Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

A moody old plainsman

with 36 comments

You can draw your own conclusions about whether the title of today’s post describes the author. Not at issue is this moody view of what is indisputably an old plainsman, Hymenopappus scabiosaeus, whose buds were opening up the promise of white flowers. A Texas dandelion, Pyrrhopappus pauciflorus, provided the yellow halo in this April 5th view from the Riata Trace Pond. Note the coincidence in the pappus that’s the second part of both genus names and that gives me pause when I try to remember which name goes with which plant.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman



Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 19, 2020 at 4:34 AM

36 Responses

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  1. A beautiful photo, Steve.

    Jet Eliot

    April 19, 2020 at 8:31 AM

    • I’m glad to hear the mood worked for you. I did various takes on old plainsman buds as the plants have been budding this past few weeks.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 19, 2020 at 8:53 AM

  2. The Pyrrho- in the dandelion’s name made me think of ‘Pyrrhic victory.’ Getting the names of the plants right certainly wouldn’t be that, but it did make me wonder how Pyrrho- got to be part of the name. Merriam-Webster says that, as a noun, ‘pyrrhic’ comes from “Latin pyrrhichius, from Greek (pous) pyrrhichios, from pyrrhichē, a kind of dance.”

    How cool would it be if Pyrrhopappus was meant to designate “dancing pappi”?


    April 19, 2020 at 8:50 AM

    • You’ve raised an interesting etymological question. Shinners and Mahler’s says that the first part of the genus name for the Texas dandelion comes from the Greek pyrros that meant ‘flame-colored, red’ (compare the borrowed pyre that comes from the same root). Whoever put together the genus name apparently made a mistake in the spelling, perhaps influenced by the pyrrhic you mentioned.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 19, 2020 at 9:25 AM

  3. I was actually drawn to the title when your post came up in my reader this morning. I’m not familiar with that wildflower – but the word “moody” was fitting for our overcast and gloomy morning. Those buds look like they’re holding tight, waiting for the sun.


    April 19, 2020 at 8:56 AM

  4. Nicely framed. It really does give that moody feel. Almost looks like a rising, or to be more moody, a setting sun in the background.

    Todd Henson

    April 19, 2020 at 9:27 AM

    • You’ve reminded me of a famous anecdote recounted by James Madison: “Whilst the last members were signing [the Constitution], Doctor Franklin, looking towards the President’s chair, at the back of which a rising sun happened to be painted, observed to a few members near him, that painters had found it difficult to distinguish in their art, a rising, from a setting, sun. I have, said he, often and often, in the course of the session, and the vicissitudes of my hopes and fears as to its issue, looked at that behind the President, without being able to tell whether it was rising or setting; but now at length, I have the happiness to know, that it is a rising, and not a setting sun.”

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 19, 2020 at 9:39 AM

  5. A superb photograph, regardless of mood. It did make me pause.

    Michael Scandling

    April 19, 2020 at 11:17 AM

    • I’m pleased at your pause to admire this pose. Etymologically speaking, pause and pose are the same word.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 19, 2020 at 12:24 PM

      • I am pleased to pause at your pose.

        Michael Scandling

        April 19, 2020 at 12:30 PM

        • Just as I was to pause to compose this pose and then impose it on viewers.

          Steve Schwartzman

          April 19, 2020 at 12:48 PM

          • 😊 this could go on and on you know…

            Michael Scandling

            April 19, 2020 at 12:48 PM

            • Then let me end it with a French poem that your last comment reminded me of. (The English is a straightforward translation that, unlike the French, doesn’t rhyme.)

              Le pélican
              ~ Robert Desnos

              Le capitaine Jonathan,
              Etant âgé de dix-huit ans,
              Capture un jour un pélican
              Dans une île d’Extrême-Orient,

              Le pélican de Jonathan,
              Au matin, pond un oeuf tout blanc
              Et il en sort un pélican
              Lui ressemblant étonnamment.

              Et ce deuxième pélican
              Pond, à son tour, un oeuf tout blanc
              D’où sort, inévitablement,
              Un autre, qui en fait autant.

