Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Rocks and phlox

with 26 comments

Luling has long had its Watermelon Thump and Flatonia its Czhilispiel, but last week for only the second time Llano held its Rock Stacking World Championship on the rock-rich shore of the Llano River. I missed hearing about that last event till it had already happened, but on March 21st I drove northwest 75 miles or so from where I live in Austin to see the event’s legacy. The first photograph gives you an idea.

Llano Rock Stacking 8909

For the second photograph I walked out on the prominent bridge and looked back down with a telephoto lens at another part of the scene.

Llano Rock Stacking 8892

But this is a blog about nature in general and wildflowers in particular, so let me hit my stride with a picture of some flowering phlox plants (Phlox spp.) asserting themselves amid concentric circles of rocks.

Phlox and Rocks 8977

Oh, and did the stackers of the rocks in this last photograph know that the prominent plant in front of the stack and others behind it are poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans)?

Poison Ivy by Stacked Rocks 9160

© 2016 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 24, 2016 at 5:03 AM

26 Responses

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  1. Fascinating post, Steve, though I initially thought that Doctor Seuss had taken over you blog when I read the title. I’ve never felt compelled to stack rocks, but I guess that lots of others feel such a need. I wonder if they had music at the event—rock music, I would assume.

    Mike Powell

    March 24, 2016 at 6:20 AM

    • But could the organizers afford to hire the Rolling Stones to play that rock music?

      I didn’t grow up with Dr. Seuss, so I wasn’t thinking about him when I titled this post. It seems the spirit of Dr. Seuss got loose: would you believe Dr. Steve? Like him and like you, I don’t hesitate to doctor my English too.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 24, 2016 at 6:29 AM

  2. I never met a cairn I didn’t like. We have one in front and two in back of our house.

    Jim Ruebush

    March 24, 2016 at 6:55 AM

    • It’s clear you’re not among the dodgers of altered quotes from old Will Rogers.

      We hope you’re carin’ for each cairn.
      Have the three around your house found equal favor with your spouse?

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 24, 2016 at 7:07 AM

      • Quote dodger…no. Draft dodger…yes.

        I expect she likes the animal shaped one best beneath the bird feeder.

        Jim Ruebush

        March 24, 2016 at 7:25 AM

  3. I’m in awe of the stacking in that last photo. From the shadow, it appears they actually managed to balance the bottom rock on its edge, using the little ledge underneath, and the weight of the rocks on top. I’d give them a prize in a minute.

    The second photo’s fun, too. It looks like a bunch of grade-schoolers tried to replicate Stonehenge.

    I’m not sure I would have recognized the poison ivy. I need to brush up on my ID skills with that one, and with poison oak, too.


    March 24, 2016 at 8:18 AM

    • Poison ivy is indeed a plant that you want to brush up on but not brush up against.
      There’s confusion about the names poison ivy and poison oak. People who come to Texas from other parts of the country sometimes bring the name poison oak with them, though as far as I can tell they apply it to what I would call poison ivy. There are several species and varieties of Toxicodendron, but they look pretty similar, so if you learn to recognize (and avoid) the plant shown in the last picture, you’re in good shape. In some places near the base of the Llano River bridge I saw copious amounts, enough in one case to deter me from walking along a narrow path I would otherwise have followed.

      I like your metaphor of grade-schoolers trying to replicate Stonehenge.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 24, 2016 at 8:39 AM

  4. That’s pretty impressive! My mum is utterly fascinated by rock stacking. I see it done a bit around our rocky coastal areas. It can really add something special to a view when it’s done well 🙂

    • A rocky British coast sounds more romantic than the banks of the Llano River in central Texas, but people make the best of what they have. Chances are your mum hasn’t heard of this competition, so you can alert her to it.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 24, 2016 at 2:25 PM

      • Oh I’m sharing the post with her 😀 I think the rock arrangements work differently in all landscapes! Used to only really see them when hiking at the top of hills and mountains as a marker of someone reaching the top but now they’re a kind of guerrilla artwork 🙂

  5. If they didn’t recognize the poison ivy before, I bet they were aware of it later on.

    Rock stacking you say? Andy Goldsworthy says I.

    Steve Gingold

    March 24, 2016 at 3:03 PM

    • Yeah, I thought about the possible aftermath for those rock stackers. I wonder if the organizers of the event warned participants about the poison ivy, of which there was a good deal in some places.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 24, 2016 at 3:09 PM

    • Oh, I see what you mean about Andy Goldsworthy. Maybe he should change his name to Rocksworthy or Stonesworthy.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 24, 2016 at 4:47 PM

  6. I didn’t know about that event in Llano!


    March 24, 2016 at 7:29 PM

    • Sounds like you might have attended if you’d known about it. I didn’t hear about it till afterwards either.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 24, 2016 at 7:48 PM

      • Maybe I would have – that and a fantastic barbeque at Cooper’s. 😉


        March 24, 2016 at 7:49 PM

  7. […] of rocks (as I did yesterday), on February 2nd a couple of miles from home I found a rock with a fossil in it. I assumed the […]

  8. I can’t find a schedule for next year. Please, Steve, share it with us if you find it.


    March 25, 2016 at 12:14 PM

    • I believe this was only the second time the event had been held, so I don’t know if there are plans for another round. If I hear anything, I’ll let you know.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 25, 2016 at 2:29 PM

  9. […] and Indian paintbrushes, Castilleja indivisa. That’s what I saw by a pond along TX 29 between Llano and Burnet on March […]

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