Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

A cemetery that welcomes wildflowers

with 29 comments

On May 23rd Eve and I were in Dickinson, Texas, to attend the wedding of a former student of mine. The reception was held about 30 miles away in the Hotel Galvez that evening, and as we drove down Broadway in Galveston on our way there, we passed the Old City Cemetery, which to our delighted amazement was covered with wildflowers. Short on light and time (and long on prohibitive clothing), I conceived a plan to return the following day to take pictures, but it rained on and off the next morning back on the mainland where we were staying and things weren’t looking good. At noon we had lunch with Linda of shoreacres, whom we were meeting for the first time (long overdue). When we’d finished our meal, the weather, though still heavily overcast, looked like it might be okay, so the three of us drove to Galveston and spent the better part of an hour exploring the wildflower-bedecked cemetery.

Old City Cemetery in Galveston 1806

You’re looking at a part of it here. Most of the flower heads are a species of Coreopsis, but the ones with prominent red in the center are Gaillardia pulchella, known as firewheels or Indian blankets. Why can’t all cemeteries look this colorful?

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman


Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 27, 2015 at 5:21 AM

29 Responses

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  1. Okay, so the weather wasn’t great but the colourful wildflowers make up for the lack of sunshine. I am so pleased to hear you met with Linda of shoreacres. I wish I had been there with you. And, yes, why aren’t more cemeteries filled with wildflowers? I expect I told you that the lavender I planted on my great grandmother’s grave was cut down. I don’t know why except that cemetery caretakers seem to like everything to be plain and unadorned.


    May 27, 2015 at 5:32 AM

    • I thought about you and knew you’d have wanted to be part of the encounter too. All in the fulness of time, as they say.

      I don’t recall hearing that the lavender you planted on your grandmother’s grave got cut down, but I’m sad to say it doesn’t surprise me. Even at one entrance to Great Hills Park—that’s park, as in park—two weeks ago the mowers mowed down thriving colonies of Mexican hat and American germander before they’d even had a chance to flower, much less produce seed. Tidiness, what we lose in thy name!

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 27, 2015 at 7:14 AM

      • What we lose, and what the bugs and beetles and little critters lose, too. Sad.


        May 27, 2015 at 9:02 AM

    • By the way, the only strange thing about meeting Linda a few hours from home was that it occurred after meeting you half way around the world. If only we could drive to New Zealand in just a few hours.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 27, 2015 at 7:52 AM

  2. Great! This is much nicer than trimmed and mono-cultured cemeteries. Glad that you and Linda were able to meet up.
    Bought your own plot yet?

    Steve Gingold

    May 27, 2015 at 6:02 AM

    • The Old City Cemetery in Galveston is close to 4 hours from our home in Austin, too far away to be practical. Okay, so you weren’t exactly serious with your question, but I answered anyhow.

      On the subject of meeting up, that’s one more incentive for you to visit Texas.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 27, 2015 at 7:21 AM

      • I do hope to get out there some day, but it may have to wait for full retirement…or at least greater part-time…in 2018 June.
        I was indeed half joking. A wildflower gravesite would be nice. We will be cremated so our ashes can go anywhere although a mountain in Maine has been designated once we are both gone. It’s easier to keep the remains around waiting for the second partner when they are just ashes.

        Steve Gingold

        May 27, 2015 at 7:31 AM

  3. It’s too bad that lack of rain had to pass for good weather. Some of those patented Schwartzman skies really would have set off the wonderful flowers.

    Now that I’m looking at your photo, I’m curious again about the section that’s missing its flowers. It surely can’t be that the wildflowers refused to propagate there. In some of the old Iowa cemeteries, Catholic and non-Catholic sections sometimes were provided. Perhaps this is an example of a cemetery that provides wildflower and non-wildflower sections. I’ll bet a groundskeeper — or even the Historical Foundation — could answer the question. Inquiries will be made!


