Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Standing cypress red and green

with 45 comments

Standing Cypress Flowering 3370

On May 30th we visited our friends David and Jolyn in Dripping Springs, which lies about an hour west of our home in Austin. On their property I photographed this handsome stand of Ipomopsis rubra, known as standing cypress and Texas plume.

This is the most vividly verdant view of any I’ve shown of standing cypress (all of which you’re welcome to scroll back down through).

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 27, 2015 at 5:27 AM

45 Responses

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  1. nice


    June 27, 2015 at 5:30 AM

  2. what a handsome flower this is–beautiful photograph


    June 27, 2015 at 6:05 AM

    • A month ago seems to have been the time of their peak flowering. Many have gone past that now, but I still see a few of these wonderful red flowers here and there.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 27, 2015 at 6:51 AM

  3. Hummingbird heaven–I grow a variety called the cypress vine that will be flowering by the end of next month and will last through the first frost. The hummingbirds are drawn to it as a daily sweet treat.


    June 27, 2015 at 8:17 AM

    • I can see where it would be hummingbird heaven, and yet I don’t think I’ve ever seen a hummingbird at one of these flowers.

      I looked up the cypress vine because the word vine doesn’t apply to the standing cypress, which is rigidly erect. At


      I found that your cypress vine (if I’ve identified it correctly) really is a vine, Ipomoea quamoclit. The cypress part of the name has to do with the deeply dissected leaves, which are similar to those of the standing cypress, with both of them reminding people of the leaves of a cypress tree. Naming things after similar-looking things makes sense, but it can obscure relationships, or in this case a non-relationship (at least regarding botanical families).

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 27, 2015 at 9:12 AM

  4. These look somewhat like what I knew as “Cardinal Flower from back in the northeast. The leaves look different though. Lobelia family?

    Lavinia Ross

    June 27, 2015 at 9:49 AM

    • Cardinal flowers have a huge natural range, so you my be surprised to hear that we have them here in Austin too (although I don’t often see them, but perhaps all the rain we’ve had this year will bring out a bumper crop). As you say, they’re Lobelia cardinalis, which one of my books reports can get to 4 ft. in height, but they’re usually much shorter; they’re in the Polemoniaceae, or phlox family. In contrast, standing cypress is in the Campanulaceae, or bellflower family, and can get to be 6 ft. tall. As you also noted, the leaves of the standing cypress are quite different from those of the cardinal flower.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 27, 2015 at 10:17 AM

  5. wow, look at that red pop against the green! My eyes are happy with today’s feast 🙂


    June 27, 2015 at 11:26 AM

  6. Just beautiful. This reminds me somewhat of our penstemons, one of our native plants. Does Texas have penstemons? Good for xeriscape gardens here.

    Sammy D.

    June 27, 2015 at 12:15 PM

  7. I loved the combination of a vivid red but delicate flower against the soft green background. I also enjoyed scrolling back down through the link to relive the other examples.


    June 27, 2015 at 3:07 PM

    • The richness of the red~green contrast here pleased me a lot, so I’m glad it did you too. One of the challenges for me here has been to show a given species in different ways, so I’m glad you liked the standing cypress retrospective.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 27, 2015 at 5:54 PM

  8. Una imagen muy buena, son preciosas estas florecitas.

  9. Serious red. It reminds me of cardinal flower in the depth of color.

    Steve Gingold

    June 27, 2015 at 4:56 PM

    • The fourth commenter mentioned the cardinal flower as well. That made me realize I’d never shown one here, so I’m planning to remedy that deficiency in a couple of days and let people make the comparison. Thanks for seconding the resemblance.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 27, 2015 at 5:59 PM

  10. The Cardinal flowers in my native Connecticut grew about 1.5 to 2 feet tall. One can get them here in the garden shops, but except for the blossom style are only vaguely like the ones I knew in my childhood found on excursions through the swamp. The domestic ones are taller, and seem a bit different, as well as come in different colors. I would love to see one of the wild ones again.

    The color and flower spires of your Standing Cypress plants caught my eye. A moment of what seemed like recognition of days long gone by. 🙂 Good memories.

