Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Strobilus, strobili

with 37 comments

On October 29th I photographed some of the horsetails (Equisetum spp.)
around the pond adjacent to the Central Market on N. Lamar Blvd.
The plant shown above was forming its strobilus.
The one below had gotten farther along in the process.

The second photograph exemplifies point 24 in About My Techniques.

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 18, 2018 at 4:44 AM

37 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. Wow!

    Jenny Meadows

    November 18, 2018 at 4:48 AM

  2. Lovely to see two stages in the strobilus formation. The photos make me think of torch lighting; the second strobilus certainly lights up the sky.


    November 18, 2018 at 5:09 AM

    • Can you sing us a torch song to accompany the portraits?

      I noticed in another article linked from the linked article that “The living species of Equisetum are distributed worldwide except for Australia, New Zealand, and Antarctica.” The fact that NZ has so many kinds of ferns, including tree ferns, somehow made me expect you’d also have horsetails.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 18, 2018 at 6:01 AM

  3. these are beautiful and almost what i imagine an alien life form to be


    November 18, 2018 at 6:02 AM

    • If you allow ‘alien’ to mean ‘alien in time,’ then science backs you up: “Extinct members of the division… have been traced back as far as the Devonian Period (416 to 359 million years ago)….”

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 18, 2018 at 6:09 AM

  4. Very nice portraits! 😉


    November 18, 2018 at 6:14 AM

    • The post originally included only the first portrait but later I decided to add the second for a double contrast: the subject itself and the background. That’s when I changed the title from “Strobilus” to “Strobilus, strobili.”

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 18, 2018 at 6:26 AM

  5. With apologies to the still-anonymous author of the famous verse:

    Strobilus, strobili,
    pond plants can catch the eye.
    Strobili, strobilus,
    at least, true for some of us.


    November 18, 2018 at 8:13 AM

    • Latin style is what I see:
      It’s strobilus, strobili.
      To an American’s eye
      It’s strobilus, strobili.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 18, 2018 at 8:32 AM

      • And now, for the rest of the day, I’ll be hearing this. It’s interesting how the rhythm of the title completely overrode the pronunciation.


        November 18, 2018 at 9:01 AM

        • And that triggers in me this version from childhood.

          Steve Schwartzman

          November 18, 2018 at 9:08 AM

          • I missed this yesterday, but it’s provided a good laugh for a rainy morning. I don’t remember seeing it before, and it’s clever as can be.

            It also reminded me of a story I may have told you. A friend who was raised in the Texas panhandle moved to Houston with his parents when he still was in grade school — in the early 1950s. He had two pet domestic ducks named Donald and Daisy that moved to Houston, too. They dug a pond in their back yard (in a neighborhood near Waugh and Montrose) and the ducks lived there. Every day, they would follow my friend the two blocks to school, and then fly home. At the end of the day, they’d fly back to the school and walk home with him. No one thought a thing of it; at least, no one tried to stop it.


            November 19, 2018 at 11:03 AM

            • We had a set of records for this Disney version of Jack and the Beanstalk.

              No, I don’t recall that story about your friend and his ducks. Someone should incorporate it into a movie.

              Steve Schwartzman

              November 19, 2018 at 3:01 PM

  6. Torch songs and poetry~ you really struck a chord with this one. I was also surprised to learn that there are not equisetums Down Under. I would have thought it would be a stronghold for them.


    November 18, 2018 at 8:25 AM

  7. It’s fascinating, and so geometric in form.


    November 18, 2018 at 10:37 AM

  8. We have horsetail in the old river channel. I find it quite striking and I love these images of it. I understand that the Native Americans used it for many medicinal purposes. I really need to look into how to utilize the many plants here on the place for their medicinal values.


    November 18, 2018 at 10:39 AM

    • It’s good that you have some horsetails of your own; I have to go out to other properties when I want to see some. You may find Delena Tull’s book useful. It includes Texas, with which you share many prairie species.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 18, 2018 at 10:43 AM

      • Thank you, Steve! It’s really become evident that with such a variety of edibles already discovered on this place, I need to begin learning about what we have. We really are fortunate to have so many wonderful prairie species on just sixty-two acres! I have yet to learn all of the edible fungus here too.

        I once transplanted horsetail at a small fish pond in my backyard when we lived in town. It was stunning the first year or two, but then began to take over, popping up all over the yard!


        November 18, 2018 at 11:06 AM

        • You’re welcome. The Oklahoma Native Plant Society might provide you with more leads.

          What you say about your horsetails taking over may explain how those plants have survived for millions of years.

          Steve Schwartzman

          November 18, 2018 at 11:12 AM

  9. What a silly name. It is like Sapindus saponaria or Zamia zamiifolia, although I think that the name of Zamia zamiifolia has been changed. Otherwise, it means that it is the zamia with foliage like a zamia. Botanists can be so uncreative.


    November 18, 2018 at 9:36 PM

    • Strobilus is the singular, strobili the plural. The Latin word was taken from Greek strobilos, which meant ‘a twisted object’ or ‘a pine cone,’ from strobos, which meant ‘a whirling’ and is the source of English strobe.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 18, 2018 at 10:27 PM

  10. Very interesting to see these two different phases. This interesting horsetail made me think – – I’ve visited gardens with all sorts of themes — Shakespeare (plants mentioned in his plays & sonnets), fragrance gardens, one with nothing but blue/gray plants, cacti, etc. but I’ve never seen a garden, arboretum, or greenhouse with a theme of ancient plants. Ginkgo trees, dawn redwood, ferns, cycads, horsetails, etc. Tomorrow I’ll do a websearch, I’m sure this exists somewhere, and would be very interesting to visit.

    Robert Parker

    November 18, 2018 at 9:58 PM

    • You’ve hit upon a good idea: a botanical place with a theme of ancient plants. If you find one, do let us know. If you don’t find one, perhaps you could contact a botanical garden and pitch your idea to the people who run it.

      And now a philosophical and semantic question: can any plant alive today truly be ancient? While a living plant may have changed little from a long-ago ancestor, the living plant is still in the modern world. Along similar lines with regard to languages, it seems that all languages spoken in the world today are equally old, which is to say equally modern.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 19, 2018 at 7:41 AM

      • Wow, a pop quiz first thing Monday morning! Well, this morning I found a muffin, which someone apparently placed in the glove compartment of my car, and then forgot. It exists here in the present, but I classified it as ancient, and threw it away. Come to think of it, speaking of language, “glove compartment” is also ancient-speak. 🙂

        Robert Parker

        November 19, 2018 at 7:50 AM

        • Your muffin’s a comical example. It reminds me of when I commuted to college and changed subway lines at the Columbus Circle station. One day while waiting for the uptown train at my usual place on the platform I noticed a bagel had somehow ended up on the ground between the rails. Over the next few weeks I watched the bagel’s slow decay. Someone could have done a photo documentation of that decay but I wasn’t yet into photography way back then.

          Yes, some terms get fossilized in a language, glove compartment being one I’ve pointed to myself. Along similar lines, there are people who still call a refrigerator as an ice box. There are also once-common words that now get used only in fixed phrases. Wikipedia has a list of some in English:


          Steve Schwartzman

          November 19, 2018 at 8:16 AM

  11. I really enjoyed your horsetails 😊


    November 22, 2018 at 11:57 AM

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: