Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Broom snakeweed

with 23 comments

Broom Snakeweed 0123

On November 22nd I noticed this densely flowering plant in a wash* not far from Santa Elena Canyon in Big Bend National Park, so I pulled over at the first opportunity and walked back to take pictures. I sent one of them to Dr. Michael Powell at Sul Ross State University in Alpine, who suggested three species the plant might be. With those possibilities in mind, I looked closely at some of my other photographs and concluded this was probably broom snakeweed, Gutierrezia sarothrae. Later, while preparing today’s post, I realized that I’d seen broom snakeweed in New Mexico last fall. This is clearly a plant that thrives in arid places.


* In the western United States, a wash is the dry bed of a creek or stream.

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 30, 2015 at 4:38 AM

23 Responses

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  1. Pretty, and another welcome dose of sunshine captured in a flower. Er, lots of flowers. Oh no! I just peeked out my window and see that it is snowing, on top of the 4 inches of frozen sleet we already had! ERK! 😦


    December 30, 2015 at 8:18 AM

    • This dose of sunshine is from 5 weeks ago (how the time passes), but next week I plan to show some wildflowers I’ve photographed near home in December, including as recently as yesterday. Yes, it’s quite a contrast from the snow on top of frozen sleet that you mentioned. Always that question of latitude, which is enough to give one an attitude.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 30, 2015 at 8:26 AM

      • 🙂 Sure is. I’d flee to Texas now, but it may be months before I can get the car out of the frozen tundra of my driveway. It doesn’t do this sort of thing in the Port Townsend area of Washington.


        December 30, 2015 at 8:30 AM

        • It’s not so frigid, but I gather that the Pacific coastal region is predominantly overcast and gets lots of rain. I’ve heard that some people who live there get depressed by that climate.

          Steve Schwartzman

          December 30, 2015 at 1:23 PM

          • That is my favorite weather~cheers me right to my toes. My daughter prefers it too, which is handy as she will be going with me when we can afford it.


            December 31, 2015 at 9:38 AM

            • Then that’s indeed the right climate for the two of you. I may have mentioned that I was born in Tacoma but I lived there only as an infant and so have no recollection of it.

              Steve Schwartzman

              December 31, 2015 at 10:02 AM

              • Really? That amazes me. Perhaps that is why I feel you are a kindred spirit.


                January 1, 2016 at 11:10 AM

                • Ah, connections. Not until I was 33 did I go back to Tacoma to take a look around. I stayed with a guy from my Peace Corps group who had not only been born in Tacoma but who had also grown up there. Together we went to Tacoma General Hospital and somehow got into the then-closed maternity wing where we’d both entered the world.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  January 1, 2016 at 12:43 PM

                • That is an adventure. It has changed a bit, hasn’t it? When I was in college there it seemed like a sweet little town but now it seems engulfed in pavement. And anger.


                  January 3, 2016 at 9:47 AM

                • P.S. The next web page I went to after replying to your comment had a banner ad for “The all-new Tacoma” from Toyota.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  January 1, 2016 at 12:49 PM

                • I sometimes think I should have one of those. I do like pickups. My former sister-in-law had a purple one years ago. It could be sort of a rolling vision board 🙂


                  January 3, 2016 at 9:45 AM

                • I’ve never owned a pickup but we took our trip to the Big Bend in a new Subaru Outback that we’d gotten just two days earlier. It’s the first all-wheel drive car I’ve ever had.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  January 3, 2016 at 10:29 AM

                • A friend of mine has one of those~I really like it.


                  January 4, 2016 at 8:13 AM

                • Thanks for the testimonial. I’m enjoying it so far—and still learning the features on it.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  January 4, 2016 at 8:21 AM

                • By the way, when I was notified by e-mail about this latest comment of yours, saw that it was in the post about broom snakeweed and thought a friend of yours had planted that species. Only when I went to the post itself did I realize you were talking about the car.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  January 4, 2016 at 9:00 AM

  2. I’ve enjoyed your varied botanical and geological images all this year.
    Thanks for posting.
    Happy New Year


    December 30, 2015 at 2:39 PM

    • You’re welcome, and thanks for your continued interest for so long. Congratulations for being part of a prize-winning medical team.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 30, 2015 at 3:22 PM

  3. The photo you linked to reminded me of your previous post, with the bush-of-some-kind in front of the rocks. The combination of rock and vegetation is so nice, especially when the vegetation is blooming its pretty little head off.

    My first thought was that this looks like broomweed.Then, I discovered that broomweed and broom snakeweed are on the same page in Enquist’s book.


    December 30, 2015 at 9:21 PM

    • That page in Enquist indicates that broom snakeweed and broomweed both used to be classified in the genus Xanthocephalum (which means ‘yellow head’). Enquist also mentions that broom snakeweed is uncommon in central Texas, but his photograph is from Bee Cave Rd., adjacent to Austin. Maybe someday I’ll see the plant here and not have to go out to Big Bend or New Mexico to find it. In the picture from Albuquerque last year, the dark rock was as much a protagonist as the flowering plant.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 30, 2015 at 11:08 PM

  4. I wondered if this part of the country might be awash but I see that it is not. http://www.nps.gov/bibe/upload/DAILYREPORT-19.pdf In fact there is an extreme water shortage throughout the park.


    December 31, 2015 at 4:03 AM

    • It’s good to hear that you’re awash in information this morning (night by you). I didn’t realize that the Chisos Basin is a little over a mile high, nor that it gets more rain than other measured sites in the park. That part of Texas is in the Chihuahuan Desert, and that’s why you see so little rain reported there for the year. West TX is an anti-NZ.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 31, 2015 at 8:14 AM

  5. That is some fine massive splash of yellow.

    Steve Gingold

    January 1, 2016 at 6:25 PM

    • It was that large yellow flourish in the desert that caught my attention and made me stop, which I’m glad I did.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 1, 2016 at 6:27 PM

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