Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

How long could Portraits of Wildflowers go without showing a wildflower?

with 29 comments


The answer to the title’s question is: till today, after a bunch of pictures that mostly played up the grand scenery of the Southwest and California (and before other occasional trip pictures that will keep doing so). Now you’re looking at Penstemon barbatus, which I found flowering at Arizona’s Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument on October 21. The many common names for this attractive wildflower include scarlet bugler; beard-lip penstemon; beard-lip beardtongue; red penstemon; red beardtongue; goldenbeard penstemon; goldenbeard beardtongue; and Saint Joseph’s staff, along with its Spanish equivalent, varita de San José (I don’t know which is the original and which the translation).

Thanks to Kirstin Olmon Phillips, the botany collections manager at the Museum of Northern Arizona in Flagstaff, for identifying this species. You can read more about it if you’d like.

© 2016 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 7, 2016 at 5:11 AM

29 Responses

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  1. And because you are posting them now, they make me think of Christmas bells.


    December 7, 2016 at 6:36 AM

    • With that reference to Christmas red, I hope your country has a good showing of pōhutukawa flowers this month.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 7, 2016 at 7:58 AM

      • Yes, I believe the display is on.


        December 7, 2016 at 8:31 PM

        • When I first saw your comment in isolation and therefore out of context, I took display to mean ‘computer monitor’.

          I know pōhutukawa trees grow natively on North Island, but I expect people have planted a few where you are.

          Steve Schwartzman

          December 8, 2016 at 6:10 AM

          • I expect there are some where I am. I have seen some lovely red blossomed trees in the neighbourhood but haven’t had a chance to stop and investigate. From the car, I can’t really tell what they are.


            December 8, 2016 at 7:18 AM

    • Here’s a serendipitous discovery: the Missouri Botanical Garden lists them as “Jingle Bells”.


      December 7, 2016 at 8:21 AM

      • If you’re going to have a successful cultivar, you have to cultivate a good name for it.

        Steve Schwartzman

        December 7, 2016 at 8:45 AM

      • Excellent. And I have finally found the connection to Saint Joseph’s staff – I did not know that the staff of Joseph bloomed as a sign that he was the one chosen to be Mary’s husband. ( Hmm…..there may be other connections, of course.)


        December 7, 2016 at 8:40 PM

        • The legends are wonderful. Some early, non-canonical gospels tell of a dove flying from Joseph’s staff. Later, the dove was changed into flowers blooming on the staff. One of the sources is called the Protoevangelium of James, but there are others — none of which made it into the canon.


          December 7, 2016 at 8:54 PM

  2. Brilliant against that blue sky!

    Pat Lanier

    December 7, 2016 at 8:00 AM

    • I was grateful to have an adjacent place on the ground to lie down and line these saturated red flowers up against a panel of clear blue sky.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 7, 2016 at 8:15 AM

  3. I didn’t know what to call those cute little curved things attached to the stem below each flower, but I think they must be the “narrow, lance-shaped to linear, willow-like, medium green stem leaves” the Missouri Botanical Garden references in their description. In any event, they helped to reinforce the impression of Spanish wrought iron. Even without that luscious color, the shape of the plant would make a lovely repeated pattern in a wrought iron gate or balcony.


    December 7, 2016 at 8:24 AM

  4. Not too long, I’m happy to see. What lovely penstemons!
    I wanted to tell you~I’ve been reading,”Wandering Through Winter” by Edwin Way Teale. Are you familiar with his work? He was a naturalist back in the 60’s whose writings I really enjoy. In this book he finds himself in the desert in the general vicinity where you were, and he is discovering desert varnish! What a coincidence. He also describes Asclepias albicans, and is put in mind of the White Queen who sometimes believes as many as six impossible things before breakfast. Clearly a man of like mind.


    December 7, 2016 at 10:11 PM

    • We didn’t see a lot of wildflowers so late in the year, and by far the most common were bushy composites that thrive in the desert and that have yellow flowers. In contrast to that, these delicate red flowers really stood out.

      I’ve heard of Edwin Way Teale but confess I’ve never read anything of his. I see that Wandering Through Winter is the last part of a four-season series. Have you worked your way through the other three seasons?

      Speaking of Asclepias, I encountered a rare endemic species in some sand dunes in southern Utah. Eventually I’ll show a picture of it.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 8, 2016 at 5:39 AM

      • I’ll look forward to that~I’m a fan of the milkweeds. I haven’t yet read any of the other “season” books by him~winter seemed a good place to start. I do have another by him~”A Naturalist Buys a Farm” I think it is called. I read that a few years ago and it planted the seeds of longing I have for my own little bit of ground.


        December 8, 2016 at 6:51 AM

  5. The wrought iron in Jude’s link is gorgeous! Hmmm…


    December 7, 2016 at 10:13 PM

  6. That is just gorgeous! Thanks Steve .. 😄


    December 9, 2016 at 7:25 PM

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