Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Water primrose

with 29 comments


The cheerful flowers of water primrose (Ludwigia octovalvis) are a reliable sight at the edges of ponds and creeks in central Texas. I photographed this one on August 17th close to the newly created street of Bachman Dr. on the Blackland Prairie in northeast Austin. Below is a rather abstract view showing a cobwebbed water primrose seed capsule.

I was surprised to learn recently that this species grows in many parts of the world and that its original native range is uncertain.

UPDATE: Thanks to Tanja Britton for correcting yesterday’s post. What I’d thought was a chipmunk turned out to be a golden-mantled ground squirrel.

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 30, 2018 at 4:55 AM

29 Responses

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  1. i’ve never seen these, they are beautiful


    August 30, 2018 at 5:00 AM

  2. I like the bright colour of the seed capsule. It reminds of the bright colour of a rosehip. I am also happy to know that the handsome chipmunk has found its true calling as a golden-mantled ground squirrel.


    August 30, 2018 at 6:10 AM

    • Maybe I’m forgetting something obvious, but I can’t think of another species where the flower and seed capsule are both so colorful, and different colors at that.

      Yes, the chipmunk has come up in the world, at least in terms of a grander name.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 30, 2018 at 6:27 AM

      • I don’t know enough about plants to say but I certainly thought it unusual to have the two different and very distinct colours.


        August 30, 2018 at 7:02 AM

  3. I think the seed capsules are as pretty as the flowers, and who doesn’t like the addition of spider webs?

    When I first encountered these, I learned they’re considered primarily a weed of rice, whether dry-seeded, wet-seeded, or upland. No matter the method of planting or means of cultivation, this plant apparently loves living alongside the crop. It helped to make sense of the fact that areas where I found the largest colonies were the rice-planting areas around El Campo, Wharton, and Bay City.

    This is one of the few plants whose scientific name stayed in my mind from the beginning. Octovalvis always has made me think of an eight-valved calliope played by a wild-haired guy named Ludwig.


    August 30, 2018 at 6:20 AM

    • And when I think of Ludwigia, it’s a different wild-haired musical figure who comes to mind: Beethoven. Somehow I don’t picture him playing a calliope.

      The rice growers of your region are sometimes in conflict with the dwellers of central Texas. That’s because some of the water that’s released from the Highland Lakes and flows down the Colorado River gets diverted for rice cultivation. Whenever drought up here becomes serious enough, rice farmers down there no longer get their water ration. Water primrose thrives in watery places, including, from what you say, the wet ones of rice paddies.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 30, 2018 at 6:40 AM

      • And the rice farmers are affected by downstream decisions, too. The diversion of water to Corpus Christi has been a recent issue. Distributing a scarce resource isn’t an easy task, especially when the supply of that resource isn’t constant.


        August 30, 2018 at 6:49 AM

        • I hadn’t heard about the conflict with Corpus Christi.

          Let’s hope that someday people come up with an effective and inexpensive way to desalinate water. Atomic energy was once supposed to be the answer, but that entailed problems of its own.

          Steve Schwartzman

          August 30, 2018 at 7:06 AM

  4. This is a really nice top-down perspective. This is one of the first wildflowers I photographed in the U.S., along with the Broadleaf Arrowhead (Sagittaria latifolia).


    August 30, 2018 at 8:26 AM

    • And so Ludwigia octovalvis is one of the native plants we share between Texas and Florida. I looked at a distribution map a while ago and found that this species is restricted to the southeastern United States. Water primrose likes warm and wet.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 30, 2018 at 9:06 AM

  5. I’m sorry to see Ludwigia on the banned/invasive species list for NYS
    It’s very pretty, another nice one for your yellow theme.

    Robert Parker

    August 30, 2018 at 10:49 AM

    • It depends on which species of Ludwigia that is. Some in NY are native:


      My guess is that Ludwigia grandiflora is the one that’s banned.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 30, 2018 at 11:23 AM

      • Yep, you got it. The ones they listed as problems are Ludwigia hexapetala (L. grandiflora) and Ludwigia peploides ssp. glabrescens.
        I imagine as things warm up, there will be other varieties taking hold. There’s a boat going up and down the canal between Cayuga and Seneca lakes, with a paddle-wheel arrangement to haul Eurasian watermilfoil, etc. out of the waterway.

        Robert Parker

        August 30, 2018 at 11:57 AM

        • Yes, some species have been moving north. Me, I moved south to avoid the cold.
          As for the canal, it’s a case of kill the -mil-.

          Steve Schwartzman

          August 30, 2018 at 5:24 PM

  6. Very pretty!


    August 30, 2018 at 7:49 PM

  7. When the native range is unknown, it is typically because it was moved around so much by people who did not document doing so, such as rhubarb. No one know how extensive the native range is because so many people planted it beyond the native range for so long. If a plant is native to a variety of regions, but was not useful to many people, wouldn’t it merely be native to a variety of regions?
    It looks like a yellow dogwood.


    August 30, 2018 at 9:48 PM

    • Right. Documentation is a relatively recent development for human societies. Further complicating that is the fact that so much documentation has gotten destroyed. I sometimes wonder to what extent current records will survive.

      Yesterday I read that some Ludwigia species have unfortunately become invasive in Australia.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 30, 2018 at 10:44 PM

      • When studying the Sapindus saponaria that is probably native to your region, I found that it it ‘native ‘ to Hawaii. That seems weird. I can not imagine what bird would have transported those seeds in prehistoric times . . . or whomever did it and how.


        August 30, 2018 at 10:58 PM

        • Yes, that is native here. Like you, I can’t imagine how it could be considered native in Hawaii. Maybe it’s on a par with the “native” Vitex I mentioned seeing for sale in Austin.

          Steve Schwartzman

          August 31, 2018 at 6:36 AM

          • It was actually one of the plants that was documented as native even before the ancient Polynesians arrived. (I do not know how anyone knows that it was there first. They probably interpolated by the lack of it elsewhere in Polynesia.) It was identified as a separate genus only because no one thought to compare it to something in Texas.


            August 31, 2018 at 10:22 PM

            • Similarly, I sometimes wonder if a plant I see in Austin that I don’t recognize might be a stray from somewhere else in the world. If even botanists can be misled, how much more so someone with as little botanical knowledge as me.

              Steve Schwartzman

              August 31, 2018 at 10:57 PM

              • I do not think that the botanists who identified Sapindus saponaria in Hawaii was misled. I think he just thought that he was the first to identify it, and never thought to compare it to a specie from so far away. I actually think that some botanists are misled more often than those with less knowledge just because they ‘want’ to discover ‘new’ specie rather than identify those that were already discovered. There is a ‘Santa Cruz’ cypress here that some botanists insists is a separate species from the Monterey Cypress that is just across the Bay. It could be a separate variety, but that is about all. Conversely, some botanists now insist that blue gum eucalyptus is a native of California just because it has naturalized and has been here for so long. Duh, that is what the word ‘naturalized’ means.


                August 31, 2018 at 11:04 PM

                • Exactly: that’s what naturalized means. Maybe some people get confused because both words begin with nat- and are etymologically related.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  September 1, 2018 at 10:49 AM

                • I think that there are too many treehuggers who think that they are botanists.


                  September 1, 2018 at 5:19 PM

  8. That’s a lovely rich yellow. We have four water primroses in New England but not this one.

    Steve Gingold

    September 1, 2018 at 4:50 PM

    • I looked up the range of this species and found it’s restricted to the southeastern states. It’s common here for much of the year, so I often get to see that rich yellow.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 1, 2018 at 8:04 PM

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