Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Silverpuff gone to seed

with 26 comments

Silverpuff Puffball 3345

When I was photographing Chaptalia texana on February 2nd in the parking lot of my local Costco, I couldn’t help noticing that some of the plants had already aged into producing the seed heads that account for the common name silverpuff. You can see that this wildflower in its late stage is central Texas’s native answer to the invasive Eurasian dandelion.

On the technical side, I’ll add that I put myself in a position from which I could line up the puffball with an area of heavy shadows on the ground about 10–15 ft. away.

© 2016 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 13, 2016 at 5:02 AM

26 Responses

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  1. Great contrast, Steve – love seeing the many edges!


    February 13, 2016 at 8:18 AM

    • In contrast to some of my other pictures, you might say that’s what gives this portrait an edge.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 13, 2016 at 8:24 AM

  2. They look like tiny linen fibers ^_^


    February 13, 2016 at 10:03 AM

    • The resemblance to tiny linen fibers never occurred to me, but our words line and linen are related.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 13, 2016 at 10:27 AM

  3. Ah, there it is~ I was hoping you would show it gone to seed. Lovely, plant and photo. I forgot to ask yesterday, is it pollinated by bumblebees? I would think it would take one to wedge itself up in there.


    February 13, 2016 at 10:08 AM

  4. I immediately thought of dandelions upon seeing the image. I don’t mind them although Mary Beth plucks as many as possible. We also have hawkweed which can be just as annoying to some. I’d be happy to see these in our yard.

    Steve Gingold

    February 13, 2016 at 7:06 PM

    • I looked online and saw that yellow hawkweed flower heads look a lot like the common dandelion. I’m assuming they turn into puffballs too. Silverpuff is a welcome native substitute, though it’s not nearly as prolific as the dandelion.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 13, 2016 at 8:47 PM

  5. Beautiful Steve! Brings back childhood memories 🙂


    February 13, 2016 at 11:20 PM

    • Happy childhood memories. I grew up in New York with dandelions in our lawn, but here’s a substitute that’s native in central Texas.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 14, 2016 at 9:54 AM

  6. The wonderful contrast here only heightens the flower’s resemblance to various fountains that were, after all, meant to mimic dandelions. We’ve got one here in Houston, on Allen Parkway. There are some beauties in Brisbane, and a pair (or more) in New York. Maybe they’re meant to evoke memories in the same way the gone-to-seed flowers do.

    Speaking of seeds and fluff, I was astonished last week to discover that ball moss produces fluff. For whatever reason, a worker at the yacht club was up in a live oak, chopping at ball moss with a hoe. Since he and his pals didn’t pick up the mess, I stopped to have a look. I couldn’t believe all those long filaments, and opened pods, and piles of white fluff. I brought some home, of course, and had a little photo session. It was fun.


    February 14, 2016 at 6:51 PM

    • I think I know that fountain on Allen Parkway. I’d gladly see the ones in Brisbane if it meant I got to see Brisbane, a place I’ve never been. Any in New York are most likely since my time there, which ended (except for visits) more than 40 years ago.

      As for ball moss, I’ve seen the long filaments and opened seed capsules at the end, but I don’t recall ever noticing any fluff. Could the fluff have been wafted there from somewhere else?

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 14, 2016 at 7:27 PM

      • It could have been, but even at the time I didn’t think so, because it was relatively thick, clinging to many of the capsules, and covering the ball. I found this, on the Austin Tree Specialist site:

        “The seeds dispersed by the dried flowers resemble those of the common dandelion. As small bits of white fluff, they are carried from tree to tree by the wind.

        As wind blows over the top of a tree, a slight updraft is created beneath the tree. This aids the ball moss seed to move up into a tree. Ball moss is found most often on the bottoms of limbs partly because of the way the seeds are deposited.

        The fluffy seed of the ball moss adheres best to rough barked trees. While possible, it is less frequently seen on smooth barked trees such as crape myrtle or sycamore. In addition, trees that regularly shed large pieces of bark such as pecans seldom have large infestations of ball moss. Oaks, with their roughly textured and thick bark, provide a very good surface for the seed to adhere.”

        I only kept one photo because they weren’t so good, but if you look on the right side of this one, you can see some of the fluff. I’ll take a look tomorrow and see if I can find a better example.


        February 14, 2016 at 7:48 PM

        • That seems to clinch it, all right. Apparently I haven’t looked closely enough. Yet another case of live and learn.

          Steve Schwartzman

          February 14, 2016 at 7:55 PM

          • It’s also another instance of convergent evolution: plants in different families evolve a similar structure.

            Steve Schwartzman

            February 14, 2016 at 7:57 PM

          • I certainly wouldn’t have known about it, had I not seen the fellow walking around in the live oak with a hoe in his hand. I still can’t get over that.


            February 14, 2016 at 8:04 PM

            • Now I’ll have to be on the lookout for that fluff. You won’t, however, find me up in a live oak with a hoe.

              Steve Schwartzman

              February 14, 2016 at 8:58 PM

  7. Great positioning Steve .. Top shot!


    February 15, 2016 at 2:11 AM

  8. […] little puffball seed heads tell you that this is another member of the sunflower family, like the silverpuff that recently appeared here. Leaves on this species tend to be tiny or absent, but the green (Greek chlor-) stems carry out […]

  9. How beautiful!
    And a perfect background 🙂


    March 6, 2016 at 9:42 AM

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