Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Crinkliest of flowers

with 48 comments

A.E. Housman began a poem with the words “Loveliest of trees, the cherry….” An Austin counterpart could begin with “Crinkliest of wildflowers, the white prickly poppy….” I made these two portraits of aging Argemone albiflora flowers in Great Hills Park on April 30th.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 19, 2020 at 4:43 AM

48 Responses

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  1. If only we could all age so beautifully!


    May 19, 2020 at 5:03 AM

  2. Interesting that you saw this as old. Those same crinkles initially led me to assume you’d found a very young flower: I suppose because of my experience of watching one open. It’s clearly the flower’s nature to be crinkly from the beginning. Granted, there are indications of age here beyond the crinkly wrinkles: those bits of detritus, the curling edges, the apparently fading center. Still, age cannot wither this one, nor encounters stale its infinite variety.


    May 19, 2020 at 6:21 AM

    • You’re right that I took the flowers to be aging because of “those bits of detritus, the curling edges, the apparently fading center.” In other years I’ve done portraits of fresher white prickly poppies that are just as crinkled. As for age not withering this Cleopatra among wildflowers, I’ll report that when I visited the plant an hour ago it unfortunately had no flowers left at all. I’ve lately transferred my infinite variety studies primarily to Mexican hats and basket-flowers, both of which are at their peak now.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 19, 2020 at 11:18 AM

  3. I see a purpose in the crinkliness of this wildflower. Without the crinkles, the petals would be merely white. But with the crinkles, they display the entire tonal spectrum from pure white to black, which makes the flower more beautiful.

    Peter Klopp

    May 19, 2020 at 7:16 AM

    • I like your analysis. The variety of tones makes the white prickly poppy such an intriguing subject for floral portraits.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 19, 2020 at 11:19 AM

  4. We see a few of these in the pasture of the orchard area. I love the way they bow and sway in the wind. I never see them as a group, just standing alone. And I can’t say I’ve noticed crinkles in the petals… I should pay better attention!


    May 19, 2020 at 7:24 AM

  5. I was so happy to find a prickly poppy around the corner from me to keep an eye on. Love them so much—lovely photos!


    May 19, 2020 at 8:33 AM

    • Thanks. It helps when you have a plant near home so you can watch the stages it goes through. This prickly poppy plant is half a mile from my house, and I count on finding white flowers there each spring.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 19, 2020 at 1:03 PM

  6. That is amazing. Almost looks like paper.

    Otto von Münchow

    May 19, 2020 at 8:48 AM

  7. It sure looks like crinkled paper. How interesting! 🙂


    May 19, 2020 at 9:51 AM

    • This species is marked for Gillespie County on the USDA map, so let’s hope you come across some and can see the petals in person.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 19, 2020 at 1:06 PM

  8. I wish I was this pretty all crinkly. 😀 They remind me of a smaller version of the Matilija Poppy my favorite of the wild poppies I’ve seen.


    May 19, 2020 at 10:10 AM

    • Your first sentence is a funny way to put it. I looked up Matilija poppy and I see what you mean about the resemblance. I hope to get to see that larger one someday.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 19, 2020 at 1:19 PM

  9. It is a beautiful flower, Steve! Thank you for the introduction to this one!

    Lavinia Ross

    May 19, 2020 at 10:24 AM

    • You’re welcome. It’s the only poppy native to my area, and the flowers are fairly common here in the spring.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 19, 2020 at 1:21 PM

  10. Could be paper. Intricately crafted.

    Michael Scandling

    May 19, 2020 at 12:34 PM

  11. The lighting is just wonderful, emphasizing the details of all those delicate wrinkles! I’m so glad you showed a side view as well as from the top.

    Birder's Journey

    May 19, 2020 at 4:47 PM

    • Originally the draft of the post included only the view from the side. Then I realized many viewers wouldn’t be familiar with this flower, so I added the picture showing what the interior is like. It also let me get more crinkles in.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 19, 2020 at 4:59 PM

  12. Beautiful

    Nancy Basinger

    May 21, 2020 at 10:59 AM

    • I’ll agree with you again. I’m fortunate to find a few of these in my neighborhood each spring.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 21, 2020 at 12:44 PM

  13. I love these two shots and the humor in them. The white poppy does get considerably more crinkly than a yellow Argemone mexicana. I see that although they’re similar, they vary considerably in texture, size and pollen crown. The Argemone mexicana is smaller in size, less crinkly, and its pollen crown is smaller also, therefore, it can be mistaken for any other common yellow flower.


    May 22, 2020 at 7:37 AM

    • I’ve only rarely seen the yellow flowers of Argemone mexicana, which Bill Carr reports may appear in my county only “as an occasional waif in ruderal areas.” I was surprised when looking at the USDA distribution map to find that this species has been documented as far north as Massachusetts and Vermont. So much for the species name mexicana. I also see the species is marked for a bunch of Florida’s counties, which could explain your familiarity with it.

      The white prickly poppies are common in Austin, so I often get the welcome chance to photograph their crinkles.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 22, 2020 at 8:24 AM

      • Well, now I realize they’re rather small compared to other images I’ve seen on the internet and some even reached Canada.


        May 22, 2020 at 8:32 AM

  14. Crepe poppy. If this is from age then we have something in common.

    Steve Gingold

    May 23, 2020 at 1:23 PM

  15. So crinkly … but so very pretty! Great shots Steve …


    May 24, 2020 at 2:26 AM

  16. Thanks for posting – I’m very fond of these plants, having first seen them at a botanical garden in Seattle.


    May 24, 2020 at 11:27 AM

    • Sure thing. I’m grateful for often having to go no further than half a mile from home to find a few of these flowers. Of course Seattle isn’t the long haul for you that it would be for me.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 24, 2020 at 2:27 PM

  17. Thanks for opening my eyes to this delicate beauty. Awesome crinkles, well done capturing them so beautifully, Steve.


    May 29, 2020 at 3:34 AM

    • You’re welcome, Dina. This is the only native poppy that grows in Austin. The petals last only a few days before falling off.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 29, 2020 at 5:53 AM

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