Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Gray but not blue

with 42 comments

Gray Hairstreak Butterfly on Bluets 3491

The butterfly (Strymon melinus) is called a gray hairstreak because it’s gray. The flowers (Hedyotis nigricans) are called bluets because they aren’t blue. Notice how the little hairs on the flowers harmonize with the fringes and overall fuzziness of the butterfly.

This photograph is from May 5th along Loop 360 near the Arboretum.

Note: I’m away from home and will be for a while. Please understand if I’m late replying to your comments.

© 2016 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 20, 2016 at 5:09 AM

42 Responses

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  1. wonderful photo


    June 20, 2016 at 5:14 AM

  2. What a beautiful butterfly- with wings like fur almost. You have captured him so I feel like I can feel the texture. Beautiful


    June 20, 2016 at 5:20 AM

    • Fortunately this species of butterfly is common in Austin, so I often get to see it. I don’t remember whether I’d ever before seen one on any bluets, even though those flowers are common as well.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 20, 2016 at 7:21 AM

  3. Great shot and beautiful special colorful object :)! Bye. Kamila

    Kamila Pala

    June 20, 2016 at 5:28 AM

  4. Nice work, Steven…good explanation.


    June 20, 2016 at 6:52 AM

    • I used to tell my algebra students that we use the letter m to represent the slope of a line because the word slope doesn’t have an m in it.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 20, 2016 at 7:25 AM

  5. It took me a while to find the single photo I have of bluets, but now I have an ID. The ones I found in Palacios are a delicate pink, but there’s no question they’re the same flower. When I discovered all the hairs in my photo, I thought of the crystalized sugar decorations used on fancy cakes.

    An article in the Texas Parks and Wildlife magazine said that rose bluets prefer a saline soil, which probably explains why I found mine very near the bay. And I love this: “A robust rose bluet can attain a height of one inch.”


    June 20, 2016 at 7:33 AM

    • Until the time I left Austin at the beginning of June, I was seeing bluets in many places. The plants are small — “A robust rose bluet can attain a height of one inch.” — but they’re excellent at staking a claim to the ground separating larger plants.

      As for color, I’ve observed some bluets that were essentially pure white, others that were distinctly pink, and many with shades in between those extremes.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 20, 2016 at 9:12 AM

      • I bumped into a piece commenting on the reclassification of these that mentioned Houstonia, and that reminded me of a quotation from Hawthorne’s journals that I saved. It included this:

        “May 16th (1851). . . In our walks now, the children and I find blue, white, and golden violets, the former, especially, of great size and richness. Houstonias are very abundant, blue-whitening some of the pastures. They are a very sociable little flower, and dwell close together in communities,– sometimes covering a space no larger than the palm of the hand, but keeping one another in cheerful heart and life,– sometimes they occupy a much larger space.”

        i love thinking of people so many years ago looking at the same flowers.


        June 20, 2016 at 6:29 PM

        • That’s a great find from Hawthorne. Like you I’m always excited when I come across someone commenting on the same flowers in a bygone era.

          When we were in Concord, Massachusetts, a few years ago, we visited a house that Hawthorne and his wife rented, and on the window there you can still see the inscription that he and his wife scratched into the glass. I have a feeling I mentioned that once before but there’s no harm in mentioning it again.

          Steve Schwartzman

          June 20, 2016 at 10:12 PM

  6. Sometimes butterflies are (nearly) perfectly camouflaged.
    Have a great day,


    June 20, 2016 at 8:07 AM

    • Greetings from northwestern Arkansas.

      There’s a species of butterfly in Texas that can be mistaken for a dry leaf.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 20, 2016 at 9:17 AM

      • I need to keep my eyes open. 😉


        June 20, 2016 at 9:35 AM

        • If I were home and had my Texas butterfly book I’d be more specific, but I think the butterfly I’m thinking of is a snout butterfly.

          Steve Schwartzman

          June 20, 2016 at 10:13 PM

          • Here in Fredericksburg we don’t seem to have as many butterflies as in Karnes City. We’ll have to find more shrubs they like, and hope the deer won’t like those.


            June 21, 2016 at 8:06 AM

            • I wonder what makes Fredericksburg less of a home for butterflies.

              Steve Schwartzman

              June 22, 2016 at 7:38 AM

              • I don’t know, and I’m wondering if it’s just our garden – that we don’t have enough flowers that attract them – or if it’s Fredericksburg generally.


                June 22, 2016 at 7:44 AM

  7. Beautiful composition and color, Steve! I’ve been away myself, so no worries about replying. Just catching up with everyone now.

    Lavinia Ross

    June 20, 2016 at 1:02 PM

    • Welcome back to you, Lavinia, and in a few days to me. The butterfly and the flowers both favor pastels.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 20, 2016 at 10:17 PM

  8. The fuzziness is incredible.


    June 20, 2016 at 3:16 PM

  9. Hi Steve,
    Nice shot! I know how difficult it is to capture these little guys~they can be flighty. So, how was Indiana?


    June 20, 2016 at 4:27 PM

    • Hi, Melissa. You were right in advising against doing the Indiana dunes as a day trip from Illinois. On our arrival day we spent time at the state park and at two places in the national seashore. The next morning, before heading for St. Louis, we visited another place in the national seashore. If I lived near there I’d get a zillion pictures, but I did what I could over 24 hours.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 20, 2016 at 10:34 PM

      • Yes, it has been years since I’ve been there but I remember there being LOTS to see. I’m so glad you enjoyed it and can’t wait to see the pictures.


        June 21, 2016 at 9:16 AM

        • Quite a few places at each site were closed off to the public to protect the dunes but I did what I could from where I was able to stand. We’ll see.

          Steve Schwartzman

          June 22, 2016 at 7:48 AM

          • Oh, I did hear something about that. And also to protect kids. I guess a boy was nearly lost in the shifting sands last summer. I’d forgotten that.


            June 22, 2016 at 7:53 AM

  10. Perfect harmony! Both are beautiful ..


    June 21, 2016 at 2:22 PM

  11. Your bluets are a different species than ours- Houstonia caerulea, aka Quaker Ladies.

    Steve Gingold

    June 22, 2016 at 3:13 AM

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