Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Clasping-leaf coneflower and bluets

with 41 comments

Clasping-Leaf Coneflower by Bluets 4466

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.

Only once before has Dracopis amplexicaulis appeared in these pages, and then only as a small element in a field of mixed wildflowers. This time you get a close-up.

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman


Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 5, 2015 at 5:31 AM

41 Responses

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  1. That’s definitely a thimble shape, but I can also see a likeness to a young green pine cone.


    August 5, 2015 at 7:25 AM

    • And the little thingies on pine cones form spirals similar to those on the coneflower.

      Perhaps your comment is a subconscious admission that you’re pining for some cones, although with the large numbers of those trees I saw in so many places in New Zealand, I see no reason why you’d pine for them.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 5, 2015 at 7:40 AM

      • Definitely not pining for cones. And not pining for pines but perhaps I am worried about the pine pollen season which will be upon us soon. 😦


        August 6, 2015 at 12:58 AM

        • May you proceed positively past pernicious pine pollen.

          Steve Schwartzman

          August 6, 2015 at 5:50 AM

          • But wattle I do about the wattle pollen which is waffling through the air now?


            August 8, 2015 at 4:03 AM

            • What Americans do with waffles is put maple syrup on them. For that purpose, maple is a staple.

              Steve Schwartzman

              August 8, 2015 at 5:24 AM

              • Excellent idea. Put out some syrup so the wattle waffles are stuck to a surface and can no longer waffle in the air.


                August 8, 2015 at 6:53 AM

                • Yes, it’s important to keep the wattle waffles down because if they waffled in the air they’d be a hazard to aviation.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  August 8, 2015 at 6:59 AM

                • Precisely.


                  August 8, 2015 at 10:05 PM

  2. There should be an omnibus guide to the coneflowers, Mexican hats, etc, of the world to make it easy to know which is which. Could you do that for us by next time?

    Jim in IA

    August 5, 2015 at 7:45 AM

    • If you can pony up as many hundreds of dollars as there are members of that group of plants in the world, I’ll get right to work on it.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 5, 2015 at 9:09 AM

    • Although I would dearly love a book by Steve, you might be interested in “The Sunflower Family in the Upper Midwest”, by an acquaintance of mine from the Chicago Botanic Garden, Suzanne Masi.


      August 5, 2015 at 9:15 AM

      • At over 400 pages, that looks like an excellent book, and if I lived up there I’d certainly get a copy. Down here in the “lowest Midwest,” i.e. Texas, I was out photographing yesterday when the sight of some sunflowers caused what sounds like a proverb to pop into my head: Who tires of sunflowers tires of life. That could also be the title of a poem or book, and it made me think again of doing a book of sunflower photographs.

        Steve Schwartzman

        August 5, 2015 at 9:34 AM

        • Oh, indeed, that would make a wonderful title. I imagine she got her funding through a university……


          August 7, 2015 at 9:03 AM

          • Some years ago I tried to interest the University of Texas Press in doing a book of mine, but I failed. The name of that tentative book, Portraits of Wildflowers, became the name of this blog.

            Steve Schwartzman

            August 7, 2015 at 9:21 AM

  3. As always, Steve, you are reminding me to look closer. I might well have passed this one by in the field, yet a closer look reveals a distinct little flower with something of its own to say.


    August 5, 2015 at 9:17 AM

    • This species played a role in my early enthusiasm for native wildflowers. In May of 2000 on the prairie in northeast Austin I came across a large colony of clasping-leaf coneflowers mixed in with an equally large colony of horsements and lesser amounts of other wildflowers. It was a wonderful floral display but unfortunately I knew it wouldn’t last, not because the flowers would fade as spring heated up into summer, but because wooden stakes scattered on the land foretold the imminent development of the property. Construction began just weeks later, and the place is now a truck depot, in fact the very one behind which I photographed the smartweed and pickerelweed that appeared in posts last week. In 2000 I was probably the last person ever to appreciate that great field of dense wildflowers for what it was in its natural state.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 5, 2015 at 9:56 AM

      • That is such a sad story. They paved paradise, and put up a truck stop. 😦


        August 7, 2015 at 9:01 AM

        • Yes, it has been sad for me. Over the 15 years since then, more and more of that large piece of prairie has gradually filled in with roads, apartments, and houses. Whenever I see parts of it now, I remember how it looked and all the wonderful things I found when I used to walk through there with whatever my current camera was. Some pieces of the prairie remain, but the Austin area continues its rapid growth, so I think it’s only a matter of time till almost all of that natural expanse is gone.

