Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Fluffy poverty weed and fleecy clouds

with 36 comments

Sometimes you get clouds that mimic your subject. That’s the way it was on November 2nd when I went over to a poverty weed bush (Baccharis neglecta) I know in my neighborhood that had matured to the stage where it was casting its seed-bearing fluff into the breeze.

After the seeds and fluff from each tuft blow away, a little “star” gets left behind.

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 20, 2018 at 4:43 AM

36 Responses

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  1. I think you have a gift to help us see beauty in everything you photograph


    November 20, 2018 at 4:48 AM

    • Thank you for that thought, Lindylou. I do try to bring out the beauty in the native plants around us.

      Someone with the name Schwartzman can appreciate your promotion of the native zwarte bij.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 20, 2018 at 7:11 AM

  2. A rich subject for photography. The little star is lovely.


    November 20, 2018 at 5:06 AM

  3. What a sparkling and delicate close-up! Looks like fairy dust! Thank you for showing off the beauty of this plant to its best advantage!

    Birder's Journey

    November 20, 2018 at 7:35 AM

    • You’re certainly welcome. May the fairy dust bode well for you. When the receptacle, i.e. the star, is freshly revealed, it has a sheen that easily catches the light, as it did here. I look forward to the latter stages of poverty weed each fall. With all the rain we had until recently, I thought I’d missed a good display this year, but then I began finding some of these bushes with maximum fluff still on them.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 20, 2018 at 7:55 AM

      • If I were just passing by, I would never have realized that this relatively plain looking plant could be so beautiful.

        Birder's Journey

        November 20, 2018 at 7:58 AM

        • Poverty weed becomes special in the fall. At other times of the year you probably wouldn’t pay much attention to it, except in anticipation of what it will do in the fall.

          Steve Schwartzman

          November 20, 2018 at 8:30 AM

  4. I always love the way sun shines through grass, and the poverty weed is a great example on a larger scale. I really enjoy your series with the close-ups to go with the photos of the subject from a distance.

    Sue Ann (Suna) Kendall

    November 20, 2018 at 7:50 AM

    • Photographers live for light (and the very word photography means ‘writing with light’). Poverty weed offers opportunities for translucence as light passes through fluff, and for reflection as light glances off the receptacle (the star).

      When I started these posts in 2011, I already had the notion of showing various stages of each species whenever possible. Of course there are hundreds of native species here, and I can’t possibly get a good picture of each one in each stage, but I do what I can.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 20, 2018 at 8:02 AM

  5. I used to assume any fluff landing in my varnish was milkweed. I know better now; goldenrod or poverty weed’s a more likely candidate, especially this time of year. That’s a lovely arrangement of plant and cloud; there’s clearly enough wind to set great clouds of seeds a-flying.


    November 20, 2018 at 8:04 AM

    • Live and learn, right? My impression is that much more fluff comes from poverty weed, goldenrod, and other plants in the sunflower family, than from milkweeds, especially, as you say, at this time of year.

      Near the poverty weed I found some of its seed-bearing fluff on other plants and took a few pictures showing the combination.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 20, 2018 at 8:38 AM

  6. Beautiful, both. That first one begs for haiku. Hm. Let me think on it.


    November 20, 2018 at 8:18 AM

    • I’ll be waiting to see what you can come up with that conveys the sense of poverty weed fluff and wispy clouds.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 20, 2018 at 8:43 AM

    • An aura of white
      Like a misty crown in fall
      Her Highness not poor


      November 20, 2018 at 3:49 PM

      • I was over at your blog when these comments came through.

        I like the way you played with royalty versus poverty. You’re right about dropping the “is” to get five syllables in the last line, but did you accidentally leave out four syllables of the seven you need in the middle line?

        Steve Schwartzman

        November 20, 2018 at 4:15 PM

      • I was over at your blog when your haiku came through.

        I like the way you played with royalty versus poverty, and the way crown can be taken in two senses: the top of a tree or the ring worn on the head of a royal.

        You’ve met your self-appointed challenge.

