Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Mexican hat seed head remains

with 6 comments


Two posts back you saw an early stage in the disintegration of a sensitive briar inflorescence. Now, from the greenbelt off Taylor Draper Lane on October 7th, here’s a much later stage of a different species, Mexican hat (Ratibida columnifera). If you’d like a reminder of what a fresh Mexican hat flower head looks like, you can revisit a post from 2014.

To get greater depth of field and keep more details in focus than would have been possible with natural light alone, I added flash. That mixture of light sources accounts for the sky looking darker than normal.

© 2016 Steven Schwartzman


Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 15, 2016 at 5:00 AM

6 Responses

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  1. Occasionally I hear someone echo my thought: “I wish there was a book that showed our natives in their final stages.” Not only would it help with identification, there’s a lot to enjoy when their hidden structure is revealed. I’m glad you enjoy them, too, and present them here from time to time.

    I especially like this one, and the way the center has been laid bare with seeds still attached all along its length. I’ve been slow to recognize the similarity between Mexican hat and the seed core of Anemone berlandieri, but now I see it.


    November 15, 2016 at 8:11 AM

    • While I’ve learned to identify a few species in their decayed stages, many others leave me confused or without any idea at all. Mexican hat is one I recognize. As you’ve pointed out, only when some of the seeds have fallen off can people appreciate the inner structure and the patterning along the narrow central column. What was once a hat is now a… well, I don’t know what metaphor to use.

      The similarity of an anemone seed core brings us once again to the concept of convergent evolution.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 15, 2016 at 8:56 AM

      • While I was traveling, I discovered the Cimarron grasslands were dominated by four plants: none of which I recognized. I plucked some samples, and stopped by the ranger station, where I was embarrassed to find I hadn’t recognized broomweed (which they called snakeweed) or sagebrush. On the other hand, two species were brand new: curly-cup gumweed (Grindelia squarrosa) and ten-petal mentzelia (Mentzelia decapetala), which also is known by the name “blazing star.” That brings us again to the importance of scientific names!


        November 15, 2016 at 9:20 AM

        • Except when the scientific name keeps changing. Last fall we went on a field trip with a botany professor from the University of Texas who commented ironically that things have gotten to the point where the common name is sometimes more stable than the scientific name.

          From what I can tell, several species have gotten called broomweed. The one that’s common in Austin and that is currently known as Amphiachyris dracunculoides has also been Brachyris dracunculoides, Gutierrezia dracunculoides, and Xanthocephalum dracunculoides. Check out


          for all the scientific names for what is currently known as Gutierrezia sarothrae, and which I think I saw in west Texas.

          In Martinez, California I saw plenty of specimens of a wildflower I took to be a species of gumweed. I stopped someone coming along the path and asked about it; she confirmed that it was indeed a Grindelia.

          Steve Schwartzman

          November 15, 2016 at 9:45 AM

  2. Fascinating structure here. Another plant new to me–thanks again!


    November 17, 2016 at 9:58 PM

    • You’re welcome. There’s a stricture on structure but only each plant knows what its own is.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 17, 2016 at 11:04 PM

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