Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Prairie bishop writ large

with 22 comments

The Blackland Prairie on the west side of Heatherwilde Blvd. north of Wells Branch Parkway looked so good on May 9th that I went back three days later and once again took a slew of pictures. The star in many of them was Bifora americana, called prairie bishop or prairie bishop’s weed. Hardly a weed it is, and having a great spring it is, too. Also prominent in the first photograph: square-bud primroses, Oenothera capillifolia; firewheels, Gaillardia pulchella; prairie parsley, Polytaenia nuttallii.

The upright dark stalks in the second image are drying Indian paintbrushes, Castilleja indivisa, some red flowers of which you also see approaching the end of their reign.

These three pictures show the Blackland Prairie’s version of snow in May.

© 2019 Steven Schwartzman


Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 14, 2019 at 4:53 PM

22 Responses

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  1. They look nice in a recent rain as well. There is a field of them in Leander that I have considered.

    Jason Frels

    May 14, 2019 at 7:48 PM

    • I don’t know if it’s the same field, but yesterday I photographed a great prairie bishop colony on the west side of US 183 in Leander. Next week I’ll put out a post with pictures of it. I’ve photographed so many good things this spring that I can show only a small portion of them.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 14, 2019 at 9:00 PM

  2. Delightful portraits, Steve.

    Jet Eliot

    May 14, 2019 at 8:26 PM

    • I certainly found these expanses of wildflowers delightful enough that I took hundreds of pictures.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 14, 2019 at 9:02 PM

  3. Wow! How lovely!


    May 15, 2019 at 12:11 AM

  4. A native Bishop’s Weed? That’s fantastic – another native I can add to my garden
    with joy 🙂


    May 15, 2019 at 8:38 PM

    • On its own, prairie bishop’s weed grows primarily in Texas and somewhat in Oklahoma and Arkansas. It’s an annual, but I don’t know if it would grow in as cold a climate as you have in Pennsylvania. The Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center Website says it needs sun or at least partial sun. I don’t know what kind of soil it needs. Maybe you could get it going in a greenhouse. Or you could start a satellite garden in Texas.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 15, 2019 at 9:08 PM

  5. I may have seen this plant and don’t remember it. Perhaps I had it confused with something else. The USDA map has it listed for Brazoria County, which suggests Nash prairie as a possible location. Unfortunately, there’s no way to get there right now, since every road into the area is underwater. Brazos Bend’s prairie would be another likely spot, but flooding has it closed until June 5. I guess I’ll have to just go out and roam the back roads!

    I was looking at your other bishop’s weed post, and was interested to see what you did with your 100mm lens combined with f/22. The way it compressed the flowers was really attractive, and interesting. I’ll have to add that to my “let’s try this” list.


    May 15, 2019 at 10:15 PM

    • I mostly used my 24-105mm lens, looking through the viewfinder as I zoomed in and out searching for compositions that appealed to me. I didn’t realize until your comment that I’d settled on a focal length of 105mm in the three pictures I ended up choosing for this post. In contrast, I definitely remember often keeping the aperture to f/18, f/20 and f/22 in order to get a depth of field that would keep as many of the wildflowers as possible in focus from near to far. On the May 12th return visit I thought about taking along a ladder so I could get a higher vantage point but the results from May 9th were generally good enough that I was happy not to have to lug a ladder around with me.

      I’ve been sorry to hear about all the flooding over by you this past month. Good luck with your above-water back roads. Maybe next spring you can arrange to be in central Texas and find prairie bishop there, where good colonies are known to form.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 16, 2019 at 6:23 AM

  6. There’s a lot of life in those images. I am not fond of the use of the word weed to describe flowering plants, in name yes but in description no. Although I can understand someone with the idea of a mono-cultural lawn to not be fond of them, I’d love our yard to be as these. Not sure Mary Beth would agree though.

    Steve Gingold

    May 16, 2019 at 5:00 AM

    • I may have mentioned that some years ago I compiled a list of several dozen plant species native to central Texas that have “weed” in at least one of their vernacular names. I also came up with the working title for a book about them: Wonderful “Weeds” of Texas. My pictures, of course, would show people how un-weedy those wildflowers can look.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 16, 2019 at 6:29 AM

  7. […] jaunts to northeast Austin on May 9th and May 12th were making me tie the profusion of Bifora americana to the Blackland Prairie, and the common names […]

  8. Pretty magnificent.


    July 1, 2019 at 9:59 AM

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