Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

More views of Texas bindweed

with 45 comments

You recently saw a Texas bindweed flower (Convolvulus equitans) with a basket-flower serving as a complementary concentric halo. On June 2nd I was working near a different entrance to Great Hills Park and found that another purple flower, the horsemint (Monarda citriodora), provided an out-of-focus backdrop for a softly questing Texas bindweed tendril. (Google turns up no hits for the phrase softly questing tendril, so today is my latest turn as a neologist.)

Jumping ahead to June 15th, I noticed that a Texas bindweed vine had twined itself around a Mexican hat (Ratibida columnifera). Riding the flower head was a bug that entomologists call Calocoris barberi, which I’ve learned is most often found on Mexican hats. As far as I can tell, this bug has no common name, so maybe the Entomological Society of America should hold a contest to come up with one.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 30, 2020 at 4:44 AM

45 Responses

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  1. The Questing Beast turned out to be quite pleasant, in “The Once & Future King” or “The Sword in the Stone,” so your graceful picture of a questing weed is in good company. Very surprising that that bug does not have a common name. If it’s a destructive pest, and a barber, it could be Sweeney Todd.

    Robert Parker

    June 30, 2020 at 5:30 AM

    • Can’t say I’ve heard of the Questing Beast, which I just found a write-up of at


      I’m glad you think the first picture puts me in that good company.

      Insects can be destructive pests, granted. The notion that some are barbers stretches credulity, but strange things do happen in nature. At the very least, we can agree that some insects are rebarbative.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 30, 2020 at 8:07 AM

      • I’ve seen that word, but didn’t remember what it meant, it’s great-sounding, and also great that it’s actually barber-related, “beard-to-beard” is a vivid image.

        Robert Parker

        June 30, 2020 at 8:43 AM

        • I knew the word from French (rébarbatif), then figured it must exist in English, too. An alternate interpretation of the etymology traces the meaning to the notion of going against the grain in a beard—something familiar to people who shave.

          Also related is the borrowed English word barb, which conveys the prickliness of a beard.

          Steve Schwartzman

          June 30, 2020 at 9:07 AM

          • Going against the grain is great for shaving (those parts where skin is preferable to whiskers), but it’s generally not recommended when stroking (or, especially, brushing) a cat (and most especially its tummy). It may give new meaning to “prickly.”


            July 1, 2020 at 1:35 AM

  2. What a fascinating and attractive little bug. The patterns on its back remind me of Venetian glass trade beads. I suppose ‘trade bead bug’ wouldn’t be an acceptable name today, but it sure could fit. I enjoyed seeing the barely emergent bindweed flowers in the first photo, too. The implicit heart formed by the vine brought to mind the old song “Wildweed Flower.”


    June 30, 2020 at 5:30 AM

    • I wondered whether your phrase “barely emergent” might be new. When I checked, I got a few thousand hits, which by Google standards isn’t a lot. In the process I learned that the German equivalent is kaum auflebend. When I searched for “trade bead bug” there were no hits, so that would be a unique name for this critter: good choice! As for the implicit heart, I hadn’t noticed it. Call me heartless.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 30, 2020 at 8:17 AM

    • By the way, it occurred to me to wonder whether this insect might lack a common name in English but have one in Spanish in Mexico, where I take it the bug also lives. More generally, how likely is it that a certain thing has a name in one language but not in another (assuming the thing is found in places where each language is spoken).

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 30, 2020 at 8:29 AM

      • That’s an interesting question. I’m accustomed to coming across plants with multiple common names, but I don’t remember encountering one without an English common name. My first thought was that the phenomenon might be more likely where a species is in the process of extending its territory, and people in its ‘new’ land haven’t yet developed a common name for it.


        July 3, 2020 at 8:00 PM

        • That seems plausible. This is one more thing that an enterprising linguist could study—assuming one hasn’t already done so.

          Steve Schwartzman

          July 3, 2020 at 9:08 PM

  3. I love the geometric pattern on the bug’s body, Steve.

    Peter Klopp

    June 30, 2020 at 8:18 AM

    • Me, too. People liken bug bodies of this kind to shields. In this case it’s a colorful and attractive shield.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 30, 2020 at 8:26 AM

  4. It does look like a snake in the first image, and acts like one in the second! The bug has lovely markings…for a bug.


    June 30, 2020 at 9:38 AM

    • The bug might take offense at “…for a bug,” but I won’t. Interesting that you saw the vine as a snake in the two images; I understand how you might see it that way, although it never occurred to me in all the times I’ve seen this species.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 30, 2020 at 11:21 AM

  5. Nice capture of that colorful beetle and a fine composition, Steve.

    Eliza Waters

    June 30, 2020 at 5:52 PM

    • Composition is a big part of photography, isn’t it? Sometimes I crop, as in the second picture, to emphasize the composition. In the first picture, the glow of purple draws our eyes to the tip of the tendril.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 30, 2020 at 8:25 PM

  6. Both are lovely and in different ways. The bindweed looks like a cloud of deep pink is spreading from its terminal end. It’s a perfect pairing of structure and color. As for the second photo, there’s so much to like: the straight, vertical stem with twining companion, the textured tip, decorated by that fabulously patterned bug.