              Cela peut durer pendant très longtemps
              Si l’on ne fait pas d’omelette avant.

              – – – – – – – –

              Captain Jonathan,
              Who’s 18 years old,
              One day captures a pelican
              On an island in the Far East.

              The next morning, Jonathan’s pelican
              Lays a pure white egg,
              And from it there emerges
              An astonishingly similar-looking pelican.

              And this second pelican
              In its turn lays a pure white egg
              From which there inevitably comes
              Another, which then does likewise.

              This can keep going on for a long, long time
              Unless someone makes an omelet first.

              Steve Schwartzman

              April 19, 2020 at 12:57 PM

  6. Good choice of title. Today — with the rain and watching the wrens fortify their bag nest with storm anticipation — has been a moody one. But I got a post out, dim lighting and all. Sadly, the dandelion flower did not make his debut, as the seed head one did. I credited you for the inspiration in taking off the 600mm zoom in favor of the wide angle. It pleased me!


    April 19, 2020 at 4:02 PM

    • Happy wide angle to you. I was glad to see the change in perspective worked out well for you.
      As for titles, I sometimes have fun playing with them, as in this post.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 19, 2020 at 9:20 PM

  7. I don’t mean to change the subject, but I have not been able to forget about bluebonnet and Indian paintbrush. I found multiple sourced online, and some even say that bluebonnet can be sown now to bloom in summer. I won’t do it though. I will wait until autumn. Even if I do not put them in my own garden, I can sow them at work. I am not worried about either naturalizing. I intend to get the ‘common’ Indian paintbrush, but would not pass on an opportunity to get the native species too. I suspect that I might happen to see the native growing wild, in a situation where it has always been, but that I never noticed. For that one, I do not mind coming back for seed.


    April 19, 2020 at 4:25 PM

    • You know my perspective: I hope you find the native paintbrush and can gather some seeds to propagate.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 19, 2020 at 9:29 PM

  8. Great capture with fascinating bokeh, Steve! How on earth did get that light green glow behind the plainsman?

    Peter Klopp

    April 19, 2020 at 11:16 PM

    • One standard visual ploy of mine is to line a subject up with something of a different color far enough beyond it to lose definition and provide a glow. Wildflowers often grow in groups of mixed species, and in this case a Texas dandelion accounts for the yellow-green glow.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 20, 2020 at 8:01 AM

  9. The buds bear a certain resemblance to those on our Minnesota cedars, though the rest of the branch is quite different. I can see that care needs to be taken when assigning one of two similar names to the right plant.


    April 20, 2020 at 1:55 AM

    • I see how the old plainsman’s buds and leaves could remind someone of an evergreen tree. I found an article about Minnesota’s two native “cedars.” If the article is correct, neither of them is actually a cedar (just like the so-called cedar in central Texas):


      Steve Schwartzman

      April 20, 2020 at 8:08 AM

      • Thanks for that link, Steve. The ones on our lake shore are indeed white cedars, aka arborvitae; both names are appropriate, so yes, it’s actually a cedar, though it has a fully-respectable alias. They are wonderful trees and they add a great deal of character to the shore.


        April 20, 2020 at 4:29 PM

  10. You got that background highlight just, perfect, Steve! Moody and beautiful.

    Peter Hillman

    April 20, 2020 at 4:35 AM

    • It was considerate of the Texas dandelion to grow right where I needed it in relation to the old plainsman.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 20, 2020 at 8:14 AM

  11. Pretty little buds so tightly wrapped and ready to spring open. The background is sweet as well.

    Steve Gingold

    April 20, 2020 at 5:07 AM

    • All the old plainsman plants I saw had buds only, no flowers, so I made buds my subject and went for a mostly dark treatment.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 20, 2020 at 8:16 AM

  12. That yellow flower in the background providing halo and attention to the buds is amazing! Great eye, Steve!


    April 20, 2020 at 10:33 AM

  13. The bright halo is wonderful touch, it enlivens the old plainsman.


    April 20, 2020 at 8:16 PM

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