Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Showy palafoxia

with 32 comments

Do you remember the small palafoxia you saw here two weeks ago? On September 27th at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center I photographed some showy palafoxia, Palafoxia hookeriana. The first picture is an isolated portrait of a flower head as it was opening.

The second photograph, a side view of a somewhat later stage in the opening, reveals the glandular hairs that characterize this species. I can confirm that the plant feels gooey.

Below is a flower head that has fully opened. Because I aimed horizontally when I took the picture, you see parts of some adjacent showy palafoxia plants.

This palafoxia species isn’t quite native in Austin, but years ago I photographed a few growing wild in Bastrop, one county to the east.

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 7, 2018 at 4:44 AM

32 Responses

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  1. It reminds me of a skeleton plant, or a version of the Texas dandelion. I think it’s the stamens that result in the association. The second photo, with their shadows shown against the petals and that one Aries-like stamen tipping over the edge, is especially nice.

    When I saw that another name for the plant is ‘sand palafox,’ I thought it might be local. It is in a way, but I’d have to go north. It has an interesting distribution. I’ll have to look at an eco-region map or some such to see if there’s something about the soil that put the ‘sand’ into its name.


    October 7, 2018 at 5:54 AM

    • Well, the skeleton plant and the Texas dandelion are in the same botanical family as palafoxia, so you’re right to see similarities. And once again you see how I used backlighting in the second photo so shadows of the internal parts could be projected onto the ray flowers.

      I’m glad you linked to the distribution map. I hadn’t realized this species raps around to the southwest and into Béxar County, which is where San Antonio is.

      As for the ‘sand,’ I can attest to the fact that Bastrop County, the one place I’ve seen this species in the wild, has noticeably sandy soil, which is why the vegetation there differs from what we have in Austin. One sand-loving species is the “lost” pines for which Bastrop is known.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 7, 2018 at 8:20 AM

    • I thought it looks like cornflower. It is related, but not as closely.


      October 8, 2018 at 12:45 PM

  2. Beautiful flower Steve, these are wonderful shots, really like the first view !!

    Bernie Kasper

    October 7, 2018 at 11:18 AM

    • Regarding the first view, I’ll admit it’s rare that I aim straight down at a flower because usually the ground below is covered with distracting details like rocks and twigs. In this case the ground was rather neutral, and in addition the wide aperture that the low light forced me to use further obscured details beneath the flower head.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 7, 2018 at 2:28 PM

  3. They look as if they should have a lovely scent. Did they?


    October 7, 2018 at 10:09 PM

  4. It’s very pretty, terrific color. the glands secret goo? To help retain moisture? Or what purpose?

    Robert Parker

    October 8, 2018 at 12:58 PM

    • I did some searching but couldn’t find out what purpose the glandular hairs on palafoxia are “intended” to serve. One thing they do is deter people from handling the plants. That’s especially so for photographers, who run the risk of transferring goo to their cameras.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 8, 2018 at 3:28 PM

    • By the way, look how many words botanists use to characterize the various kinds of plant hairs:


      Steve Schwartzman

      October 8, 2018 at 3:30 PM

  5. Oh this post is so wonderful. I have to send the link to my dear friend, The Arty Plantsman. Your pictures are stunning as always!

    3C Style

    October 9, 2018 at 8:38 AM

    • Thanks, Dominique. As always, I want my portraits to convey to people the appeal of native wildflowers.

      Is this your friend?

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 9, 2018 at 1:41 PM

      • You did a wonderful job! And yes, it is my dear friend Darren. You will like him I’m sure of it. He’s creative, intelligent, funny, kind… Just like you. Have a great week ahead.

        3C Style

        October 9, 2018 at 2:06 PM

        • It’s raining as I type this, so we’re happy here. Until a few weeks ago Austin was way behind normal in rainfall for the year.

          Thanks for the reference to Darren.

          Steve Schwartzman

          October 9, 2018 at 2:10 PM

          • Glad things are getting back to normal. You will hear from Darren soon apparently!

            3C Style

            October 9, 2018 at 5:06 PM

  6. Showy indeed! Beautiful!


    October 9, 2018 at 9:11 PM

  7. Very pretty!!


    October 10, 2018 at 3:02 PM

  8. A very pretty bloom Steve .. I wonder what the goo achieves


    October 12, 2018 at 6:48 PM

  9. […] Comments always are welcome. To see yet another Texas Palafox species, visit Steve Schwartzman’s Portraits of Wildflowers, here. […]

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