentionally. 😉


        May 26, 2015 at 6:34 AM

        • And you also like mixing it up in another way, especially in your titles, like “Insect Whispering and Sour Plums” and “Cape Byron and the Jewel of the Tweed or the Case of the Unrestful Restroom.”

          Steve Schwartzman

          May 26, 2015 at 6:39 AM

  3. A sweetly seductive bloom that you’ve captured to show its beautiful energy.


    May 26, 2015 at 6:49 AM

  4. I’ve lived in Texas for just over 35 years. Every year I wait for the paintbrush to arrive, and whether the crop is good, bad, or indifferent, I go out to look for them, and at them. Never in my wildest imagination did I imagine a paintbrush could look like this. The color; the form; the textures; the level of detail — it just makes my heart sing.


    May 26, 2015 at 7:07 AM

    • Thanks. If we can present a familiar subject, even an inherently beautiful one, in a new way, then we’ve done our job. Happy singing.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 26, 2015 at 7:16 AM

  5. Truly inspiring!

    If it hadn’t been for your weather these past few days I doubt I would have pulled out of my shell long enough to see what you’ve been up to. It is a shame. I have missed much that might have brightened my days. That changes dramatically today and I promise to visit you tomorrow.

    And now, about that weather, are you OK?


    May 26, 2015 at 7:21 AM

    • We live most of the way up on a long hill, so the neighborhood creek that occasionally floods is far below us and can’t cause damage up here. Some other parts of Austin haven’t been as fortunate. We watched on television yesterday as Lamar Blvd. between approximately 9th and 19th Streets temporarily became a part of Shoal Creek. The fire department brought in a boat to rescue a guy who was clinging to a telephone pole in the midst of the street-become-river. Yesterday’s inundation there was the worst since the 1981 Memorial Day flood, which killed I think 13 people and almost put Whole Foods, whose one store was just a year old, out of business. Yesterday we also had a few tornadoes in our area, though I don’t think they did much damage.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 26, 2015 at 7:34 AM

      • Glad to hear you are safe, Steve. I saw that rescue on the news! Scary what nature can do to us.


        May 26, 2015 at 8:25 AM

        • Central Texas is infamous for flash floods. About an hour south of Austin, the Blanco River overflowed and destroyed 72 houses. This morning’s newspaper says 12 people are still missing after being swept away. The article said the river had risen 30 ft. in just half an hour. Scary indeed, and in this case fatal.

          Steve Schwartzman

          May 26, 2015 at 10:45 AM

  6. This looks a bit like a rose…so beautiful. I could have fun with it with my sketching software…As to the bracts business, kinda reminds me of the Poinsettia. That is very red too! I wonder if there is a significance in that colour for the plant? :O)


    May 26, 2015 at 8:10 AM

  7. Very nicely done in getting something original and unique, Steve. The rich red and deep blue combination is attractive and there is detail where it counts. Were you lying on your back?

    Steve Gingold

    May 26, 2015 at 9:40 AM

    • I’ll take “original” and “unique” whenever I can get them, Steve.

      I was on my back or my side (or both, at different times), but I don’t remember exactly. That’s why I carry a mat with me.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 26, 2015 at 10:15 AM

      • I keep a carpet sample rolled up and stored where the tripod should be on my backpack bag. I think something larger, as I think you use, might serve me better. Unfortunately, my carrying ability is reaching saturation after the last addition to my kit.

        Steve Gingold

        May 26, 2015 at 10:20 AM

        • Your comment made me curious so I just went out and measured one of my mats, which turned out to be 20″ x 24″. I’d bought an exercise mat and cut it into three approximately equal parts, of which that was one. The current ones are more rubbery than the mats I used to use, and so the protection is a little better but the weight is a little greater. Like you, I feel like I’m carrying as much weight as I want to, so I wouldn’t like to be burdened with anything else (like a longer mat that would give more protection).

