Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Meanwhile, back at the ranch…

with 34 comments

Okay, so I don’t live on a ranch but I do live in Texas, and now that we’ve been back for two weeks I should begin interpolating an occasional current picture into the continuing travelogue. Today’s photograph from August 24th on the Blackland Prairie in northeast Austin shows an opening flower of Clematis drummondii, the vine colloquially known as old man’s beard.

© 2019 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 27, 2019 at 4:51 AM

34 Responses

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  1. That’s so funny :). I saw the title, and I was going to ask you if you really live on a ranch LOL! It was too bad that we didn’t get to meet up when you were in Toronto, but you never know, maybe we’ll get down to Texas one day.


    August 27, 2019 at 6:29 AM

    • Sure, come on down. A good time might be March, when the Ontario winter seems like it’s been dragging on forever and wildflowers already abound this far south.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 27, 2019 at 7:09 AM

  2. There is something so likable about this plant, isn’t there?


    August 27, 2019 at 8:07 AM

    • Yes, it’s one of my favorite local plants to photograph in all its phases: buds, flowers, silky strands, graying fluff.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 27, 2019 at 8:23 AM

  3. Hi – is this the same plant that has gone to seed at the corner of Sierra Oaks and Sierra Nevada?


    August 27, 2019 at 9:04 AM

    • I’ve photographed Clematis drummondii at that corner in other years, so I expect it is what you’re seeing there. The female plants produce a fluff that prompted the colloquial name old man’s beard.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 27, 2019 at 9:16 AM

  4. How lucky you are to still have clematis flowers blooming in your neck of the woods, Steve!

    Peter Klopp

    August 27, 2019 at 9:19 AM

    • Marshall Enquist lists the bloom period in central Texas as April–September. Geyata Agilvsgi extends it to October for Texas as a whole. I seem to recall finding occasional flowers even in November. That’s a consequence of living in a land with six months of summer rather than six months of winter.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 27, 2019 at 9:27 AM

  5. What wonderful congruence to see this photo this morning. It almost mirrors the first flower to open on my clematis paniculata. That happened this morning.


    August 27, 2019 at 8:05 PM

  6. I so enjoy what you share.


    August 27, 2019 at 8:12 PM

  7. Beautiful and unusual flower. Interesting that it doesn’t resemble the Clematis I’m familiar with… But then again, I know very little about flowers. Wonder if they’re related?

    Birder's Journey

    August 27, 2019 at 8:35 PM

    • I’ve read that the genus Clematis contains some 300 species, so I’m not surprised that the one you’re familiar with looks different from this one. The other two native Clematis species in Austin resemble each other but also look different from this one, which is by far the most common.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 27, 2019 at 8:39 PM

  8. I was thinking about this plant today. I noticed some snow-on-the-prairie in bloom and suddenly realized that autumn is nearly upon us. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen this beauty, whether in flower or seed, and I need to remedy that.

    The last time I went to the Watson preserve, I found another clematis growing alongside the road: Clematis terniflora, or sweet autumn clematis. It’s a shame it’s not native; it had the sweetest fragrance, and pollinators of every sort were swarming it. Given Gallivanta’s comment, I thought this was interesting, from the Missouri Botanical Garden: “[C. terniflora is] Synonymous with and sometimes sold as C. maximowicziana, C. paniculata and C. dioscoreifolia, although technically C. paniculata is a separate species native to New Zealand.”


    August 27, 2019 at 10:08 PM

    • You may have heard me say that I’ve long come to distinguish what I call botanical autumn from the conventional autumn determined by an equinox at its beginning and a solstice at its end. That’s especially true in Texas, where hot weather continues so far past the autumnal equinox. On August 11, as we drove the last leg of our trip, from Houston to Austin, we couldn’t help noticing the fields of snow-on-the-prairie, and I thought to myself that botanical autumn had already started.

      Because Clematis drummondii doesn’t grow in your area, you’ll have to take one of your jaunts westward into the center of the state, where it abounds.

      Yes, people who run plant nurseries aren’t always fastidious about identifying the species they sell. Sometimes it’s out of ignorance. I suspect that other times it’s intentional.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 28, 2019 at 6:19 AM

  9. Wild clematis flowers, especially this one, are hardly recognizable compared to the raucous blooms we have on the crossbred cultivated varieties. I prefer the more subtle blooms such as these, not that they are at all plain.

    Steve Gingold

    August 30, 2019 at 6:08 PM

    • I’m with you, brother. As you know, in these pages I highlight only native species, which have plenty to offer and often deserve to be better known.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 30, 2019 at 6:47 PM

      • I try to share natives but will also give appreciation for the nons as well. Invasives are another story.

        Steve Gingold

        August 30, 2019 at 7:03 PM

        • Every region has its share of those. As we traveled around the Northeast a couple of alien species seemed to be everywhere.

          Steve Schwartzman

          August 30, 2019 at 9:08 PM

  10. Super shot Steve … and an expression I have always enjoyed 🙂


    September 1, 2019 at 2:13 PM

  11. Oh, that word makes me cringe. Nowadays, people put whatever the trendy but worthless animal happens to be at the time (probably ‘rescued’ from some trendy third world country at ridiculous expense) on their big suburban parcel, and call it a ‘ranch’.


    September 2, 2019 at 3:31 PM

    • I’m not up on that trendy use of ranch. In terms of the word itself, although English borrowed it from Spanish (originally in the Spanish form rancho), most people would be surprised to learn that Spanish got the word from French.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 2, 2019 at 4:45 PM

      • It probably is not trendy like that in more refined cultures outside of California. We just do things differently here and come up with the oddest of fads and trends.


        September 3, 2019 at 9:41 AM

        • I’m well aware of that. Valleyspeak is one example:


          Steve Schwartzman

          September 3, 2019 at 1:16 PM

          • !!! NO WAY!!! You know about Valleyspeak?!?!? We call it simply ‘Val’. What no one will admit now is that is started in the Santa Clara Valley before it was popularized in the San Fernando Valley. It is such a rad dialect, although the San Fernando Valley version is like totally lame. I was in the Class of 1985 at Prospect High in Saratoga, so many of my friends back then were quite fluent.


            September 4, 2019 at 3:03 PM

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