Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Horsemint flowering among firewheels

with 47 comments

By May 19th, when I took this picture at a “vacant” lot in northwest Austin, horsemints (Monarda citriodora) were coming into their own. In the background was a good colony of firewheels (Gaillardia pulchella).

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 26, 2020 at 4:34 AM

47 Responses

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  1. Wow .. vibrant beauty!

    Ms. Liz

    May 26, 2020 at 5:28 AM

  2. The firewheel colony made a lovely background to showcase the horsemint. I have not seen horsemint here on the property, but it does grow along the roadsides west of here where the soil is more sandy.


    May 26, 2020 at 7:04 AM

    • Have you given a thought to gathering seeds from some of the roadside horsemints and sowing them on your property?

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 26, 2020 at 7:10 AM

      • Yes I have, but my problem is I keep too busy here to manage time out to mark the horsemint for gathering seeds when the plant is spent. I’d like to do this with many of the wildflowers in the area.


        May 27, 2020 at 9:50 AM

  3. This is much showier, and bigger (maybe 2X?), than the horsemint around here, this is pretty impressive.

    Robert Parker

    May 26, 2020 at 7:40 AM

  4. I’ve always liked that combo of lavender/purple with a range of orange. You captured it well.


    May 26, 2020 at 8:06 AM

  5. The variety of plants in your Texan botanical garden is astounding. The horsemint is entirely new to me and I like its brush-like flower head.

    Peter Klopp

    May 26, 2020 at 8:38 AM

  6. Gosh! Great shot. I wish our ‘vacant’ lots were as colourful as this one.


    May 26, 2020 at 8:45 AM

    • I wish they were, too. “Vacant” lots have been a great resource for me these past two decades—while they’ve lasted. Many have unfortunately gotten developed.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 26, 2020 at 10:31 AM

      • That’s rather sad, because the sites must have been great for nature while they were still vacant.

        Ann Mackay

        May 27, 2020 at 6:09 AM

        • Oh yes, so many of them were. I’ve lost track of the exact number of those properties I’ve seen get developed but it’s pushing 30, with two so far this year.

          Steve Schwartzman

          May 27, 2020 at 6:18 AM

          • That’s a big loss…makes me wonder if there are sites at risk near me. (Something to investigate when it’s OK to get out and about again.)

            Ann Mackay

            May 27, 2020 at 10:48 AM

            • It is a big loss. The most recent was one of my favorite properties. My guess is that sites are being lost everywhere, even if not at the pace of as fast-growing an area as Austin.

              Steve Schwartzman

              May 27, 2020 at 1:19 PM

  7. This has been the scene in the park near my house as well.

    Jason Frels

    May 26, 2020 at 9:37 AM

    • Which park is that? I’m always on the lookout for good new sites.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 26, 2020 at 10:29 AM

      • In Leander there is a Benbrook Ranch disc golf park that connects to some walking trails down a creek towards 183. There have been a lot of wildflowers in the unmowed portions along the sidewalk. Probably not much more spectacular than anywhere else. It is just close to home and I can walk over there. The disc golf course is probably very muddy this morning.

        Jason Frels

        May 26, 2020 at 10:31 AM

      • Jason Frels

        May 26, 2020 at 10:39 AM

        • Thanks for the tip. I found Benbrook Ranch on a map, and if I’m up that way soon I’ll check out the trails you mentioned. As always, mowers are a nature photographer’s nemesis.

          Steve Schwartzman

          May 26, 2020 at 10:55 AM

          • The disc golf course is not that spectacular for flowers, but the walking trail that goes from there toward 183 is nice. A lot of wildflowers and fireflies in the evening. Maybe park in the neighboorhood on Middle Brook and walk from there.

            Jason Frels

            May 26, 2020 at 10:57 AM

  8. I misread Horsemints coming into their own as Horsemints are coming into town. Somehow that made even more sense. Because here they come.

    Michael Scandling

    May 26, 2020 at 10:07 AM

    • You better not shout, better not cry,
      You better not pout, I’m telling you why:
      Horsemints now are coming to town.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 26, 2020 at 10:34 AM

  9. Beautiful subject with wonderful complementary colors in the background. I love how nature puts together beautiful color combos.


    May 26, 2020 at 11:11 AM

    • Years ago I conceived of a photo book called Combinations, which would show some of the many possible mixes of native wildflowers here.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 26, 2020 at 11:28 AM

      • DO IT! I hope you do this book! 😀


        May 26, 2020 at 11:29 AM

        • Given the financial realities of the publishing industry in recent years, it would most likely have to be an e-book. That has the advantage of vibrant color and no printing costs.

          Steve Schwartzman

          May 26, 2020 at 11:33 AM

  10. Really beautiful composition here. The colors remind me of fall (not that I want its arrival to speed up). This photo is very vibrant and beautiful. Good eye! I really enjoy looking closely at flowers that don’t hold that traditional flower shape we know and draw so well, like roses and daisies. 🙂


    May 26, 2020 at 11:14 AM

    • When I became acquainted with horsemints 20 years ago I thought of them as pagodas—so much for an idealized flower shape. In addition to individual horsemints, there can be large colonies of them. I’m fond of playing off an individual of one species against a differently colored group in the background, as here.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 26, 2020 at 11:32 AM

  11. Nature creates some very beautiful flower spires!

    Lavinia Ross

    May 26, 2020 at 11:57 AM

  12. The horsemint is in fine form, front & center, and that florid background absolutely glows!


    May 27, 2020 at 6:53 PM

    • Yes it does. The firewheels were at their peak a week ago and are beginning to go to seed now. The horsemints are still in their prime.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 27, 2020 at 6:55 PM

  13. The combination of horsemints and firewheels can be intoxicating. It was a ditch filled with that pair that tempted me to keep going and going and going near the Willow City loop… until I stepped on the coiled snake that presumably was napping beneath them. Around here, M. punctata is the one I most often see on Galveston Island, while my photos of this one (which I learned to call lemon beebalm) all are from the hill country. This is one of those plants whose seed heads are as compelling to my eye as the flowers.


    May 28, 2020 at 7:41 AM

    • The seed heads last much longer than the flowers. I often see their dried-out tiers through the fall and winter and even into the following spring, when new horsemints may arise close by. As common as Monarda citriodora is in Austin, that’s how uncommon Monarda punctata is here. If I want to see some, I go to Bastrop. The “lemon” in “lemon beebalm” matches the citriodora in the scientific name.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 28, 2020 at 7:56 AM

  14. The firewheels are a great background and you got nice separation for your horsemint.

    Steve Gingold

    May 28, 2020 at 6:10 PM

    • There was enough distance between the subject and the firewheels that I could get away with f/10 to keep all the parts of the horsemint sharp yet not get too much detail in the background.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 28, 2020 at 6:19 PM

  15. The bees adore this flower … I’m pretty partial to it too! 🙂


    June 1, 2020 at 2:02 PM

    • It’s yet another of our common local wildflowers. Given the right conditions, a colony of these can cover a field.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 1, 2020 at 2:21 PM

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