Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Two greenthread flower heads

with 22 comments

Two Greenthread Flower Heads 9800

After recently showing you greenthread (Thelesperma filifolium) at a distance, as a nutant bud, and then as another bud with riders, I figured I finally owe you a good view of an open flower head. In fact I’ll make up for the delay by showing you two of them. Note another nutant bud in the upper left. And let me add that flower heads in this species most often have eight ray florets, though the number can vary slightly.

For any new readers who wonder why I keep saying say flower head when most people would say flower, you can find the explanation in a 2014 post with the quizzical title “When is a ‘petal’ not a petal? When is a ‘flower’ not a flower?

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 4, 2020 at 4:35 AM

22 Responses

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  1. They make a handsome couple. I always find it interesting that certain flowers will have gaps in the petal arrangement somewhat consistent with each individual.

    Steve Gingold

    April 4, 2020 at 7:09 AM

    • Given the infinite number of positions around the central disk that each ray can occupy, the chances of ever finding exactly the same arrangement on two flower heads is essentially zero. The fact that each of these flower heads has a similar prominent gap is already unusual.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 4, 2020 at 7:50 AM

  2. I do like that gap on each. Adds character, especially given how unusual it is.

    Todd Henson

    April 4, 2020 at 8:17 AM

  3. This is a very pleasing composition.


    April 4, 2020 at 8:32 AM

  4. An apparently missing petal makes this floral composition especially attractive, Steve!

    Peter Klopp

    April 4, 2020 at 9:26 AM

    • My impression is that no ray was missing, but I don’t know what caused the spreading between adjacent rays on both flower heads.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 4, 2020 at 10:00 AM

  5. That’s a lovely pair. Nothing is blooming here yet, but the redbuds down the street.


    April 4, 2020 at 9:32 AM

    • Redbuds are a great way to begin spring. Given how far south Austin is, our redbud blossoms have already been gone for some time.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 4, 2020 at 10:01 AM

  6. Mind the gap, as they say in Britain. The various irregularities that show up do make a plant interesting. I have a photo of a white prickly poppy from Rockport I’ll show eventually. Instead of a gap in the petals, it had a fluff of extra petals growing alongside the normal flower. It wasn’t fasciated, as far as I could tell; there wasn’t any flattening. Maybe it just was enthusiastic. I’m especially drawn to the disk flowers and the anther tubes here. I like the different patterns they create.

    I came across an Erigeron species at Artist Boat that had nodding buds. I took one look at them and thought, “Nutant!” so the lesson obviously took. I couldn’t identify it at first, but now I know; it’s Corpus Christi fleabane (E. procumbens) . I see it’s in Travis County, too.


    April 4, 2020 at 12:26 PM

    • Bill Carr says of Erigeron procumbens: “Probably a rare waif in our area and not a persistent member of the flora.” Philadelphia fleabane is distinctive but I don’t know how to tell the other species here apart.

      I’ve seen few white prickly poppy flowers here so far this spring. On the other hand, I haven’t been out as much as normal, for the same reason as everybody else. I did notice one basal rosette in Great Hills Park last week, so I can probably expect flowers in a couple of weeks.

      Minding the gap is good, and even better when there are two of them in the same relative position—quite a rarity.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 4, 2020 at 2:56 PM

      • I don’t want to make waifs, but would the proper plural form of waif be waives?


        April 4, 2020 at 8:06 PM

  7. I checked your link on the tutorial of ‘composite’ flowers–well done! As is this lovely photo. Others have commented on the gap between the larger petals and I like it too. Remember the model/actress Lauren Hutton? She was also a beauty with a gap, though hers was between her front teeth.


    April 4, 2020 at 7:51 PM

    • I had to look at some pictures of Lauren Hutton to see what you meant about her gap. I don’t think these greenthreads were as well paid as she was.

      Every once in a while I bring back a little explanation about composite flowers. Call it my botanical public service announcement, given that so few people know about it.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 4, 2020 at 8:24 PM

  8. I’ve found the variation in the symmetry of the rays of various flower heads fascinating through the years. I don’t see the characteristic as misalignment or missing parts, but as individually unique as fingerprints.


    April 4, 2020 at 8:09 PM

  9. A lovely colour. As others have commented, I love the composition of the petals with that gap in each flower head.


    April 5, 2020 at 8:37 AM

    • Many of our composite flowers in Texas are yellow. In this species, the yellow leans somewhat toward orange, and that’s a distinguishing feature. The two synchronized gaps made for an unusual portrait.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 5, 2020 at 11:38 AM

  10. Wonderful shot, Steve. So vibrant.

    Jane Lurie

    April 5, 2020 at 3:47 PM

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