Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

“What’s good for the goose is good for the gander” becomes “What’s meet for the mountain is proper for the prairie.”

with 24 comments

Snow-on-the-Prairie Flowering 8272A

The last word in this post’s title refers to snow-on-the-prairie, Euphorbia bicolor, which I photographed on September 1st along the newly extended Parmer Lane south of US 290. All that land will soon be developed now that the road has been pushed through for a subdivision, but for the time being I have access to some pieces of the Blackland Prairie where I’ve never been able to work before.

© 2016 Steven Schwartzman


Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 3, 2016 at 4:57 AM

24 Responses

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  1. An unfortunate loss … to be sure.

    Pairodox Farm

    September 3, 2016 at 6:17 PM

  2. Do I understand your post correctly? They are bulldozing prairie to subdivide for housing?


    September 3, 2016 at 8:10 PM

  3. A pox on their pitiful, pathetic “progress” plan. Preserve the prairie, please!


    September 3, 2016 at 8:59 PM

    • The prairie is the most endangered habitat, with very little remaining in anything even close to its native condition. I wish they’d preserve at least some of the area that’s about to get developed, but I don’t think there’s much chance of that.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 3, 2016 at 11:26 PM

  4. Shame …


    September 3, 2016 at 9:17 PM

    • In the meantime various native plants have sprung up and I’m taking advantage of that, as you see in today’s picture.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 3, 2016 at 11:27 PM

  5. Your title brought to mind the translation of the Eucharistic liturgy in the Book of Common Prayer, where the officiant says, “Lift up your hearts,” and the people respond, “It is meet and right so to do.’

    There’s not much heart-lifting about the thought of yet more prairie being scalped by developers. Still, looking at the plants, it’s striking that their stems look like arms uplifted in prayer. It’s a reminder that it was, after all, Peter and Susan Conaty and their Episcopal congregation in West Columbia who largely were responsible for saving Nash Prairie. Peter said once, “We nagged and prayed them to death,” which always amused me. Whatever brought it about, Nash stands as witness to what a community can do. Peter’s been undergoing months of treatment for cancer, but tells his doctor all he wants is to go back to work. It’s not just the ironworkers and electricians that should be honored on Labor Day.

    As for the plants, I spent yesterday afternoon roaming Armand Bayou, and there was snow-on-the-prairie aplenty: not huge stands, but many individual plants and smaller clumps. I’m told there’s an area filled with it, but I was too tired to make the trek out. Maybe today.

    Are the red stems a sign of an aging plant? I don’t remember seeing any yesterday. All the plants were fresh and green.


    September 4, 2016 at 7:47 AM

    • You’ve raised a good question about the red stems. I often see them on both local snow-on-the- species. For example:



      Whether the reddishness correlates with age, I have no idea, but I’ll bet some botanists do.

      And look at Chamaesyce, which has sometimes been classified as Euphorbia:


      I’d considered adding a footnote for the adjective meet because the word is archaic and my guess is that few people understand it now. I think the only place someone encounters it these days is in historical documents or rituals like the liturgy you mentioned.

      As for Nash Prairie, I still haven’t made it there, but one of these days I will. An online article quotes Father Peter Conaty as saying of the Nash Prairie: “In theology, we talk about a thin place where heaven and earth meet, where we will find God. And this is where I find God.”

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 4, 2016 at 8:03 AM

      • Another red-stemmed plant that came to mind is Ludwigia octovalvis, which I’ve seen in the Brazoria area quite a bit. In fact, the first time I saw the Ludwigia was the first day I paid any attention to Snow-on-the-whatever. Nothing amuses me more these days than how often I’ve had a “rare” find, and then bumped into the same flower happily and prolifically blooming. Yesterday, there was ironweed mixed in with the Euphorbia.

        There were some plants I recognized for the first time, too: partridge pea, rattlesnake master, and the purple leatherflower look-alike, Clematis crispa. And, at the entrance, there were exactly nine yellow rain lilies, which I’m pretty much convinced now are copper lilies. Another wildflower photographer I met said that there’s been discussion on Facebook about the identity of the same flowers that have popped up at the San Jacinto monument. Some say yellow rain lily, some say copper. What I found that I’d missed in the Tveten book clearly supports an ID of copper lily: “…it bears a single golden yellow, trumpet-shaped flower that may be tinged with red on the outer surface.”

        Here’s a photography question for you. Given the hours that Armand Bayou is open, generally 9-4, or noon to 4 p.m., there are plenty of days when it’s impossible to escape bright sunlight. I’ve been messing around, trying different settings to get better results, but I’m still not happy. Any tips?


        September 4, 2016 at 8:43 AM

        • I’ve never come across Clematis crispa, which from online photographs seems to have a paler shade of violet/purple than the purple leatherflower I’ve seen in central Texas.

          The flower in your latest post is leaning, and now you’re leaning toward identifying it as a copper lily. Speaking of which: a few days ago I found some copper lilies in southeast Austin, a place where I’d never before seen any. Only two still had a flower, the others having progressed to the seed stage. And yes, parts of the outer surface can verge on red.

          While bright sunlight often unenhances a landscape photograph, I find that it doesn’t make much difference for closeups of the type I’ve so often shown here. In fact the brightness allows for greater depth of field than is possible in fainter light. At the same time, bright light can preserve annoying details in the background, so it’s a good idea to compose a close subject at an angle in which the background is as dark as possible and therefore will have as little detail as possible.

          Steve Schwartzman

          September 4, 2016 at 9:56 AM

    • By the way, I found that the land shown here and many undeveloped properties for miles around it had good amounts of snow-on-the-prairie. Like you, I didn’t notice any huge or especially dense stands, but there were lots of clusters for me to play with photographically. I returned the next morning for another couple of hours of photoplay.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 4, 2016 at 8:18 AM

  6. This one does not appear hereablouts.

    Steve Gingold

    September 4, 2016 at 3:49 PM

    • Right you are. The USDA map shows it for the Southeast, so apparently it can’t tolerate the cold winters north of the Mason-Dixon Line.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 4, 2016 at 5:56 PM

  7. I love this stuff. And what a year for it! We’ve got numerous pockets where it’s proliferating like crazy around Denton right now, and I so enjoy seeing cows, horses, goats out wading through what looks almost like a giant bubble bath these days. Good clean living, eh.


    September 6, 2016 at 2:15 PM

    • I’m crazy about it too. Good to hear it’s plentiful up your way—and you’ve even got cows in it, which I haven’t yet seen anywhere. Have you drawn/painted the plants, with or without bovine additions?

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 6, 2016 at 4:16 PM

  8. […] you’ve been able to confirm from the recent pictures of snow-on-the-prairie and snow-on-the-mountain and goldenrod, central Texas has gone into full fall botanical mode, even […]

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