Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Just because it’s a desert doesn’t mean there aren’t wildflowers, even in late November.

with 17 comments

Desert Marigolds 9865

Even in as dry a place as the Chihuahuan Desert there are still plenty of wildflowers. I believe that these in Big Bend National Park on November 22 were desert marigolds, Baileya multiradiata. The flowers may have gotten some protection from adjacent bushes that are just outside the picture frame and that account for the shadows on the flower heads farther back.

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 4, 2015 at 5:41 AM

17 Responses

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  1. Desert marigolds in the Chihuahuan Desert: how appropriate.

    Steve Schwartzman

    December 4, 2015 at 9:24 AM

  2. Like the soliloquy …. where is Big Bend? Montana??

    Nature on the Edge

    December 4, 2015 at 9:31 AM

    • The Big Bend is in west Texas. The region takes its name from the fact that the Rio Grande River (which in that region forms the border between Texas and Mexico) makes a big bend there. You can see it on this map. I hope some day I’ll get to see the big bend that the coast of Africa makes at its southern end.

      I’m glad you liked the little soliloquy-as-dialogue.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 4, 2015 at 10:04 AM

  3. You’ll be happy to know that the desert marigolds are still blooming in Big Bend in early December, lots of them. It’s amazing what a little water will do in the desert. I found a few other species this week as well.

    Tom Lebsack

    December 4, 2015 at 2:57 PM

    • Thanks for the confirmation. I’m not surprised, because I photographed other native wildflowers out there too, some of which will be appearing here in the days ahead. Perhaps some will be the same species you found.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 4, 2015 at 5:00 PM

  4. Of course there are wildflowers in the desert. Besides your desert marigold there are all those cacti, which I love. Another reason to visit.

    Steve Gingold

    December 4, 2015 at 5:42 PM

    • What made these and some other flowers especially welcome was the fact that we were most of the way through November, long past the time for most cacti to bloom. We saw plenty of cacti of various species, but not a single cactus flower. The plants themselves as you indicate, are fascinating even without flowers, and some of the cacti still had fruit on them.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 4, 2015 at 6:28 PM

  5. Does that ever look good right now!


    December 4, 2015 at 7:05 PM

    • It must remind you of your years in Arizona. I’ll have more wildflowers coming next week.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 4, 2015 at 7:10 PM

  6. I’ve always thought of marigolds as a garden flower, so I was surprised to see these natives. They remind me of gray goldenaster. The flowers don’t look the same, except for size and color, but the gray-green of the stems and leaves is similar enough to call up the comparision. Both are hairy or fuzzy, too. I just learned that hairs are a desert plant adaptation because they increase light reflection, resulting in lower leaf temperatures, and they block ultraviolet light.

    It was cool to see A. Gray associated with this one, and know who he was.


    December 5, 2015 at 9:35 PM

    • There’s a superficial resemblance to the marigolds so often grown in gardens, but I just looked and found that those are in the genus Tagetes. I expect people added the qualifier “desert” to distinguish the two kinds of wildflowers. Like you, I noticed the foliage’s gray-green color, which is caused by fine hairs, and I can see the resemblance to the foliage of the gray goldenaster that grows in Austin (but not, according to the USDA map, over by the coast).

      I also see from the biography at


      that Lindheimer collaborated with Asa Gray.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 5, 2015 at 10:23 PM

      • I found the gray goldenaster very near the “Van Gogh” bridge outside Medina, and it was at the Lindheimer exhibit that I learned about his relationship with Asa Gray. The collaborations among those botanists were fascinating, and certainly productive, even without iPhones and internet.


        December 5, 2015 at 10:26 PM

        • A productive collaboration, no question, even if a much slower one than they could’ve had today. I figured you must have seen the gray goldenaster in the Hill Country, given that it doesn’t occur near the coast. I mentioned that we have it in Travis County but I don’t often see it.

          Steve Schwartzman

          December 5, 2015 at 10:35 PM

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