Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

And what is so rare as a day in June?*

with 16 comments

Castilleja sessiliflora, downy yellow painted cup. "An extremely rare plant in our area...Probably the world's easternmost colony of the natural range of this species occurs near Zion in Lake County, Illinois, where it grows in sandy soil..." ~Swink & Wilhelm

Make that: And what is so rare on a day in June? Answer: Castilleja sessiliflora, known as downy yellow painted cup, which I photographed at Illinois Beach State Park on June 9th. In identifying this wildflower for me, Melissa Pierson quoted Swink and Wilhelm: “An extremely rare plant in our area…. Probably the world’s easternmost colony of the natural range of this species occurs near Zion in Lake County, Illinois, where it grows in sandy soil….” Here’s a closer look from lower down:

Castilleja sessiliflora, downy yellow painted cup. "An extremely rare plant in our area...Probably the world's easternmost colony of the natural range of this species occurs near Zion in Lake County, Illinois, where it grows in sandy soil..." ~Swink & Wilhelm

Most Castilleja species I’ve seen in person or in pictures have had reddish-orange bracts. The closest in color that any central Texas Castilleja species comes to what you see in this photograph is Castilleja purpurea var. citrina.

© 2016 Steven Schwartzman


* The title is the opening line of a once-well-known poem by the once-well-known American poet James Russell Lowell.

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 8, 2016 at 5:01 AM

16 Responses

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  1. A rare beauty.

    Gallivanta

    September 8, 2016 at 5:54 AM

    • It’s rare that far east, but I just found out that the species has a fairly wide distribution across the central part of the country.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 8, 2016 at 7:17 AM

  2. It does have a bit of an Indian paintbush-like look about it. At first glance, the color and the feathery bracts brought the yellow-green version of spotted beebalm to mind, but a second glance made clear the differences.

    Speaking of rarities, I stopped by Half-Price Books on Labor Day to see what they might have on the shelves. I found a book called Rare Plants of Texas. When I saw Bill Carr named among the authors, I picked it up, and I’m glad I did — especially for $7.99, less twenty percent.

    shoreacres

    September 8, 2016 at 5:55 AM

  3. Oh, these images gladden my soul! 🙂

    melissabluefineart

    September 8, 2016 at 8:43 AM

    • I think they’re both different from the one I sent you for identification. Yesterday I learned that sometimes the bracts of this species turn a pale pink, but of course there’s no hint of that in the specimens I saw at Illinois Beach. Hard to believe these photos will be three months old tomorrow.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 8, 2016 at 9:42 AM

      • Early summer seems like a distant dream. I believe they do turn pink toward the end of their season. Then the entire plant disappears~you’d find no trace of them out there now. Kind of surreal.

        melissabluefineart

        September 8, 2016 at 10:00 PM

        • And yet the non-surreal reality is that the plants return the next year.

          Your first sentence reminds me of Paul Simon’s “Michigan seems like a dream to me now.”

          Steve Schwartzman

          September 8, 2016 at 10:08 PM

  4. Great work and thanks for the explanation.

    elmdriveimages

    September 8, 2016 at 9:53 AM

    • Thanks and you’re welcome. I figured almost no one would recognize the quotation about June.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 8, 2016 at 9:57 AM

  5. I can see the similarity to Indian Paintbrush, which we cherish in northern Minnesota. Do you have them that far south, as well?

    krikitarts

    September 8, 2016 at 8:55 PM


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