    Lavinia Ross

    June 27, 2015 at 7:19 PM

    • I read in a field guide today that some botanists divide cardinal flowers into two subspecies and four varieties. There are over a dozen other species of Lobelia, and they have flowers of various colors. In addition to that, people have created hybrids and cultivars, so it’s not surprising that what you see in plant nurseries doesn’t match your memories from childhood (which I’m glad came back to you now). All I know is the wild ones I’ve occasionally found along creeks in Austin these last 15 years.

      When it comes to standing cypress, spires is a good word to describe them. There’s even a natural variety with yellow flowers that I’ve come across a couple of times, though it’s uncommon.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 27, 2015 at 10:45 PM

  11. Nice shot. Love the contrasting reds and greens.

    Raewyn's Photos

    June 27, 2015 at 8:10 PM

  12. How beautiful!


    June 27, 2015 at 10:05 PM

  13. You have a wonderful collection of Ipomopsis rubra photos, and each one different. Marvelous.


    June 28, 2015 at 12:06 AM

  14. Brilliant eye-popping color.

    Birder's Journey

    June 28, 2015 at 6:55 AM

  15. I’ve only seen one example of this flower in the wild, but the color was so vibrant it was hard to miss. And I remembered your July 4th posting. It certainly did as well for that holiday as it would for Christmas, especially with the blue sky as a background.

    I can see the resemblance between the cardinal flower and standing cypress, but this red seems more vibrant to me, with its touch of orange. It’s such a beautiful plant.

    When I was scrolling through the archives and got to the 2012 retrospective, I stopped to grin at the Big Green Guy, but then I looked at that next photo. I looked at it for a minute, and then I looked at your avatar. I’ve always assumed you’d chosen a thistle, but now I have doubts. I believe you might have a basket-flower as your avatar. Yea? Nay?


    June 28, 2015 at 10:20 AM

    • In my experience, the red flowers of standing cypress and cardinal flower can be equally saturated and vibrant. I don’t remember noticing paler shades of red in a cardinal flower, but I don’t see that species nearly as often as I see standing cypress, so I can’t rule that out. I have seen paler standing cypress flowers, and on a few occasions even a naturally yellowish variety (one time right in my neighborhood, at that, but it hasn’t returned there in the years since then, probably due to mowing).

      I may be prickly, and as much as I’ve enjoyed photographing Texas thistles over the years, you’re correct that I went with a basket-flower as an avatar:


      Steve Schwartzman

      June 28, 2015 at 11:38 AM

      • Your mention of the yellowish variety of standing cypress reminds me that I’ve seen yellow and orange paintbrush. Hooray for variety!


        June 28, 2015 at 11:50 AM

    • Speaking of thistles, a few minutes a go I was reading a newspaper article about Greece’s financial crisis and came across a reference to a Dutch negotiator with the last name Dijsselbloem. That would seem to be Dutch for ‘thistle bloom,’ although Google Translate gives the Dutch word for ‘thistle’ as distel. Still, I wonder if dijssel might be an older or dialectal form. As far as I know, there are no Diesel-powered flowers.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 28, 2015 at 12:08 PM

      • If there were, they might have a better chance against the mowing machines.

        Dijssel reminded me of our little bird called a dickcissel. I checked the name and found that it’s derived from the sound of their call, and isn’t Dutch at all. On the other hand, the bird is a member of the cardinal family, and might well be found in the same territory as cardinal flowers.


        June 29, 2015 at 6:58 AM

        • In contrast to the sound-word dickcissel, both the cardinal bird and the cardinal flower got their names from the red robes worn by Catholic cardinals.

          Steve Schwartzman

          June 29, 2015 at 7:13 AM

  16. […] a comment a couple of days ago, Lavinia Ross noted that the rich red standing cypress flowers in that morning’s post reminded her of those of the cardinal flower, Lobelia cardinalis. In […]

  17. We’ve a plant in Red River county that looks similar, but flowers are purple. Thank you – what you share is fascinating.


    June 29, 2015 at 5:31 AM

    • Hmm. I checked a Texas plant atlas and found Ipomopsis rubra in your area but no other species of Ipomopsis up there, so I wonder what the similar plant might be that you’ve seen.

      I’m glad you’re enjoying these takes on nature in the central part of the state.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 29, 2015 at 5:44 AM

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