Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography


with 27 comments

Today’s date reminds us that Mayday is a call of distress and a plea for help. Some help is what these conjoined flower heads of greenthread (Thelesperma filifolium) could have used in warding off attacks from at least two kinds of insects: in the first picture I see several thrips and one tumbling flower beetle.

The view from the other side shows you how the two flower heads were conjoined. As far as I can remember, this was the first such greenthread I’d ever seen. From time to time I’ve shown instances of fasciation but it’s not clear if this twin flower head counts as that.

The date was April 16th and the location was the Blackland Prairie just east of Louis Henna Blvd. and Donnell Dr. in Round Rock.

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 1, 2018 at 4:44 AM

27 Responses

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  1. It may not be fasciation but it’s certainly fascinating. If I corrupt a little saying from New York, I can say, “Greenthread, Greenthread, so nice it came out twice.”


    May 1, 2018 at 6:21 AM

    • You’re ahead of this former New Yorker, who had to look up the song: [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jsi5lXxzByU].

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 1, 2018 at 8:51 AM

      • It seems we have both been enlightened by your post. Can we now say, “Two heads are better than one?”


        May 1, 2018 at 7:19 PM

        • It’s like the man who named both of his sons Edward. Whenever people asked him why he’d done that, he told them it’s because two Eds are better than one.

          Steve Schwartzman

          May 1, 2018 at 9:20 PM

          • Ha! Good one.


            May 1, 2018 at 11:45 PM

            • Like Eliza Doolittle, the man needed to practice saying “In Hartford, Hereford, and Hampshire, hurricanes hardly happen.”

              Steve Schwartzman

              May 2, 2018 at 7:09 AM

              • In other words (or letters) he needed to practice his “haitches”. http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-11642588 Increasingly I do the same. I find that when people ask me to spell my name I am not always understood if I say ‘aitch’. So I inwardly groan and begin “Haitch as in Hen.”


                May 2, 2018 at 7:23 AM

                • That’s different from over here, where everyone pronouncing the name of the letter h says aitch. For words beginning with h, there’s not consistency: we pronounce the h in hospital and hotel but not usually in herb.

                  Over here, too, everybody pronounces ate to rhyme with fate. I first remember hearing the (mis)pronunciation mis-chee-vee-us in the 1960s. It seems to be winning out.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  May 2, 2018 at 8:35 AM

  2. “M’aidez, m’aidez!”


    May 1, 2018 at 9:55 AM

  3. You really made me think about the origin of the mayday distress call! Perhaps these plants need some help. I find it fascinating the complex interactions between plants and the insect world and then of course all the birds that depend on this.


    May 1, 2018 at 12:11 PM

    • Right: Mayday is a cross-language play on words. As for plants and the insects that eat them, there’s a constant battle. From what I’ve read and seen in documentaries, species may evolve defenses against their predators, and predators may improve their predation.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 1, 2018 at 1:32 PM

  4. Cool find! And of course, you’re always camera-ready.


    May 1, 2018 at 12:36 PM

    • I look forward to filling my SQ (strangeness quota). As for being camera-ready, I’m not always. An iPhone has occasionally filled in for a real camera:


      Steve Schwartzman

      May 1, 2018 at 1:36 PM

      • Not many macros, I see. Did you know the iPhone takes decent macros? Every photo (and even a video) in my latest post was with the iPhone. Dirty hands and all.


        May 1, 2018 at 5:45 PM

        • I’ve only occasionally taken a macro on my iPhone. I just checked and found I can get to within about 2 inches before the image begins going out of focus. I’ll see if I can do anything creative when an appropriate situation comes my way.

          Steve Schwartzman

          May 1, 2018 at 8:00 PM

  5. This one really is interesting. The top of the stem appears to be just a little flattened, but otherwise it doesn’t seem fasciated in the same way as other plants you’ve shown. It looks as though it has a single, normal set of green outer phyllaries, but two buds with the translucent inner phyllaries. “Twinning” seems more likely than fasciation in this case, but whatever the cause, it’s a delightful rarity — thrips, beetle, and all.

    With apologies to Lowell:

    What is so rare as a day in May?
    Then, if ever, come imperfect flowers.
    Then Heaven tries earth if it be in tune,
    And over it softly her warm ear lays;
    Whether we look, or whether we listen,
    We hear life murmur, or see it glisten;
    Every clod feels a stir of might,
    An instinct within it that reaches and towers,
    And, groping blindly above it for light,
    Climbs to a soul in doubled flowers.


    May 1, 2018 at 3:01 PM

    • I like how well you altered the stanza to your purpose. I didn’t grow up memorizing that portion of the original but I know that generations of American schoolkids did. Today I doubt that 1% of American schoolkids have ever even heard of James Russell Lowell. In looking up the poem so I could see what words you changed after the last one in the first line, I came across a painting from 1899 that’s relevant because it involves a wildflower of the same family, shown in Europe, where it’s native:


      The painting strikes me as a forerunner of “Christina’s World.” I’d never encountered anything by the artist, who turns out to be a cultural icon in his native Denmark:


      But back to the greenthread: I’m with you in thinking of the flower heads as twins rather than a single head deformed by fasciation.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 1, 2018 at 4:41 PM

      • This has been my year to discover Danish painters. I used this painting by Ilsted in a January post. I’d never heard him, or of L.A. Ring. When I saw that Ring was born in Ring, I wondered if it was a Danish custom to add one’s birth town to a given name, but it seems to have been his personal choice. I couldn’t find any explanation for his doing so.


        May 2, 2018 at 11:21 PM

        • I wonder if the town was named for an early member of the Ring Family, along the lines of places in Texas like Johnson City, Pflugerville, and Conroe.

          That’s an excellent use of light in the Ilsted. I’d be happy to have painted it.

          Steve Schwartzman

          May 2, 2018 at 11:29 PM

  6. Sure makes a pretty picture!


    May 1, 2018 at 8:17 PM

  7. It sounds like a topic for Southpark.


    May 3, 2018 at 11:00 PM

    • Austin has a shopping center called Southpark Meadows. I don’t think I ever took pictures there, even before the stores were built.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 4, 2018 at 7:41 AM

  8. Interesting Steve .. not sure about the fasciation, but it is very pretty in its double glory ..as always , great images 🙂


    May 5, 2018 at 12:13 AM

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