          Steve Schwartzman

          August 7, 2015 at 9:18 AM

          • Austin is being loved to death. Being noticed by the human race is a death sentence.


            August 7, 2015 at 9:37 AM

            • I understand that people have to live somewhere, but I wish more land were set aside as preserves in the midst of the development. In Austin that happens more on the west side of town, which is hillier and wealthier.

              Steve Schwartzman

              August 7, 2015 at 2:11 PM

              • I wish that too. Our village just keeps rubberstamping developments, claiming all those beige mcmansions are good for our tax base. What a lie. The wealthy town to our south has beautiful parks. It is hard not to be bitter.


                August 13, 2015 at 8:38 AM

  4. Lovely. A thimble is rather apt for this flower.

    Raewyn's Photos

    August 5, 2015 at 2:28 PM

  5. I think an architect got the idea for the Epcot Center from your coneflower.

    Steve Gingold

    August 5, 2015 at 4:48 PM

  6. I can certainly see the likeness to a thimble here, Steve, but strangely the picture had me remembering my visit to a glass butterfly house which was a geode dome – made of many small identical panes. It was flatter and wider in shape though than this “thimble.” The strange but beautiful glasshouse contained rainforest type plants which of course made the dome look very green, which is another reason my memory was triggered I suppose. It also reminds me a little of the old fashioned domed bird cages. As usual your pictures spark discussion!


    August 6, 2015 at 1:04 AM

    • It’s not quite 6 in the morning and my mind is frivolous:

      People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw at domes.
      Maybe a shape that’s flatter and wider does more to flatter.

      Things can stay hidden in memory for a long time, only to be called forth by some unexpected stimulus. That’s the power that memory holds.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 6, 2015 at 6:02 AM

  7. Now that I have ray and disc flowers fairly well straight in my mind, I wondered: shouldn’t that lovely bit of green Fibonaccism eventually turn into flowers? When I found some photos showing their later stage of growth, it became even clearer why these easily could be confused with Mexican hats. I suspect I might have done it myself.

    And I can’t help thinking about your mutant Mexican hat. Somewhere, there’s a coneflower in the process of doing the very same thing.


    August 6, 2015 at 6:56 AM

    • Mexican hats seem ubiquitous, but I see clasping-leaf coneflowers much less often, even though I know reliable places to find them (all on the prairie side of town to the east). If there is a mutant clasping-leaf coneflower out there someplace, I’m therefore unfortunately less likely to find it. I didn’t even get to check for the mutant Mexican hat in my neighborhood this year because the mowers cut everything down prematurely, and then kept mowing 4 more times over the next two months.

      The next time I’m close to a clasping-leaf coneflower at this stage, I’ll have to count the spirals to confirm Fibonaccism.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 6, 2015 at 8:31 AM

      • So… it’s another example of appearances possibly being deceiving. I went snooping around and found a page about the Fibonacci numbers that seems to be designed for kids, which makes it perfect for me. It has a nice section on plants that show regularity of design without being Fibonacci numbers.

        There’s a section on seed heads, too. Maybe the best part of the page is its interactive nature, which allows clicking to show the spirals going first in one direction, and then the other. It’s lots of fun, and a good way to learn to spot the spirals and count them.


        August 7, 2015 at 6:50 AM

        • It is lots of fun, and I’m glad that interactive sites like that one are so readily available to people (especially children) now.

          The Fibonacci sequence is the most famous additive sequence, but as you saw on that website, it’s not the only one. You can start with any two numbers and generate an additive sequence; some of those alternate sets of numbers also find embodiment in plants. Another possibility is a multiple of a basic additive sequence; I remember decades ago counting the spirals made by clumps of spines on a cactus, and I got twice a pair of adjacent Fibonacci numbers (e.g. 6 and 10 instead of 3 and 5).

          By counting the thingies on a pine cone as they form spirals at three pitches rather than the customary two, I’ve sometimes gotten three consecutive Fibonacci numbers.

          Steve Schwartzman

          August 7, 2015 at 7:23 AM

  8. Perfect flower photo!!


    August 15, 2015 at 1:45 PM

  9. […] the meantime, gaze upon the splendor of this dense colony of clasping-leaf coneflowers, Dracopis amplexicaulis, as it looked on May 20. It was the best stand of this species I’d […]

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