Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography


with 20 comments

When I stopped in Glacier National Park on August 30th to photograph the remains of a forest fire from a few years before, I was taken with these seed heads of a grass that had filled in parts of the forest floor since that fire. The dry grass stalks stood immobile that afternoon, yet their leaning and their arcs might prompt your imagination to see movement. The gray skies in the distance need no imagination to be seen for what they were: smoky from the wildfires that became the backdrop for much of our trip.

Sonja Hartmann at the park’s plant nursery identified the photogenic seed heads as Calamagrostis rubescens, known as pinegrass. Above the center of the picture’s lower border are the similarly colored but differently structured seed head remains of yarrow, Achillea millefolium.

© 2017 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 12, 2017 at 4:54 AM

20 Responses

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  1. It looks like what is called a ‘hot fire’ over here – the type of wildfire that destroys most vegetation and that takes years to regrow?


    October 12, 2017 at 5:04 AM

    • I haven’t heard the term “hot fire.” I searched for it but got a zillion hits for cultural things involving that name, particularly rap music and eyeshadow. After I excluded those things in new searches, I finally found a book called America’s Ancient Forests, which says this: “…an especially hot fire kills the trees outright and cooks the roots so that they can no longer sprout.”

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 12, 2017 at 6:18 AM

      • Haha, sorry for turning it in such a riddle. It’s terminology used by our Department of Parks and Wildlife to describe the intensity of fire regimes, with ‘cool burns’ or fires used to burn off excess ‘fuel’ and restore biodiversity without scarring the landscape, and ‘hot’ or high intensity fires that destroy vegetation that can take a decade to longer to recover.


        October 12, 2017 at 7:30 PM

        • No problem. What you’ve just said matches what I found online. I just hadn’t heard the terms “hot fire” and “cool burn.”

          Steve Schwartzman

          October 12, 2017 at 7:48 PM

  2. We saw the similar landscape in our visit to Yellowstone. The fire was more recent and there was no regeneration, just black ground and tree stumps. A sorry scene to photograph, which I did not, regretfully.


    October 12, 2017 at 5:59 AM

    • Because of the “not” before your last word, I’m not sure of the scope of that last word. Which (if either) of these scenarios applies?

      1. The scene was so desolate that you felt too saddened to photograph it.

      2. The scene was desolate but you’re sorry now that you didn’t photograph it anyhow.

      The one time we visited Yellowstone, in 1998, we still saw many remnants of the great fires of 1988:


      Steve Schwartzman

      October 12, 2017 at 6:31 AM

  3. Good to see the regeneration. As for the yarrow, it looks very pretty in your linked post.


    October 12, 2017 at 6:18 AM

    • I was excited to see so much of this lovely grass. The photograph gives you glimpses of it receding well into the distance.

      The yarrow in Austin was the freshest I’ve ever seen, most likely because it was in a garden and got dutifully watered and nourished.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 12, 2017 at 7:02 AM

  4. Steve….I really liked this image. It gave ma a little stir. Thanx…en theos…jim

    James Work Photography

    October 12, 2017 at 6:49 AM

  5. The blooming yarrow reminds me of frostweed. I had to smile when I saw that the post preceding the yarrow was of four-nerve daisy.

    These grasses are beautiful. Late summer and fall is the time to seek (or discover) grasses, for sure. The colors, subtle though they are, seem as beautiful to me as the more dramatic fall leaves.


    October 12, 2017 at 8:21 AM

    • Yarrow and frostweed are both in the sunflower family, so I’m not surprised you see some resemblance in their flower heads.

      I could hardly get enough of those grasses. I wandered around among them trying horizontal and vertical compositions. I ended up with dozens of pictures showing pinegrass. I’m with you in saying hooray for subtle colors.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 12, 2017 at 3:36 PM

  6. I like the layers of flora in the picture!


    October 12, 2017 at 9:01 AM

  7. The pinegrass stand does give the impression of movement. We have had so many fires around my own state this summer. Seems to get worse every year.

    Lavinia Ross

    October 12, 2017 at 10:03 AM

    • I can relate to your forest fires in the northwest, having so recently breathed the smoke of several others in Montana, British Columbia, and Alberta. Texas has been okay this year.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 12, 2017 at 3:48 PM

  8. Beautiful photo, Steve; it seems especially relevant given the recent wildfires in California that have turned the world to ash.


    October 12, 2017 at 3:57 PM

  9. I am reminded by this of the undergrowth that appeared after a huge fire out on Long Island some years ago. Your photograph offers the same sense of hope. Regeneration is just the right word for it.

    Susan Scheid

    October 12, 2017 at 6:18 PM

    • Long Island: my childhood home, where I haven’t lived since the early 1970s. I see from the article at


      that the Pine Barrens have undergone two large wildfires, one in 1995 and the other in 2012. Regarding the first fire, the article says: “As of 2007, the region has mostly recovered from the damage it sustained, although some vegetation still bears the scars of the fire. Pine Barren ecosystems are highly adapted to fire and generally require periodic fires to maintain their unique vegetation and wildlife.”

      We see the long-term usefulness of such fires, but in the short term they often cause much disruption. In any case, I’m glad the feeling you came away from this picture with is hope.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 12, 2017 at 7:08 PM

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