    June 30, 2020 at 8:20 PM

    • I appreciate your thoughtful analysis. Interesting how you conceived the purple as spreading from the bindweed tendril, rather than backing it up. In the second picture I cropped in from the sides to emphasize the height of the Mexican hat stalk. The twining vine gradually widens as it rises, ultimately offering a perch for the patterned bug.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 30, 2020 at 8:33 PM

  7. Thanks again for an inspiring start to the new day. And congratulations on your new coinage. Checked out the link to neologist and then the word just above it, neologism, and noted the following: Related Words
    Young Turk, arriviste, blend, breakthrough, bright young man, coinage, comer, discovery, fledgling, ghost word, innovation, introduction, invention, leap, modern, modern generation, modern man, modernist, modernizer, neologist, neology, neonate, neoteric, neoterism, neoterist, new generation, new man, new phase, new sense, new word, newfangled expression, nonce word, nouveau riche, novelty, novus homo, parvenu, portmanteau word, rising generation, stripling, upstart

    I am especially intrigued by the first one, Young Turk. Will you be posting any new views of young Turks caps in the near future?


    July 1, 2020 at 9:28 AM

    • Glad you find it inspiring. That’s quite a semantic tour you took through the words and expressions conjured up by neologism. As for the flower you associated with young Turks, I’ve seen Turk’s cap flowers, including in our yard, but haven’t photographed any yet this year. I’m so backlogged with pictures that there’s no way I can show everything I’ve photographed in the past few months, even with daily posting (which, incidentally, I’d planned to cut back on).

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 1, 2020 at 1:59 PM

  8. Loving the color contrasts in the first, and the insanely cute insect in the second. What you might get if you crossed a ladybug with a stinkbug?


    July 1, 2020 at 9:57 AM

    • Someone once said that pictures with a blue sky as background were my signature. These days I’m more inclined toward color halos in the background, as in the first portrait.

      I like your description of the insect as “insanely cute.” As for your riddle, I haven’t come up with a good answer.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 1, 2020 at 2:03 PM

      • It wasn’t a riddle, but a question. However, your insanely cute bug would be the answer. 😉


        July 10, 2020 at 9:50 AM

        • Good answer! Speaking of insects, I was surprised to see a lightning bug (firefly) this morning. Normally I’ve only seen them at night.

          Steve Schwartzman

          July 10, 2020 at 1:00 PM

          • We have them here in abundance, both day and night, but I must admit it took me a few years to realize they were one in the same bug, They mostly rest by day. And, I didn’t know you had them in Texas. Just one more reason to love Texas… beside the fact that I was born there. 😀


            July 12, 2020 at 7:52 AM

            • I don’t think I knew you were born in Texas. I grew up on Long Island (NY), which is where I know fireflies from; as kids we called them lightning bugs. They were common there in the 1950s but I think pollution and development greatly reduced their numbers afterwards.

              Steve Schwartzman

              July 12, 2020 at 7:57 AM

              • I just read an article on that very fact. The reduction in grassy wild space was mentioned. (Dang Mowermen strike again) Kinda sad.


                July 12, 2020 at 8:15 AM

                • Now if the mowers could mow down the coronavirus, that would be something useful.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  July 12, 2020 at 9:27 AM

  9. I immediately thought of the halo one when I saw this. I love the elegance of the first; the second reminds me of a helter skelter with the beetle at the start of a ride.


    July 1, 2020 at 2:24 PM

    • I’ve often gravitated to the halo technique, which usually isn’t hard to do in our multitudes of wildflowers. You have a good imagination to see the bug at the start of a ride in the second shot.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 1, 2020 at 6:22 PM

  10. Like it when you use what is the background to such a great advantage as in your first!


    July 1, 2020 at 4:43 PM

    • Me too! I’ve often said, with only some hyperbole, that the three most important things in a portrait are background, background, and background.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 1, 2020 at 6:23 PM

  11. That’s an interesting bug Steve! Yes bind weed is particularly good at wrapping itself around things .. thankfully it doesn’t like winter


    July 2, 2020 at 2:24 PM

    • That’s good for you now that it’s winter there. We don’t have much winter in Austin, so the various native bindweeds here are around for much of the year.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 2, 2020 at 4:47 PM

  12. “Softly questing tendril” – I love that! And as you might guess, I like the photo a lot, too. It’s fun when an accomodating, nicely colored flower is lurking in the background, just waiting to provide that extra oomph to an image. And I love that bug on the Mexican hat, wow, what a beauty! It’s surprising it doesn’t have a common name. Yellow school bus bug?


    July 2, 2020 at 7:49 PM

    • I’m glad you like the neologism of “softly questing tendril.” You know how I love to play with words. Finding a patch of color in the background that I can line a subject up with has become one of my most common approaches to wildflower portraits. As you said, it adds oomph. We might even say it oomphasizes the subject.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 2, 2020 at 8:49 PM

    • “Yellow school bus bug” sounds like a winner.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 3, 2020 at 3:25 PM

  13. While I am under the impression that the bindweed is not a favorite plant in many locales, it is the photographic gift that keeps on giving for you. I am still waiting for our front steps handrail to start blooming with bindweed flowers.

    Steve Gingold

    July 3, 2020 at 4:31 PM

    • Then you’ll be bound to photograph your bindweed. I think you’re right that many people don’t like it, especially the invasive species, but I relish having our native species around. Even in the fierce summer drought of 2011, purple bindweed kept right on flowering.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 3, 2020 at 8:07 PM

  14. […] collectively as scentless plant bugs, though this one apparently lacks a common name (like the Calocoris barberi that you saw here not long […]

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