Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Stop and smell the nerve-ray

with 12 comments


On September 12 along a trail following the upper reaches of Bull Creek I found a few late-in-the-season flower heads of Tetragonotheca* texana, known as nerve-ray or square-bud daisy (did you notice the green square?). While most species of yellow daisies—and there’s a slew of them in central Texas—don’t have much of a scent, this one is fragrant, so I always make myself stop and smell the nerve-ray.

In the United States the aptly named T. texana grows only in Texas. Travis County, where Austin is, marks the northeastern corner of the species’ range. Lucky us.

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* A tetragon is a four-angled figure: Greek tetra = 4 and gon = angle (and theca = a place to put something, a receptacle, a case). Notice that the more common Latin-derived word quadrilateral names the figure for its four sides rather than its four angles.

© 2016 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 6, 2016 at 4:58 AM

12 Responses

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  1. so unusual wish i had it in my garden ty

    kathleen ricciardi

    October 6, 2016 at 11:53 AM

    • Most people in the United States don’t know about this wildflower. Probably many in Austin don’t either, even though it’s not rare.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 6, 2016 at 12:09 PM

      • it is not rare?

        kathleen ricciardi

        October 6, 2016 at 12:17 PM

        • It’s not among our most common wildflowers but it’s not rare either. I see it often enough in certain places in my northwestern part of Austin. What is uncommon, at least in my experience, is the fact that this yellow daisy is the only one in central Texas that has a fragrance.

          Steve Schwartzman

          October 6, 2016 at 1:47 PM

  2. If I’ve ever come across this, I’ll bet I assumed it was missing most of its ray flowers: perhaps because it was fading away. Now I see those few rays are standard equipment, so to speak. Honestly, with that green square beneath, it looks like something that would be served up as salad in a high-end restaurant.

    The way you’ve positioned it, more diamond-like than square, is really attractive. And there are those Aries-shaped stigmata I first noticed on the skeleton flower. (What is the approved plural for ‘stigma’ in botany? ‘Stigmata’ carries so many other associations it feels wrong, but ‘stigmas’ doesn’t quite do it, either.)


    October 7, 2016 at 5:00 AM

    • Now that you mention it, in a restaurant last night I had a couple of tacos that were made in a squared-off, pinched-up fashion reminiscent of the buds of this species.

      Like you, when I hear stigmata I immediately think of the religious sense. My guess is that botanists say stigmas for the plural. Where’s a botanist when we need one?

      Now that you know about nerve-ray, your chances of finding some strike me as pretty good on one of your stays out by Bandera.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 7, 2016 at 5:33 AM

  3. Wonderful Steve .. it pops against the background 😄


    October 8, 2016 at 5:48 PM

    • For the dark part of the background at the top I was fortunate that I could aim toward some shadowed trees. I was also fortunate that no other plants were too close in the lower half.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 9, 2016 at 5:57 AM

  4. Your title sounds like an invitation to a deviously-conceived dis-aster.


    October 9, 2016 at 10:29 PM

  5. A strong image of a beautifully quirky flower. What a bonus that it smells good too. Does it get grown in gardens too?


    October 13, 2016 at 1:53 PM

    • Thanks for appreciating this image.

      I’m no gardener, so I’m afraid I don’t know to what extent people grow this wildflower in their gardens. I searched for a few minutes but didn’t turn up any nurseries that sell it.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 13, 2016 at 2:28 PM

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