Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Old plainsman buds

with 23 comments

Old Plainsman Buds 0569

Above are some buds of old plainsman, Hymenopappus scabiosaeus, that I found at the Doeskin Ranch in Burnet County on April 8.

As a reminder of what old plainsman looks like when a colony of it flowers, here’s a picture from April 28, 2013, on the west side of Interstate 35 in far north Austin. The yellow-orange flowers are greenthread, Thelesperma filifolium, and the purple ones prairie verbena, Glandualaria bipinnatifida.

Old Plainsman, Greenthread, Verbena 1519A

I visited that field a few weeks ago but found it much less spectacular this year. Not to worry: variations in floral intensity from year to year are normal. To worry: buildings have now covered parts of this field, and eventually all the land here is bound to get developed.

© 2016 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 27, 2016 at 5:03 AM

23 Responses

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  1. It appears there’s exactly one Gaillardia pulchella in that second photo, too: appropriate, since the flowers are blanketing the landscape. I had no idea that greenthread could grow so densely, until I found a field of them last weekend. They were so dense I wasn’t even sure they were greenthread. I’ve only seen the plant scattered here and there.

    I’ve been seeing something white growing in fields and alongside roads that might be old plainsman. I need to find some and take a better look. The buds and leaves look like they’d make identification pretty easy.
    And there’s this, as an amusing side note. When I was a child, the old men — farmers, particularly. but also my father and grandfather — would refer to one another as “Bud,” regardless of given names. When I read “old plainsman buds,” it was those men who first came to mind.


    April 27, 2016 at 6:02 AM

    • As you discovered, greenthread can be a great colonizer. Discovering that in the field is even better than discovering it in a book or online. And yes, there’s at least that one firewheel. I say “at least” because others could be hidden.

      A few springs ago when we went to Houston via US 290 we saw good stands of old plainsman in various places along the way. I have the impression some people find it rather weedy, with clusters of flower heads on the smallish side. Few would suspect it’s in the sunflower family, and perhaps even fewer that its flowers are fragrant, something I had my nose reconfirm recently. The name “old plainsman” also applies to a similar species, Hymenopappus artemisiifolius, which is more common east of Austin, and therefore perhaps also near you. Its flowers have a pretty pink tinge.

      That’s funny about the different old plainsman buds you remember from childhood.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 27, 2016 at 7:59 AM

  2. How can anyone want to build on those gorgeous sweeps of color? The other day I was out in the field with a friend of mine. She commented that nature favors yellow and purple. It certainly does here~all season long the color stays pretty much the same even as species come in and out of bloom. What a fun surprise to see the much different hues you get to enjoy down there.


    April 27, 2016 at 9:12 AM

    • The reason that developers will build on this land is that it’s on Interstate 35, one of the busiest highways in the state.

      We certainly have a lot of yellow in the Austin area, in large part from our many DYCs (like the greenthread in the second picture). We have our share of violet/purple too, like the prairie verbenas, and just a while ago I noticed silverleaf nightshade flowers in abundance in a median. And then there are the other colors….

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 27, 2016 at 1:11 PM

  3. The second photo could do as a painting.


    April 27, 2016 at 12:22 PM

  4. Absolutely gorgeous photos, Steven. In our little village next to the sea, we’re facing development plans like this too. We’re fuming!


    April 27, 2016 at 12:51 PM

    • I’ll commiserate with you. I’ve lost a dozen wildflower sites to development in just the last three years. The extended Austin metropolitan area now has 2 million people.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 27, 2016 at 1:16 PM

      • In Cley there are plans to turn the allotments into a site for affordable housing …


        April 27, 2016 at 1:38 PM

        • Ah, but are there also plans to provide affordable housing for nature?

          Steve Schwartzman

          April 27, 2016 at 2:16 PM

          • No, 🤔 but thanks a lot for this great point of view, Steven! 👍🏻


            April 27, 2016 at 2:29 PM

  5. Love the common name!

    jane tims

    April 27, 2016 at 6:07 PM

  6. Your title made me think of our Plainsmen, some old, some not so old, but all past their budding stage. http://plainsmen.co.nz/ I don’t know if they have a sweet perfume but they sing with a light and pleasing air.


    April 28, 2016 at 5:27 AM

    • What a coincidence to have those Plainsmen right in Christchurch. If you know any of the members or get to talk with them after a performance, you can tell them about the old plainsman of Texas or show them these pictures.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 28, 2016 at 6:52 AM

  7. A fine example of why people should take a closer look at flowering plants. They quite often are much more interesting close up. Your comment about the fields being built reminded me of the oft mentioned futuristic movie, “Silent Running”. Eventually most everywhere that can be built upon shall be it seems.

    Steve Gingold

    April 29, 2016 at 3:41 AM

    • I’m with you. The majority of my nature pictures are closeups. Partly that’s because Austin lacks “scenic” scenery per se, the most landscapy thing around here often being a field filled with wildflowers. At the same time, a macro lens almost always reveals something worth recording.

      As for the land getting developed, you may have noticed in a comment above that the larger Austin metropolitan area recently hit 2 million people and is still growing steadily. The estimate that’s bandied about is that 110 people move here each day. That’s why I’ve lost so many photographic sites these past few years. Fortunately Great Hills Park is just half a mile away.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 29, 2016 at 8:00 AM

  8. […] in a field on the west side of Interstate 35 in far north Austin. (The second photograph in a recent post reminded you how densely flowerful that field was two years […]

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