          Steve Schwartzman

          May 26, 2015 at 10:29 AM

          • So my carpet sample is a little larger than your roll. But it does let water through and, aside from my getting wet which I don’t mind as long as it keeps the mud away, requires hanging in the sun when I return home. I am able to get both knees or one hip on it.
            I carry too much weight…ballpark 40 pounds…which definitely wears on me after a while especially on the hills. Being hopeful of continuing into the future gives Mary Beth another reason to keep pushing me to work out more. By the time I am too old for the backpack, I am sure there will be a camera with a 100 megapixel sensor that can do everything from extreme wide angle to a 1000mm zoom capability and a huge dynamic range and weights 12 ounces. 🙂

            Steve Gingold

            May 27, 2015 at 7:18 AM

  8. Bract, sepal, petal, stamen…so many terms and variations on the theme. I had to look up a good source to set myself straight. http://evolution.berkeley.edu/evolibrary/article/petal_01

    Jim in IA

    May 26, 2015 at 9:44 AM

    • Thanks for the good reference. Some years ago at the opening of an exhibition of photographs from Antarctica I struck up a conversation with another visitor. He told me he’d started out in biology but the memorization became so burdensome to him that he switched to mathematics, where logic prevails.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 26, 2015 at 10:22 AM

  9. Looking head-on like this, I was thinking the bracts look loopy. Then I noticed their location and decided that was appropriate. The thing I like about “pale green thingies” is, that is universal! No need to know sepals from stamens 🙂


    May 26, 2015 at 10:56 AM

    • Pale green thingies may lead you to think of me as Universal Man, but mathematical me still hopes people will know sepals from secants and stamens from standard deviations. Speaking of which, I’ll deviate over to the fact that our word stamina is the plural of Latin stamen.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 26, 2015 at 11:11 AM

      • Oh, of course, that makes sense. It is the masculine energy. Makes me think of Yin and Yang, but then, I’m getting sleepy so I may be making connections that don’t make sense. G’night, Universal Man 🙂


        May 27, 2015 at 11:41 PM

        • And good morning. The word stamen meant ‘thread’ in Latin, especially ‘upright thread,’ and the word is related to stand. Etymologically, stamina is the ability to keep standing.

          Steve Schwartzman

          May 28, 2015 at 6:49 AM

          • Oh, that makes sense. I was thinking that it is the male part of the flower in relation to the pistil, although it has been awhile since I’ve looked at that and may have gotten it mixed up in my mind.
            Thank you for the prairie link. I’m going to read that when I have more time.


            May 28, 2015 at 8:51 AM

  10. Interesting perspective, love the gorgeous colors…The image is such a wonderful treat to start the week.

  11. Well, that’s a turnabout, that the flowers are the little green thingies, and not that riot of red!

    Susan Scheid

    May 26, 2015 at 4:30 PM

  12. It takes a considerable amount of stamena to backpetal enough to be able to recognize a true sepal at first glance. Meanwhile, get bract to the future and keep doing your thingie!


    May 26, 2015 at 5:32 PM

    • I’m eager to get bract to my future as a nature photographer, but the weather has been making that difficult. In the meantime, let’s hope a greater understanding of sepals seeps into my brain and that any photographs I post of tepals get more than a tepid response.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 26, 2015 at 6:18 PM

  13. Amazing photo. I have never seen anything like this before.

    Raewyn's Photos

    May 27, 2015 at 4:46 PM

  14. Now THAT’S a portrait.


    May 29, 2015 at 6:55 PM

  15. OMG! This is beautiful!


    May 31, 2015 at 1:24 PM

    • It’s an unconventional view of this already appealing wildflower, and that’s one reason I’m fond of the photograph.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 31, 2015 at 3:28 PM

  16. Do you recall the lens, aperture and f stop details on this image? Love it….

    Brian Comeau

    May 31, 2015 at 6:21 PM

    • Beyond the 100mm macro lens, I didn’t recall, but the good thing about metadata is that I can look up the rest: 1/400 sec. at f/7.1.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 31, 2015 at 7:44 PM

      • Thanks for this… Also thanks for reading my mind and providing the shutter speed. I realized after I commented I asked for aperture and f stop… Meant to ask for both TV and AV. 🙂

        Brian Comeau

        May 31, 2015 at 7:47 PM

        • I read right over the words you’d written and knew what you intended, so in this case I was a mind reader indeed.

          Steve Schwartzman

          May 31, 2015 at 10:34 PM

  17. By far my favorite shot ever of Paintbrush! 😀


    June 1, 2015 at 12:22 PM

  18. Exquisite – and brilliant – sight to behold!

    Birder's Journey

    June 2, 2015 at 4:07 AM

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