Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

A glorious bluebell colony

with 57 comments

Yesterday I drove up to San Gabriel Parkway in Leander to photograph what may have been the largest colony of Texas bluebells (Eustoma sp.) I’ve ever seen. The property had a barbed wire fence around it, so I had to take my pictures from the outside. For the second view, I bent over and shot between the strands of wire.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 24, 2020 at 4:40 AM

57 Responses

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  1. Terrific!


    June 24, 2020 at 5:04 AM

  2. This is now a quite famous colony. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if somehow it were allowed to remain… I plan on making it over there very, very soon. Is there a safe place to park? In looking at the map, I think so but would like verification.

    Agnes Plutino

    June 24, 2020 at 5:20 AM

    • I heard about it from the Texas Wildflowers group on Facebook a few days ago and didn’t want to miss it. Like the mixed wildflower colonies along Heatherwilde Blvd. in Pflugerville, it would be great if a wealthy person or company bought the land to preserve it. Unfortunately that seems unlikely. I couldn’t help noticing how much of the land around the Leander site has already been or is currently being developed.

      As for parking, you’re in luck. You can park on the north side of San Gabriel Parkway in the lot for St. David’s Emergency Center. There’s also a new and still unoccupied building on the hospital’s west side that has a big parking lot; that’s the one I used. Between the new building and the hospital a nice colony of sunflowers has sprung up.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 24, 2020 at 7:18 AM

  3. Wow! Have you photographed this area previously? What a find!!


    June 24, 2020 at 6:42 AM

    • I don’t believe I had. I just replied to Agnes’s comment (above) that I heard about this site from the Texas Wildflowers group on Facebook a few days ago and didn’t want to miss it.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 24, 2020 at 7:20 AM

  4. peering through barbed wire…..apropos


    June 24, 2020 at 7:32 AM

    • A lot of land here is enclosed with barbed wire. I do the best I can from the outside. You may be alluding to staying home and looking at the outside from within.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 24, 2020 at 8:38 AM

  5. This is no longer a floral carpet. I would describe the scene as a sea of bluebells. Are these wildflowers or have they been planted?

    Peter Klopp

    June 24, 2020 at 7:37 AM

    • This is a natural colony. From what I’ve read, large colonies of bluebells used to appear in many places in Texas, but people picked them to such an extent that the colonies became less common. I’ve often observed in my area than when a piece of land that had been farmed or ranched gets left alone for a few years, wildflowers return.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 24, 2020 at 8:40 AM

  6. Wow!! That’s impressive! I do hope the owners of the land never, ever sell! Thanks for sharing that remarkable scene; I’ve never seen more than a smattering of these gorgeous wildflowers.


    June 24, 2020 at 7:52 AM

    • Then you may want to drive up there and check it out while it’s still looking good. Development is going on all around there, so this may be the last chance to see the site. The colony is on San Gabriel Parkway opposite St. David’s Emergency Center, where you can easily park and walk across the street. During my stay a few other people stopped to photograph the bluebells, too.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 24, 2020 at 8:45 AM

  7. What a beautiful expanse of blue!

    Lavinia Ross

    June 24, 2020 at 7:59 AM

  8. I like the second picture a lot: excellent playing with depth of field.


    June 24, 2020 at 9:03 AM

    • In the second picture, the use of a telephoto lens contributed to the background’s out-of-focus-ness.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 24, 2020 at 9:31 AM

  9. As a Texan friend of ours says, Holy moly! (must have twang added for proper gravitas) That is quite something. I’m glad you were able to reach between the strands of wire to get the second shot. It’s a beaut.


    June 24, 2020 at 9:45 AM

    • Yup, holy moly’s a good exclamation for it. After I got home I discovered that a way-out-of-focus strand of barbed wire that I didn’t detect through the viewfinder got included in several pictures and messed them up. Because I took a bunch of photographs, there were still some good ones.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 24, 2020 at 10:39 AM

      • I always do that, too, take extra images just to be sure.


