Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

White prickly poppies and Mexican hats

with 28 comments

White Prickly Poppies in Mexican Hat Colony 1770

So here are the white prickly poppies (Argemone albiflora) and Mexican hats (Ratibida columnifera) that I’d stopped to photograph in the southern portion of Great Hills Park on May 19th when I noticed the deer you saw yesterday. Notice that the leaves of the prickly poppy, aside from having sharp spines on them, are glaucous.

As for the Mexican hats, they were (and still are) doing well this year, but unfortunately the mowers at the entrance to the main part of the park across the street cut down the colony there before it even had a chance to flower, much less produce seeds. The mowed-down Mexican hat stand was the one that had produced 10 of the unusual doubly rayed flower heads you saw in a post last spring. I was hoping some more of those strange heads would appear there this year, but now they won’t.

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 1, 2015 at 5:15 AM

28 Responses

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  1. The poppies must have stood out at any drive by speed. So bright against everything else.

    Too bad about the lost Mexican Hats. Too many flowers get mowed. We have a lot of do not mow signs along the highways here.

    Steve Gingold

    June 1, 2015 at 5:48 AM

    • You’re right about the white prickly poppies being easily visible from a distance. No other wildflowers around here here are as large and bright a white.

      I’ve seen a few “No Mowing” signs around here, but I don’t know if the mowers abide by them.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 1, 2015 at 6:58 AM

  2. I saw that mention of my favorite poppy yesterday, and was waiting for this post with great anticipation. A week of nice, dry weather will let me catch up at work, and then I can trundle off to find some for myself.

    I did see great swaths of Mexican hat yesterday: perhaps more than I’ve ever seen down here. I don’t know why they haven’t mowed the roadsides and ditches. It could be the rain, but I’m hoping good sense has overcome those in charge.


    June 1, 2015 at 6:36 AM

    • Alas, from experience (and cynicism) I can almost guarantee that the lack of mowing you’ve noticed is not a result of good sense but of something mundane, like the fact that the ground is so wet and muddy that the mowing equipment would get bogged down. Depending on where the tractors and mowers are kept parked, some of them might even have gotten damaged in the flooding your area has had.

      In any case, I’m glad to hear you’ve had a bumper crop of Mexican hats over there. Ours are expansive too.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 1, 2015 at 6:55 AM

  3. I will never use ‘glaucous’ again in a sentence without thinking of this…

    “At any moment the glaucous mud underfoot might give way and I’d be up to my neck in wicked waters, foul and full of alligators.” – Clive Barker GALILEE (2001)

    Jim in IA

    June 1, 2015 at 7:12 AM

  4. The white prickly poppies do stand out. Between Hebbronville and Zapata I saw many of these mixed in with rose prickly poppies which I had never seen before….thus my roadside stop for a closer look and photos. These gorgeous blooms were varying shades of pinks….from an almost white pale pink to a rich fuchsia. Wish I could share a photo here. Spectacular! And.. what can we do about the mowing?? Seriously.

    Jean Wilson

    June 1, 2015 at 8:38 AM

    • The only place I’ve ever seen the pink prickly poppies was in Big Bend. They don’t range as far over as the Austin area, but from your comment I now know they grow east of Nuevo Laredo.

      There doesn’t seem to be a direct way to include a photograph in a WordPress comment, but if you have the ability to upload photographs to an Internet site like Flickr or Picasa or any other, then you can leave a comment that includes a link to that site.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 1, 2015 at 8:57 AM

  5. What a superb pairing this makes, with the spiny, silvery leaves and large, silky expanse of petals on the poppies in such high contrast to the feathery greens and boldly colored drapery of the Mexican Hats. A splendid photo of a magical display.


    June 1, 2015 at 12:51 PM

    • I’m glad it hit the spot for you, K.I., and thanks for your analysis. I get excited by these combinations of native plants, some of which I see often and have come to expect, and others of which are less common. This has been a good year for Mexican hats in Austin, and I hope near Denton too.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 1, 2015 at 7:32 PM

      • As you’d guess, an extraordinary year for all sorts of wildflowers here, too; if we could possibly have managed the time, we were longing for a trip down your way to see the proliferation this spring, but at least we were gifted with an uncharacteristically spectacular show for our neck o’ the woods. I had primroses covering a third of my little faux-meadow out back for a good three weeks, at least (having had about 6 blooms total last year!), and my tiny bluebonnet cache even rebloomed a little the other day!

        We’ve seen lots of Mexican hats, blanketflowers, thistles, and others that are usually far less prolific here, and it makes the inconvenient drowning of sprouts in the low-lying spots much easier to bear. Since we have to be gone off and on through the next couple of months and leave the yard to our house-sitters, it’ll be mighty interesting to see what things look like on our return/s!


        June 2, 2015 at 10:11 AM

        • It’s good to hear some details of nature’s largesse up there. Bon(s) voyage(s), and many happy (and floral) returns.

          Steve Schwartzman

          June 2, 2015 at 3:35 PM

  6. A beautiful sight. When I read glaucous I thought of glaucoma which is not a pretty sight.


    June 2, 2015 at 5:44 AM

    • The connection is that glaukos in Greek meant ‘grey,’ and with glaucoma there’s a ‘greying out’ of vision. And speaking of sight, there’s pink in the sunrise sky outside my window as I type this.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 2, 2015 at 6:16 AM

      • So sunrise is at 6.16 . 🙂


        June 2, 2015 at 6:27 AM

        • Or thereabouts. One online source says 6:19, another 6:20. Only now do I see a bit of the sun itself through foliage and above the line of houses beyond the trees.

          Steve Schwartzman

          June 2, 2015 at 6:40 AM

          • Hooray for sun and not rain.


            June 2, 2015 at 6:44 AM

            • This promises to be the second sunny day in a row. I was once again thinking about where I should go to check out what has become of nature in various places after the weeks of overcast and rain. Yesterday I drove along a country road that has what we call a low-water crossing, meaning that the road crosses over a simple concrete causeway a few feet above a small river. I found a man in a kayak on the river about four feet above the submerged bridge (which he said he could see was damaged).

              Steve Schwartzman

              June 2, 2015 at 6:55 AM

              • I guess you could go back and see if what he said was true.


                June 2, 2015 at 8:50 AM

                • It’s a location I go back to every so often, less for the river than for the nature preserve adjacent to it (which is why I was there yesterday). Next time I go, I’ll find out what happened to the bridge.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  June 2, 2015 at 12:37 PM

  7. Great shot. We don’t have many wildfowers on the side of the road as they get mowed down regularly – that is in my area of New Zealand. I loved walking in our small town in Austria. My son loved to pick the wildflowers for me. Always the same purple flower – he didn’t know that it was my favourite colour.

    Raewyn's Photos

    June 2, 2015 at 5:18 PM

    • I’m sorry but not surprised to hear that the mowers in NZ are as thoughtless as the ones here. The wildflowers in this picture survived only because on this side of the street the City of Austin apparently didn’t want to spend the money to mow more than a narrow strip of land adjacent to the railing the runs along the sidewalk. I’m glad you had a good wildflower experience in Austria, and a purple one at that.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 2, 2015 at 5:29 PM

  8. […] first two had white in their names: white prickly poppy and white avens. The rain-lily, Cooperia pedunculata, isn’t named that way, but it’s […]

  9. How disappointing.
    I’ve read about white prickly poppies, and they look just as I’d imagined they would. 🙂 Do they ever produce thick clumps, or are they thin on the ground?


    June 17, 2015 at 9:15 AM

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