Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

The red and the green of cedar sage

with 29 comments

Cedar Sage Flower Stalk 9266

Above is a flower spike of cedar sage, Salvia roemeriana, from a reliable embankment along Morado Circle on March 21. When I call the embankment reliable I mean that for the past few years it has hosted cedar sage flowers each spring. The embankment is also reliably steep enough and covered with enough dry leaves that I’ve had a hard time holding my position on it to take pictures. In addition, the dust put into the air by a body repeatedly sliding in the dry leaf litter does “wonders” in mere minutes for the allergies of said body.

But that’s what handkerchiefs are for. My perseverance also produced a sun-sieved picture of the cedar sage’s rounded, lobed leaves and fuzzy stems:

Cedar Sage Leaves Backlit 9276

© 2016 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 17, 2016 at 5:10 AM

29 Responses

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  1. I can just feel that leaf- beautiful!


    April 17, 2016 at 5:29 AM

    • I hope you get a chance to feel the downiness in person someday. This is the most appealing picture of cedar sage leaves I’ve ever gotten, thanks to my low position and a shaft of sunlight hitting the opposite side of the leaves from me.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 17, 2016 at 6:30 AM

  2. Your struggles on that slippery slope were rewarded.

    Jim Ruebush

    April 17, 2016 at 7:26 AM

    • People speak of poetic justice. You might call this artistic or allergenic justice.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 17, 2016 at 7:39 AM

      • I hope the reaction subsided quickly.

        Jim Ruebush

        April 17, 2016 at 7:42 AM

        • It’s an occupational hazard, I’m afraid. I don’t remember how long it took for the effects to subside, but taking a shower after I get back home from photographing goes a long way toward relief.

          Steve Schwartzman

          April 17, 2016 at 7:50 AM

  3. …..these are two spectacular photographs of one gorgeous plant — the blooms remind me of my penstemon (beardstongue) plant, only more dramatic and beautiful, and then those leaves!!! wow.


    April 17, 2016 at 7:34 AM

    • Thanks for your double appreciation, Lance. I was especially pleased with the picture of the leaves, which are usually hard to get a good picture of. I can see why cedar sage flowers remind you of those of a penstemon, even though the two are in different botanical families.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 17, 2016 at 7:47 AM

  4. The leaf appears to be as much of a contortionist as you had to be, to capture that exquisite view. After some pondering, I decided I was seeing crossed stems rather than a broken stem: partly because the leaf looks so fresh and lively. The flowers are pretty, and well presented, but that leaf is a knock-out.

    Seeing the scientific name, I grew curious. That it’s named after Roemer is clear, but who would have done the naming? He was here in Texas from 1845-1847, and obviously the plant isn’t mentioned in his book — it wouldn’t have carried his name at that point. The Wiki says it was introduced into horticulture in 1852, so I presume it was in those intervening years that the name was applied, but I don’t know where to go to find that kind of history.

    I’m wondering if Gray and Englemann were responsible, since their publication of Lindheimer’s collection led Roemer to seek him out. On the other hand, he did take specimens back to Germany, so the naming might have happened there. There must be books that deal with this naming process, but I haven’t been able to surface them. Any recommendations?


    April 17, 2016 at 8:39 AM

    • My instinct was to turn to the most authoritative reference book I have, Shinners and Mahler’s Illustrated Flora of North Central Texas. There I found the name Salvia roemeriana credited to someone named Scheele. I did a search and at


      found a German botanist credited with classifying the species Cucurbita texana, so he seems likely to be the same Scheele. Then at


      I found a list (albeit incomplete) of the abbreviations (or full names in some cases) of botanists credited with scientific names. There I confirmed I’d gotten the right Scheele.

      You can access the North Central Texas book for free online at


      Steve Schwartzman

      April 17, 2016 at 10:30 AM

      • It’s such fun to see how all those naturalists interacted with one another. Reading about Scheele and the Cucurbita texana, who should pop up but Asa Gray, who moved it from the genus Tristemon to Cucurbita two years after Scheele. I went looking, hoping upon hope there was a Tristemon isolde, but no such luck.

        I keep finding and forgetting about sites like BRIT. I’m going to try not to do that again. And I remember you mentioning Shinners and Mahler — probably several times. My first thought was, “Oh, I’ll pick up a copy of the book.” Yikes! I’m sure it’s worth every penny for a professional, but I believe I’ll familiarize myself with the online site first.


        April 18, 2016 at 3:46 PM

        • Yeah, it’s expensive. I bought it when it came out over a decade ago using a member discount at the Wildflower Center. Initially that was the only way to have it but years later BRIT put it on the Internet for free. I downloaded a pdf of it and that’s the version I most often use.

          Steve Schwartzman

          April 18, 2016 at 4:08 PM

    • Speaking of Wikipedia, I just watched a revealing look at “The Dark Side of Wikipedia” on Sharyl Attkisson’s CBS program Full Measure. There’s a transcript at


      Steve Schwartzman

      April 17, 2016 at 10:34 AM

      • I like Attkisson. As I was reading the transcript, I was thinking about this recent WaPo job posting. It contains some interesting phrases: “…this reporter will seek to influence the national conversation…”; “The ideal candidate has a track record of producing…agenda-setting enterprise…”; and
        “…who is…energized by producing smart takes.” The poor Five Ws and an H are out on the street, digging in trash cans and sleeping in doorways.


        April 18, 2016 at 3:19 PM

  5. Sun-sieved….that is sensational and so are the photos. It is time for me to be getting out into the field and its hazards, too. I love it, ticks and all!


    April 17, 2016 at 9:33 AM

    • For me it’s not the ticks but the chiggers, which are bound to be out in force any time now, given the rain we’ve been having.

      The phrase “sun-sieved” popped into my head last night. It’s not technically accurate because the leaf rather than the sun is acting as the sieve, but I decided to exercise poetic license and use the phrase anyhow. Anything for an alliteration (especially one echoing my own initials), right?

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 17, 2016 at 9:52 AM

  6. Beautiful ! I prefer the green…


    April 17, 2016 at 2:01 PM

  7. Such a powerful red! I appreciate how the black background shows it off. Remarkable.


    April 17, 2016 at 2:12 PM

    • That’s a good way to describe the saturated red: powerful. I’ll take “remarkable” any time; thanks.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 17, 2016 at 2:35 PM

  8. Stunning photo, worth the effort. I was like that yesterday – sliding down a dusty moldy slope trying to take photos of toadstools. And on the side of a busy highway . Still it was worth it

    Raewyn's Photos

    April 17, 2016 at 4:02 PM

    • That’s how I feel: it was worth it. It’s clear you survived your tribulation, unless your ghost wrote the comment.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 17, 2016 at 5:53 PM

  9. My, is that ever pretty!


    April 17, 2016 at 9:34 PM

  10. The backlit leaf is nicely done. The flower stalk resembles cardinal flower.

    Steve Gingold

    April 18, 2016 at 6:06 PM

    • Cardinal flowers grow here too—in my part of town, and the same species as in New England—but they’re not all that common. When I do occasionally run across one, I make sure to take advantage of the opportunity for pictures.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 18, 2016 at 7:29 PM

  11. Gosh at first glance it looks like a pineapple sage – but the leaves are all wrong. Beautiful image Steve …


    April 19, 2016 at 2:03 AM

    • I wasn’t familiar with pineapple sage so I looked it up and found it’s a relative from southern Mexico and Guatemala. I see what you mean about the flowers looking alike but the leaves being quite different. It’s good to be able to highlight (literally) the leaves because I’m under the impression that people pay a lot more attention to the rich red flowers.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 19, 2016 at 6:46 AM

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