Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Fiery skipper on Texas thistle

with 32 comments

You’re looking at a fiery skipper (Hylephila phyleus) on a Texas thistle (Cirsium texanum). Square-bud primroses (Oenothera capillifolia) in the background lit up the Blackland Prairie in Pflugerville on May 11th.

By the way, Texas thistle flowers have a pleasant scent for people as well as butterflies and other insects. If you’re in an area where these grow and haven’t ever sniffed one, give it a shot while some are still around.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 3, 2020 at 4:04 AM

32 Responses

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  1. Great photo of the butterfly (moth?) on the Texas thistle! Would insects be attracted by the smell of flowers? That would be new to me.

    Peter Klopp

    June 3, 2020 at 8:15 AM

  2. I wouldn’t want to skip this one! Fiery skippers are delightful~so zippy are they. This image is absolutely wonderful and now I’m wanting to give a thistle here a sniff. Never occurred to me before.


    June 3, 2020 at 9:20 AM

    • No, you wouldn’t want to skip this one. Fortunately for me as a photographer, the zippiness was turned off for a while thanks to the enticements the thistle offered. I can vouch for the scent of this native Texas thistle. I don’t know whether other kinds of thistles are equally fragrant. You can report back if you encounter any up there.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 3, 2020 at 9:27 AM

  3. Both the flower and butterfly are great colors, beautiful.
    “Fiery Skipper” sounds like Captain Haddock, the old salt in the TinTin stories.

    Robert Parker

    June 3, 2020 at 9:37 AM

    • The orange, purple, and yellow in the background did it for me.

      I’m not familiar with Captain Haddock and the TinTin stories. I do know that tunatuna comes in a tintin, or for French fish a cancan.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 3, 2020 at 9:47 AM

  4. Those two are lovely by themselves, but together…marvelous!!


    June 3, 2020 at 10:31 AM

  5. No Texas thistle here, I don’t think and I’ve never seen a fiery skipper. Both are a treat to see.

    Steve Gingold

    June 3, 2020 at 12:55 PM

    • I just checked and found that the United States has a bunch of Cirsium species, including three in your area:


      Whether they all have a scent as pleasant as that of the Texas species, I don’t know. Maybe you’ll be able to find out for one or more of those in your vicinity. The fiery skipper can’t survive harsh winters, so it doesn’t stray as far north as you are.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 3, 2020 at 2:04 PM

  6. The combination of gold and purple is dramatic. I don’t believe I’ve seen a fiery skipper, and I can’t say I’ve ever noticed the thistles’ fragrance, so there are at least two more experiences waiting for me. I’m a little surprised by how much I like the primroses in the background; the yellow really does work. Is that patch of red a lone Gaillardia?


    June 3, 2020 at 10:55 PM

    • My impression is that clothing with the colors of the thistle and butterfly together isn’t common. A preliminary Internet search supports that hypothesis. Add yellow, and you’ve got an awesome trio. As for the spot of red, I believe you’re right that it’s a lone firewheel. While none of the skipper-on-thistle pictures I took has the background in focus—intentionally—firewhweels were common on that prairie parcel.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 4, 2020 at 5:41 AM

  7. Too bad we can’t upload and attach fragrances along with our images! Skippers are so amazing–it’s really hard to imagine how fast their little brains must work in order to allow them to target landing spots while approaching them with such elan!


    June 5, 2020 at 12:59 AM

    • Elan is just the word for it, with the last three letters coming from the Old French word that gave English the verb launch.

      Even more than fragrance, I’ve fantasized the ability to include food in an e-mail so people could taste a dish that someone made.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 5, 2020 at 5:11 AM

      • Oh, yeah, count me in! You won’t believe the recipe for my chili con carne that I’ve developed through the past 40 years or so!


        June 6, 2020 at 4:49 AM

        • I’m reminded that some brands of chile con carne used to have (and may still have) on their label the prominent words “With Meat.” For people who know Spanish, that’s amusingly redundant.

          Steve Schwartzman

          June 6, 2020 at 6:18 AM

  8. Nice subject, colors and composition!


    June 8, 2020 at 1:34 PM

    • I felt the eccentric (i.e. off-center) composition worked well here; it let me include more of the yellow flowers across the background.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 8, 2020 at 1:48 PM

  9. Beautiful Steve …


    June 10, 2020 at 3:26 AM

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