        Steve Schwartzman

        November 20, 2018 at 4:50 PM

  7. Lovely photographs 🙂

    M.B. Henry

    November 20, 2018 at 4:43 PM

  8. Both shots are really nice. That poverty weed really “got the star treatment.”
    The little star is nice enough to use in dried arrangements.

    Robert Parker

    November 20, 2018 at 6:00 PM

    • Because poverty weed is a star in my botanical firmament, I give it that treatment.

      I didn’t provide a sense of scale in the second photograph. The receptacles (stars) are actually pretty small, probably about a third of an inch across, so any dried arrangement including them would likely be a miniature one.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 20, 2018 at 6:10 PM

  9. Dang! Such unappealing names! Not only is it a baccharis, but it is neglecta! and poverty? and weed? wow. The funny thing is that is looks more interesting than our native baccharis because it is unfamiliar.


    November 21, 2018 at 10:09 PM

    • I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me poverty weed and I won’t neglect it. The common name goes back to the Great Depression, when this species readily sprang up on abandoned farms. People also called it Depression weed and Roosevelt weed.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 21, 2018 at 10:14 PM

      • Well, it certainly sounds more appealing when you put it that way. . . . I mean that you would not neglect it.


        November 23, 2018 at 10:26 PM

    • Given your interest in Oklahoma, here’s the Baccharis species I saw there in 2013:


      Steve Schwartzman

      November 21, 2018 at 10:19 PM

      • I did not get as far as Heavener, although I had looked at real estate there from here. If I had seen baccharis in Oklahoma, I would not have recognized it. Those in your articles are nothing like what I am familiar with. They were not blooming while I was there. If I had noticed it, I probably would have liked it, just because everything there was so unfamiliar, just like the Eastern red cedar that so many okies are not so keen on. I thought they were totally rad!


        November 23, 2018 at 10:29 PM

        • From what you say, if you’d managed to have some time in Heavener, I suspect you’d have found the vegetation heavenly.

          Steve Schwartzman

          November 23, 2018 at 10:38 PM

          • Well, I find it as such without even being there! I really do not know what the allure of Oklahoma is, but . . . WOW! I really am a Californian, and I have no intention of ever living anywhere else, but I could SO vacation in Oklahoma!


            November 24, 2018 at 10:26 AM

      • Gads! That’s it! This is the ‘unappealing’ native that grows throughout most of coastal California. I knew it mostly from Montara on the coast of San Mateo County, but it grows wild here and in the Santa Clara Valley . . . . and everywhere around here. There is a low growing ground cover type too, which is the ancestor to the cultivars that are available in nurseries. Although they are subspecies or varieties of the same species, we tend to distinguish them as Baccharis pilularis as the shrubby form, and Baccharis consanguinea as the ground cover form. I don’t know why we do it that way. Those that we use in landscaping are all male.


        November 23, 2018 at 10:38 PM

        • As a nature photographer, I find it strange to landscape with male Baccharis plants because then there’s no pretty fluff in the fall. Maybe the people who tend the plants don’t want to have to clean up all that fluff, or maybe they don’t want new plants sprouting up nearby. The poverty weed in this post’s photos used to be bigger but whoever maintains that streetside strip trimmed the bush way back a couple of years ago. I worried that they might have killed it but fortunately it has hung on.

          Steve Schwartzman

          November 23, 2018 at 10:46 PM

          • The male clones are used because the plants are foliar only. I mean than they are just foliar ground covers with green leaves. The natives that bloom are scrubby, and hold onto their old dead stems. We happen to have a few at work that we intend to salvage for now, just to see how they work. They happened to come up in a landscape that is composed of garden varieties of native plants, so no one will notice. If we keep the dead pruned out, we will see how they look in bloom and behaving almost as they would in the wild.


            November 24, 2018 at 10:30 AM

  10. […] you can see gains some protection by mimicking a bee. The stray seeds with silk attached came from the adjacent poverty weed bush that graciously put in an appearance here a couple of weeks ago. Below you’ll find a much larger and more colorful insect that was […]

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