Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Red and yellow

with 23 comments

Texas Yellow Stars in Firewheel Colony 0741

The flower heads of Gaillardia pulchella, known as firewheels and Indian blankets, are red with yellow fringes. The flowers of Lindheimera texana, called Texas yellow stars, bear only the color of their common name. (A post from 2012 afforded you a much closer look at yellow stars.)

Mixed in among the colony of firewheels were some specimens of a native plant that most of you won’t know: Dracopis amplexicaulis, called clasping-leaf coneflower. Its flower heads look like those of the brown-eyed (or black-eyed) susan and the Mexican hat, but the leaves are quite different and really do clasp the plant’s stems.

Clasping-Leaf Coneflower Flower Head by Firewheels 0854

These views are from Bull Creek Rd. across from Jackson Ave. on April 14. I took pictures on this plot last year and couldn’t help noticing it was surrounded by yellow caution tape. I’d hypothesized that people had put the tape up to keep mowers from destroying all those wildflowers. This year a man saw me photographing there and came over to talk with me. He said he and some of his friends from the nursing home across the street created the wildflower garden and he confirmed that they surrounded it with caution tape to keep the mowers from destroying what anyone with half an ounce of common sense would know not to mow down (the editorializing is mine, but we agreed on the need for the tape).

© 2016 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 18, 2016 at 5:06 AM

23 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. I am pleased to hear about the tape. I hope it does its job. Here’s a different sort of tape…..https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zhubfB1OV3E …….which was brought to mind by your title.


    May 18, 2016 at 6:12 AM

    • Did you sing the song to your children?

      I found two more links in the colorful chain:



      Steve Schwartzman

      May 18, 2016 at 8:14 AM

      • I did sing it to the children. It’s a wonder my singing didn’t make them ‘cry me a river’. However, it wasn’t until I was looking for a link to post to you that I realised what an illustrious history belonged to this song. Thanks for the extra links to the song and to Hamilton. You see there’s so much more to a photo of flowers than meets the eye!


        May 18, 2016 at 7:35 PM

        • For whatever reason, I don’t recall ever hearing “I Can Sing a Rainbow” until you linked to it. That made me curious to learn who wrote it, so I searched and found it was Arthur Hamilton. I’ve known his “Cry Me a River” since I was a teenager. Apparently Hamilton is still alive at around 90 years of age. As you said, none of this has anything to do with flowers, but I’m always ready to go off on a tangent.

          Steve Schwartzman

          May 18, 2016 at 10:07 PM

          • My first memory of the song belongs to adulthood. I don’t remember hearing it as a child. Perhaps because back in those days it was a serious song for grown-ups.


            May 18, 2016 at 10:11 PM

            • The article says the song was popular back in the 1950s and ’60s, yet somehow neither of us knew it back then. As you conjectured, perhaps we weren’t grown-up enough at the time. Which reminds me of Bob Dylan’s song from the 1960s in which he sings: “Ah, but I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now.”

              Steve Schwartzman

              May 18, 2016 at 10:21 PM

  2. Steve: I lived in Texas for a year or so and never saw these flowers. Thanks for the opportunity and good work. Perhaps they’re more rural?


    May 18, 2016 at 6:51 AM

    • Thinking in terms of evolution over aeons, I’m inclined to say that everyplace was originally rural. In current-day terms, cities have covered (and continue to cover) large swaths of land that used to be rural. Just yesterday afternoon I photographed a colony of clasping-leaf coneflowers on a plot of land that now borders an expressway on the southern fringe of Round Rock, a suburb adjacent to Austin on the north. In 1970, six years before I moved to Austin, Round Rock’s population was 2811. By 2010 its population had grown to 100,000.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 18, 2016 at 8:27 AM

  3. I’ve found blue-eyed grass and meadow pinks (which I’ve also heard called Texas star, although its scientific name is Sabatia campestris), but I’ve yet to see the yellow Texas star.

    The horsemint I found recently was keeping company with both gaillardia and what was either Mexican hat or the clasping leaf coneflower. Barbed wire prevented a more certain identification, but a chat with the neighbors, whom I know, might get me permission to go in.

