Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Beards and webs

with 32 comments

The vine that botanists know as Clematis drummondii has earned the colloquial name old man’s beard because its fertilized flowers give rise to filaments that turn into an increasingly dingy fluff as they mature. (Notwithstanding the beard metaphor, those are of course female flowers.) Below from Great Hills Park on August 29th is a nice expanse of “beards,” along with seed heads of Mexican hats, Ratibida columnifera.

In contrast, a nearby Clematis drummondii plant (presumably male) was cobwebbed rather than bearded.

© 2019 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 23, 2019 at 3:53 AM

32 Responses

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  1. I think the cobwebbed clematis would be a nice poster for Halloween!

    Robert Parker

    September 23, 2019 at 8:11 AM

  2. I agree!


    September 23, 2019 at 8:38 AM

    • You have leave to design the poster. Note the suggestion I made to Robert while you were writing your comment.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 23, 2019 at 8:45 AM

      • Yes, perfect.


        September 23, 2019 at 8:48 AM

        • You’d probably want to take artistic license and make the cobwebbed clematis larger than it is in real life so that onlookers could see the details of what Miss Havisham is holding.

          Steve Schwartzman

          September 23, 2019 at 9:00 AM

          • Yes, I agree. In my pen and ink series at first I always drew small plants small, life -size. Looking back through them I’m realizing I will need to redraw them all much enlarged so you can see them properly. I’ll make a notation of magnification amount, so people aren’t misled!


            September 23, 2019 at 9:21 AM

        • By the way, did you notice that your comment used the same words as Robert’s second comment, above?

          Steve Schwartzman

          September 23, 2019 at 9:33 AM

          • I did.


            September 24, 2019 at 9:16 AM

  3. I am continually amazed at Mother Nature’s ability to come up with all the variations from seeds to flowers and finally to seeds again. I like your photos, Steve.

    Peter Klopp

    September 23, 2019 at 8:44 AM

  4. That really is an amazing shot.


    September 23, 2019 at 12:54 PM

  5. Beautiful shots, both, but I really like the second one. I’ve never grown old man’s beard, but love it when I run across it somewhere, either garden or green space.


    September 23, 2019 at 5:01 PM

    • If you plant it in your garden, then instead of you running across it, it can run across you, so to speak. There’s plenty of it growing wild around Austin, so you could snag some seeds.

      Everyone who’s commented has singled out the second picture, which I’ll grant is less often encountered than what’s shown in the first picture.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 23, 2019 at 5:17 PM

  6. Most of the Clematis I see has fluff with the spent flowers but none create such an interesting ground cover.

    Steve Gingold

    September 24, 2019 at 3:10 AM

    • The fluff shown in the first photograph was still attached to the plants, and that’s how I normally see it. A month ago I saw a surprising amount that had ended up falling on the ground and creating a dense carpet.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 24, 2019 at 6:46 AM

  7. It’s been at least two years since I’ve seen this plant in full plume, and I always hate missing it. On the other hand, the iNaturalist observation plots make clear why I haven’t seen it around here — neither has anyone else. I’ve plans to visit the Kerrville area the first half of October, but the sightings out that way began two months ago, so I probably won’t find it there, either. That makes it doubly nice to see it your photos.

    Spiderwebbed flowers always are a treat, but that black background with this one really makes it shine.


    September 24, 2019 at 7:48 AM

    • I’ve found Clematis drummondii plumes (and I think even a few flowers) in Austin as late as November, so you may well find some near Kerrville in October.

      For the second picture, I did my usual thing of aiming toward a bunch of shaded trees beyond my sunlit subject. Because the background still didn’t turn out totally black, in processing the image I darkened it some more.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 24, 2019 at 11:03 AM

  8. I remember that name because we could actually get it here. I don’t know why, but it was popular for a while. It might have been easier to grow canned in nurseries than the native species. I never saw the native species look good in a landscape.


    September 29, 2019 at 7:01 PM

    • I’m a little surprised that gardeners would want to grow Clematis drummondii, but I sure like it.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 29, 2019 at 7:28 PM

      • Most who enjoy gardening did not want to grow it or the native species. They were a fad among the natives enthusiasts, who innately have bad taste. There are so many nice natives that are practical for home gardens, but natives enthusiasts seem to prefer the more impractical sorts. Flannel bush happened to be one of those fads. It was spectacular in bloom but lived only a few years, and was very difficult to work with and remove once dead. The tomentum is SO irritating to the skin!


        September 30, 2019 at 12:49 AM

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