Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Wildfires and wildflowers

with 26 comments

Moved to action by some timely photographs on the internet, on May 25th I drove an hour west from Austin to Inks Lake State Park, where dense and expansive colonies of coreopsis were the attraction.

A wildfire in July 2018 may have cleared the way for the coreopsis that throve this spring, setting up quite a striking contrast between the fresh flowers and the burned, dead trees. On the other hand, coreopsis and other wildflowers also covered tracts that fire may not have reached.

In the picture above, the red flowers are Indian blankets (Gaillardia pulchella) and the pink ones are meadow pinks (Sabatia campestris). Below are more meadow pinks, along with a few holdover Indian paintbrushes (Castilleja indivisa); I say “holdover” because most paintbrushes ended their season a month ago.

© 2019 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 1, 2019 at 7:16 AM

26 Responses

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  1. The flowers throve and you drove, all in order to hove to and capture these glorious images.

    Are those yucca blooms in the first photograph? I can’t find evidence of the leaves, but the flowers may have grown tall enough to cover them. I’m curious about the collection of humps in the second photo, too. I don’t think rocks would have caused that. Perhaps animals had been digging and creating earthen mounds? I don’t think they’re baby mima mounds — but they surely are interesting.


    June 1, 2019 at 8:17 AM

    • A while ago I resumed reading where I’d left off in the book 1493: “Slavery and falciparum [a strain of malaria] thrived together.” The most alive of the old strong past tenses in verbs of this pattern is drove. People like me still like throve and strove, and I also grew up saying dove (but never *diven).

      I can see why you’d think the plants in the background in the first picture are yucca. Actually you’re seeing the upright and translucent pods of Arabis petiolaris, which I rarely see in Austin; it’s more common over by Inks Lake.

      As I recall, the humps in the second photograph are entirely made of coreopsis. In Austin, dense coreopsis tends to form carpets. At Inks Lake some of the plants grew into floral mounds, a few of which surprised me with their roundness.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 1, 2019 at 2:55 PM

      • I found your 2009 photo of the translucent pods. They’re quite attractive, actually, and certainly interesting. It’s another plant I’d never heard of.

        I wondered how the malaria references made it into your Spanish-English Word Connections blog. I’ll save my mosquito comments for over there.


        June 1, 2019 at 4:14 PM

        • I’d forgotten that I gave those three pictures to the Wildflower Center. As soon as I saw the location I remembered taking the photographs. That lot just a few miles from home later got torn up as part of a sewer project. The land is open again but I don’t think the native plants have fully re-established themselves yet.

          Steve Schwartzman

          June 1, 2019 at 7:47 PM

      • And speaking of those verbs, Eisenhower said to the D-Day troops: “You are about to embark upon the Great Crusade, toward which we have striven these many months.”

        Steve Schwartzman

        June 2, 2019 at 7:34 PM

      • It took me a while, but I finally remembered two other plants that create ‘humps’ like that: clover and buttercups. Because it was so wet this year, people couldn’t mow, so those flowers had a chance to do things they’re usually not allowed to do.


        June 3, 2019 at 5:07 AM

        • Then let’s wish for more rain to thwart the mowers (but not so much as to flood your area again).

          Steve Schwartzman

          June 3, 2019 at 7:23 AM

  2. The masses of flowers that you have there are just incredible!


    June 1, 2019 at 8:46 AM

  3. The coreopsis makes a striking foreground for the bare trees – all beautiful images.


    June 1, 2019 at 10:14 AM

  4. More wows! Fire is well known for reinvigorating fields and meadows and these all look like great examples.

    Steve Gingold

    June 2, 2019 at 2:21 AM

    • This is central Texas’s uncommon bid to compete with the fireweed that’s so prolific in some places up north.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 2, 2019 at 5:05 AM

  5. […] to the claim that the prolific coreopsis held on a nature photographer at Inks Lake State Park on May 25th were the colorfully […]

  6. The contrast of the dead and burned trees with the full-of-life flowers in the first shot is striking. The pink and yellow/burgundy/brown of the third shot is a lovely combo; I’m fond of those two colors together.


    June 2, 2019 at 8:41 PM

    • You can see how the contrast between living and dead lends itself to portraiture. As for color combinations, that’s one of the things I live for (photographically speaking).

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 2, 2019 at 8:44 PM

  7. Wildflower seeds are potentiated by wildfire, as these thick blooms attest. Thanks for this wonderful sight, Steve.


    June 4, 2019 at 7:13 AM

    • From what I’ve read, it seems wildfires were more common here before the era of farming and ranching. That said, even without regular fires the wildflowers here seem to have no trouble proliferating. Three years ago, earlier in the spring, I found dense wildflowers at Inks Lake State Park, even though as far as I know there had been no recent fire:


      Still, I’m inclined to believe you’re right, and that the coreopsis this year was more prolific than usual because of last year’s fire.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 4, 2019 at 10:05 AM

  8. An eye-catching carpet of beautiful wildflowers, Steve. Fireweed is another plant that thrives on recently burned ground in areas where they occur, and that is something I have beheld in the past.


    June 6, 2019 at 1:55 PM

    • An eye-catching carpet indeed, thanks to the coreopsis.

      When we went to Montana and the Canadian Rockies in 2017 I was finally able to see (and of course photograph) the fireweed I’d heard so much about.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 6, 2019 at 7:43 PM

  9. Spectacular, Steve – very impressionistic.


    June 6, 2019 at 7:21 PM

  10. The burned tree and the Coreopsis is amazing, Steve – beautiful! that cloudy sky was perfect, wasn’t it? 🙂


    June 11, 2019 at 7:46 PM

    • I’d never seen anything like it. Such a reward for a one-hour drive from home. I’m so happy I went.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 11, 2019 at 9:47 PM

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