Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

It hit 104° here yesterday but the botanical calendar is already saying autumn.

with 36 comments

Snow-on-the-Mountain, Broomweed, Horseweed, and Sunflowers by Pond 5408

That’s right: it was 104°F (40°C) here yesterday afternoon, but you can see from this photograph that I took in the morning to avoid the worst of the heat that the Texas botanical calendar is already beginning to say autumn. The prominent plant with the white-fringed bracts at the tips of its branches is snow-on-the-mountain, Euphorbia marginata, which begins flowering in the latter part of summer and continues well into the fall. The low greenery is broomweed, Amphiachyris dracunculoides, which also flowers from the late summer into the fall. At the left is a sunflower plant, Helianthus annuus, quite a few of which have continued blooming since the late spring.

The location of this photograph from yesterday was the fringe of one of the ponds adjacent to the Costco in the Austin suburb of Cedar Park.

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 11, 2015 at 5:21 AM

36 Responses

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  1. Here in Avery, leaves are turning red or brown and falling from trees. Not a lot of them, but they fall as I walk down the road. That is just the thought I’ve been having, that autumn has arrived. Is this normal in a dry period? Our last rain was June 21.


    August 11, 2015 at 5:26 AM

    • We’re seeing a lot of dropping leaves here in the Galveston bay area, but it’s due to drought rather than seasonal change. Even the cypress that are away from ponds or bayous are turning rusty and dropping needles already: about two months early. We’ve had about a half-inch of rain since July 1.


      August 11, 2015 at 6:06 AM

      • You just reminded me that I’ve also seen some bald cypresses turning brown; in fact I saw them in the same general area where I took the picture in today’s post, but three days earlier.

        Steve Schwartzman

        August 11, 2015 at 7:36 AM

    • We’ve gone back into a drought in Austin, too, with our last rain being sometime around when you mentioned. As far as I’m aware, none of the deciduous trees here have started turning colors or lost any leaves, but the Ashe junipers have been dropping some “needles,” which they typically do during hot, dry spells.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 11, 2015 at 7:33 AM

      • By the way, shoreacres credited you with helping her become comfortable with math through your blog. You must have some kind of good magic. 😉


        August 11, 2015 at 10:36 AM

        • Photography and nature are in their prime here, and math merely tangential, but a reader can positively follow the slope from the former to the latter. Once those things are integrated, there’s no remainder of incommensurability.

          Steve Schwartzman

          August 11, 2015 at 1:44 PM

          • Isn’t that integration the unrealized dream of every scientist? (I’m showing my bias toward mathematical scientists.)

            Steve, you outdid yourself with that statement, no matter how eloquent your former statements have been. Your students are lucky folks.


            August 11, 2015 at 2:36 PM

            • Thanks, Aggie. One change I’d make in your last sentence is changing the tense of the verb from present to past, given that I haven’t taught for some years now. Yesterday, after finishing my exhausting three hours of picture-taking under the August sun, went into the adjacent Costco and was looking at breads when a woman started talking to me about which of the organic breads there she liked the most. She said her kids (who were there too) are home-schooled, whereupon the teacher in me was ready to pop out and offer up some interesting technique, like how to mentally square a number that ends in 5. Once a teacher, always a teacher.

              Steve Schwartzman

              August 11, 2015 at 2:49 PM

  2. We have real snow on the mountains. And for a few minutes on Sat night and early Sunday we had snow on my yard.


    August 11, 2015 at 5:56 AM

    • We’re on opposite sides of the seasonal circle, so that sounds like what I’d expect for you in August. In contrast, the name snow-on-the-mountain is ironic, given the temperature here when this plant begins to flower each year.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 11, 2015 at 7:39 AM

  3. The trees are already starting to change colour a little bit up here :(. I haven’t had enough summer yet!


    August 11, 2015 at 6:04 AM

  4. I’ve been thinking about snow-on-the-mountain, wondering if it had begun showing off yet. All things considered, even snow-on-the-mountain-the-plant sounds pretty good, although a few clouds or even a breeze wouldn’t be too bad. Hot, humid, and still isn’t my favorite set of conditions.

    I did find a couple of nice grasses in the neighborhood vacant lot yesterday. It was a native — silver beardgrass (Bothriochloa laguroides) — that caught my eye, but there was some non-native Indian goose grass, too (Eleusine indica). My copy of Wildflowers & Grasses of Kansas has a really spiffy section on the grasses that I’ve never explored, but it has great photos, and was very helpful. We share so many species that it will do quite nicely for Texas, too.


