Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

A damaged Mexican hat

with 39 comments

On May 19 at a “vacant” lot in northwest Austin I found a damaged Mexican hat, Ratibida columnifera. It no longer fit the species name, which means ‘column-bearing,’ because something had broken off most of its central column, and in addition (actually subtraction) only one ray floret remained. The plant’s losses became my photographic gain. The intact wildflower shining huefully in the background was Gaillardia pulchella, known as a firewheel or Indian blanket. This is another picture that’s at least as much about color as form.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 8, 2020 at 4:43 AM

39 Responses

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  1. I think “huefully” should be incorporated into the next official dictionary. It would certainly be a boon to any Scrabble aficionado, of which there are several in our immediate family. On the other hand, I hope you’ll forgive my candid comment, but the mostly-denuded Mexican hat reminds me way too much of one of our most loathed nemeses in MN at this time of year, the dreaded tick.


    June 8, 2020 at 5:14 AM

    • I made up huefully. Your comment prompted me to search and I found hueful in two dictionaries:


      Once the adjective exists, the adverb’s not far behind. Now rhymers can pair hueful with rueful. And with rue your heart is laden to see something that reminds you of ticks.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 8, 2020 at 6:49 AM

    • While I still don’t see a tick, a beetle works.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 8, 2020 at 6:57 AM

      • And that makes me add the observation that although the remaining ray was concave, my brain easily sees it as convex, maybe even more readily as convex than concave. The same seems to go for you, given the tick you saw.

        Steve Schwartzman

        June 8, 2020 at 7:00 AM

    • Yes Steve and Gary, I agree and thought “huefully” is a lovely word! The colour in this photo is wonderfully cheerful Steve. I also enjoyed the idea of “… and in subtraction …” haha. A great post to start my day with 🙂

      Ms. Liz

      June 8, 2020 at 2:17 PM

      • Then a happy and cheerful Buenos Días to you from Texas! I give you leave to spread huefully far and wide and color the world.

        Steve Schwartzman

        June 8, 2020 at 2:27 PM

  2. The glowing pod looks extraterrestrial, like a protostar. Wonderful colors.

    Robert Parker

    June 8, 2020 at 6:06 AM

    • The colors carried the day for me with this one. I think you’re onto something with protostar: someone should choose that for the name of a flower.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 8, 2020 at 6:55 AM

  3. Damaged, but brilliant one-petal flower! I like it with a colourful background. Superbly photographed!

    Peter Klopp

    June 8, 2020 at 8:14 AM

  4. ” The plant’s losses became my photographic gain.” – Very true! But you really need a keen eye to spot this opportunity.


    June 8, 2020 at 9:21 AM

    • Call me Mr. Keeneye—at least this time. I’ve always assumed that for each thing I find, equally worthy ones go unnoticed.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 8, 2020 at 12:46 PM

  5. Great alignment! Both Mexican Hats and Mexican Blankets grow on my property.


    June 8, 2020 at 1:30 PM

  6. If the cave is vexing, all’s the more that it’s a sign of a con. Either way, it’s a beautiful picture.

    Michael Scandling

    June 8, 2020 at 1:51 PM

  7. Damaged Mexican hat or fashion statement?


    June 8, 2020 at 2:35 PM

  8. Broken but still beautiful! Amazing picture, love the background too

    M.B. Henry

    June 8, 2020 at 4:25 PM

  9. I always enjoy your implicit commentary on lots generally considered ‘vacant.’ Beyond that, it’s been a good while since I’ve come across ‘essay’ used as a verb. Speaking of rhyme, ‘essay’ reminded me of ‘sashay,’ and one definition of that word — “in American square dancing, a figure in which partners circle each other by taking sideways steps” — certainly describes much of our photographic process.

    The color of the Mexican hat’s ray flower is luscious. Appropriately, it’s making a bit of shade for the Gaillardia. (Yes, indeed: I did check the etymology of sombrero.)


    June 8, 2020 at 9:10 PM

    • Because vacant means ’empty,’ my impression is that not many people connect the word to its close relative vacation, which we often cram full of activities. I often cram my vacations in vacant lots full of photographs. And still on the subject of words, one that I soon learned when I started studying French was essayer ‘to try.’ Many years later I learned that the derived English essay has a doublet, assay. And sachay arose as a metathesis of chassé, a ballet term that means literally ‘chased.’ As for Spanish sombrero, it goes back to Late Latin subumbrāre ‘to cast a shadow under,’ whose first b later got submerged into the m.

      Sometimes I might as well call this blog Portraits of Words.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 9, 2020 at 5:53 AM

  10. Beautiful!!


    June 8, 2020 at 9:11 PM

  11. Nice find of something out of the ordinary and then presenting it in an appealing way.

    Steve Gingold

    June 9, 2020 at 3:10 AM

    • The other day I found a second Mexican hat that had had its column broken off. That’s twice in one month, when I don’t remember finding any in previous years.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 9, 2020 at 5:56 AM

  12. so beautiful.


    June 9, 2020 at 11:10 PM

  13. It’s about color, but also beautifully composed. I love the placement of the one over the other. It made me pause and look again.

    Todd Henson

    June 10, 2020 at 9:42 AM

    • Glad to hear it. I’m fond of composing with one thing in front of another. I always keep at least part of the front subject in focus while experimenting with varying amounts of out-of-focus for what’s behind.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 10, 2020 at 2:30 PM

  14. Your observant eyes and inventive mind made good use of these two!


    June 13, 2020 at 8:07 PM

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