Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Tatalencho colony flowering

with 11 comments

October: flowers of tatalencho (Gymnosperma glutinosum) at Wild Basin Wilderness Preserve in Austin, Texas.

When I went to the Wild Basin Wilderness Preserve on October 27th, the highlight of my visit was the colonies of tatalencho (Gymnosperma glutinosum) that were flowering there, more than I’d ever seen anywhere else. This is a plant that few people in Austin seem to know about, even though it’s in the same Asterae tribe of the sunflower family as goldenrod and can grow to 2 or 3 feet (1 m) in height. What I hadn’t noticed before, because I hadn’t encountered many tatalencho plants in earlier years, is that its flower heads have a pleasant scent, whereas I don’t detect an aroma in goldenrod and the great majority of yellow composite flowers.

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 5, 2015 at 4:50 AM

11 Responses

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  1. It’s another beautiful plant that isn’t a usual part of the southeast Texas landscape. One of the things that caught my attention in your earlier photo is that, even though the flowers don’t exhibit much similarity to sunflowers, the long, slender leaves do resemble those on Maximilian sunflowers.

    I’m glad we can call it tatalencho, rather than some of the other names you mentioned, such as xonequitl, hierba pegajosa, and jucu ndede.


    November 5, 2015 at 6:57 AM

    • It’s good of you to dig out the earlier photograph, which is from the first autumn this blog lived through. For lack of a stand of tatalencho back then, I did a closeup of the flowers on an individual plant.

      The leaves are narrow, but if you could see them in person you’d easily differentiate them from those of a Maximilian sunflower because these are smaller and don’t fold up along the midline, nor does the midline tend to form an arc the way that we see with Maximilian sunflowers.

      According to sources, the leaves are sticky, but I guess I never touched enough of them to notice. That reported stickiness accounts for the English name gumhead and for the Spanish name hierba pegajosa, which means ‘sticky plant.’

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 5, 2015 at 7:19 AM

  2. That is unusual, for a sunflower to have a scent. Makes me wonder who pollinates it. And sticky…that is interesting, too.


    November 5, 2015 at 8:12 AM

  3. I have never noticed a scent on goldenrod either. Contrary to common belief, that sniffing never led to a sneeze either…but we’ve discussed that before.

    Steve Gingold

    November 5, 2015 at 6:22 PM

    • I smelled something in the air and eventually realized it was coming from the tatalencho. The fact that goldenrod doesn’t have a scent made me all the more surprised when I found that this plant that looks goldenrod-y is aromatic.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 5, 2015 at 9:11 PM

  4. Interesting notes, I am going to have to look closer and take the time to see if I can pick up the subtle scent. I find that every time someone brings this kind of information to my attention I find so much more on my walks and hikes; I discover so much more that was always right in front of me.

    Charlie@Seattle Trekker

    November 6, 2015 at 12:46 AM

    • We can extend the notion of “Stop and smell the roses” to many other flowers and plants, and in some cases we’ll be unexpectedly rewarded. A number of years ago someone at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center pointed out to me that a certain yellow composite flower that is rare in my area and that I’d I’d asked him to identify is unusual in that group because it has a scent, and a few years later I returned the favor by alerting him to the fact that a more-common yellow composite in our area also has an aroma, which he hadn’t ever noticed.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 6, 2015 at 6:13 AM

  5. […] I was happily photographing tatalencho (Gymnosperma glutinosum) at Wild Basin on October 27th I came across this little drama that I had […]

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