Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Front- and backlit Lindheimer’s senna pods

with 39 comments

The first photo highlights the outside of a pod; the second, like an x-ray, reveals what’s inside.
These views of Senna lindheimeriana come from October 22 west of Morado Circle.

© 2019 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 19, 2019 at 4:40 AM

39 Responses

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  1. You need them both to really tell the story, but wow, the second one is really exciting as an image.


    November 19, 2019 at 8:00 AM

    • I originally included only the second photograph, which, like the previous post’s picture of a Lindheimer’s senna flower, appeals to me esthetically due to the strong backlighting. Yesterday the teacher in me intervened and I added the first picture so people unfamiliar with this species—which is almost everyone—will know how the pods normally look. There’s also something attractive about the little hairs on the pod’s surface.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 19, 2019 at 8:07 AM

      • Yes, I liked that too. The pods are very appealing.


        November 19, 2019 at 8:58 AM

        • The whole plant is covered with little hairs. The ones on the leaves are good at keeping droplets of rain from rolling off:


          Steve Schwartzman

          November 19, 2019 at 9:02 AM

          • My goodness, it sure does. This past summer I took a photo of what I took to be senna growing and blooming happily in a waterlily tank at the Chicago Botanic Garden. But when I consulted Swink and Wilhelm, it doesn’t appear to grow in my neck of the woods. At any rate. I had the impression that it was devoid of hairs, and so now I’m wondering if I saw something else entirely.


            November 20, 2019 at 9:14 AM

            • There are different species of senna, and the only ones I’m at all familiar with are the two in Austin. I wonder if any of the sennas aren’t hairy. Beyond that, many genera in the bean family have similar compound leaves, so you may have seen some other member of the family.

              Steve Schwartzman

              November 20, 2019 at 4:53 PM

              • I’m thinking that must be the case. I’ve gotten into the C’s finally in my project, so soon I’ll be able to sort it out. Probably by sending photos to my favorite botanists 🙂


                November 21, 2019 at 8:50 AM

  2. Fabulous ‘X-ray’ photo of the pod, Steve! How did you do it?

    Peter Klopp

    November 19, 2019 at 8:07 AM

    • I could say I rented an x-ray machine and dragged it out into nature, along with a generator to run it, but that wouldn’t be true. There was bright sun that day, and I got down close to the ground and aimed from a position that would let the sunlight pass through the pods. The fact that the pods in this species are rather flat made it easier for the light to come through them.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 19, 2019 at 8:12 AM

  3. Thank you, teacher. It’s good to know what they look like directly lit. But I’m going to go for the second shot, for sure. I think that second shot belongs on a wall.

    Michael Scandling

    November 19, 2019 at 9:59 AM

  4. Really cool 😎

    Robert Parker

    November 19, 2019 at 6:29 PM

  5. The next time I find a pod from Mr. Lindheimer’s senna, I’m going to count the number of seeds. Despite the different distribution along the pods, each of these contains twenty-two. I wonder if that’s happenstance, or if it’s a normal feature of the plant? What’s certain is that you came away with a nice pair of photos, and a compelling one in the case of the second. The translucent pods look like keyboards.


    November 19, 2019 at 9:31 PM

    • I was reminded of a keyboard in the wing of the pelican a couple of posts back. Your vision of keyboards here seems an even better fit. In terms of sound, however, the best fit was the performance we attended on Sunday of Beethoven’s “Emperor Concerto.”

      You’ve raised an interesting question. The fact that the two Lindheimer’s senna pods shown here were the same size leads me to conjecture that the number of seeds depends at least partly and maybe mostly on the size of the pod. If I come across another pod I’ll open it and count the number of seeds.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 20, 2019 at 6:35 AM

  6. That second image does look like an x-ray! How on earth did you think to photograph that? Very interesting!


    November 23, 2019 at 6:27 PM

  7. What a fabulous pair of photos, Steve! The second is astounding, but I also really like the texture, like little dashes, that shows up on the outside of the pod in the first photo. I have to say it again, fabulous. 🙂


    November 24, 2019 at 11:53 AM

    • Thanks, Lynn. I’d planned only the “x-ray” picture for this post. Given its unusualness, I felt it could stand alone. It can, but then the teacher got the better of me and I found it useful to offer a companion view of how a pod would normally appear with light reflected from it rather than passing through it.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 24, 2019 at 3:33 PM

  8. Some of the Senna are Cassia. Some of the Cassia are Senna. It gets confusing. ‘Cassia’ is the name for something derived from the Senna, but is also the name of another genus that we use in landscaping.


    December 1, 2019 at 12:58 PM

    • Yes, from what I’ve read, botanists have had a hard time pinning down the genera Cassia and Cassia. Fortunately my pictures don’t depend on getting the classification straightened out.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 1, 2019 at 1:23 PM

      • Botanists can make things more confusing than less.


        December 2, 2019 at 2:26 PM

        • And for some species in recent years the common name has been more stable than the scientific name.

          Steve Schwartzman

          December 2, 2019 at 2:35 PM

          • Yes! I notice that with some of the Eucalyptus that were renamed as Corymbia, and then changed back again.


            December 2, 2019 at 9:42 PM

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