Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Looking up to prairie verbena

with 15 comments

Another wildflower I found on March 14 in the strip of land between Arboretum Blvd. and Loop 360 was the prairie verbena, Glandularia bipinnatifida.

© 2017 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 24, 2017 at 4:43 AM

15 Responses

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  1. My goodness, this can get confusing. I thought I’d photographed a whole field of prairie verbena last year, but it clearly isn’t this. There’s no question that the plants I found are verbena, or vervain, but which, I can’t say. I did have to laugh when I discovered that the Glandularia are sometimes known as mock vervain, or mock verbena.

    Of course, it doesn’t help that the two vacant lots that were covered with it last year have been mowed on a weekly basis this year. It makes closer inspection a bit difficult.

    I like the way you’ve captured the leaves against the sky, as well as the flowers. Those leaves are what caught my eye and whispered, “You were wrong.”


    March 24, 2017 at 6:11 AM

    • This species used to reside in the genus Verbena, and apparently still resides there for some botanists. Shinners and Mahler’s says that the move to Glandularia was “based on consistent differences including seed morphology, chromosome number, and ratio of style versus ovary length.”

      Prairie verbena can form colonies (see https://portraitsofwildflowers.wordpress.com/2012/03/31/war/) so you might well have photographed it last year. I took today’s picture close and from below, so the resulting photograph isn’t representative of how most people get to look at prairie verbena.

      On the other hand, as you noted, there are plenty of other verbenas and vervains (from verveine, the French development of verbena) in Texas. Tveten says that 36 species and varieties have been identified in the state. Let’s hope you find another colony so you can take a closer look.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 24, 2017 at 8:10 AM

      • I just noticed at https://plants.usda.gov/core/profile?symbol=GLBI2 that Glandualria bipinnatifida isn’t marked on the USDA map for your county or any of the immediately adjacent ones, so unless the field where you saw the colony was farther afield (how about that play on words?), you probably did see a different species.

        Steve Schwartzman

        March 24, 2017 at 8:19 AM

        • I went exploring this afternoon, and found what appears to be verbena in a different field. From what I can tell, it’s not the same plant that I photographed last year, but neither plant is your prairie verbena; both the leaves and the arrangement of the flowers differ.

          The other thing that caught my attention was your comment that you took the photo “close and from below.” I could get close to mine, but “below” would be tough. Even in the unmowed meadow where I was today, the plants rarely reached 6′” in height. It will be fun to sort out what they actually are.


          March 24, 2017 at 8:27 PM

          • I can solve the mystery of the camera angle. As you’ve heard many times, I often lie on my mat on the ground so I can look up at a subject. Fortunately I didn’t have to do that here. On the strip of land where I worked was a concrete culvert with a rectangular cross-section that had ground on top of it. Where the culvert emerged from the ground, growing right on the top fringe of the culvert, some prairie verbenas had had the good sense to position themselves for my benefit. The ceiling of the culvert was at about the height of my head, ideal for making pictures. If only most of my other subjects were so accommodating.

            I do hope you identify “your” verbenas.

            Steve Schwartzman

            March 24, 2017 at 9:11 PM

            • What a lucky photographer you were. And what a lucky detective I was. I happened upon this great page that made it all clear. What I found this year, and presumably last, is Verbena rigida. It isn’t native, but comes from Brazil, just like its friend, Verbena brasiliensis. If you look at the top of the page, you’ll find the Glandulariae.

              There’s no link back to the home page, so here it is. It’s from Stephen F. Austin State University, and it looks like a site a person could get lost in.

              Speaking of getting lost in a site, you might enjoy having this for your files. I think the alternate title might be “Everything You Wanted to Know About Texas Glandulariae, But Were Afraid To Ask.”


              March 27, 2017 at 7:26 PM

              • I can see where that website would be very helpful to you in League City and vicinity, and also to me here in Austin, even if we share fewer species. Thanks for the link. I’m glad it cleared up the mystery of what Verbena species you found, even if it proved to be alien.

                Steve Schwartzman

                March 27, 2017 at 10:14 PM

            • I think I got the plural form of Glandularia wrong. What should it be?


              March 27, 2017 at 7:29 PM

              • Genus names don’t normally have plurals. You’d have to say something like the title of the article you linked to: “Texas species of Glandularia.” That article’s author, by the way, is well known here in the botanical and native plant communities. Unfortunately he’s elderly and ailing now.

                Steve Schwartzman

                March 27, 2017 at 10:09 PM

  2. Such a very pretty colour and the petals look very similar to a primrose of which we are smothered with at the moment 🙂


    March 24, 2017 at 1:46 PM

    • Do you have any species of verbena there?

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 24, 2017 at 2:58 PM

      • We have several types of verbena but as far as I know they all come from South America or Asia. Bonariensis is very popular.


        March 24, 2017 at 6:13 PM

  3. While capturing a fresh bloom in all its glory is what we so often pursue, I do enjoy seeing a spent bllom in the picture as well. Especially with that patented Schwartzman blue sky.

    Steve Gingold

    March 25, 2017 at 10:36 AM

    • The spent bloom would likely keep anyone from putting this picture up on the wall or using it in a computer screen saver. I hesitated before showing this photograph here, but as you say, it’s part of life.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 25, 2017 at 11:07 AM

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