Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Bluets aren’t blue

with 29 comments

Bluets and Prairie Verbena 4616

That’s right: the little (quarter-inch, or 6mm) flowers known as bluets, Stenaria nigricans var. nigricans, aren’t normally blue but rather pale violet, pale pink, or almost completely white. The ones here, photographed during the same June 2nd session off Naruna Way in northeast Austin that brought you the previous picture, were growing with some more-colorful prairie verbena, Glandularia bipinnatifida. Notice how different this verbena inflorescence is from that of the Verbena xutha that appeared here recently.

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 4, 2015 at 5:05 AM

29 Responses

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  1. The flowers I know as bluets (aka Quaker Ladies) have a different name…Houstonia caerulea but as you mention are not blue either…sometimes tinged in purple or pink at the edges and very pale coloration in the main.

    Steve Gingold

    August 4, 2015 at 5:18 AM

    • Oh, the fickleness of botanists. The page at


      lists a slew of other scientific names by which this species has been known, including some in the genus Houstonia. In your scientific name caerulea I recognize the adjective cerulean, which means ‘sky blue,’ even though the flowers of this species aren’t blue.

      The flowers you linked to in your lovely photograph are a lot more space-filling than the ones of the Texas species.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 4, 2015 at 6:22 AM

  2. Such clarity! Macro lens? Tripod? Beautiful!


    August 4, 2015 at 6:08 AM

    • I could give you a flippant answer and say that the clarity comes from my having been a math teacher, but the truth is that I used a 100mm macro lens for this picture (though not a tripod other than the human one called my body). I’ll agree with you that the combination of shapes and colors makes for a beautiful picture.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 4, 2015 at 6:27 AM

  3. For some reason I got the impression of an infinity sign when I first glanced at this photo. Great picture. Thanks for sharing!


    August 4, 2015 at 6:25 AM

    • You’re welcome. At the same time that you left your comment I was writing a reply to the previous comment, in which I mentioned having taught math, so I can see your floral infinity symbol (even if it’s oriented at a non-standard angle).

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 4, 2015 at 6:49 AM

  4. Now that you mention the Verbena xutha again, it occurs to me that the “X” formed by the stalks also forms the first letter of xutha. I missed that first time around, but I see Melissa caught it on that post.
    In any event, it was nice to have another look, and nice to see it compared to the prairie verbena, which was just thick here this year.

    The bluets have such detail for being so tiny. The little fringe of what appear to be hairs around the edge of their petals makes them look almost fuzzy.

    Given their tendency toward pale pinks and violets, or white, I wonder how they picked up the name bluet? Is it possible that the color of the flowers has changed over time? or that the plants originally identified were seen as blue? I suppose it’s too much to hope that the botanist who identified them was feeling blue, and transferred his feeling to the flower.


    August 4, 2015 at 7:07 AM

    • Now you’ve made me think of the possibility of an x-ray of the crossing and thereby X-forming stalks of Verbena xutha. (And into my head comes a meaningless ditty: With Verbena xutha / You’ll get the truth-a.)

      The fine hairs on bluet flowers always grab my attention when I get close enough to see them. As for the name, I suspect that one or more other species of bluets do have flowers that are some shade of blue. At


      I found a picture of the species Steve Gingold mentioned, in which the flowers do have a bluish tinge, although I can’t tell how much that comes from shaded surroundings versus intrinsic color.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 4, 2015 at 7:24 AM

  5. I always enjoy your posts with such exceptional photos and interesting information.

    Charlie@Seattle Trekker

    August 4, 2015 at 9:39 AM

  6. […] The bluets near the pond off Naruna Way on the 2nd of June receded into blurs of color as I focused instead on the flower head of a clasping-leaf coneflower, Dracopis amplexicaulis. You might think you’re seeing a Mexican hat or perhaps a brown-eyed susan, which does look similar except that here the “eye” is green. Distinct from either of those relatives, this species has leaves that clasp their stems and account for the first part of the plant’s common name. The cone in that name, of course, is a misnomer because a cone comes to a point and isn’t rounded; thimble would be more accurate, but no one asked me. And even though no one asked me to point out the spirals on the thimble in today’s picture, I’m doing so now. […]

  7. The colour variations remind me of this plant, ‘Morning, Noon and Night’, which grows in my sister’s garden in North Queensland.


    August 5, 2015 at 7:18 AM

    • If I have the right plant, then I see it’s also known as yesterday-today-and-tomorrow, morning-noon-and-night, kiss-me-quick, and Brazil raintree:


      In addition, the article at


      mentions reports from Australia documenting cases in which this plant has poisoned dogs. While such cases seem rare, if your sister has a dog, she may want to take extra precautions.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 5, 2015 at 7:31 AM

      • Yes you have the right plant. My sister doesn’t have a dog except as a visitor. The dog which visits her seems to have a taste for golf balls and chocolate rather than plants. How it has survived this far is a mystery.


        August 5, 2015 at 7:46 AM

        • Once again we’ll have to let the mystery be.

          Steve Schwartzman

          August 5, 2015 at 9:14 AM

          • Yes, one has to have some mystery in life. How boring if we were to know it all, at once.


            August 6, 2015 at 1:09 AM

            • And now you’ve reminded me of a different song:

              Steve Schwartzman

              August 6, 2015 at 6:05 AM

              • Now, that is sweet. My grandmother always said her favourite singers were Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy. I haven’t listened to them for ages but doing so now reminds me of her. The mystery is, how did you know that these two singers play a very important role in my memories?


                August 8, 2015 at 4:12 AM

                • I could pretend to be psychic, but even without that ability I’m glad that the song brought back fond memories of your grandmother. Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy were before my time, but I’ve come to know them through an American cable television channel called Turner Classic Movies that occasionally shows some of their old musicals. Other good films of theirs that I’ve seen that way are Rose Marie and The New Moon.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  August 8, 2015 at 5:36 AM

                • Now I am wondering if my grandmother went to the movies to see their films. I doubt she had time to go to the movies.


                  August 8, 2015 at 10:08 PM

                • If your grandmother didn’t go to the movies, perhaps she heard Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy on the radio.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  August 8, 2015 at 10:12 PM

                • Yes she was a radio fan. And she and my grandfather had records as well.


                  August 8, 2015 at 10:17 PM

                • Then I think you’ve figured it out—and also brought out some fond memories.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  August 8, 2015 at 10:20 PM

  8. Very pretty – the colors are glorious.


    August 5, 2015 at 12:08 PM

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