Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Prairie parsley on the Blackland Prairie

with 11 comments

A couple of posts back you saw an Eastern black swallowtail caterpillar that I found on a prairie parsley plant (Polytaenia nuttallii) when I visited the Blackland Prairie west of Heatherwilde Blvd. in Pflugerville on April 30th. After I went back the next day and explored a different part of the parcel, I came across a great stand of prairie parsley flowering away, as shown above. How’s that for density? The mostly red flowers mixed in, by the way, are Gaillardia pulchella, known as firewheels and Indian blankets.

The closer and more downward-looking view below reveals that some of the prairie parsley plants had begun going to seed. The purple flower heads are Texas thistles (Cirsium texanum).

© 2017 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 10, 2017 at 4:22 AM

11 Responses

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  1. I do enjoy a good stand of mixed wildflowers, and this is a great one. I had to smile at that top photo, where the yellow of the flowers and the blue of the sky have green trees tucked right between them. Nature’s color-mixing can be gorgeous.

    What I can’t quite figure out is whether there are two common species of prairie parsley — this one, and Polytaenia texana — or whether they’re synonyms. I suspect for my purposes it’s going to be a distinction without much of a difference, but it would be fun to know which I’ve seen. Both species are listed here, so I’m going to have to take a closer look.


    May 10, 2017 at 6:32 AM

    • Some sources I’ve come across list two species of prairie parsley, while others lump the two together. I’m inclined to say “Like it or lump it” and join with you in thinking it’s a distinction without much of a difference, especially when it comes to photography.

      As you know so well, I often isolate plants against a blue sky. Including the band of trees in the first picture gave me welcome variety.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 10, 2017 at 7:03 AM

  2. so is this prairie parsley welcomed at the table, or is it a wolf in sheep’s clothing like water hemlock?

    i always loved painting studies of the thistles! i’ll bet you have a closeup of one of those purple beauties…

    • Prairie parsley isn’t poisonous, so far as I know. I nibbled a bit of leaf once and found it not at all tasty. I wish it were.

      You guessed right about Texas thistles. I may show a picture of one from this season, but even if not I’ve shown a bunch in previous years. If you go down through the scrolling collection of posts at


      you’ll see plenty of them, both fresh and coming apart, alone and with many a visitor.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 10, 2017 at 8:45 AM

      • thanks! too bad i cannot inject them into the painting in progress of a section of a palo santo tree that grows on the dry rainforest area of ecuador’s coast. i fear that a study of a swallowtail butterfly or caterpillar would not work, as the oils in the tree are natural repellents. i think i’ll tuck a house wren in its branches, unless young jesus can help me find another candidate!

  3. Love the alliteration of prairie parsley plants!
    When I see the riot of plants in your photos above, I can’t help but think of CHIGGERS! I hope you avoided the tiny menaces! They would have found me!


    May 10, 2017 at 12:36 PM

    • Pretty prairie parsley plants please plenty. Chiggers please me not at all. I took the precaution of wearing hip-high boots on the prairie and so avoided the usual bites on my ankles and legs. However, to take pictures of low plants (which was most of them), I had to kneel or even sit, so I still ended up with some chigger bites on the upper half of my body.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 10, 2017 at 1:11 PM

  4. […] a comment yesterday on the recent post showing plants flowering on the Blackland Prairie, Lisa asked whether I had a closeup of a Texas […]

  5. A cloud of swallowtails to follow?


    May 12, 2017 at 7:04 PM

    • That would be nice, though I didn’t see any more of their caterpillars during my back-to-back visits to that piece of prairie.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 12, 2017 at 8:58 PM

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