Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

The best place I know for silverpuff

with 26 comments

Silverpuff Flower Head 3352

On the morning of February 2nd I went over to my local Costco because a few days earlier I’d noticed some silverpuff plants (Chaptalia texana) on a couple of the raised islands in the parking lot. (Presumably those islands were left to preserve trees when the land was leveled to build the store and make the parking lot.) As far as I can tell, nature does most of the tending of those raised plots, with the result that silverpuff has continued to prosper in its native haunt even if surrounded now by cars and commerce.

You may recall from reading posts here two or three years ago that this composite species produces long flower heads that tend not to open much, as you see here. You can also see from this latest picture that the specimens I photographed looked a little the worse for wear. That’s understandable if Marshall Enquist is correct about the typical bloom period being March through May. Ellen Schulz gives an earlier flowering period of late winter to early spring, but January, when these plants appeared, is still hardly late winter, and that month did bring us a few frosty mornings.

Because silverpuff plants are small and short, for many of the pictures I lay on a mat on the ground to do my work. (The store doesn’t open till 10:00 and I was there by 9:00, so although some cars drove past me in the parking lot there weren’t a lot of people to wonder what strange things I was doing.) The blue in the background is from patches of sky visible through the trees. The slightly cool cast of the picture as a whole comes from the fact that the silverpuff group was mostly in the shade of the trees.

On an unrelated matter, today marks the 207th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s birth.

© 2016 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 12, 2016 at 5:11 AM

26 Responses

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  1. Sometimes it’s good when we just let nature do its job. Well, actually it might be better even if we let nature do its job most of the times.
    Have a great weekend,


    February 12, 2016 at 8:24 AM

    • I’m thankful for those islands in the parking lot. Maybe it’s the fact that they’re raised that protects them from mowers and other malefactors.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 12, 2016 at 1:15 PM

  2. I am charmed to think of Costco providing islands for trees and then letting nature take its course under them. And, of course, I adore the abstract wash of colors in the background here that beautifully sets off this interesting bloom.


    February 12, 2016 at 9:54 AM

    • I’m tempted to ask about it at Costco but then I wouldn’t want to draw anyone’s attention to the benign neglect those raised islands have benefited from.

      It’s interesting that as a painter you think of those background patches of color as a wash. Paint is liquid, after all, so I can’t say I’m surprised. In contrast, as a photographer I think of those areas in terms of light and color.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 12, 2016 at 1:24 PM

  3. beautiful flower and photo


    February 12, 2016 at 11:30 AM

  4. The patterns that the closed sepals (?) make are extraordinary, perhaps an inspiration for a textile.


    February 13, 2016 at 8:48 AM

    • I think the pointy maroon-fringed structures that partially overlap are bracts, also known in this botanical family as phyllaries (and collectively as the involucre). They do make an attractive geometric pattern, don’t they? I wonder if structures like these in fact inspired ancient patterns in weaving, just as they could still do.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 13, 2016 at 9:03 AM

      • And not only weaving. The form of needlework called Bargello often utilizes such patterns. My mother was quite good at it, and taught classes back in the day, so I learned it, too. I browsed some of the stitches, and I think this adaptation of one called points is a nice pairing. Of course, a person could (and may well have) duplicate this pattern exactly. It’s generally done by laying it out on 1/4″ graph paper, and then transferring the pattern to the canvas by counting squares.


        February 14, 2016 at 6:24 PM

        • Agreed: that is a nice pairing (with something I’ve never heard of). Your last sentences lead me to say that sweet are the uses of arithmetic.

          Steve Schwartzman

          February 14, 2016 at 7:22 PM

  5. Beauty is where one finds it, so even a Costco parking lot is fair game and, as you’ve shown a few times, very productive.
    This flower makes me think of Ollie.

    Steve Gingold

    February 13, 2016 at 7:03 PM

    • I found the now-thoroughly-developed lot adjacent to this Costco much more productive for native plant pictures, but I’ll take what I can get. I never found silverpuff on that adjacent property, probably because it was too sunny.

      Interesting how the elongated flower head made you think of Ollie’s head. As soon as I saw the name Ollie in your comment I figured that had to be what you meant. Only people of at least a certain age have any memory of KF&O; I remember the show.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 13, 2016 at 7:42 PM

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