Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Corn salad flowers, many and few

with 26 comments

The blossoms of the strangely named corn salad (Valerianella sp.), while small and never rising far from the ground, have the collective power to cover a limestone-lined wildflower meadow in central Texas with what could be taken for a dusting of snow. In the second picture you get a closer look at the characteristically rectangular inflorescence; each five-petaled flower is between 1/16 and 1/8 of an inch (1.5–3mm) across.

I took these pictures west of Morado Circle on March 19th.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 2, 2020 at 4:45 PM

26 Responses

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  1. I’ll just say “wow“ and leave it at that. OK, here goes: Wow.

    Michael Scandling

    April 2, 2020 at 6:06 PM

    • That kind of floral profusion is common here in the spring. This corn salad colony has come up for some years now in a right-of-way beneath power lines in my neighborhood. I don’t know how many other people appreciate it; I sure do.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 2, 2020 at 6:17 PM

  2. I remember your previous photos of this plant. I found what seemed to be corn salad last year, but my photo is ghastly — this is what the plant I found looked like. The flowers here seem much more dense, and much whiter. That could be camera settings, I suppose, and a different stage of bloom. In any event, they do seem like snow spread across the land; they’re lovely.


    April 2, 2020 at 6:39 PM

    • What you found certainly looks like some kind of corn salad. Travis County alone has four species, and there are others in the state. That variety, along with things like the stage of development and camera settings, could well account for why yours looks different from the one shown here, which is probably V. amarella.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 2, 2020 at 9:12 PM

    • By the way, you may have noticed that Eason doesn’t include any Valerianella species in his book.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 3, 2020 at 4:48 PM

  3. So delicate, so lovely!


    April 2, 2020 at 6:55 PM

  4. Keep those floral carpets coming, Steve. They increase my hope for spring to come in our northern latitudes.

    Peter Klopp

    April 2, 2020 at 10:23 PM

    • I haven’t deftly stepped through any of those floral carpets for 10 days now. I’ll see what I can do after the current rainy weather passes. The longer that takes here, the closer to spring you are up there.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 3, 2020 at 5:21 AM

      • I had a heavy snow fall overnight. Our cherry trees are ‘blooming’ with snow. Haha! It actually looks very pretty.

        Peter Klopp

        April 3, 2020 at 10:45 AM

  5. Being from Nebraska, where corn is a big crop, I would have thought having the word “corn” in the flower name might share some kind of correlation, but it seems not. Unexplained things like this bother me. The flower looks like a snow flake – tiny little beauties.


    April 3, 2020 at 1:15 PM

    • I have the answer for you. The name corn salad first got applied to Valerianella species in England, where the word corn has retained its original meaning of ‘grain’ (in fact English got grain via French from the Latin relative of corn). According to Wikipedia, “the common name corn salad refers to the fact that it often grows as a weed in wheat fields.” What Americans now call corn used to be known as Indian corn to distinguish it from grains like wheat and barley. Eventually Americans dropped the first word in Indian corn.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 3, 2020 at 4:33 PM

      • You certainly educated this ex-Cornhusker! I knew there would be a lesson in there somewhere!


        April 5, 2020 at 9:03 PM

        • I’ve long advocated incorporating more etymology—or any!—into the school curriculum because etymology tells so many interesting stories.

          Steve Schwartzman

          April 5, 2020 at 10:10 PM

  6. I like the comparison between the meadow full of corn salad and then the close up of one stem. Their profusion belies the individual beauty. Although white, they seem to have just a tinge of violet.

    Steve Gingold

    April 3, 2020 at 2:29 PM

    • I figured I owed everyone a closeup because the view of the colony doesn’t give a hint of what the tiny individual flowers look like or how they cluster in rectangular groups. I suspect any tinge of violet you detected is an artifact of processing the picture. As far as I know, the flowers are all white.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 3, 2020 at 4:43 PM

  7. Some flowers show best when they are solitary, others, like this carpet-forming corn salad, seem more expressive in numbers.


    April 6, 2020 at 5:00 PM

  8. So very delicate … the close up is super Steve


    April 9, 2020 at 2:53 PM

  9. Looks awesome. We’ve planted two small rows in our veg patch this year. Really looking forward to them.


    June 15, 2020 at 6:15 AM

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