Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Galaxies of buttercups

with 33 comments

On April 4th I drove around on the Blackland Prairie east of Round Rock to see what nature was doing there. On my way back west toward the town I followed University Blvd., where at one point I noticed that a slew of small yellow flowers had colonized a drying creek bed. Barbed wire prevented me from making my way down to see what the flowers were, but not far away on the other side of the road I found an equally dense colony of the same wildflowers that I was able to walk up to. They turned out to be small buttercups of some sort, perhaps Ranunculus hispidus var. hispidus, formerly known as Ranunculus carolinianus.

This second colony was near the entrance to a recently built community called Vizcaya. As I took my pictures, a mower approached, and of course I wondered whether he would cut down all the flowers, as so often happens. I was relieved when I saw him mow right up to the edge of the colony but leave the flowers untouched. Someone still has a brain.

© 2019 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 15, 2019 at 4:48 AM

33 Responses

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  1. Okay now. While still not as galactic a sight as yours here, we do on occasion have meadows covered with buttercups. Even our lawn will occasionally have large numbers of these, especially if I am tardy in my mowing.

    Steve Gingold

    April 15, 2019 at 5:02 AM

    • I’m happy to hear you’ve got some large yellow galaxies in your part of the country and even an occasional smaller galaxy as close as your yard. It sounds like mowing doesn’t do away with those, which to my mind is a good thing.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 15, 2019 at 5:43 AM

      • Whenever possible I try to mow around them until their flowering is done. In the past I have posted several Oxeye Daisy shots, all of which were from the yard. We have lots of Yellow Hawkweed which does get mowed as it has little consequence since by the following week it as if they were never cut.

        Steve Gingold

        April 15, 2019 at 6:16 AM

        • I don’t remember hearing about yellow hawkweed but Go Botany says that it “is native to Europe and was introduced as an ornamental into New York in 1879. It is now a destructive weed of pastureland. It can colonize a wide range of habitats with sandy or gravelly soils.” The accompanying map shows it in almost every county in New England.

          Steve Schwartzman

          April 15, 2019 at 6:29 AM

          • Yes, it can be a pest, but what other flower can tell whether you like butter or not?

            Steve Gingold

            April 15, 2019 at 9:25 AM

            • Would you care to explain?

              Steve Schwartzman

              April 15, 2019 at 11:32 AM

              • Something from my childhood. An adult would hold a buttercup under your chin and if it reflected yellow, which of course it always would, then that meant you liked butter, which of course everyone does.

                Steve Gingold

                April 15, 2019 at 11:42 AM

                • This is the first I’ve heard of that. On the other hand, I grew up with Gilbert & Sullivan’s Buttercup. (That link is to an Austin production.)

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  April 15, 2019 at 12:32 PM

                • She doesn’t know why she is called Buttercup. Perhaps because of the buttercup test.

                  Steve Gingold

                  April 15, 2019 at 1:50 PM

                • Perhaps, but somehow I doubt W.S. Gilbert had heard of the buttercup test.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  April 15, 2019 at 3:58 PM

                • Midwestern kids did that, too. A sure sign of spring was the dusting of yellow pollen all over our faces — because who could be content with just rubbing dandelions under the chin? The adults were neater about it, but we were more enthusiastic.


                  April 16, 2019 at 8:00 AM

                • Somehow I missed out on that tradition. The closest thing that I recall on Long Island was sticking winged maple samaras on our noses and calling them polly-noses.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  April 16, 2019 at 8:05 AM

                • That’s a new one. I hope beyond hope that one of the girls who did that was named Anna.


                  April 16, 2019 at 8:10 AM

                • I don’t know about the past, but my nephew’s wife is named Anna and they live one town over from where I grew up, so your Pollyannaish hope could come to pass this fall once the maple samaras appear.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  April 16, 2019 at 8:23 AM

  2. Oh yeah, we have hawkweed. I see that in King County, Wa, it is considered a noxious weed and you are required to control it on your property. Yikes. Not the sort of yellow galaxy we’d want. We also get sweeps of Ranunculus sp. here, too. They are glorious when they get going, aren’t they? I love the shot with the cattle in the background.


    April 15, 2019 at 7:59 AM

    • As you know, I haven’t often included human elements, in this case a ranch, in my pictures. I intended to walk down into the creek bed or stand on its banks so I could get a closer picture of the yellow flowers that wouldn’t include the cattle, but then I discovered the place was surrounded by barbed wire. Oh well, cows, welcome to my picture.

      Sorry to hear you’ve got the invasive hawkweed, too. I also saw online that it’s considered a pernicious weed in various parts of the United States. Apparently it hasn’t made its way to Texas yet. I hope it never does.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 15, 2019 at 8:24 AM

      • I hope not, either.


        April 15, 2019 at 8:27 AM

        • Are you in Washington now, Melissa? Or is that an intended home for the future?

          Steve Gingold

          April 15, 2019 at 9:27 AM

          • I’ve been campaigning for years to get my family to move to the Puget Sound area but have so far failed. I’m looking at trailers and shacks, in desperation for a place I can afford to live in myself. Right now my son is there on vacation and he really loves it. He and his dad talk about having a business together, so maybe if he wants to base the business there…. 🙂


            April 17, 2019 at 1:53 PM

  3. Your top photo is the prettiest buttercup photo I’ve ever seen.

    Ms. Liz

    April 16, 2019 at 5:01 AM

  4. These buttercups are such a delight. Given our cool, cloudy weather, they’ve been blooming here for weeks. Some of the vacant lots finally were mowed, but even they were allowed to rest untouched until the flowers began to fade on their own.

    You may not have appreciated the cows, but they do make a nice horizontal line to go with the vertical lines formed by the trails through the flowers.


    April 16, 2019 at 8:09 AM

    • I didn’t know that clouds and coolness foster the growth of these flowers. This time we both lucked out on having the mowers behave. I assume that like the lots near you, the patch in the second picture will get mowed after the flowers fade.

      I notice how the cows provided a horizontal line to balance the vertical, as do the hills in the background. That’s some compensation.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 16, 2019 at 8:18 AM

  5. What a relief, Steve! That somewhat had a heart more than a brain, maybe.


    April 16, 2019 at 8:56 PM

  6. I just pulled up a bunch of our local version of that. It spreads fast, and then all the sprawling stems root like a carpet that is glued to the floor. It looks like it should pull up like clover, but it doesn’t.


    April 20, 2019 at 1:18 AM

    • Just a few minutes ago something reminded me of the way I’ve pulled up a bunch of invasive Malta star thistle when I’ve been out photographing native plants lately.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 20, 2019 at 5:26 AM

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