Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

A good time for cardinal flowers

with 37 comments

Above is a rather trippy picture—thanks to all those orbs in the background—of a happy cardinal flower plant (Lobelia cardinalis) along Bull Creek on September 7th. Below you get a closer look at a budding plant there.

Now it’s three weeks later and the cardinal flowers along Bull Creek continue to have a good time, with new plants still flowering. If any of you folks are dying to see more pictures of cardinal flowers, let me know and I’ll yield to unremitting reader pressure.

© 2019 Steven Schwartzman


Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 30, 2019 at 4:41 AM

37 Responses

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  1. Always happy to see more of these Steve. Do you see just a few scattered spires of flowers, or can there be a lot of spires clustered together?

    Ms. Liz

    September 30, 2019 at 4:52 AM

    • It depends on how you define lots. I saw groups of up to maybe half a dozen, plus scattered individuals. The total is greater than I remember seeing in any previous year.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 30, 2019 at 5:11 AM

  2. More, please. These do keep blooming a long time but are pretty much done, here. I like your trippy photo


    September 30, 2019 at 8:23 AM

    • Okay, I’ll oblige in a couple of days. Our difference in latitude accounts once again for the difference in blooming season.

      Perhaps a photograph that’s trippy makes you long for the days of the hippie. Or maybe not. We tried watching the movie version of Hair on television last week and it was so cloyingly dated we had to change the channel.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 30, 2019 at 8:35 AM

      • I saw that and considered watching it but thought that would be the case, so gave it a miss.


        September 30, 2019 at 8:37 AM

        • Some things age well, others not.

          Steve Schwartzman

          September 30, 2019 at 8:44 AM

          • By coincidence I was reading a book written in the 60’s and the author had the main character make some disparaging comments about it.


            October 1, 2019 at 11:43 AM

  3. The photos of the cardinal flowers remind of the flowers that decorate our alpine meadows in late summer, which are known by the common name of fireweed. Great photos as always, Steve!

    Peter Klopp

    September 30, 2019 at 8:50 AM

    • After hearing about fireweed for a long time, I finally got my chance to see and of course photograph it when we traveled in your part of the world two years ago:


      Steve Schwartzman

      September 30, 2019 at 8:59 AM

      • Thank you for the link to your fireweed post, Steve!

        Peter Klopp

        September 30, 2019 at 9:09 AM

        • You’re welcome. I enjoyed fireweed in the various stages of development I saw it in. I didn’t get to see big fields of it flowering, probably because we arrived too late in the year.

          Steve Schwartzman

          September 30, 2019 at 11:18 AM

          • As I said, the fireweed flowers make their home in the alpine meadows. If you go up there around mid August, you will be able to enjoy their massive display in red.

            Peter Klopp

            September 30, 2019 at 9:48 PM

            • We must have just missed the peak. We flew into Calgary on August 24th and initially went out onto the prairie toward Drumheller, then south to Waterton Lakes. We didn’t get up into the main part of the Rockies till a little later.

              Steve Schwartzman

              October 1, 2019 at 5:26 AM

  4. Those are really pretty! What brilliant colors!


    September 30, 2019 at 9:25 PM

  5. I love cardinal flower. They are usually in the ditch-banks here and right about the time they might start looking good, the roundup man comes and decimates them along with the weeds. 😬

    RE: “Trippy” Now there’s a word I haven’t heard in a long time man. (Wherein man is enunciated maaan, is used to signify both genders and now has become politically incorrect, but I don’t care I’ll use it anyway.) 🤗


    September 30, 2019 at 10:54 PM

    • I hadn’t heard or seen the word in a long time, either, and I don’t know what made it pop into my head. In looking at a dictionary just now, I was surprised to see that both quotations illustrating how the word is used were from 2019:


      As for cardinal flowers in your area, it’s too bad that herbicides take their toll. Over here, as you’ve heard me complain on and off over the years, mowers are the main killers of wildflowers in their prime.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 1, 2019 at 5:40 AM

      • Glad it did. It was a trip in the Wayback Machine. (Ref: Mr. Peabody and Sherman of the Rocky and Bullwinkle Cartoon show)

        It was your mower men I thought of when commenting upon the roundup man. 😦


        October 1, 2019 at 1:10 PM

        • Ah yes, the Wayback Machine. You don’t have to go way back to find instances of me using it.

