Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Corn salad

with 19 comments

Corn Salad Colony with Prickly Pear Cactus 8530

Why anyone would call this plant corn salad, I don’t know. I do know that a colony of Valerianella amarella can cover a good expanse of ground in meadows and on prairies, yet individual flowers are tiny, only 1/16 to 1/8 of an inch across (1.5–3 mm). They often grow in a loosely rectangular array comprising two pairs of clusters: call it white geometry and you’ll get no argument from me. The second picture looks straight down at one pair of clusters. I noticed that the ant burrowed into the center of several of the flowers, and I conjectured, rightly or wrongly, that it was going after nectar. There’s no need to conjecture about what I was going after—photographs—nor about their provenance—an area along Yaupon Dr. on March 20.

Ant on Corn Salad Flowers 8478

© 2016 Steven Schwartzman


Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 26, 2016 at 5:09 AM

19 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. Beautifully white: I like the black ant contrast, Steve.


    March 26, 2016 at 5:53 AM

    • You’re the first person here ever to use the phrase “beautifully white” in a comment. I like it. And yes, the ant offers up a welcome spot of contrast.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 26, 2016 at 6:42 AM

  2. I love how you always have such sharp, clear photos.
    Do I see Minnie Mouse hiding among the clusters?


    March 26, 2016 at 6:37 AM

    • The closer the camera gets to a subject, the more likely it is that not everything I’d like to have sharp comes out sharp. If a picture falls too far short of what I wanted, I throw it away. Sometimes I can crop off bad sections of a photograph and still have a large enough good section to show people. In this image I cropped off about 40% of the peripheral area but it was mostly just unneeded background; I would have composed more tightly to exclude that periphery in the first place, but my lens wouldn’t focus any closer.

      If you see Minnie Mouse, you have a better imagination than I do.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 26, 2016 at 6:56 AM

      • Cactus pads top left.
        BTW, I AM working to get more sharpness in clusters of flowers. You are a great model to emulate.


        March 26, 2016 at 7:01 AM

  3. I wonder if the name might refer to shoepeg corn: a white cultivar of sweet corn? The shape of the petals does mimic the look of the kernels, and shoepeg was favored for vegetable salads at midwestern gatherings when I was growing up. Combined with red and yellow peppers, diced carrot, celery, and so on, it was quite tasty.

    I found a ground cover I’d never seen — or never noticed — yesterday. It’s amazing how much detail an up-close-and-personal photo can offer. Being the fan of white flowers that I am, this one’s especially delightful.


    March 26, 2016 at 6:53 AM

    • Yours is a more detailed conjecture about the name corn salad than any I’ve seen, but I think the name goes back farther than that cultivar. You prompted me to look further just now than I had previously and at


      I found this about the genus Valerianella: “plant so called from being commonly found as a weed in grain fields.” Note that that requires the British sense of corn as ‘grain.’ The same Wiktionary entry also defines the term corn salad as “Any of the small plants in genus Valerianella, used in salads and as an herb, especially Valerianella locusta.”

      It seems, then, as often happened, that the British common name for a plant got transferred to something related or similar-looking in the New World.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 26, 2016 at 7:19 AM

    • Were you able to identify the ground cover you found yesterday?

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 26, 2016 at 7:26 AM

  4. I like how the cactus is nestled in the corn salad like a spikey condiment. The white flowers are delightful.


    March 26, 2016 at 7:28 AM

    • Oh, I wouldn’t want to eat any of that condiment. It would stick to the insides of my mouth, so I’ll stick to ketchup, mustard, and pickle relish.

      The corn salad comes and goes with the seasons, but in Texas the prickly pear pads are always with us.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 26, 2016 at 7:44 AM

      • soon they will be greening up, here. It always amazes me that cactus can survive our winters, but they do. They just shrivel up and get mushy.


        March 30, 2016 at 8:59 AM

  5. Prickly pear pads and fruits can be consumed after the outer surface has been cleaned with a vegetable peeler.

    The flowers are lovely little things.

    Steve Gingold

    March 26, 2016 at 12:41 PM

    • And even more easily in Texas, Latino grocery stores sell fresh pads with their spines and glochids already removed. I’ve read that during droughts ranchers have sometimes used blowtorches to burn the spines off prickly pears so their cattle could eat them.

      I have a feeling these flowers may be mostly appreciated en masse because individual ones are so small that most people don’t get a good look at them.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 26, 2016 at 1:37 PM

  6. […] The two prairies referred to in the title are prairie bishop’s weed, Bifora americana, and prairie verbena, Glandularia bipinnatifida, which I found flowering together on March 20 in the area along Yaupon Dr. that produced the pictures you recently saw of corn salad. […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: