Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

The secondary players become primary

with 22 comments

The previous post about velvet gaura featured firewheels (Gaillardia pulchella) and to a much lesser extent mealy blue sage (Salvia farinacea) as background color. Now here they are in their own right.

While mealy blue sage flowers are normally light purple, I noticed a bunch of white variants like the one highlighted below; the regular color predominates in the background. Both of these views are from the edge of the office building parking lot from which I walked a short distance to the Mopac embankment at Braker Ln. Unlike those wildflowers along the highway that got prematurely mowed down, these by the parking lot are maintained by a different company and were left alone to thrive.

© 2019 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 11, 2019 at 5:38 PM

22 Responses

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  1. Lovely shots, as usual. I was really irritated that some of these lush fields were mowed. Poor pollinators.


    May 11, 2019 at 10:29 PM

    • It bothered me enough that I left a message with the person I was told is in charge of mowing on Mopac but he didn’t return my call.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 12, 2019 at 5:55 AM

  2. Variants are often more interesting or pleasing than the standard. That is true, in my opinion, of the spiderworts that line one side of our driveway. And currently the Common Blue Violets.

    Steve Gingold

    May 12, 2019 at 2:10 AM

    • One of my early observations in the world of native plants was that purple wildflowers seemed more likely than those of other colors to generate white variants. In fact a white spiderwort I came across in southeast Austin was one piece of evidence that led me to that notion. I went years without seeing another one but finally last spring I did:


      I don’t see enough violets here to have ever seen a white one.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 12, 2019 at 6:23 AM

  3. Beautiful image, Steve – I love the contrast between the blue and the hot colors.


    May 12, 2019 at 8:23 AM

    • It is a good contrast, isn’t it? The cool and the hot colors mostly stayed apart from each other.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 12, 2019 at 4:59 PM

  4. Is this then, white (sacred) sage?! OR, has something happened to what is there already?


    May 12, 2019 at 8:25 AM

    • It’s a natural white variant of the normal purplish flowers this species produces. The foreground flowers in the second picture came up white from the outset, as opposed to fading from an earlier purple.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 12, 2019 at 5:03 PM

  5. The sage makes a beautiful background in both images. I wish gaillarda grew wild up here!


    May 12, 2019 at 3:07 PM

    • For your sake, I wish it did, too. The Gaillardia is currently at its peak; I was out again on the prairie this morning taking more pictures of it. Just can’t get enough.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 12, 2019 at 5:10 PM

      • I can console myself with trillium, wood poppy, bluebell (Mertensia) and other woodland flowers. But their season is short…


        May 12, 2019 at 7:25 PM

  6. Gaillardia combine well with so many other flowers, and this is an especially pleasing combination. I went through my files to see when and where I’d found the mealy blue sage, and there were several places: in front of the Presidio in Goliad in June, along the River Road outside Center Point in late May, at one of the painted churches near Schulenburg in June. That means I very well may have a chance to locate them again this year.

    You’re right about the Gaillardia — and the greenthread, and the coreopsis, and the daisies, and… I thought things would be fading by now, but it’s not happening.


    May 13, 2019 at 10:09 PM

    • Your recollection of mealy blue sage in Goliad sent me searching and I found this:


      All the rain we’ve been having seems to have prolonged the profusion of wildflowers, which will elicit no complaints from nature photographers. It should also ensure you’ll find more mealy blue sage. One thing I’ve noticed about the species in Austin is that it often has a second flowering in the fall, even if not as intense as in the spring.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 14, 2019 at 5:54 AM

      • I was afraid I’d lost or deleted this photo, but I found it. Given your recent experiences, I thought you’d enjoy seeing this sign that was posted that year in front of the Fannin monument. I wonder if we could get the highway department to put a similar notice on their electronic billboards?


        May 15, 2019 at 9:54 PM

        • Cynical me assumes that with enough time you could come up with a photograph showing a mower mowing right around a sign like that to cut down the wildflowers!

          Steve Schwartzman

          May 16, 2019 at 6:34 AM

  7. I thought that sounded familiar. I had to look it up real quick. ‘Victoria’ used to be a popular warm season annual. It was darker blue. There was also a white variety. How cool to know they grow wild somewhere.


    May 18, 2019 at 12:26 PM

    • And for me the learning has almost been the reverse, beginning with native species that grow wild in the region where I live and to a lesser extent the places that I visit.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 18, 2019 at 4:13 PM

  8. It is so pretty how you composed the image so there is a ribbon of pale lavender/white setting off the red-orange.


    June 21, 2019 at 8:47 AM

    • I don’t know how much credit I can take. That’s the way the two colonies were growing, and so it seemed natural to frame the picture that way. Not to say that I didn’t also try other compositions.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 21, 2019 at 9:09 AM

      • You definitely get the credit for framing them the way you did. I keep wondering what you would do with the open fields at Grant Woods this season. First they were solid shooting stars, now they are a mix of spiderworts and canada anemones, with splashes of golden alexanders thrown it. Gorgeous, but my camera/ skills aren’t up to capturing it. For whatever reason, flowers here are usually much further apart than they seem to be in Texas, so they don’t seem to condense down to a photograph effectively.


        June 22, 2019 at 7:56 AM

        • Thanks for appreciating the framing. As you’ve seen here over the years, Texas produces dense colonies of wildflowers. Naturally I’ve taken photographic advantage of that density. In addition, we have plenty of wildflowers spaced farther apart, like the ones you describe up your way, and those lend themselves to a macro treatment. Call it the best of both worlds.

          Steve Schwartzman

          June 22, 2019 at 8:16 AM

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