Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Almost a monoculture

with 39 comments

Some Texas wildflowers grow so densely as to form a virtual monoculture. That was the case with these firewheels (also called Indian blankets), Gaillardia pulchella, on the Blackland Prairie in Pflugerville on May 6th.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 16, 2020 at 4:38 AM

39 Responses

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  1. I suppose because of the large population of Native American people here, these lovely plants are known as Indian Blanket, and I believe these are a favorite of folks around here. Generally, we don’t see such a dense area of them (lack of wild prairie), but mostly along roadsides. They are in full bloom right now. How fortunate you are to have captured them in such a large colony!


    May 16, 2020 at 6:49 AM

    • In some years I’ve come across the drying seed heads of a large basket flower colony and wish I’d come across the site a couple of months earlier when the colony was densely flowering. In this case I caught it at that most colorful stage.

      Gaillardia pulchella and Gaillardia pinnatifida are widely dispersed across New Mexico and Arizona. I’m guessing the common name “Indian blanket” arose based on blankets made by tribes in that southwestern region.

      In central Texas we also have nice displays of firewheels along roadsides. Once in a while I’m fortunate to have access to land where they grow more broadly, like this prairie property in Pflugerville.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 16, 2020 at 7:15 AM

  2. Indian Blankets, this is indeed a fitting name for this wildflower, as your photo clearly indicates, Steve.

    Peter Klopp

    May 16, 2020 at 7:52 AM

    • Someday I’d like to have a blanket that looks like one of these flowers.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 16, 2020 at 11:28 AM

      • I’d like to have a blanket that looks like ALL of these flowers!


        May 16, 2020 at 3:56 PM

        • That’d work too. There are companies like Fine Art America that will enlarge a photograph onto a shower curtain but I’m not aware of any that will transfer a photograph onto a blanket.

          Steve Schwartzman

          May 16, 2020 at 4:05 PM

          • Search for ‘photo blanket.’ Some of them are quite nice.


            May 16, 2020 at 8:22 PM

            • Thanks. Shows how much I didn’t know. I found that even Costco, of which we’re members, does photo blankets.

              Steve Schwartzman

              May 16, 2020 at 8:50 PM

  3. They certainly blanket the land in a most attractive way.


    May 16, 2020 at 8:30 AM

  4. Oh wow, that’s pretty!


    May 16, 2020 at 10:37 AM

  5. And surely Seurat.

    Michael Scandling

    May 16, 2020 at 10:54 AM

  6. There’s just ‘something’ about a colony like this. I found a wonderful swath of G. amblyodon atop the Willow City loop last year, and a huge spread of something yellow. My Kerrville friend was with me, and we just sat there and looked and looked. It’s nice to be able to look at these this year.


    May 16, 2020 at 8:35 PM

    • “Something” indeed. Hooray for Texas in the spring, and happy Gaillardia to you. I hope you find an equally good colony over by the coast before the summer hits.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 16, 2020 at 8:56 PM

  7. Beautiful blanket!!


    May 16, 2020 at 8:38 PM

  8. Ah yes, but the difference between this and a true monoculture, is that I’m guessing when these blooms have finished, they will make way for something else.


    May 17, 2020 at 3:36 AM

    • Right you are. I’ve heard plant people refer to it as time sharing. In fact one succession had already taken place in the location shown here. If you look closely at the second picture, you’ll see a few dark vertical stalks among the firewheels. Those dark stalks are the dry remains of Indian paintbrushes that had flourished there a month or two earlier. Here’s a picture from another time and place showing the two together:


      Steve Schwartzman

      May 17, 2020 at 7:26 AM

      • I like that idea of timesharing!
        Thanks for the link, gorgeous.


        May 18, 2020 at 4:36 AM

        • A few times recently here a television ad has run for a company that claims to be able to get people out of timeshare agreements. I wouldn’t want to get out of nature’s timesharing, which offers me variety at no cost.

          Steve Schwartzman

          May 18, 2020 at 6:33 AM

  9. Fantastic! We rarely get a carpet of wild flowers like this in the UK. Poppies and bluebells sometimes, but they’re not common.

    Ann Mackay

    May 17, 2020 at 5:35 AM

    • I’ve seen pictures from the UK showing a carpet pf bluebells. I didn’t know that that’s not common there. In contrast, you’ve seen that a dense expanse of wildflowers is a familiar sight in Texas.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 17, 2020 at 7:29 AM

      • Our countryside is so intensively farmed that areas of wildflowers are something special that needs to be protected. (Some areas are.)

        Ann Mackay

        May 17, 2020 at 5:27 PM

        • Agreed. We have the same problem here. Almost all the Blackland Prairie was lost first to farming and ranching, and now to development.

          Steve Schwartzman

          May 17, 2020 at 7:03 PM

  10. Sigh. I’d love to find a meadow blanketed with Indian Blankets.

    Steve Gingold

    May 18, 2020 at 2:54 PM

  11. My sort of blanket! 🙂


    May 22, 2020 at 1:39 AM

  12. I’m so grateful for your eye and that you share your photos and writings. I miss Texas in spring most of all, and while I’m happy here in New Zealand, your portraits of wildflowers bring me much contentment. I’ve spent the last 2 hours looking at 3 months’ worth of springtime in Texas. Aaaaaah!

    Jenny Meadows

    July 8, 2020 at 12:15 AM

    • Hi, Jenny. Via these pages you’re a vicarious walker through the wildflowers of Texas. It’s understandable how you’d miss a real walk-through. Your “Aaaaaah!” says it all. While we’re past the spring now, I’m still finding plenty of wildflowers to photograph, as forthcoming posts will confirm.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 8, 2020 at 7:38 AM

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