          So now we have Roundup Man to rival the Mower Men.

          Steve Schwartzman

          October 1, 2019 at 6:20 PM

  6. Excellent photo of a robust stem of cardinal flower, I like the background- some photographers work hard to get specular highlights like these.


    October 1, 2019 at 9:37 PM

    • I can’t take much credit for the specular highlights, other than aiming in the direction of many highlights. “Robust” is a good word for the cardinal flower.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 1, 2019 at 10:50 PM

  7. When I posted my photos of the scarlet catchfly, I was surprised by the number of people who said the color reminded them of the cardinal flower. It does show that deep, pure red that’s so eye-catching. The slight hint of blue in your second photo is interesting; I wonder if you see it, too, and whether it might be a result of the plant beginning to fade, with its red turning toward purple.

    I like the way the first photo highlights the top of the bloom stalk. It’s interesting how full and rounded it is, right up to the top.


    October 1, 2019 at 9:44 PM

    • I do see the traces of blue, which I assume come partly from the fact that the lower portion of the second cardinal flower spike was shaded, and shade pushes colors toward blue and green. I don’t know enough about how cardinal flowers develop to be sure what stage the second specimen was in. My supposition was the opposite of yours, namely that the flowers were still pretty fresh, given the way almost all the buds remained unopened.

      A couple of weeks after this I saw a few lushly full flower stalks.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 1, 2019 at 11:01 PM

  8. I would not say trippy. I would say enthralling. Yes. More, please.

    “Hair” was cloyingly dated the second it opened on Broadway.

    Michael Scandling

    October 2, 2019 at 3:11 PM

    • Your request has been granted.

      I used to enjoy listening to “Hair” on a record in the late ’60s and early ’70s. I never saw the show on Broadway and therefore don’t know if I would’ve felt then that it was already dated. The movie didn’t get made till a decade after the Broadway version, and by then some things had already changed in the culture.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 2, 2019 at 4:53 PM

      • My musical formative years were in the San Francisco Bay area in the early-to-mid-60s onward. I therefore considered “Hair” to be a watered-down, commercialized substitute for the real thing. I developed my snobbism early. 😉 But of course, by 1967 and 68, things had already drastically changed from 1965 and 66. And not for the better.

        Michael Scandling

        October 2, 2019 at 5:00 PM

        • I appreciate your explanation about the “real” thing. My take on “Hair” was different from most Americans’ in that I experienced all the turmoil of 1968 and 1969 from a distance because I was in the Peace Corps in Honduras.

          Steve Schwartzman

          October 2, 2019 at 5:24 PM

          • That explains the difference in perception, for sure.

            Michael Scandling

            October 2, 2019 at 6:12 PM

            • In Tegucigalpa we heard a lot of current American popular songs on the radio and watched plenty of American films in movie theaters. As a result, I kept up more than you might think.

              Steve Schwartzman

              October 2, 2019 at 6:47 PM

  9. I’d like more, please!


    October 7, 2019 at 9:02 AM

    • I was out of town when your comment came through, or else I would’ve mentioned your request, too, when I did follow up with more cardinal flower pictures two posts later. By now you’ll have seen them.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 7, 2019 at 6:40 PM

  10. You know, when I grew cut flowers back in 1986, we actually grew a few of these. They were the most minor of minor crops, but florists who wanted them REALLY wanted them! I didn’t get it; but it was the 80s.


    October 7, 2019 at 1:50 PM

    • Cardinal flowers have such a super-saturated red that I understand why some florists wanted them so keenly.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 7, 2019 at 6:41 PM

      • Florists liked the form. There were not any blooms that provided such strict lines.


        October 7, 2019 at 8:05 PM

  11. Beautiful photos


    October 18, 2019 at 4:20 AM

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