Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

One scene, two takes

with 32 comments

From my inaugural time photographing along the Copperfield Nature Trail in northeast Austin on September 22nd come these two photographs of a typically autumnal landscape in this part of Texas. Both images feature the pink flowers of prairie agalinis (Agalinis heterophylla) and the yellow ones of partridge pea (Chamaecrista fasciculata).

The first picture is what we might call a conventional view of the scene, and as a bonus you get to see a wall of giant ragweed plants (Ambrosia trifida) behind the flowers. The second picture shows the same scene from closer up. This more-abstract image has a few of the prairie agalinis flowers and buds in sharp focus against a larger number of out-of-focus partridge pea plants, whose fresh and wilting flowers my camera’s lens turned into amorphous yellow and orange lights while also turning a few of the more-distant agalinis flowers into featureless pink patches.

Same time, same place, same plants, same photographer, same camera and lens pointed in the same direction—yet such different views.


Prairie Agalinis, Partridge Pea, Giant Ragweed 6781A


Prairie Agalinis Flowers by Partridge Pea Flowers 6807A

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 2, 2015 at 4:55 AM

32 Responses

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  1. the petals are bent


    October 2, 2015 at 4:57 AM

  2. beautiful flowers


    October 2, 2015 at 5:03 AM

  3. I like the long view and the short view. In the short term I would prefer the close up but if I needed a photo to interest me for the long term I would prefer the long view.


    October 2, 2015 at 5:54 AM

  4. I do like your abstract shots, and the Agalinis is wonderful.


    October 2, 2015 at 9:26 AM

    • The Agalinis is thriving in many places around town now. I’d be remiss if I didn’t provide a closeup of one, so I’ll do that next time.

      I’m glad my abstraction doesn’t drive you to distraction.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 2, 2015 at 10:21 AM

      • No indeed, I enjoy it as much as you do. And since I can’t seem to manage to paint that way, I’m looking forward to see what my daughter does. Ha~ the mother of abstraction. I love that!


        October 3, 2015 at 10:17 AM

  5. What an interesting flower, Steve. Lovely!

    Maria F.

    October 2, 2015 at 12:08 PM

    • The Agalinis is quite common here at this time I’ve year. I’ve been seeing it in various parts of town for the past few weeks.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 2, 2015 at 12:50 PM

  6. Interesting flower and observation of the changing shape with a different perspective. Ummm…something funny about that first commenter, I think.

    Steve Gingold

    October 2, 2015 at 1:18 PM

    • Yeah, I let the thread drop after a few back-and-forths. It may be the combination of a foreign language and a young correspondent.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 2, 2015 at 1:31 PM

  7. […] a far and then a somewhat nearer look last time at prairie agalinis, Agalinis heterophylla, here’s an even closer look at a flower […]

  8. I know the partridge pea, but the prairie agalinis isn’t one I remember seeing. The top photo’s a wonderful example of the kind of here-ness you mentioned the other day: the combination of species. When I first opened the page, I thought you’d provided us an example of impressionist painting. It wouldn’t take much to turn the first photo into just that — although what it is, is wonderful enough.


    October 4, 2015 at 5:36 AM

    • Someone wandering almost anywhere in nature in Austin now for 10 of 15 minutes is likely to see at least some prairie agalinis flowers. The USDA map at


      shows the species in your area, but it may not be as common there as here. In contrast, the Houston Museum of Fine Arts probably has more Impressionist paintings than the several museums in Austin combined.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 4, 2015 at 7:43 AM

      • On impulse, I went over to the nature center about 2 miles from my place this afternoon, just to see what I could see. What I saw made me laugh. There was this, and this, and this.

        There weren’t huge colonies, but there were some nice patches, once I figured out where to look for them. And the variety of flowers was remarkable. I’m going to have to spend some time with the books to identify some of them. I did find something really neat — four rain lilies, each in a different stage of life. There was a flower, a formed seed pod, an open seed pod filled with those wonderful black seeds, and an empty pod. It was like a botany lab.


        October 4, 2015 at 8:12 PM

        • So it didn’t take you long at all to make the acquaintance of prairie agalinis (though your third link shows a yellow pea-family flower rather than the agalinis of the first two links). I’m glad to hear there were also so many other kinds of wildflowers so close to you in the nature center. You sound the way I felt when I started getting into this stuff in 1999.

          I’ve photographed the stages of rain-lilies you mentioned and others as well, particularly the aging flowers that change from white to various shades on the red or magenta side of things.

          No doubt you’re delighted that your new camera is letting you get closer and clearer pictures than before.

          Steve Schwartzman

          October 4, 2015 at 10:32 PM

          • I added the (partridge?) pea just because those were paired with the agalinis in your photo. Plus, it’s the first time I’ve ever seen such pea-pods — not that they haven’t been around, of course.


            October 5, 2015 at 6:46 AM

            • I’m afraid the yellow flower isn’t partridge pea, but I don’t know what it is. I wonder if it could be the same as what’s on p. 149 of the Tvetens’ book.

              Steve Schwartzman

              October 5, 2015 at 7:41 AM

              • You were very close. It’s on page 153 of the Tveten’s book. They call it the wild cowpea, while on the Wildflower Center site it’s hairy cowpea, or yellow vigna. In any event, it’s Vigna luteola, and its very pretty in its own right. I found a huge, matted colony that provided photos of the flowers, seed pods, and opening pods with seeds.

                It’s Texan right down to its genetics — it’s related to the black-eyed pea.


                October 27, 2015 at 9:17 PM

                • I’m glad you finally tracked this one down. It always feels good when something finally gets identified.

                  Black-eyed peas have become Texan, all right, and more generally Southern, but I see that their species is Vigna unguiculata, which isn’t native to the Americas. The Wikipedia article at


                  reports that the first cultivation may have been in western Africa. It’s easy to imagine how the plant traveled from there to the American South.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  October 27, 2015 at 9:48 PM

          • Oh — and the only reason I recognized the other rain lily stages was because you’ve posted photos of them here. It was like meeting old friends.


            October 5, 2015 at 6:56 AM

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