Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Kansas: one out of five

with 27 comments

Last month we drove up to Kansas City for the wedding of a former student of mine. On the way back home on April 25th we came south through Kansas along US 169, and after I saw some wildflowers I felt compelled to stop in two places. I ended up photographing five species, of which only one turned out to be native. That’s a terrible average, but I guess I should be thankful for the one native: Baptisia australis, known as wild blue indigo, blue wild indigo, and blue false indigo*. One characteristic I noticed about this species is that the plant’s stems feel stiff and rubbery.

Last year I posted two pictures of Baptisia alba, white wild indigo, from our visit to Illinois.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

* Those names are zero for three in color accuracy, at least for me, because my eyes and brain see the color of these flowers as violet or purple.

© 2017 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 18, 2017 at 4:49 AM

27 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. I don’t remember seeing this variety before. Like you, I see it as purple. Still, it’s lovely, whatever the name of the color. Looking at your photo, it occurred to me for the first time that the flowers are rather pea-like. Speak of discovering the obvious — I didn’t know or didn’t remember that Baptisia is in the pea family.

    The two species that are common here, the cream (B. bracteata) and yellow (B. sphaerocarpa) already have formed their seeds. That’ll teach me. I really wanted photos of both this year, just because I think they’re so pretty, but I didn’t get out and about soon enough, so the best I could do was a single plant with a few flowers.


    May 18, 2017 at 7:24 AM

    • The maps at


      show 15 native species of Baptisia and various hybrids. The species I found in Kansas barely makes it south into Texas, so neither of us would have had the chance to see it locally.

      Now that you’re getting accustomed to identifying flowers in the pea family, I suspect there’ll be a few more moments of recognition. There’s also the recognition that the early (photographic) bird gets the (Baptisia) worm. Next year.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 18, 2017 at 8:51 AM

  2. Talk of indigo prompted this song to start playing in my head.

    Using my favorite W&N Watercolors, I’d probably start with cobalt and ultramarine and work toward those violet hues… It’s a lovely flower and would make a very nice watercolor study.

    • I’ll confess to never having heard of Trevor Hall, so I looked him up and found this brief biography:


      The word indigo ultimately traces back to the Indus River. It gave its name to the country we now call India, which I see Trevor Hall has been associated with. So many connections.

      It’s natural for you to think of the colors you’d use to paint something like these flowers. Go for it if you’re inclined. Painting is as much of an unknown country to me as India.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 18, 2017 at 9:05 AM

      • Thanks for that trivia… I wondered if his lyrics were about a mix of connections to ‘indigo’ as the word also refers to a ‘new age’ generation of highly-sensitive ‘evolved’ children who seem to have an indigo-colored aura.

        Trevor Hall’s music was nudged my way through the song about Standing Rock… I won’t overload your comment section with another music link!!!! ‘To the east and west, to the north and south… warrior warrior…
        … If you’re like a rock, stand up like a mountain — warrior warrior.”

        • All this talk of Indigo and music had me wondering about Trevor Hall’s lyrics. Strange and deep if you don’t know the story about them. I found it very interesting: [https://youtu.be/0T6uz8mtohE] I’ve added the brackets because I don’t know Lisa’s trick to make a link. I’m hoping it prevents the video from exploding into your comments,

          Steve. A beautiful post as Indigo is one of my favorite flowers. And, jumping forward in time, the single white blossom is really lovely. And a thank you to you, Lisa, for the intro to TH.


          July 30, 2018 at 6:38 AM

          • Thanks for the explanatory video. In citing a link, I’ve sometimes done like you and put brackets around around the URL to prevent the video from exploding into the comments. If you want to do it Lisa’s way, you can go into your WordPress editor and type out your comment as if it were part of a new post. In the editor you can use the link button just the way you always do to attach the right code for a link. Then copy (or cut) everything, including the code for the embedded link that the WordPress editor has created, and paste it where you want to leave a comment.

            I’m glad to hear you find the single white flower lovely. From the BONAP maps linked five comments back, I’d say the most widespread native species of Baptisia in your area is bracteata, which has cream-colored flowers.

            Steve Schwartzman

            July 30, 2018 at 7:26 AM

            • Thanks for the link set up help, Steve. I will have to be on the lookout for the Baptisia bracteata in spring and early summer next year.


