Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Cenizo flowering

with 15 comments

Cenizo Flowering 4042A

One Texas* bush that likes to bloom in the summer heat is cenizo**, Leucophyllum frutescens. It’s native primarily in parts of the state to the west and south of Austin, but many people here plant it because of its dense and bright flowers, of which there are usually several sets each year.

I photographed this cenizo yesterday morning on Watering Rock Lane in my Great Hills neighborhood of Austin. The density of cenizo flowers is inversely proportional to their duration, which is a fancy way of saying that these profuse blossoms don’t last long. Many of the ones in this photograph will likely have fallen to the ground by the end of the day today.


* The only state in the United States where this species grows is Texas. The bush’s habitat also includes, not surprisingly, parts of Mexico.

** Cenizo, pronounced seh-nee-so, is Spanish. It’s based on the word for ‘ash’ because the bush’s leaves are such an ash-grey shade of green.

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 3, 2015 at 4:07 AM

15 Responses

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  1. I’m still on my first cup of coffee, Steven, so I stumbled a little when I encountered your sentence, “The density of cenizo flowers is inversely proportional to their duration.” Thanks for providing the translation into simple English. This early in the morning, I can appreciate the beauty of your image, but I am not ready for more analytical thinking.

    Mike Powell

    September 3, 2015 at 4:13 AM

    • You’ve been a loyal reader here long enough, Mike, to know that I enjoy mixing a little math into the botany and photography from time to time. The sentence you quoted was a late addition to the text, and it clearly caught your not-sufficiently-caffeinated attention. May you face the rest of your day alert and raring to go.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 3, 2015 at 4:40 AM

  2. For allergy folks, does this plant’s pollen make them sneezio? A little back atcha there. 🙂 From this distance these bear a little resemblance to Liatris-blazing star- although I am sure when viewing close there may be no similarity.
    It’s lovely plant well-represented by your nice shot and I like the crop that expresses the width of the plant.

    Steve Gingold

    September 3, 2015 at 5:35 AM

    • I’m allergic to plenty of things, but this plant hasn’t made me sneezio or even wheezio, although I do find the smell of the flowers cloying and somewhat unpleasant. (Not so the bees, who go crazy over them.) You’re correct that if you had a closer look you’d see cenizo is quite different from Liatris in many respects.

      This bush struck me as something of a flattened globe and I lay down to try to capture that shape without seeing the houses all around. The resulting pictures didn’t look all that globose, so instead I went with a slice across the upper portion to give a panoramic look.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 3, 2015 at 7:03 AM

  3. Hence leucophyllum, I bet. This is a beauty, isn’t it? I really like how you captured it. A bit of Texas cheer in the inbox 🙂


    September 3, 2015 at 8:01 AM

    • Hence leucophyllum indeed, but with grey replaced by white (maybe the botanist who chose the name didn’t know the Greek word for grey).

      A week earlier I’d seen a photograph of a cenizo in full flower near the coast and I hoped ours inland in Austin would soon follow, which they obligingly did. In fact I took pictures of cenizos in three places in Austin yesterday; two were in my neighborhood but the other was at least a dozen miles south.

      It’s good to hear you cherish this cheer from Texas.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 3, 2015 at 8:11 AM

      • 🙂 That is interesting…we have the reverse, here, with plants inland weeks earlier than they do along Lake Michigan.


        September 4, 2015 at 8:26 AM

        • From comments by shoreacres over the past few years I can confirm that sometimes a species here in the interior has blossomed before the same one close to the coast. Whether a given species always goes first in the same one of the two places, or whether the order changes from year to year based on current conditions, I don’t know.

          Steve Schwartzman

          September 4, 2015 at 7:32 PM

  4. We need this to replace our Esperanza in the front. >

    Nikki Truskett

    September 3, 2015 at 1:24 PM

  5. Ours were blooming about a week and a half ago, although much more sparsely than this beauty.The flowers are glorious. I don’t think I’ve ever seen one with such lush flowers, or such saturated color.

    I wonder if they’re putting on a show across the state? When I came home tonight, I found thirty people had stopped by my blog to read about the “barometer bush.” Now, I find that you’ve added a photo, too. It’s cenizo season! Maybe I’ll rewrite that piece. I can’t believe it’s been four years since I posted it. “Tempus fidgets,” indeed.


    September 3, 2015 at 7:55 PM

    • The cenizos have been good here the last couple of days, but not better than I’ve seen them in some other years—which still means an excellent show. Perhaps the brief bit of rain we had last week were enough of a change for the barometer bushes to have lived up to that name. I suspect you’re right that all those hits on your blog post are due to cenizos flowering in other places across the state, although when I’ve had an occasional flurry of hits like that I’ve wondered if a teacher somewhere has given students an assignment. The fact that you got the hits this time is a good sign that the search engines favor your blog over some other sources.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 3, 2015 at 9:10 PM

  6. Dazzling, Steve! It’s the beginning of spring here and one species of wattle is blinding us with its golden explosions. In October, the jacaranda trees that line many of the streets in my region will be covered in the same colour as the blooms in your photo. Our jacarandas are not native like your wonderful cenizo though.


    September 4, 2015 at 12:16 AM

    • You’re the second person I’ve seen mention the beginning of spring recently, something incongruous for us in Texas who still have afternoon temperatures of 35°.

      As soon as I came to the word jacaranda in your comment I thought to myself, “That’s not from Australia, is it?”, and then you answered my question. Similarly, there people in a town near Austin have an annual poppy festival, but they use a red European poppy rather than our native white one.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 4, 2015 at 7:51 AM

  7. […] I stopped to photograph some flowering cenizo bushes on September 2, I noticed a group of black vultures, Coragyps atratus, feeding on the carcass of a […]

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