    August 11, 2015 at 6:36 AM

    • I haven’t seen any snow-on-the-prairie yet but I began noticing snow-on-the-mountain plants a few weeks ago and gradually some flowers on them since them. I’ve yet to see a colony of either species this year, but I suspect they’re out there.

      Bothriochloa laguroides is one of my favorite grasses to photograph (and one I can usually identify, which isn’t true for various others). I learned it under the name silver bluestem, and I provide the beard myself. Speaking of fall and silver and snow:


      Your Kansas grass book sounds like a valuable resource. I bought a big one for Texas that I haven’t consulted yet, but you’ve reminded me that I should do so.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 11, 2015 at 8:10 AM

  5. I’ve been noticing the shift here, as well. Whew~ good things mathematicians are naturally cool! 🙂


    August 11, 2015 at 9:42 AM

  6. It’s been hot here too, but not that hot–very humid, though, which makes it seem even more so. Not many signs of the advancing seasons, with the exception that the lush, green grasses in northern MN are gradually turning golden. Let’s not rush autumn yet, though!


    August 11, 2015 at 3:17 PM

    • But in northern Minnesota you really are close to the first intimations of fall. I remember that when we visited another northern place, Yellowstone, at the dividing line between August and September, we awoke one morning to a temperature of 33°. In Austin, the middle of September is the traditional time when people awake to a morning that’s a few degrees cooler than the summer weather had brought, but highs remain in the 90s.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 11, 2015 at 4:32 PM

  7. We are still freezing here in New Zealand. A couple of weeks to go until we are officially in spring. But we don’t get as hot as you in our summer.

    Raewyn's Photos

    August 11, 2015 at 3:27 PM

    • Yes, it’s still 6 weeks till the official beginning of autumn here and spring in New Zealand, but people enduring the local heights or depths of temperature are longing for a change by now.

      I just looked online and found this extreme: “The all-time New Zealand maximum temperature record was observed at Rangiora on 7 February 1973, a scorching 42.4°C.” On another site I found this: “The new record for our lowest recorded daily minimum temperature occurred… at Ranfurly in Central Otago, in 1903: a shivering -25.6°C.”

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 11, 2015 at 4:39 PM

  8. I have always said August in Colorado is NOT summer; it’s more like pre-autumn. The angle of the sun is – almost overnight – noticeably different, and mornings & evenings cool quickly with wider range from midday heat. The plants, as well, change distinctly. I like August, but I’ve had to adjust to it being its own season because it’s not summer.

    It sounds like you and your plants are making the same changes in Austin (we’ve got some 90s coming into the forecast; i can’t imagine 104!!)

    Sammy D.

    August 11, 2015 at 4:38 PM

    • I like the way you put that: pre-autumn. In answering another comment just now, I mentioned visiting Yellowstone one year at the dividing line between August and September; we awoke one morning to a temperature of 33°.

      As for Austin, on television this morning I saw a predicted high of 106° today. I turned the television back on just now and saw that one location in north Austin is reporting 107°, although it’s a few degrees cooler than that where I am.

      Your mention of Colorado reminds me of the old joke about places like it and Maine. “We have three seasons here: July, August, and winter.”

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 11, 2015 at 4:49 PM

      • I’d be happy if july and August alternated and we skip winter (but no, Austin isn’t the place for me 😏)

        Sammy D.

        August 11, 2015 at 5:13 PM

        • I was just out in my car and the outside temperature gauge at one point showed 107°. You’re right that Austin isn’t the place for you—at least not during our long summer.

          Steve Schwartzman

          August 11, 2015 at 5:59 PM

  9. We did not make it over 100° in July and August has provided a bit of a cool down only hitting near 90°. I am not complaining.
    We occasionally will see some color change in the foliage now and there are a few red leaves to be found…kind of like me premature greys of the 90’s.

    Steve Gingold

    August 12, 2015 at 3:57 AM

    • If your August temperatures have only been near 90° you certainly aren’t in Texas—not that there was ever any doubt. We have a few warm-toned leaves too, but they’re on things that are expected and can happen earlier as well, like the little leaves of partridge pea or the occasional leaf on a croton.

      Now if fallen head hair could grow back the way leaves on deciduous trees do, we’d really have something.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 12, 2015 at 6:40 AM

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