Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Flowers and stems

with 25 comments

What you see in the informational picture above from August 29th on the shore of Brushy Creek Lake in Cedar Park may be an annual aster known locally as hierba del marrano, Symphyotrichum subulatum. Then I wasn’t sure and wondered if the plant might be Mexican devilweed, Chloracantha spinosa. After vacillating, I’m leaning toward my first assumption again.

Whatever the plant is, I experimented with abstract compositions in which one of the small flower heads stood out against the vague network of lines that the long and slender stems created in the background.

© 2019 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 25, 2019 at 4:41 AM

25 Responses

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  1. I can’t help you with identification but I can tell you that you have turned this small flower into a star attraction.


    September 25, 2019 at 5:22 AM

    • Your identification of the flower head as a star attraction is help enough. Your words reminded me of a familiar nursery rhyme:

      Star light, star bright,
      The first star I see tonight;
      I wish I may, I wish I might,
      Have the wish I wish tonight.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 25, 2019 at 6:36 AM

  2. What a delicate flower! It looks like one we may have here, but I’d have to go out and look to be sure. We have several plants around the slough that have the tiniest flowers and lots of supporting stem. I haven’t yet discovered what all species of plants that area of the pecan orchard supports. Maybe someday I’ll have the time to research.


    September 25, 2019 at 6:54 AM

    • It’s often much easier to enjoy wildflowers or take pictures of them than to figure out what they are, isn’t it? Might members of a native plant society in Oklahoma be able to identify species for you?

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 25, 2019 at 7:20 AM

      • They probably could. We did find it helpful to have a state biologist come out to help us with wildlife (whitetail deer mostly) management – keeping plants or planting plots to make the area more deer-friendly. That was more than two years ago, but we’ve found since we’ve let the area go wild that new species of plants have emerged, especially in the slough area. Perhaps it’s time to invite that fella back!


        September 25, 2019 at 7:23 AM

        • Yes, do. I’ve often noticed how native species reassert themselves when land is left alone. Unfortunately in my area in recent years the leaving alone for a few years has often been a prelude to development once the price of the land has risen high enough.

          Steve Schwartzman

          September 25, 2019 at 7:32 AM

          • That’s an observation that unfortunately, we are seeing everywhere.


            September 25, 2019 at 7:59 AM

            • Two decades ago, when I got interested in these things, one of the first wildflower fields I got excited by already had wooden stakes set out in places, and within a week or two construction began. As far as I know, I was the last person ever to enjoy that field as a piece of nature. Some other properties held on for quite a while, giving me lots of opportunities to wander and take pictures, but in the last five years I lost a whole bunch of those places as the pace of development accelerated.

              Steve Schwartzman

              September 25, 2019 at 8:14 AM

  3. I really like what you did with your mystery flower. Looks aster-y to me but I’m feeling too lazy to look up the other. Sometimes, it just doesn’t matter, does it? These days I can’t understand anyone wanting to invite deer but to each her own! 😀


    September 25, 2019 at 7:58 AM

    • Mexican devilweed is in the same Astereae tribe of the sunflower family as asters, so it has similar flower heads. A little while ago I checked one of my wildflower books, which reminded me that Mexican devilweed has a stiffly upright growth habit; that made me go back to favoring my original supposition of an aster.

      Anyway, I appreciate that as an artist you like my takes on the flower heads and stems. I got excited about the abstractions I was able to get.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 25, 2019 at 8:09 AM

      • Yes it is more satisfying to play with abstraction than I thought it would be. I’ve got a book that I am working with my daughter about creating abstracts, and am learning so much myself.


        September 28, 2019 at 9:25 AM

        • Glad to hear it. Sounds like you’ve abstracted a lot of things from that book.

          Steve Schwartzman

          September 28, 2019 at 10:36 AM

          • We have indeed. It tickles me to look at my representational work and see where I have used some of the principles without realizing it.


            September 29, 2019 at 8:53 AM

  4. Whatever its name, you did a fine job with your experimentation, Steve.

    Peter Klopp

    September 25, 2019 at 8:25 AM

    • Thanks for your vote of confidence. Managing to keep the flower heads in focus wasn’t easy.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 25, 2019 at 8:28 AM

  5. I like the way the ghostly background stems echo the angle of the in focus colorful flower. You could put an * next to aster.

    Steve Gingold

    September 25, 2019 at 4:52 PM

    • “Ghostly” is just the word I was looking for. You got it.
      And good of you to put an * on the aster; no disaster there.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 25, 2019 at 9:02 PM

  6. This looked so much like the little asters that crowd the edges of ponds and sloughs here, I went into my files to see if I’d identified one I posted last year. Sure enough: Symphyotrichum subulatum.They certainly look like the ones you’ve shown here.

    It’s the same plant I mentioned seeing at the marinas. Its tough and wiry stems will grow right right through the boards in the bulkheads and lean out over the water. At the refuges, the tangles of stems become quite large, but still feel airy.

    In the second photo, the stems are as interesting as the flower. I found myself wondering if that’s the way the world looks to an insect making its way through that tangle.


    September 25, 2019 at 9:36 PM

    • I’m pretty sure now that this is Symphyotrichum subulatum, which one guidebook calls the most common aster in Texas. Another guidebook reminded me that Chloracantha spinosa is “stiffly upright,” which this plant isn’t.

      As you say, the shadowy stems in the second picture carry much of the interest in the image, at least as my abstract mind saw it and sees it. An old vernacular name for this species, wireweed, accords with what you say about growing through the boards in the bulkheads. This is one of the almost four dozen native species I’ve logged in central Texas that have weed in at least one of their common names.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 25, 2019 at 10:18 PM

  7. Didn’t you do well .. top shots Steve


    September 30, 2019 at 5:43 PM

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