Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Buffalo bur buds opening

with 20 comments

Buffalo Bur Buds 2359

I photographed these opening buffalo bur buds, Solanum rostratum, along the Muir Lake Trail in Cedar Park on July 27th. The buds themselves are soft and fuzzy, but look at all those prickles elsewhere on the plant, especially on what will become the seed capsules.

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 11, 2015 at 5:49 AM

20 Responses

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  1. Beauty and the beast, all in a single plant. I especially like the contrast between the undulating leaf at the lower left, and the sharp, slick spikes at the right. I suspect the name suggests how it might spread. It’s toxic to most livestock, so perhaps the buffalo just carried it, but didn’t eat it.


    September 11, 2015 at 6:32 AM

    • When a photographer gets in close to a subject, there’s always a consideration of (and sometimes a worry about) what things will be in or out of focus. Naturally I concentrated on the main bud, so the undulating leaf that you mentioned at the lower left was a gift. The large, light-colored spine among those in the lower right also came out appropriately sharp.

      You’re right about the vernacular name describing how people saw the seed capsules caught on the coats of bison, commonly called buffalo. That was a natural method of dissemination, but inadvertent human agency played a part after the bison were largely gone. An old botany book that I looked at some years ago gave a more restricted range for this species than the almost universal one (counted by American states) that it has now:


      Steve Schwartzman

      September 11, 2015 at 7:16 AM

  2. Reminds me of a cat~ sweet and soft looking but watch out! I love how you captured both aspects of this plant’s character in one shot.


    September 11, 2015 at 10:08 AM

    • We have a shrub here called cat-claw acacia for the same reason.
      I don’t think I’d ever gotten as nice a picture of buffalo bur’s buds, so this image definitely balances the soft~sharp duality of the plant. Call it a Texas version of Yin~Yang.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 11, 2015 at 10:18 AM

  3. The buds are really beautiful-great shot. It would be interesting to see the seeds as a macro shot.

    Charlie@Seattle Trekker

    September 11, 2015 at 1:03 PM

  4. I would think that these, like other burs, use those sharp spines to catch hold as a means for spreading of the species. Maybe these are why we wear clothing rather than the modesty of our species. OK, maybe not…but it’s an excellent extra benefit.

    Steve Gingold

    September 11, 2015 at 4:19 PM

    • You’re correct about the means of propagation. I question the effectiveness of clothing, however, because even though I wear jeans and a long-sleeve shirt, plenty of spines somehow find their way to my skin anyhow. You’ve got a point, though, because things would be a lot worse without that clothing.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 11, 2015 at 4:46 PM

  5. Steve, you are the Bear Grylls of the wildflower photography world! Not even a few thorns deter you from your mission.


    September 12, 2015 at 6:18 AM

    • My reply to the preceding comment said that things would be a lot worse without clothing, so perhaps you were thinking that Bare Grylls would suffer more slings and arrows of outrageous fortune than Bear Grylls.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 12, 2015 at 6:25 AM

  6. Steve, now I’m looking for Petunias everywhere, because they are in the Solanaceae family. This is a beautiful specimen. I’m still amazed at how many plants you find from the Solanaceae family!

    Maria F.

    September 12, 2015 at 5:40 PM

    • I recently learned that petunias originated in South America.

      We have about a dozen Solanaceae genera in central Texas, and some species are quite common. I’d say probably the most common of all in Austin is silverleaf nightshade, Solanum elaeagnifolium, whose flowers I see for much of the year.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 12, 2015 at 7:26 PM

      • Yes! That’s the reason I was posting all the Ruellias I was posting. They are all from the Americas. I’m trying to keep all the plants from the blog from the neotropics, although it’s not always possible.

        Maria F.

        September 12, 2015 at 7:30 PM

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