Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

More about snails, on and off the prairie

with 38 comments

On May 7th I went to a surviving piece of the Blackland Prairie in Pflugerville and photographed my first basket-flowers (Plectocephalus americanus) of the season. One of them caught my attention because a two-toned snail had slid all the way up the stalk and onto the flower head’s “basket.”

On May 6th I’d gone to an adjacent part of the property, where snails had also been abundant. On the morning of the 7th I went to get my phone, which was charging right next to my camera bag. Imagine my surprise when I found a snail on the phone’s USB cable. As best I can make out, the snail hitchhiked home on or in my camera bag, then slid out overnight and found its way onto the USB cable.

Now it’s 10 days later.

And the small snail, never moving, still is sitting, still is sitting
On the pallid iPhone cable just above my chamber’s floor;
    And his eyes have all the seeming of a mollusk’s that is dreaming,
    And the light bulb o’er him streaming throws his shadow toward the door;
And that snail from off that cable that lies coiling near the floor
            Shall be lifted—nevermore!
© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 17, 2020 at 4:37 AM

38 Responses

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  1. Who knew a snail indoors could be so creepy. Not the snail, I bet. As to sneaky snails, this one, the New Zealand Mud Snail, is a real nightmare for the rest of the world. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Zealand_mud_snail.


    May 17, 2020 at 6:29 AM

    • That’s a good play on words with the senses of “creepy.” I don’t remember hearing about the New Zealand mud snail. I see in your linked article that it “has no natural predators or parasites in the United States, and consequently has become an invasive species. Densities have reached greater than 300,000 individuals per m² in the Madison River. It can reach concentrations greater than 500,000 per m², endangering the food chain by outcompeting native snails and water insects for food, leading to sharp declines in native populations. Fish populations then suffer because the native snails and insects are their main food source.”

      After all the non-native species I saw in New Zealand, here’s one that went the other way.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 17, 2020 at 8:09 AM

  2. Gorgeous first photo, and what a story, I love it! Wildlife following you instead of you following wildlife. 🙂


    May 17, 2020 at 7:30 AM

    • You’re right, it’s a fair turnaround. Other critters have occasionally come home with me. Basket-flowers are among our most attractive.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 17, 2020 at 8:24 AM

  3. I see a lot of snails around here, but I have never had one hitch a ride with me in the house. I would have to give him the boot back outside. You seem to have found some poetic inspiration from this little stowaway… brilliant!


    May 17, 2020 at 7:43 AM

    • I’ve occasionally brought a snail home with me on purpose. This one was inadvertent. The chance at a Poe parody was too good to pass up.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 17, 2020 at 8:49 AM

  4. Love the parody….and since there’s no source of sustenance on a charging cable that the unwitting snail has mistaken for a plant, he will probably be there evermore.

    Marcia Levy

    May 17, 2020 at 8:14 AM

    • You probably won’t be surprised to learn that when I searched for “parody of Poe’s raven” I got three-quarters of a million hits. Now that the snail has served its photo-poetic purpose, I can put it outdoors.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 17, 2020 at 8:53 AM

  5. Absolutely amazing snail story! If it could tell only its own version of the story. Perhaps it is attracted to technology. Beware of the possibility of the snail crawling over your laptop screen and writing you a message with its slimy trail.

    Peter Klopp

    May 17, 2020 at 9:16 AM

    • Now that would be quite a story if the snail could tell it. My computer is a desktop model and it’s across the room from where the snail is, so probably never the twain shall meet. In addition, I’m going to put the snail outside and let it go back to a normal snaily life.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 17, 2020 at 9:41 AM

  6. A hitchhiking snail, and on a USB cable at that! Now THAT is surely something! 🙂


    May 17, 2020 at 9:17 AM

    • It is. You made me think of doing a search for “snail on USB cable” and I found only one picture that actually shows a snail on a computer cable.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 17, 2020 at 9:45 AM

  7. Well that’s not a po’ parody, it’s an excellent one! He’s nailed it!

    Robert Parker

    May 17, 2020 at 10:21 AM

  8. I love these snail photos! We don’t see many actual snails here, mainly just slugs. And even they are not as numerous as they have been in past years.

    Lavinia Ross

    May 17, 2020 at 11:10 AM

    • Now that’s another mystery: do you have any explanation for why snails would be less common up there than down here?

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 17, 2020 at 1:19 PM

  9. I am reminded of a story I heard in the 1960s: a particularly ambitious and egotistical snail named Sam bought a Jaguar XKE. In honor of himself he had the letter “S“ painted on the sides of the car. As he drove through town with a smug smile on his snailish face, people would point and say, “Look at that S-car go!“

    Michael Scandling

    May 17, 2020 at 11:26 AM

  10. ew


    May 17, 2020 at 1:06 PM

  11. Who knows? Your snail may be part of a rising resistance among its kind to being the primary metaphor for slow postal service. E-snail may be the coming thing!

    Your parody’s beyond clever, and quite entertaining. I’m glad you put the snail back into the wild, but it certainly served a fine purpose while it was visiting.


    May 17, 2020 at 1:08 PM

    • If e-mail ever slowed down to the speed of snail mail we’d be in deep trouble.

      Glad you liked the ravenous parody. It proves I can keep my comPoesure.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 17, 2020 at 2:01 PM

  12. I fear there’s someone turning o’er
    (Somewhere behind some chamber door)
    To try to close her ears before
    Another pun—and then one more—
    Can moult from fun into a bore
    Or shock her to her very core,
    Slithering into every pore
    To form a raw, enraging roar—
    Could it be our lost Lenore?


    May 17, 2020 at 6:04 PM

    • I’m glad to see you following suit and waxing Poe-etic. There was no way to ignore the oh-so-famous lost Lenore.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 17, 2020 at 8:34 PM

  13. Beautiful flower and snail photo. The cable snail looks like it has become one with the cable!!


    May 17, 2020 at 8:14 PM

    • It does look that way, doesn’t it? Even so, I hope to ease the snail off the cable and back into nature.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 17, 2020 at 8:35 PM

  14. I really like this first image. The snail gives a totally new dimension to the basket flower.


    May 17, 2020 at 10:48 PM

    • I was pretty happy when I noticed that two-tone snail on the basket-flower, and I took a bunch of pictures in different compositions. Snails were so abundant out there that I also got pictures of them on other kinds of wildflowers.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 17, 2020 at 10:56 PM

  15. Very nice poetic parody. Imaginative and punny.

    Steve Gingold

    May 18, 2020 at 2:13 PM

  16. Great photos Steve … ah now that’s an unusual hitch hiker!


    May 22, 2020 at 6:26 PM

  17. Brilliant!


    May 24, 2020 at 11:33 AM

  18. […] pictures of one snail on a fresh basket-flower, another on an opening firewheel, and a foursome on a dry plant have pleased some of you, so here […]

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