        June 25, 2020 at 8:42 AM

        • In the digital age, there’s no reason not to, because pixels are cheap and bad pictures are disposable. That’s a welcome change from the days of film, when I couldn’t have afforded to take so many photographs.

          Steve Schwartzman

          June 25, 2020 at 5:36 PM

          • Isn’t that the truth? It has become a reflex to click away now for me.


            June 26, 2020 at 9:01 AM

            • And speaking of reflex, I’m still using a single-lens reflex camera. It seems, though, that mirrorless cameras are the up-and-coming thing.

              Steve Schwartzman

              June 26, 2020 at 10:59 AM

              • Hm. Well always having something new to learn is a good thing, I suppose.


                June 26, 2020 at 11:16 PM

                • It can be. It would also be expensive to switch to a new kind of camera body if I had to buy a new set of lenses for it. I just checked and found that for $159 Canon sells an adapter that would let me use my existing lenses on a mirrorless Canon camera body.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  June 27, 2020 at 7:19 AM

                • I love adapters. Are you planning to make the change? What is the advantage?


                  June 27, 2020 at 9:34 AM

                • I can’t say that I’m planning to make a change soon. Canon seems to be putting more and more energy into developing mirrorless cameras, so that’s where the best improvements and new features may appear in the years ahead.

                  One advantage of a mirrorless camera is that it doesn’t have the slight delay and shake that a DSLR does when its mirror has to snap out of the way in order to take a picture.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  June 27, 2020 at 1:40 PM

                • Oh, is that what is happening when it does that? I had no idea. Usually I just use my cell phone. I chastise myself over this but still, when I go out in the field I tend to forget to bring the camera.


                  June 28, 2020 at 3:58 AM

                • Cell phone cameras are okay for many things, especially portability. Few people nowadays go around without one.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  June 28, 2020 at 7:16 AM

                • Yes and I use my photos for reference, so high quality images are usually not an issue. The year I bought the digital though I was able to use it to get good shots of the white pelicans as they came through and that was pretty great.


                  June 28, 2020 at 9:35 AM

                • That’s right: a real camera is much more versatile than the camera in a cell phone.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  June 28, 2020 at 11:31 AM

  10. Oh, my gosh. I thought they were almost extinct. Beautiful! Thanks again.

    Margie McCreless Roe

    June 24, 2020 at 9:55 AM

    • I’m happy to say they’re alive and well and living in Texas. If you’re within range of Leander, I hope you’ll go look at this colony.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 24, 2020 at 10:40 AM

  11. I find this phenomenal in the same way that I found the super bloom in Carrizo plain phenomenal.

    Michael Scandling

    June 24, 2020 at 10:40 AM

    • From what I’ve read, large colonies of bluebells were once common in many parts of Texas, not something unusual. When land gets left alone long enough, as here, the wildflowers rebound.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 24, 2020 at 10:43 AM

      • It’s reassuring what the land will do if one leaves it alone.

        Michael Scandling

        June 24, 2020 at 10:50 AM

        • Unfortunately, for the last 20 years in this area the leaving alone has usually been a prelude to development. The area around this bluebell colony includes plenty of recent or current construction, including on the properties next to and across the street from the wildflowers.

          Steve Schwartzman

          June 24, 2020 at 11:00 AM

          • [https://youtu.be/2_2lGkEU4Xs]

            Michael Scandling

            June 24, 2020 at 11:04 AM

            • I remember that song. I grew up in the Long Island suburbs about 6 miles from an early epitome of such things, Levittown.

              Steve Schwartzman

              June 24, 2020 at 12:54 PM

              • I expect the model that she was singing about was Daly City and Pacifica California. The development was called Sunstream homes. What a euphemism.