    May 27, 2015 at 6:05 AM

    • At least for cemeteries the dark clouds could be symbolic, don’t you think? As for the wildflowers versus the non-wildflowers, I noticed while we were walking around that different parts of the cemetery were identified as being under different auspices, so I assumed some groups want the wildflowers and others join the large American majority in not wanting wildflowers. In the floral parts, I wonder if wildflowers originally sprang up and people liked them and then kept them, or if the flowers were planted from the beginning. We look forward to hearing what you find out.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 27, 2015 at 7:31 AM

  4. Was that Linda of Shoreacres as delightful in person as in the blogosphere? I’m guessing yes.

    Jim in IA

    May 27, 2015 at 6:47 AM

  5. Indeed, real flowers make a huge improvement on a cemetery. In Peoria we’d find old pioneer cemeteries that were islands of prairie in the midst of cropland. The effect was magical, as is this. I’m jealous you got to meet Linda. I sure hope my son and I can come to Texas this next February. Maybe Jim and Steve G. can come too and we’ll have a party 🙂


    May 27, 2015 at 9:29 AM

    • I like your description of “islands of prairie,” and we have the same thing here on the east side of Austin, where the Blackland Prairie arcs down toward San Antonio. All but a tiny fraction is given over to agriculture, subdivisions, roads, stores, etc., but a few prairie parcels survive, even if they’re only partly in the natural condition they were in 200 years ago.

      Let’s hope everyone can come to Texas so we can sing a chorus of “Hail, hail, the gang’s all here.”

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 27, 2015 at 2:43 PM

  6. I love looking around old cemeteries (I know it is kind of weird) but old headstones fascinate me. And in Sydney I noticed lots of yellow daisy-type flowers in graveyards and alongside the railway lines which were a delight. I they were Cosmos sulphurous but I could be wrong!
    I like the palms in your photo too 🙂


    May 27, 2015 at 2:55 PM

    • It’s not weird at all (say I), so welcome to COCA, the Club of Old Cemetery Appreciators (and whether it’s the appreciators that are old or the cemeteries, or both, I leave to you to decide). It’s great to hear there are some cemeteries in Sydney that have wildflowers growing in them.

      I think the residents of Galveston like the palms too, but I’m sorry to say those trees aren’t native.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 27, 2015 at 4:05 PM

  7. Beautiful! And the Palm trees make it so different to the English cemeteries and their yew trees I’m used to.

    Emily Scott

    May 27, 2015 at 3:48 PM

    • Before I got your comment, Emily, I replied to the previous one from Jude and mentioned that those palms aren’t native. We do have a couple of palm species that are native in the state, but the tall showy ones that institutions plant in warm parts of the United States are from other parts of the world. Even without the palms, I expect this wildflower-covered cemetery would be rather different from any you have in England.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 27, 2015 at 4:10 PM

  8. So beautiful colours

    Raewyn's Photos

    May 27, 2015 at 5:46 PM

  9. Commenting on another blogger’s similar post today (http://wp.me/p4Yh88-be) I’m reminded I haven’t been by in a while. Glad you could come down to our neck of the woods, especially to meet another blogger (that’s fun!). Just so you know, Steve, I’m enjoying your photos and narrative even if I haven’t been saying so. Hope you’re enjoying the wildflowers and the rains…but not the chiggers and the floods.


    May 29, 2015 at 6:41 PM

    • Thanks for pointing out the coincidence, Shannon. The other blogger said that when he’s taken pictures of the wildflowers in the Galveston cemetery he’s always seen at least one other person doing the same. That was true for me too. In fact at one point I had to wait several minutes for someone in a salmon-colored shirt to leave the area I wanted to photograph.

      We needed the rain in central Texas. Lake Travis, which supplies much of Austin’s water, went from about one-third full to two-thirds full. Unfortunately the concentrated showers caused destruction and loss of life here, just as they did around Houston.

      A lot of people are busy and can’t easily comment on all the blogs they look at, so I’m glad to know you’re enjoying the photos and narratives that appear here.

      I got some chigger bites a few weeks ago, but with all the sodden ground recently I’ve gone out more often than usual wearing thigh-high rubber boots: no chigger bites.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 29, 2015 at 11:04 PM

  10. Fantastic! I have never seen it like that before. It’s one of my favorite cemeteries.


    May 30, 2015 at 8:14 PM

    • I hadn’t seen it like than on any of my earlier visits either, so neither you not I must have been there in the right season. Now that you know about the wildflowers, maybe you can plan to visit next May—or today.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 31, 2015 at 9:05 AM

  11. […] This is the second time you’ve recently seen coreopsis in an unaccustomed way, the first being as a dense colony covering parts of a Galveston cemetery. […]

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