    I need to get back into the vacant lot across the street before the mowers show up again. There’s milkweed over there, as well as plenty of prairie verbena, Texas dandelions, and a wonderful plant I haven’t yet identified. A real estate developer owns it, and they’ve been resistant to pleas to leave it unmowed. It’s not tidy, I suppose. Maybe I should put up some yellow tape.


    May 18, 2016 at 7:47 AM

    • It saddens me to admit, yet again, that many people prefer a “vacant” lot to really be vacant, which they find “tidy.” At least places plots barbed wire around them seem to get mowed less often or, better still, not at all. I hope your neighbors let you pass beyond the barbed wire. Dracopis amplexicaulis isn’t marked for your area on the USDA map (though it could have spread there by now from a few counties away), so I suspect you glimpsed Mexican hats, which in my experience are much more common and widespread.

      The yellow Texas stars carry their starness with them into a later stage. If you look along the bottom fringe of the first photograph, about two-thirds of the way from left to right, you find a tan star left behind by the Lindheimera.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 18, 2016 at 8:47 AM

      • I noticed that tan star in passing, but forgot to mention it. It’s another example of plants being as interesting in their latter stages as in bloom.

        As a matter of fact, I’ve been spending some time (more time than I imagined it would take) culling duplicate and bad photos from my stash before importing them into a new editing program. There have been some surprises, including this one. It appears I may have found horsemint far earlier than I realized.


        May 19, 2016 at 8:21 AM

        • It sure looks like the remains of horsemint. A similar species that grows in Texas is Monarda punctata, but I don’t know what it looks like when it dries out.

          Happy editing.

          Steve Schwartzman

          May 19, 2016 at 9:32 AM

      • Success! I passed the vacant lot with the barbed wire fence again yesterday, on my way to the picking farm where I get my peaches, blackberries, and veggies. I asked the woman who runs the farm if she knew who owned the land along the gravel road leading to their place. As it turned out, she’s the owner.

        When she found out I was interested in wildflowers, she put her husband in charge of the customers, and off we went in the golf cart for a tour of the place. The entire stretch of land that’s fenced off is her personal project. She’s trying to restore it to prairie grasses and wildflowers. She has another piece of land at the back of the orchards that’s designated for native plants, a pond, a native herb garden, and so on. I helped her identify a few plants she didn’t know (Brazilian vervain, meadow pinks, prairie verbena), got permission to take photos any old time, and came home with white peaches. A perfect couple of hours.

        I printed off some pages about the plants she didn’t know, then took them back to her, along with information about your blog and the Tveten and Enquist books. She has a birthday coming up, so she’s passing the information about the books on to her kids, with an admonition: “Don’t try to figure out what I want. Buy these.”


        May 29, 2016 at 8:45 AM

        • Excellent. Now you’ve got another new friend and fellow wildflower lover, so you’ve added to the nexus of your budding NPSOT-Houston offshoot. Perhaps people from the Native Prairies Association of Texas would be interested in advising on or helping with her prairie restoration:



          I know she’ll be happy with Tveten and Enquist as birthday presents.

          Steve Schwartzman

          May 29, 2016 at 9:46 AM

  4. Fantastic! That tape sounds like a brilliant idea .. well done to those wonderful people that love seeing and sharing wildflowers. They brighten the day 😀


    May 19, 2016 at 1:34 AM

    • Yes, and the tape has done its job two years in a row now. What a good project for those people in the independent living section of the nursing home. Only this year did I find out who put up the yellow tape.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 19, 2016 at 7:40 AM

  5. It’s doubly a shame that the folks needed to use caution tape..first because, as you say, people should have the sense to not mow it and, secondly, because it takes away from the beauty.
    The title reminded me of “Red touches yellow, kill a fellow”. Too bad that doesn’t help keep the mowers away.

    Steve Gingold

    May 19, 2016 at 3:27 AM

    • It is a double shame, but I know you’ll agree it’s better to have tape and wildflowers than no tape and no wildflowers. I concentrated on what was inside the border and pretty much lost sight of the tape.

      As happened with you, the post’s title reminded me of the adage about the venomous snake. Given the right stimulus, I can produce venom of my own.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 19, 2016 at 7:48 AM

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 )

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: