Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

When small is big

with 19 comments

Smallanthus Flower Head 4882

Hardly anyone in Austin knows about a native plant that botanists classify as Smallanthus uvedalius, which apparently has the vernacular names hairy leafcup, yellow leafcup, and bear’s foot. Although the flower heads I’ve seen on this sunflower-family species are small or moderate—the one shown here was about 1.25 inches (3 cm) across—the plant’s leaves are large, even huge, occasionally reaching 70 cm (28 inches) in length and 40 cm (16 inches) in width. To give you a sense of those leaves’ shape and size, and to show you how much larger than the flower heads they are, here’s an overview:

Smallanthus Flower Head and Leaves 4838

These pictures, which mark the debut of this species here, come from June 3 along the upper reaches of Bull Creek. That’s still in my extended neighborhood, but I was surprised to learn that this seemingly little-known plant grows across much of the eastern United States.

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

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Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 5, 2015 at 4:58 AM

19 Responses

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  1. Wow, that had me fooled. I was sure the flower was sticking up through leaves of some developing tree.

    Steve Gingold

    July 5, 2015 at 8:03 AM

    • Your imagination, having the advantage of unfamiliarity with this plant, was free to see the flower divorced from the leaves of a would-be developing tree. I knew what I was seeing, so my imagination was locked up in reality.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 5, 2015 at 9:47 AM

  2. The flower may be small, but it knows how to leaf/live large, in great style.

    Gallivanta

    July 5, 2015 at 8:28 AM

    • I like the way you put it, knowing how to leaf/live large, which adds alliteration to your stylish conception.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 5, 2015 at 9:50 AM

  3. This was also found at Berry Springs Park in Williamson County, however I have not seen it again since the flood of 2010, when Hurricane Hermine dropped over 10 inches of rain in the area. We are on the lookout.

    Sue M

    July 5, 2015 at 1:06 PM

    • I hope you find it in the park again or somewhere else near by. The USDA map doesn’t show this species for Williamson County, so you may want to report its presence there.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 5, 2015 at 5:28 PM

  4. Remarkable! At first glance, I thought you were using oak leaves for contrast!

    Sammy D.

    July 5, 2015 at 1:55 PM

    • You had the same sort of reaction as Steve Gingold (in the first comment). This species provides its own contrast, between its flower heads and its enormous leaves.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 5, 2015 at 5:30 PM

  5. That is one cool plant!

    lisas

    July 5, 2015 at 6:06 PM

    • It is, so I keep wondering why it’s not better known. We’ll have to do the Smallanthus tour we talked about: the stand I have in mind is close to a place to park.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 5, 2015 at 8:00 PM

      • Possibly because it looks like, when seen in its natural environment as you’ve shown us here, that it could very well be the common dandelion weed! People would just pass by it…

        jmnowak

        July 6, 2015 at 8:26 AM

        • Hmm, I hadn’t thought about that possibility. It’s true that one DYC (darn yellow composite) can look pretty much like others.

          Steve Schwartzman

          July 6, 2015 at 10:45 AM

          • I was not referring to your photographic skills, steve!! I was referring to what the plant looks like, for real! 😉

            jmnowak

            July 7, 2015 at 1:40 AM

  6. I’d like to see it when all the middle bits are in flower…that would be so spectacular! N

    jmnowak

    July 6, 2015 at 8:23 AM

    • I’ve never seen many flower heads at a time on one of these plants, so I don’t know if that ever even happens.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 6, 2015 at 10:40 AM

  7. I haven’t seen this~pretty funny to see such huge leaves and small flowers. A Dr. Seuss plant 🙂

    melissabluefineart

    July 6, 2015 at 9:36 AM


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