Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Basket-flower by other wildflowers

with 22 comments

Basket-Flower Flower Head from Side 3577

A month ago a flourishing colony of basket-flowers, Centaurea americana, appeared here, and yesterday a portion of a basket-flower served as a soft and pastel pedestal for a red admiral butterfly, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t show you a closer look at one of these flower heads in its own right. Today’s view is from Tejas Camp in Williamson County on June 1.

Most species in the Asteraceae, known as the sunflower family or daisy family or composite family, produce heads with two different-looking sets of small flowers: in the center are densely packed disk flowers, and radiating (i.e. ray-diating) out around them are ray flowers; think of your typical daisy and you’ll get the picture. Some species in this family, however, produce only one of the two kinds of flowers. That’s the case with the basket-flower, and even though you might think that it has white disk flowers surrounded by lavender ray flowers, all of them are disk flowers, despite the color difference. Not all that glitters is gold.

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 26, 2015 at 4:59 AM

22 Responses

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  1. Do you have any posts that show the basket portion of the basket flower? Just curious.

    Gallivanta

    June 26, 2015 at 6:14 AM

  2. That is really interesting. I didn’t realize that some in the Asteraceae did not have both disc and ray flowers.

    melissabluefineart

    June 26, 2015 at 7:42 AM

  3. Such a delicate beauty – looks like layers of an old-fashioned petticoat.

    Heyjude

    June 26, 2015 at 7:45 AM

  4. Thank you!! I was SO hoping yesterday you could read my mind wanting a full-on photo of this gorgeous bloom.

    Sammy D.

    June 26, 2015 at 8:33 AM

  5. These are really special flowers in their own right…It leaves me wanting more so I’m off to the internet to see if I can grow this in my garden.

    Charlie@Seattle Trekker

    June 26, 2015 at 7:29 PM

  6. It was just a year ago that I thought I’d spotted basket-flowers at the picking farm near me. I went there tonight to pick figs, and the same plants were blooming in the same places. Clearly, they’re one of the sensitive briars, and not basket-flower. Live and learn, as they say.

    It may be that not all that glitters is gold, but sometimes there’s gold that doesn’t glitter. I noticed a little gold tucked into this basket-flower, near the outside, center left. It looks like grains of pollen. Maybe a visitor stopped by.

    I think forever and always I’ll associate these flowers with that first trip into the world with my new eyes. Even at the time I thought, “I don’t need to mess with trying to photograph these. Steve will do it.” And so you did.

    shoreacres

    June 26, 2015 at 9:55 PM

    • I remember your visit to the picking farm and the way you thought you’d found some basket-flowers that turned out to be sensitive briars. My live-and-learn moment with them came way back in 1968 or ’69 in Tegucigalpa (Honduras), when I noticed some of the plants by the side of a road and was amazed that the leaves folded up when touched.

      Speaking of your new eyes, which you meant literally rather than metaphorically, they were good at seeing those specks off to the left on the basket-flower. I looked at a larger version of the photograph just now and can say that they don’t appear to be pollen. One might be a thrips, and I’m not sure about the others. There’s a lot of tiny stuff out there in nature that gets blown about (or flies on its own power).

      As for photographs, I believe no late spring for the past 17 years has gone by without my taking at least a few pictures of a basket-flower, so you were right to think that I’d do that this year.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 27, 2015 at 6:10 AM

  7. All that glitters in this flower may not be gold, but that nice soft background with the sunny gold bokeh is quite a nice complement to this gorgeous flower.

    Steve Gingold

    June 27, 2015 at 4:53 PM

    • That’s a good transference of goldenness to the other flowers in the background (I just wish I remembered what they were).

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 27, 2015 at 5:42 PM

  8. This photo is really dazzling! And I was so happy to read through the comments and find your picture of the Basket flower from an earlier post.

    Birder's Journey

    June 27, 2015 at 9:01 PM

    • As you could tell, that earlier one has remained special for me. I’m happy to present them both.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 27, 2015 at 10:53 PM

  9. Great post, this has helped me “Most species in the Asteraceae, known as the sunflower family or daisy family or composite family, produce heads with two different-looking sets of small flowers: in the center are densely packed disk flowers, and radiating (i.e. ray-diating) out around them are ray flowers; think of your typical daisy and you’ll get the picture. Some species in this family, however, produce only one of the two kinds of flowers. That’s the case with the basket-flower, and even though you might think that it has white disk flowers surrounded by lavender ray flowers, all of them are disk flowers, despite the color difference.”

    Maria F.

    January 24, 2016 at 12:54 PM

    • Almost everyone is surprised, as I was, to learn that a daisy isn’t a single flower but is composed (hence the name composite) of two unlike sets of tiny flowers.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 24, 2016 at 2:42 PM


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