Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Plains zinnia

with 24 comments

On May 27th, the third day of the trip and the first on which I took any pictures, we hit our first national monument: the Alibates Flint Quarries in the Texas Panhandle north of Amarillo. There I encountered some flowering Zinnia grandiflora, known as plains zinnia, yellow zinnia, Rocky Mountain zinnia, prairie zinnia, and little golden zinnia. By whatever name, these flowers provide a welcome dose of bright yellow.

© 2017 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 21, 2017 at 4:45 AM

24 Responses

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  1. Nice one

    Sherry Felix

    June 21, 2017 at 5:02 AM

  2. Lovely! 3D!
    I like the definition!


    June 21, 2017 at 7:38 AM

    • Given that you like the definition, are you a fan of dictionaries?

      It occurred to me a few minutes ago that this blast of yellow is appropriate for the first official day of spring.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 21, 2017 at 7:54 AM

  3. They do indeed. This is a new one for me.


    June 21, 2017 at 8:15 AM

    • I’m trying to decide if it was new for me, too. The USDA map shows this species across much of far west Texas, so I might well have seen it on previous trips.

      But wait: I just searched my computer and found that in 2010 I photographed plains zinnia flowers, but it was at the Wildflower Center here in Austin, and therefore the plants were cultivated specimens outside the native range of the species. I’m glad to have added views in the plant’s natural habitat.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 21, 2017 at 8:24 AM

  4. I’ve always associated zinnias with cutting gardens, like the one my grandmother maintained. And every summer, both farms I visit to pick veggies have long rows of zinnias to cut, too. What I didn’t realize is how many species are native plants. This one certainly is a beauty.

    There’s even a white native zinnia: Zinnia acerosa or desert zinnia. This paragraph on the Wildflower Center site’s page cracked me up:

    “The genus Zinnia was named by Linneas in honor of Johann Gottfried Zinn. Zinn was a German anatomist, ophthalmologist, and botanist born in 1727 and died in 1759 (in Germany). He was [an] extraordinary professor of medicine and director of the botanical gardens in the university town of Gottingen. He was one of the first to render an accurate description of the eyeball and he investigated the vessels and nerves of the eye cavity. He collected seeds of Z. elegans (from which the garden Zinnia descends) in Mexico. There he was accosted by bandits who, after searching his bag, left him alone, believing him crazy and therefore unlucky.”


    June 22, 2017 at 4:43 AM

    • Although I’d heard of zinnias, I don’t think I knew what those garden flowers look like till recently. They’re a far cry from these native ones that show their relationship to so many other yellow daisy-type flowers in Texas.

      That’s quite an anecdote the Wildflower Center website tells; I can see why it cracked you up. While Zinn wasn’t done in by those bandits, he still managed to live to be only 31 or 32. Too bad, given how talented he was.

      By the way, a German z at the beginning of a word typically corresponds to an English t. German zu is English to, German zwei is English two, and, getting to the point, Zinn is tin.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 22, 2017 at 9:04 AM

    • Coincidence: look at the first sentence in this NPSOT article that I just turned to:


      Steve Schwartzman

      June 22, 2017 at 9:25 AM

      • Substitute ‘Swedish’ for ‘Italian’ and the rest of the sentence perfectly describes my experience. In the next sentence, he even uses the same word that I used: not Nana, or Grammie, or Big Mama, but Grandma.


        June 23, 2017 at 6:56 AM

    • Zinn never left Europe. In the earliest published version of the story, Zinn’s adventure was said to have occurred many decades after the real Professor Zinn died.

      David Hollombe

      August 11, 2022 at 1:12 AM

      • I hadn’t looked up Johann Gottfried Zinn. We associate his name with flowers but I see now in Wikipedia that “in his book Descriptio anatomica oculi humani, he provided the first detailed and comprehensive anatomy of the human eye.”

        Steve Schwartzman

        August 11, 2022 at 4:20 AM

  5. […] be remiss if I mentioned the Alibates Flint Quarries National Monument, as I did last time, without showing you a piece of that […]

  6. They are bright and cheerful flowers and would be lovely in a ‘formal’ garden. This week I traveled ot the western side of the country, and it was so refreshing to see nasturtiums and geraniums growing in the wild… stunning….

    • I see from Wikipedia that zinnias “are native to scrub and dry grassland in an area stretching from the Southwestern United States to South America, with a centre of diversity in Mexico.” There’s a species botanists have named Zinnia peruviana, which is “widespread from Chihuahua to Paraguay including Galápagos and West Indies….” I wonder if that one grows in Ecuador. If so you might come across it.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 23, 2017 at 3:39 PM

      • I did an image check, and the images remind me of ‘many’ I’ve seen over the years, and I assumed they were ‘escapes’ from the elegans that didn’t stay true to the seed.. They are short with a rigid stalk, will grow in very dry conditions, though they look quite sad at the end of a hot day. I think I remember seeing those growing north of Liberia Costa Rica…

        • Let’s hope you’ve seen the real thing. It’s so much easier to photograph a plant than to identify it.

          Steve Schwartzman

          June 23, 2017 at 6:57 PM

  7. Hey Steve .. gosh nothing like the zinnias I grow in my veg garden, beautiful none the less 🙂


    June 26, 2017 at 1:37 PM

    • Right. The garden kinds of zinnias have been heavily hybridized over the generations to turn them into something far removed from the original species. You could say the same about those sunflowers with huge droopy heads that Van Gogh painted and people love to plant in their gardens; those sunflowers are far removed from the smaller wild ones of the same species that still spring up across America and are common around Austin in June.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 26, 2017 at 1:47 PM

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