Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Flowers that have no petals

with 44 comments

When we think of flowers we usually think of petals, but the truth is that some flowers don’t have petals. A good local example is elbowbush, Forestiera pubescens. Here’s a close look from February 23 at an inflorescence of the elbowbush on some of whose dead branches you saw lichens in the previous post.

Elbowbush Flowers 6012

Come to think of it, the flowers in their helter-skelter-ness and colors remind me of the lichens themselves:

Lichen on Dead Branch 6015

© 2016 Steven Schwartzman


Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 10, 2016 at 4:58 AM

44 Responses

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  1. Great pairing, Steve.

    Steve Gingold

    March 10, 2016 at 5:31 AM

  2. Forestiera looks almost parasitic for its lack of petals. I very much like(n) the dark, dramatic, background.

    Pairodox Farm

    March 10, 2016 at 8:06 AM

    • We could say that you liken the darkness to drama. That thought suddenly made me wonder whether anyone has ever staged a play, or at least a scene in a play, in total darkness. Then it occurred to me that people listening to a drama over the radio with their eyes closed were on the receiving end of such a staging.

      Less fancifully, I’ll add that the dark background is an artifact of photographing at close range using flash on an overcast day. I’ve gotten the same effect on a sunny day without flash by aiming toward a shadowed grove of trees or something else dark in the background.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 10, 2016 at 8:20 AM

      • I tried for the same effect last weekend, by aiming toward shadowed trees and adjusting the exposure compensation a bit. When I got home and discovered I’d succeeded, I was mightily pleased.


        March 10, 2016 at 8:35 AM

  3. Sometimes, nature does the pairing for you, as in the “Yellow and yellow” photo linked at the bottom of this post.

    Looking at these flowers, I was reminded of witch hazel, and I realized I wasn’t sure if witch hazel flowers have petals. I found they do, but looking at multiple witch hazel images made me wonder if the plant I found with the long, stringy, orange growths actually is witch hazel. Now, I’m unsure, edging toward doubtfull As so often happens, more research is required.


    March 10, 2016 at 8:28 AM

    • I think your link didn’t get linked.

      When it comes to pairings in nature, I’ve been thinking for several years about a collection in which every photograph would show two (or more) species. In most cases the interaction would be passive, a mere coincidence of location, but in some cases there would be more, as for example when a vine climbs on another plant.

      As for identifying plants in nature, it’s a never-ending struggle for me. Like you, I sometimes have second thoughts, and sometimes I don’t even get to a first thought.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 10, 2016 at 9:45 AM

  4. Great shots, and a very interesting comparison. 🙂


    March 10, 2016 at 8:35 AM

  5. Love these beauties, they are very inspiring to me! Thanks for sharing!


    March 10, 2016 at 8:45 AM

    • You’re welcome. I’ll bet you could do something interesting with a lichened shoe (assuming you haven’t already done so). I’ve seen flowers in your work but I don’t recall any lichen.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 10, 2016 at 9:48 AM

      • That’s correct, but seeing these beauties certainly inspired me, when it will come to realize don’t know but I stored it in my mind, so thanks for the lovely post!


        March 10, 2016 at 10:19 AM

  6. They look great together Steve! Also, sometimes what you think is a petal could actually be a tepal or a sepal.

    • It was a last-minute juxtaposition that seems to have worked well.

      And yes, the business with petals, sepals and tepals can be confusing. With elbowbush, however, none of those things occur.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 10, 2016 at 7:11 PM

  7. You’ve satisfied my lichen love with the second pic and I agree that the first picture is similar in a way to the lichens. As others have said the juxtaposition worked very well. Excellent shots!


    March 11, 2016 at 5:44 AM

    • Thanks, Jane. In another juxtaposition, your “lichen love” reminded me of Andrew Marvell’s strange phrase “vegetable love”:


      Steve Schwartzman

      March 11, 2016 at 6:32 AM

      • Thanks for the link, Steve. Vegetable love is a strange phrase…I loved the poem! 🙂


        March 11, 2016 at 6:35 AM

        • It’s a classic example of a carpe diem poem. The word vegetable originally had a dynamic sense, in contrast to today, when we talk about someone becoming a vegetable. The word is from the Latin verb vegēre, which meant ‘to move, excite, quicken, arouse.’ Vegetables do move, just on a different time scale from our own.

          Steve Schwartzman

          March 11, 2016 at 6:45 AM

  8. Great photos Steve. Do you think that lichen can kill or cause problems for trees?


    March 11, 2016 at 1:23 PM

  9. This reminds me of witchhazel blooms in the way they are arranged on the stems of the shrub, although of course they do have petals.


    March 30, 2016 at 8:36 AM

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