Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Half a year out of sync

with 19 comments

It had happened before. Still it startled me, as if an April Fool’s Day trick. The field guides say that Ageratina havanensis (a bush known as shrubby boneset, Havana snakeroot, white mistflower, white shrub mistflower, and just plain mistflower) blooms in the fall. Nevertheless, here it was putting out flowers in my neighborhood on April 1, half a year out of sync.

My encounter came late in the afternoon, with the sky heavily overcast and the wind blowing. Like it or not, that combination called for flash.

© 2017 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 3, 2017 at 5:02 AM

Posted in nature photography

Tagged with , , , , ,

19 Responses

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  1. I’ve been fighting strong winds and heavy clouds for two weeks down here, and never had thought of using flash. Silly me. Now I have something new to try.

    I love blue mistflower, and was feeling a little chagrined that I don’t remember seeing this beauty. Then, I consulted the distribution maps, and felt a little better. I’ll put it on my list of things to look for when I’m roaming around the hill country, and I won’t wait until September to start looking.


    April 3, 2017 at 7:18 AM

    • Both are called mistflower and are in the same part of the sunflower family, but the blue is a forb while this one is a bush. Austin lays claim to both species. I’d also looked at the distribution map and was reminded that in the United States Ageratina havanensis grows only in Texas, mostly in the south-central part of the state. The havanensis refers to Cuba, where the species also grows, as it likewise does in Mexico. I wonder if the bush normally blooms throughout a greater part of the year in the tropical climate of Cuba than it traditionally has done in central Texas. If so, Texas is catching up.

      With flash I usually set the camera manually. I guess at the settings for a first picture, see how it came out, them make adjustments to the camera’s settings.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 3, 2017 at 7:38 AM

  2. Great and Excellent Work. As an Photographer i can understand how much efforts and patience are needed to capture nature in our clicks. I started Photography to inspire others to have a look at beautiful nature and now i am trying to share my work with photographers at https://www.behance.net/NitinKhannaOR so that they could learn. Have a look on my work and let me know how is it

    Nitin Khanna

    April 3, 2017 at 8:30 AM

  3. It’s intriguing that Nature will throw us a curve-ball on occasion. I remember you posting something similar last year…I think it was last year…although possibly not the same plant.

    Steve Gingold

    April 3, 2017 at 9:46 AM

    • You’re right. This very same bush suddenly bloomed out of season like this once before, last year I think. In an earlier year I noticed that it kept flowering from the fall through a mild winter and even a bit into the spring before finally stopping till the next fall.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 3, 2017 at 11:29 AM

  4. The weather patterns have been causing many curve balls lately. I heard parts of Connecticut got snow on April 1st.

    Lavinia Ross

    April 3, 2017 at 11:50 AM

    • That’s actually not a departure from the historical pattern. I remember snow on Easter Sunday in New York City in 1970 (or possibly is was a year or two after that). Still, the average temperature has been rising, and some species have been changing their traditional range in response.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 3, 2017 at 11:55 AM

  5. Twice out of sync; I wonder if you’ll later be able to deduct if this early bloom is some type of omen or ‘flag’ for a weather event…

    Beautiful image! Thanks for sharing how it was taken.

    • I traded e-mails today with someone from the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. He said maybe it’s time to rethink what the normal bloom period for this species is.

      Glad you like the picture. Flash made the flowers light up against that ominous sky. It’s not how I saw it in reality, but it stands on its own as an image.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 3, 2017 at 10:16 PM

  6. Maybe it is time to rethink what the normal bloom period is but perhaps there is a micro climate issue involved too. For example, my lavender and my peonies are often out of sync with others in the neighbourhood. They seem to flower when the conditions are right for them.


    April 4, 2017 at 6:04 AM

    • Good hypothesis. I, too, have seen instances of micro climates, but the guy from the Wildflower Center said that he lives one county away from the one I’m in and he confirmed that this species is doing the same thing over there, which must be at least 30 miles away.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 4, 2017 at 8:14 AM

      • I wonder if normal bloom times have already been adjusted for other plants at other times, other than commercial crops which can be bred to produce at different times.


        April 4, 2017 at 9:18 AM

        • I suspect they have. One way to find out would be to compare old field guides with current ones. I’ve seen instances where the ranges of species have been adjusted. With warming temperatures, some species of plants and animals are being found further north in the United States.

          Steve Schwartzman

          April 4, 2017 at 9:39 AM

  7. Wow, what a super shot Steve! Amazing that the plant is so out of sync.


    April 6, 2017 at 9:40 PM

    • It’s not the first time I’ve found a plant flowering months out of sync with its traditional season. This species seems especially liable to do that.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 6, 2017 at 9:49 PM

  8. It sounds to me as if the guide books need to be updated on this one. I’m seeing all sorts of variation from the books up this-away, probably from the changing climate. It is fascinating to me to see these changes. So far the insects seem to be keeping in step although it is a little hard to tell, as we are losing so many from loss of habitat and from chemical applications.


    May 29, 2017 at 9:14 AM

    • I think you’re right about this species, since I’ve seen it blooming through the winter and into the spring in several recent years. I’m not surprised you’ve seen similar shifts in plants up that-away.

      When it comes to insects, there are so many species of them and so little of me, that I don’t have any sense of their cycles.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 29, 2017 at 11:08 PM

      • Well that Ω (Puppy typing) is certainly a point. I should have said, the species I know and follow.


        May 31, 2017 at 9:00 AM

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