Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

A different purple

with 52 comments

Eryngo Flowering 6488

In yesterday’s post you saw the purple of gayfeather, but this time the purple comes from Eryngium leavenworthii, known as eryngo. People sometimes see these flower heads as little purple pineapples, or the plant itself as a thistle because of its needle-tipped leaf lobes, but the fact remains that eryngo is in the same botanical family as celery, carrots, parsley, and dill.

Like the mesquite pod you saw two days ago, I photographed this eryngo on September 22 on a piece of undeveloped prairie between Josh Ridge Blvd. and Harris Ridge Blvd. in northeast Austin.

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 14, 2015 at 4:28 AM

52 Responses

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  1. I’m definitely one of the purple pineapple people–that is what immediately came to mind when I first saw your fabulous photo.

    Mike Powell

    October 14, 2015 at 5:01 AM

  2. I love your purple pineapple, looks freshly dipped in paint! I believe you have helped me identify some seed heads I photographed a few weeks ago. I knew they weren’t thistles by the shape, but brain refused to cooperate. But of course they are eryngium or what we call Sea Holly. So thank you!


    October 14, 2015 at 5:27 AM

    • I used spray paint because it’s easier to carry a little can of it around on the prairie — not.

      Your mention of the name sea holly set me wondering. I understood the resemblance to holly, which is also prickly, but I was at a loss to explain the “sea” part of the name. After some looking I turned up the fact that there’s an Eryngium maritimum that grows along European coasts:


      Apparently the common name for that species got transferred to the genus as a whole, even though most of the other species have nothing to do with the sea.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 14, 2015 at 6:31 AM

      • I have seen allium heads spray painted (car paint) in purple – they make a fabulous piece of art work! And thanks for the research. We do see one kind near the coast, I guess that’s the proper sea holly.


        October 14, 2015 at 7:44 AM

        • Some people here use our species of eryngo in dried arrangements. Initially the purple is quite a striking addition to the mix, but the color gradually fades away.

          Steve Schwartzman

          October 14, 2015 at 7:51 AM

          • I don’t think I have seen one quite that purple. Blue yes, but not purple.


            October 14, 2015 at 8:52 AM

            • One appeal of the local species is that its flowers are really purple, not a shade of blue.

              Steve Schwartzman

              October 14, 2015 at 8:56 AM

  3. Cool plant – it really does look like a pineapple


    October 14, 2015 at 7:16 AM

    • A cool plant for a hot climate: we hit 98°F (37°C) this week. Eryngo looks like a pineapple, but have you ever stopped to think that a pineapple is neither a pine nor an apple?

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 14, 2015 at 7:23 AM

      • Believe it or not – I ‘ve wondered how that fruit got it’s name – I can probably “google” that to find out


        October 14, 2015 at 7:27 AM

        • My impression has long been that the reference to a pine comes from the fact that the “cells” on the surface of a pineapple grow in spiral patterns similar to those of a pine cone. Apple has sometimes been used as a generic name for ‘fruit.’

          Steve Schwartzman

          October 14, 2015 at 7:34 AM

  4. This is an extremely beautiful flower picture, and I’m even just watching it on my bad-colour-pc 😀


    October 14, 2015 at 8:14 AM

    • Your “bad-colour-pc” might be an impetus for you to get an iMac.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 14, 2015 at 8:20 AM

      • I got a Mac at home, but not at work, and it’s that Mac that proves every day how crappy-coloured my work pc is 😉


        October 14, 2015 at 8:34 AM

        • I’m sorry you have to suffer at work. It’s a fate that too many people encounter, but at least you can go home to something better.

          Steve Schwartzman

          October 14, 2015 at 8:37 AM

  5. I adore the flower’s design, so many graphic qualities.


    October 14, 2015 at 8:29 AM

  6. Gorgeous photo, enjoyed your interesting bits of information. Your blog is such a wonderful learning experience.

    Charlie@Seattle Trekker

    October 14, 2015 at 10:13 AM

  7. wonderful photo and colors


    October 14, 2015 at 11:30 AM

    • I wish you could see some of these in person.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 14, 2015 at 11:52 AM

      • would be nice, I love beauty


        October 15, 2015 at 8:03 AM

        • Then let’s hope you make it to Texas one of these days.

          Steve Schwartzman

          October 15, 2015 at 8:09 AM

          • that’s a bit too far, hehe, but I guess you have nice weather because it’s in the South. Regards Mitza


            October 15, 2015 at 10:48 AM

            • Yes, Austin is pretty far south, so we have lots more heat than cold. The weather forecast for this afternoon is a record high temperature of 37°C.

              Steve Schwartzman

              October 15, 2015 at 11:25 AM

              • wow, I’m coming. Here we have 9 C and it’s raining, raining, raining.


                October 15, 2015 at 11:33 AM

  8. What a beauty that is!


    October 14, 2015 at 9:57 PM

  9. Lovely Steve .. 😀


    October 15, 2015 at 2:15 AM

  10. Are you going to Scarborough Fair?…Carrots, celery, parsley and dill……

    Purple pineapple or purple teasel (which was my first although quite erroneous thought) this is one lovely flower head.

    Steve Gingold

    October 15, 2015 at 4:12 AM

    • That phrase triggered thoughts of Simon and Garfunkel in me, too. Unfortunately for my purposes, of the herbs they mention, all but parsley are in the mint family, so I didn’t find a way to link the two sets of plants.

      I’m not going to Scarborough Fair but I am going to the Native Plant Society of Texas annual symposium from tonight through Sunday.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 15, 2015 at 7:26 AM

  11. La belleza en todo su esplendor. Y la perfección fotográfica. Felicidades, Steve!

    • Me acosté para incluír en el fondo un panel de cielo que hiciera contraste con la verdura.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 15, 2015 at 7:30 AM

  12. Here’s a non-scientific and entirely casual observation: you seem to have an abundance of purple in your area, while I haven’t seen a bit of it this year. On the other hand, we’re awash in pinks, vague lavenders, and yellows. I suspect if I headed north rather than south, east, and west, I’d better my chances of finding some purple beauty.

    I just love this plant: its color, its prickliness, its complexity. At least if there’s one around, it shouldn’t be too hard to see.


    October 15, 2015 at 7:26 AM

    • When it comes to prickliness and complexity, you might be speaking of the photographer as well as the plant.

      You’re right that we have several species of wildflowers here in the fall that are purple or of a similar color, but I haven’t seen large colonies of any of them this season, perhaps because of the drought. I may have mentioned that I’d spotted a good impending colony of Liatris but unfortunately it got mowed to the ground before it could fully flower (much less produce seeds).

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 15, 2015 at 7:36 AM

  13. What a gorgeous and unusual flower. It actually reminds me of a thistle crossed with an Australian banksia! I’ve never seen a purple banksia though. Excellent shot, Steve.


    October 16, 2015 at 6:26 AM

    • Now that would be something unique: a thistle crossed with a banksia. Or if you could cross an eryngo with a banksia, the former might lend its color to the latter.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 16, 2015 at 6:54 PM

    • By the way, I should tell you that the main part of the eryngo was only about an inch (2.5 cm) tall.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 16, 2015 at 6:55 PM

  14. Spectacular!


    October 18, 2015 at 9:38 PM

  15. Thank you so much for this link and for pointing out the connection with culantro… this is a little beauty – it’s GORGEOUS!

    Playamart - Zeebra Designs

    December 8, 2017 at 4:01 PM

    • It is, and it’s native right here in Austin. Another of our local little botanical treasures.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 8, 2017 at 4:08 PM

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