Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Woolly ironweed

with 31 comments

I’ve had trouble over the years getting good pictures of woolly ironweed, Vernonia lindheimeri, because it’s hard to get many of its parts in focus at the same time. On June 18th I found some woolly ironweed budding along the Capital of Texas Highway and recorded this straight-down, limited-focus, double-asterisk view that seems okay. To see what the flowers of this species look like, you can check out a post from 2015.

© 2019 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 1, 2019 at 4:47 PM

31 Responses

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  1. Very cool-looking plant, Steve, and the flowers in your 2015 post are beautiful…so is the grasshopper.

    Jet Eliot

    July 1, 2019 at 5:18 PM

    • I think some or even many people who see ironweed buds and blooms will be surprised to learn that they’re looking at a member of the sunflower family. Whether the chartreuse grasshopper would have been surprised by that, I can’t say.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 1, 2019 at 5:35 PM

  2. An apt photograph for the coming holiday. It’s neat the way the foliage and the buds are exploding in the same direction. Looks a bit like hyperspace as the Millennium Falcon accelerates.

    Steve Gingold

    July 1, 2019 at 6:28 PM

    • Ah, you’re thinking fireworks. My mind ran along the lines of red, white, and blue, as Thursday’s post will reveal. I had to look up the Millennium Falcon to see what connection you were making to hyperspace.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 1, 2019 at 7:41 PM

  3. The flower is spectacular – I didn’t expect that from the picture above.

    I’ve been having the same issue trying to photograph the hollyhocks. That center stamen is so long! And the rest of the flower is so flat. I’m tempted to try focus stacking, but I don’t see that as a skill I’m willing to practice enough.

    Thanks for sharing the pictures (as always).



    July 1, 2019 at 7:52 PM

    • You’re welcome. I’m glad I thought to include the link to an ironweed flower, which the buds don’t seem to foreshadow at all.

      Yes, flowers in the mallow family, like hollyhocks, can be a challenge. I usually approach the local Texas mallow-family flowers from the side or partly from the side to try to maximize what comes out sharp. You’re correct that focus stacking is a good way to overcome the difficulties but it normally takes a still subject and some sort of focus rail. As you say, it’s a lot of work. The closest I’ve come to it is copying and pasting a sharp part of one image onto the corresponding less-sharp part of a similar image.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 1, 2019 at 8:10 PM

      • I’d thought about doing the copying and pasting onto the hollyhocks for the same reason. And not only do you need the extra equipment, but I’d need to lug the tripod around the botanical gardens. Lately, even the DSLR is heavy, let alone a tripod and mount.


        July 1, 2019 at 11:30 PM

        • I don’t use a tripod, either, but I do often take several similar pictures of a subject in short order, sometimes altering my focus slightly.

          Steve Schwartzman

          July 2, 2019 at 6:43 AM

  4. I’ll second the motion on the fireworks. However, you have me anticipating Thursday.

    Michael Scandling

    July 1, 2019 at 9:16 PM

  5. I know how hard it is to focus, when the individual buds and flowers are not all at the distance from the camera. Great job! Congratulations, Steve!

    Peter Klopp

    July 1, 2019 at 9:54 PM

  6. How interesting! Looking at your photo above, one almost gets the impression that this could be a conifer with an unusual cone, but one glance at the flowering plant quickly disabuses the observer of that notion.


    July 1, 2019 at 10:53 PM

    • I see what you mean about the foliage resembling that of a conifer, and how the buds might pass for small cones. Good observation. And then the flower dispels your illusion.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 2, 2019 at 6:13 AM

  7. wow….emulates space like shapes

  8. These look like the old-fashioned decorations we used to add to Christmas packages. They never were thrown away, but were passed from one person to another atop different presents as the years passed. I still have one, pure white with tiny, glittery pinecones and holly leaves, that looks remarkably like this flower.

    I was so surprised by the color difference between this photo and your previous one that I’m sure I’ve never seen this stage before. When I read “ironweed,” I expected to see magenta, not white. Our most common ironweed species is Vernonia missurica, the Missouri ironweed. The flower’s the same color, and there are suggestions in some photos that the buds might tend toward white in their early stage, even though the structure looks quite different. I just don’t know — more exploration’s required.


    July 2, 2019 at 9:03 AM

    • Central Texas also has western ironweed, whose buds and leaves differ from the woolly ironweed shown here but whose flowers are similar:


      The woolly species shown here really lives up to its name when it comes to the buds.

      I see the Wildflower Center database has only one photograph of Missouri ironweed. Given that it’s the most common species near you, you may already have or might be able to take some pictures to donate to the database.

      Happy Christmas memories in the week of July Fourth.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 2, 2019 at 9:43 AM

  9. This is an excellent shot, Steve. It looks so different from the ironweed I see here, until I see your older post of the blooms. Those I recognize!


    July 15, 2019 at 9:07 AM

    • Right you are. The flowers leave little doubt this is an ironweed. I don’t know if any other species of ironweed produces such fuzzy buds.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 15, 2019 at 12:29 PM

      • Pretty cool adaptation. I’m guessing it grows in a particularly dry spot?


        July 15, 2019 at 2:52 PM

        • This one was certainly in a dry place. I can’t say more generally about the places where it grows.

          Steve Schwartzman

          July 15, 2019 at 4:20 PM

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