Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Fasciation comes to a black-eyed susan

with 19 comments

Near the end of my visit to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center on September 26th I photographed some seed head remains of black-eyed susans, Rudbeckia hirta. Here’s one of them, in which you can confirm the usual thimble shape:

Then I spotted an obviously fasciated specimen, with a flattened stem and a bunch of seed heads glommed together into an irregular bundle:

Click the “fasciation” tag below if you’d like to learn more about the phenomenon and see other examples I’ve shown over the years.

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman


Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 13, 2018 at 4:50 AM

19 Responses

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  1. I was not familiar with the word fasciation until now. I have seen a few examples of this in nature – and I have some photographs, but my files are not so organized as yours. At least if I run across the images someday I’ll know what I have. I think the saguaro cacti and the spectacle pod (which I’ve never seen before) were my favorites of past posts. I love oddities in nature!


    October 13, 2018 at 6:50 AM

    • Those of us who love oddities in nature might say of ourselves that it takes one to know one! Self-deprecation aside, fasciation really is fascinating, and given the amount of land you have access to, it’s not surprising that you’ve encountered the phenomenon from time to time. Having had your attention called to it, you may be more alert to future instances. Let’s hope you find more soon.

      And yet, the fasciated saguaros really were something. Call them the elephants of fasciation.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 13, 2018 at 8:02 AM

  2. So that’s what that term is all about, fascinating stuff 🙂

    Nature on the Edge

    October 13, 2018 at 6:51 AM

    • Sometimes dropping one letter from a word leads to a result that comports with the original meaning. Fascination —> fasciation is a good example. Sometimes the reverse is true, as in pest —> pet.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 13, 2018 at 8:23 AM

      • Steve, you are a wordsmith 🙂 I’m digging through my flower pics, i know i have some examples of ‘wide’ daisies, so now i can put a label to them 🙂

        Nature on the Edge

        October 16, 2018 at 10:15 AM

        • Excellent. It’s good that you’ll have a name for this strange phenomenon. It’s also good that you’ve encountered it.

          And yes, I’ve been fond of words since I was a teenager.

          Steve Schwartzman

          October 16, 2018 at 10:56 AM

  3. I don’t see the “fasciation” tag. ??


    October 13, 2018 at 7:55 AM

    • On the website, below the little icons of “likes” beneath the post’s text you should see a light grey bar with several things in it, including “Tagged with” in the lower right. The tags are the last thing before the comments begin.

      In the e-mailed version of the post, the tags appear a little above the big blue Comment button.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 13, 2018 at 8:08 AM

  4. I can’t believe how many examples of fasciation you’ve found. I enjoy seeing the structure of the seed heads, although I think this one must have been impressive when in bloom. In this photo, it does remind me of the globbiness of the fasciated cacti.

    I thought I’d only found one example of fasciation myself: another black-eyed Susan that was blooming on the Nash prairie. Imagine my surprise when I found a second — a fasciated vervain — when I was going through some old photos. I suspect there are far more examples out there than I’ve realized.


    October 13, 2018 at 8:23 AM

    • Sometimes I’m surprised how many examples of fasciation I’ve found, but I guess I shouldn’t be, given the hundreds of times I’ve gone out in nature these last two decades looking for things to photograph. It had been a good while since the last one (which I can’t remember), so I was actually overdue. As often happens, I’d walked past it in one direction without seeing it, then spotted it on the way back. And yes, I do wish I’d been able to see it when it was flowering; that must’ve been quite a sight.

      Do you think you weren’t yet aware of fasciation when you took the old photo of the vervain, or that you were but just didn’t notice it. You know it’s not unusual to find something in a photograph we didn’t realize was there at the time we took the picture.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 13, 2018 at 8:35 AM

      • I took the photos of the (presumed) vervain in May of this year, so I already was familiar with fasciation. The original photos were of a heavy stand of vervain mixed with coreopsis, so the fasciated plants weren’t obvious until I looked at them on the computer.

        In fact, there were three fasciated flower heads on one plant, but it was impossible to isolate or enlarge them. So, I did the only reasonable thing, and retraced my steps the next day to take more photos. Being able to visualize precisely where I’ve taken photos is a very useful trait.


        October 13, 2018 at 9:07 AM

        • The month of May strikes me as a few minutes ago, relatively speaking. It’s good that you noticed the fasciation soon enough to go back the next day and do it justice.

          Steve Schwartzman

          October 13, 2018 at 9:14 AM

  5. Did you mention earlier that finches like these too? I will not be saving them for seed, and I have not been watching them for finches, but I could not remember. I will be planting small sunflowers next year because I really miss growing them. Although they were (very) annoying when they herded into my dining room to eat the sunflowers that I cut and brought in, I sort of miss the finches from my old neighborhood.


    October 13, 2018 at 3:58 PM

    • I’m afraid I know almost nothing about birds, so no, I’ve never said that finches like black-eyed susan seeds. Now I know. It sounds like you have quite a fondness for finches, even if they can be annoying en masse (and especially indoors).

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 13, 2018 at 8:05 PM

  6. Steve, have you read anywhere that the seeds have a greater chance of reproducing the effects in new plants from the parent? Or is this happening due to bug or viral damage to the plant?


    October 13, 2018 at 10:07 PM

    • I haven’t read anywhere that the seeds have a greater chance of passing on to new plants the abnormality of the parent. I’m far from being a botanist, though, so my reading has been limited. The Wikipedia article on fasciation (and I have no way to tell how accurate it is) says this: “Fasciation can be caused by hormonal imbalances in the meristematic cells of plants, which are cells where growth can occur. Fasciation can also be caused by random genetic mutation. Bacterial and viral infections can also cause fasciation.” It sounds like there’s plenty more work to be done in understanding fasciation. I’ve been content to photograph instances of it whenever I find them. It had been quite a while since the last one, so I was happy to find this specimen.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 13, 2018 at 10:23 PM

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