                Michael Scandling

                June 24, 2020 at 2:06 PM

  12. That’s a beautiful field of bluebells!


    June 24, 2020 at 12:41 PM

  13. WOW! I have never seen them like this! Absolutely great pic!

    Nancy Basinger

    June 24, 2020 at 1:01 PM

    • Thanks. I like your enthusiastic first word. This colony proves that a native species can rebound dramatically if people give its habitat some benign neglect.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 24, 2020 at 1:07 PM

  14. Wow, glorious indeed! What a color and your second image is a lovely composition.

    Ellen Jennings

    June 24, 2020 at 7:52 PM

    • The bluebell is considered one of Texas’s showiest wildflowers—and you’ve seen why. I showed the colony in its own right as a scene-setter and then used it as a backdrop for a few individual plants so you could see what they’re like.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 24, 2020 at 9:04 PM

  15. My gosh. I haven’t seen more than a few scattered plants this year. This is just phenomenal. I’ve read about the hillsides of central Texas being covered with bluebells, but I really couldn’t visualize it. Now I know why people who’ve seen them have written about them so glowingly. In truth, that wire may have helped to preserve the colony, too, since I’ve also read about how people have nearly picked them to death.

    I had no idea where Leander’s located, but I sure do now: 290 to 183 to the St. David’s parking lot. What a temptation that is!


    June 24, 2020 at 9:39 PM

    • I thought you’d appreciate this. Until I learned about the Leander colony, I’d seen only one stray bluebell this year, and a stop at a place where I’d found a bunch in several other years turned up not a single one. As for the barbed wire, I didn’t see anyone go through or over it while I was there, but one woman reached inside and plucked a bluebell that was growing just inside the fence because she wanted to take it with her so someone could tell her what it was. I ended up being the person who told her. A little earlier a real estate agent visiting from Boerne to help out a friend saw me taking pictures and struck up a conversation; she also didn’t know what the flowers were till I told her. Both women asked if bluebells are native, and I was happy to confirm that they are.

      Like Cedar Park immediately to its south, Leander is another rapidly growing suburb. When I moved to Austin in 1976, Leander was home to hundreds of people; it now has an estimated population of 68,000. If you yield to temptation, let us know.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 25, 2020 at 6:32 AM

      • I wonder if anyone’s told the people at the little creamery in Brenham about the field. They need to get Belle over there for a photo shoot.


        June 25, 2020 at 8:18 AM

        • You’re welcome to call the company and point them to this post. Then it’d be up to Bluebell to get in touch with whoever owns the land.

          Steve Schwartzman

          June 25, 2020 at 5:35 PM

  16. It’s really hard to imagine what this field must look like in person. You’ve posted many photos of your wildflower fields recently, and I’ve visited many in Minnesota in summer, but this is exceptional. It reminds me of the canola fields in France and Brittany. Love your telephoto shot.


    June 25, 2020 at 5:22 AM

    • It’s quite a site in person. I knew that the field is fenced and I wouldn’t be able to wander where I wanted to find good camera angles. I came prepared with a stepladder so I could get up high for an overview of the colony like the one shown in the first picture. (In checking the metadata, I see that I used the 100–400mm telephoto lens for that, too, though zoomed only to 164mm.) In the second photo, which several other people have also appreciated, the fact that the subject was so close to the camera allowed the colony beyond it to go pleasantly out of focus. The narrow band of darkness across the top (corresponding to the base of the row of trees) also strikes me as effective.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 25, 2020 at 6:47 AM

  17. Even by Texas standards that is amazing. You are so lucky to have fields of blooms like this…well, maybe not all are like this but you know what I mean.

    Steve Gingold

    June 26, 2020 at 1:45 AM

    • You said it. Books say that bluebell colonies used to be more common in Texas but people picked so many of the flowers that colonies became less common. And of course all the development in recent years has reduced their habitat. The property hosting this colony isn’t long for the world, I’m afraid.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 26, 2020 at 6:34 AM

  18. A field of purple … how lovely!


    June 27, 2020 at 3:19 PM

  19. The clean lines in the first image appeal to me.


    July 1, 2020 at 4:49 PM

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