Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

False obedient plant

with 20 comments

Physostegia Flowers 7351

Speaking of cattails (as I did yesterday), when I participated in a field trip to the Cedar Stump Ranch on October 16th, I saw something I’ve seldom seen: several so-called false obedient plants, Physostegia spp., which were flowering among a stand of cattails along a (dry) creek. The yellow flowers in the background near the bottom of the photograph were goldenrod, Solidago spp.

If you’d like a closer look at some of the false obedient plant flowers in this stand, click the excerpt below and it will expand to a detailed enlargement.

Physostegia Flowers 7355A

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 28, 2015 at 5:28 AM

20 Responses

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  1. I know several gardeners who would be intrigued by the thought of an obedient plant: even one falsely obedient. It reminds me of the prairie agalinis you showed recently: both the color and the cute little spots.

    I especially like the “tangle” in the photo: bare and presumably dead branches, the various flowers, the cattails. I’ve been astonished by the variety of plants that can be found in even a small piece of land, like under a transmission tower or along a few feet of a creek bed. It’s quite wonderful, really.


    October 28, 2015 at 6:22 AM

    • From what I’ve read, the “obedient” in the name comes from the fact that you can bend a branch of this plant (I don’t know how far) and it will stay (I don’t know for how long) in that position.

      I’d also thought about the flowers’ resemblance to those of prairie agalinis, but that plant is in a different botanical family from this one, which is in the mint family.

      I see lots of tangles and mixtures in nature, and many of them intrigue me. More food for the ever-hungry blog.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 28, 2015 at 7:15 AM

  2. Is this false obedient plant or obedient plant (false dragonhead)? Whatever it is, it looks very like a snapdragon.


    October 28, 2015 at 7:21 AM

  3. This plant does resemble both the Agalinis and the Obedient Plant. Although they don’t really resemble each other, here anyway. I have some of the Obedient Plant growing in my garden. What you can do is turn an individual flower around on the stem. I’ve done it many times but never can figure out how that works. Sort of like turning a cube on a Rubik’s cube.


    October 28, 2015 at 9:57 AM

    • The obedient plant that’s in Enquist’s Wildflowers of the Texas Hill Country is Physostegia intermedia, whereas the false obedient plant (or false dragonhead) that he includes is Physostegia angustifolia. He comments that for all practical purposes the two species are essentially identical, differing mainly in size.

      What you say about twisting the flowers is interesting. I hope I’ll get the chance to try it someday.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 28, 2015 at 10:26 AM

  4. I learned something new today! Great cover shot… love the diagonals.


    October 28, 2015 at 1:00 PM

  5. I am not familiar with this plant which is too bad, the flowers are absolutely stunning.

    Charlie@Seattle Trekker

    October 28, 2015 at 1:44 PM

    • I’ve barely seen this plant either, even though it grows in my area, so the field trip filled a gap.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 28, 2015 at 2:03 PM

  6. It is not surprising to find plants with which we are unfamiliar. I learn some new ones every year and I am not pursuing them with your vigor. This is a lovely one for sure. They do resemble turtleheads and I am familiar with those…they grow along our driveway. We didn’t plant them and I am not sure how they got here. Just showed up one day and never left…like some company.

    Steve Gingold

    October 28, 2015 at 6:22 PM

    • That’s the thing about native plants: they just show up. Unfortunately so do some alien invasives.

      I had to look up turtlehead, and I found that it’s in the same botanical family as the snapdragons that Gallivanta mentioned.

      Speaking of turtles, I saw a large snapper yesterday; it must have been a foot and a half long.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 28, 2015 at 6:50 PM

  7. Preciosas flores, muy buen macro de ellas. Gracias!

  8. Although I don’t grow this plant, I have always loved the name – it reminds me of how we can be so passive-aggressive when it is the only way to survive under duress – bend, don’t break 🙂


    November 1, 2015 at 3:44 PM

  9. Composer saw the same metaphor in the name that I did. I merely suspected it was named after *me* for my sometimes thinly disguised stubbornness, not giving it credit for the positive connection to resilience. How unfair of me! In this instance, I will relinquish my stubbornness and go with Composer’s definition!


    November 2, 2015 at 2:56 PM

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