Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

A January wildflower holdover

with 34 comments

u can

Greenthread Flower Head 1674

Greenthread (Thelesperma filifolium) is one of the most common wildflowers in Austin, and you can see at least some of these yellow daisies from the spring (when they often form large and dense colonies) until near the end of the year. The lack of a freeze so far this season meant that I kept seeing greenthread flowers in December and then January, primarily along the margins of expressways. Eve conjectured that the carbon dioxide from all the passing cars has acted as a tonic for these plants, which seems likely. What’s certain is that all those whizzing cars put a lot of noise in the ears of the photographer working not far away from them.

Today’s photograph is from January 12th at the edge of US 183 in northwest Austin.

© 2016 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 22, 2016 at 5:00 AM

34 Responses

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  1. Common can often be quite beautiful. So it does here. Maybe the Greenthread season just became year-long.

    Steve Gingold

    January 22, 2016 at 5:40 AM

    • You may well be right. Greenthread and silverleaf nightshade are probably the two wildflowers I think of as having the longest season here, which is at least close to all year. A warm winter like this one can close the cold-weather gap. We’ll see if the predicted 32° overnight into Saturday has any effect.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 22, 2016 at 5:51 AM

  2. I was sure I’d seen Greenthread on the road to Weesatch over Thanksgiving, and your photo provides another confirmation. It’s such a lovely flower, and the thread-like appearance of the foliage is just as attractive. It’s interesting that it’s in the aster family, as some of our asters have flowered well into January.

    The composition of your photo reminded me of another photo I’ve recently seen. Scott Kelly’s zinnia may not be a Texas native, but it’s a darned special flower.


    January 22, 2016 at 7:57 AM

    • I see that the USDA map confirms greenthread in Brazoria County but not Galveston County, though it could well be there too. I see the species is attested as far north as the southern part of South Dakota as well, which I hadn’t realized.

      The Asteraceae, or aster family, goes by several other common names, including sunflower family, daisy family, and composite family. The family is so large, however, that it includes many plants that don’t look like sunflowers, asters, daisies, or zinnias. I found that the extraterrestrial zinnia is part of experiments to grow food for astronauts on long missions:


      Steve Schwartzman

      January 22, 2016 at 8:16 AM

    • And I’ve seen a few stray asters here this month, too.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 22, 2016 at 8:17 AM

    • I had seen part of this story on the BBC but didn’t realise the zinnia had flowered. Very special.


      January 23, 2016 at 4:10 AM

      • Your flower is also special, Steve. Growing in tough conditions as well, and without expert assistance.


        January 23, 2016 at 4:12 AM

        • We’ll have to change “is” to “was” because that whole fringe of highway got mowed this past week. These flowers would probably have faded by now of their own accord, but others might well have sprung up to replace them.

          Steve Schwartzman

          January 23, 2016 at 7:10 AM

      • The story was completely new to me. I wonder what made people choose a zinnia.

        Steve Schwartzman

        January 23, 2016 at 7:07 AM

        • My mother always said it was the easiest plant to grow from seed, but I doubt she was thinking about space, at the time!


          January 23, 2016 at 6:01 PM

  3. Yes. I can. (Do you sneak that in for me? Working on BBNP post.)

    I can only imagine what it must be like laying down with the flowers near a highway with people in their giant metal machines whooshing past. They must all be thinking, ‘what the heck is that guy DOING?’ Or, ‘does he want to get killed?’ However, it is, we appreciate what you do for the wildflowers. Have a great weekend, Steve.


    January 22, 2016 at 9:06 AM

    • I’ve often wondered about the various things that people think I’m doing by the side of a highway. In the early days of this blog I reported on what one motorist must have thought:


      It’s turned breezy and cool here, and the Ashe junipers are spreading lots of allergenic pollen, but the hardy nature photographer endures.

      Looking forward to your Big Bend post.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 22, 2016 at 9:41 AM

      • I was hunkered down by a stop sign in Kemah a few months back, ecstatic that I’d found a nice stand of powderpuff (Mimosa strigillosa). When I became aware of the sound of a vehicle next to me, I looked up and discovered a guy grinning at me from the window of his big ol’ mud-splattered truck. I relaxed a little when he said, “I thought I was the only one who did that.” As it turned out, he worked for an oilfield company, but spent every spare day roaming the country, photographing wildflowers. You never know.


        January 22, 2016 at 10:15 AM

        • No, you never know. Who’d have expected an oilfield worker to love wildflowers and spend all his spare time photographing them? Now I can’t help but wonder what his photographs look like.

          Steve Schwartzman

          January 22, 2016 at 12:32 PM

      • I’d forgotten about the ambulance call!! That is just the best story. Thanks for resharing it. I just finished the ‘birding’ part of The Big Bend, due to post in the morning. Putting the finishing touches on the park for the next day. I need a secretary. LOL


        January 26, 2016 at 7:09 PM

        • Yes, a classic anecdote. I still feel bad for the waste of taxpayer money.

          Maybe you can train one or more of your kids to serve as part-time secretaries.

          Steve Schwartzman

          January 26, 2016 at 11:16 PM

  4. Interesting. I’ve been wondering whether any of the native plants here would begin to show longer seasons, and also whether we will eventually see no more winters (ok, quit laughing).


    January 22, 2016 at 9:36 AM

    • It seems unlikely you’ll get winterless years any time soon so far north, but I’d say it’s possible way down here, where by comparison to you this region already hardly seems to have a winter.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 22, 2016 at 9:43 AM

      • Aside from a few days in the teens and nights in the sub-zero range, we’ve had mostly 30’s and 40’s this winter. It has been delightful! Yesterday a singing cardinal woke me 🙂


        January 26, 2016 at 1:45 PM

        • As you’ve gathered, 30s and 40s down here counts as cold, not delightful. I haven’t seen a cardinal here in some time; I wonder if they head further south during the cooler weather.

          Steve Schwartzman

          January 26, 2016 at 2:41 PM

          • That is a good question. I think around here they retreat into the woods in the winter. I understand that robins do that too.


            January 28, 2016 at 9:03 AM

            • Hey, a few hours ago I was driving out of my neighborhood and when I looked to my left I saw that a cardinal was flying at about the same same speed in the same direction.

              Steve Schwartzman

              January 28, 2016 at 2:28 PM

  5. Wonderful specimen, there really is so much beauty in this world if you just stop to see it.

    Charles@Seattle Trekker

    January 22, 2016 at 5:10 PM

    • I’d been meaning to photograph some very-late-season greenthread flowers for weeks, and I finally got around to it.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 22, 2016 at 7:31 PM

  6. A great pic! I love yellow! 🙂


    January 22, 2016 at 11:14 PM

  7. […] I took this picture and the one of the greenthread that you saw two days ago, the mowers have cut everything […]

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