              July 30, 2018 at 10:02 PM

      • that is a very interesting biography, and i respect him for pulling away from the fast track and staying true to his own inner voice. thanks for once again being my very own research assistant!

        i am presently working on the ‘Muir Tree’, a combo of antlers and tree to illustrate Muir’s quote… I posted the first stage over a month ago, and most evry time I return to the painting, there’s an interruption.. It’s evolving and is asserting its own voice ! Ha, what I thought would be a painting that took ten or so hours is stretching into one that will earn the name, ‘Abuelo.’

        • I like your combination of antlers and tree; antlers do branch, after all. Yes, some projects take on lives of their own, even long lives. In my experience, some projects never get finished, or get finished but don’t find an appropriate outlet to make their way into the larger world. I certainly hope yours does get finished and finds its way out into the world.

          Steve Schwartzman

          May 18, 2017 at 11:42 AM

          • Thank you Steve! Yes, the painting and I are eyeing each other from across the room.. I oftentimes tape a painting to the far wall and every so often look up to critique it from various ‘moods.’ I try to look at it as if for the first time.. The antlers now have more branches, and they are getting stronger… next will be the face merging with the trunk.. not quite sure if it will be subtle or if it demands to glare at anyone who ponders hunting it!

  3. Gorgeous, Steve. It seems the plants are even learning to pose for you.


    May 18, 2017 at 11:58 AM

  4. Great (sharp) photo. I like that you put your imprimatur on it, but smallish.

    Robert Cox

    May 18, 2017 at 12:48 PM

    • The hard part was keeping the upper buds in focus at the same time as the flowers that were the main part of the image.

      I generally keep my name inconspicuous to avoid detracting from the image.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 18, 2017 at 1:39 PM

  5. I was struck by how you kept the entire length crisply focused. A challenging task, I know. This is one of my favorite plants, and I have it growing in my garden even though up here it isn’t native. At least, I used to have it In my garden. It hasn’t appeared this spring, sadly.


    May 19, 2017 at 8:29 AM

    • I couldn’t get some of the buds on the far side in focus, but I worked to keep everything on my side of the plant in focus. An f/stop of f/13 accounted for a lot of the sharpness, as did my position on the ground.

      Nature folks in the Midwest, including you, seem familiar with this species, but it was new to me, as was the white species you introduced us to last year.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 19, 2017 at 9:17 AM

  6. Beautiful shot


    May 19, 2017 at 4:26 PM

  7. It’s sad that you wound up with only one native out of five plants – but what a beauty. I used to grow that when I had a garden, in upstate NY about an hour north of NYC. Very cold hardy! But those were nursery plants, probably hybridized up the wazoo for hardiness, flower abundance and other qualities.
    I agree about the color – looks more purple than blue to me. That over and over again – mix-ups among purple, blue and even pink. But different color perception is part of what makes the world interesting, yes?
    I just saw in a comment above that you used f13! I was photographing lupines recently and had the same problem Melissa mentions – next time, I’ll go higher.


    May 21, 2017 at 12:04 PM

    • Yes, it’s sad. The prettiest flower of the five was one of the aliens, but this one native is also attractive. You’re the second commenter who knows the plant from having grown it in your garden. The specimen shown here was in its native range and therefore, I hope, not a cultivar.

      I’ve been mentioning for years that a lot of plants with “blue” in their names look violet or purple to me. I think the fact that blue is a more basic color than violet or purple accounts for much of that “bluing” in the names.

      And yes, a smaller aperture (larger f/number) brings extra depth of field.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 22, 2017 at 4:55 AM

  8. I posted a picture of a mystery plant I’ve tried to identify. It appears to be growing wild at the house I’ll be moving to in about a month. Vicki (from Australia?) suggested asking if you might be able to identify it. Here’s the link to the picture I took and posted: https://gusgus64.wordpress.com/2017/06/03/mystery-plant/ The location is in the foothills of the south Oregon coast on a hillside above a creek with lots of wild blackberries and cucumbers and lots and lots of Alder and Douglas Fir trees. 😀


    June 3, 2017 at 7:49 PM

    • I took a look at your picture, and the flowers have the general appearance of something in the genus Mirabilis. I’m afraid I know only a little about the native plants outside central Texas. You might check with the Native Plant Society of Oregon:


      Steve Schwartzman

      June 3, 2017 at 10:30 PM

  9. […] out I’d taken pictures of this species two years earlier in Illinois. Last year I portrayed a more-colorful species of Baptisia in […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: