Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Firewheel seed head on a sinuous stalk

with 45 comments

Today’s portrait of a firewheel seed head (Gaillardia pulchella) comes from June 17th near the northeast corner of Mopac and Braker Lane. If you count the color on the curiously bent and re-bent stalk as red, then the picture provides the requisite red, white, and blue that have come to symbolize Independence Day in the United States, those being the three colors of the American flag. The firewheel’s sinuous stem when viewed sideways, whether left or right, conveniently traces out the first letter in both names of the photographer, whose birthday has never failed to coincide with the national holiday.

Perhaps because of that coincidence in dates, and certainly because of my nature, I’ve always felt a connection to the founding period in this country’s history. The story goes that when the delegates to the Constitutional Convention finally emerged from their Philadelphia meeting room in 1787, a woman stopped Benjamin Franklin and asked him what form of government they’d given the country. His famous two-part reply, first factual and then oracular, was: “A republic, if you can keep it.” Now here we are 233 years later, and recent events make it seem more and more likely we won’t be able to keep it. I hope we can.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 4, 2020 at 4:40 AM

45 Responses

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  1. The cobra flower ready to attack! 😉

    marina kanavaki

    July 4, 2020 at 5:01 AM

  2. A real live nephew of our Uncle Sam! Many Happy Returns, Steve.

    Robert Parker

    July 4, 2020 at 7:21 AM

    • Thank you. With nature lately providing abundant material for daily posts, I find myself having many happy returns.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 4, 2020 at 7:26 AM

  3. Do the clouds always do your bidding? Are they at your beck and call? 🙂 Beautiful shot, Steve.


    July 4, 2020 at 7:37 AM

    • Would that nature were at my beck and call. The answer to your question is that I don’t show you my failures. On that morning the clouds were low and the breeze noticeable, so the position of the cloud in today’s photograph changed pretty quickly. Keeping the seed head and stalk in focus while aiming to have the cloud in a good position behind it was hard. I took lots of pictures, hoping that in at least one I would have achieved both goals. The picture I chose to show was the best of that group. I also took pictures of the firewheel against clear blue sky, which was a lot easier, but the pictures with the clouds were more complex and therefore more interesting.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 4, 2020 at 8:04 AM

  4. Happy Birthday Steve! How nice of the flower to proclaim it. 🙂 I share your fears for the future of our government.
    “…Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold…”


    July 4, 2020 at 7:57 AM

    • How good of Gaillardia to tune in to my birthday. And how good of you to apply Yeats to our fates in this country.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 4, 2020 at 8:07 AM

      • Full points to the birthday boy for that one! 🙂


        July 4, 2020 at 8:09 AM

  5. Thought-provoking reflections on a bent firewheel, Steve!

    Peter Klopp

    July 4, 2020 at 8:26 AM

    • The view of the firewheel sinuously segued into something thoughtful. An earlier version of the second paragraph was more of an indictment. I toned it down and ended more hopefully.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 4, 2020 at 8:31 AM

  6. Happy Birthday, Steve! Firewheels are such a happy plant – even without the colorful petals. I also like how they appear in their dried and spent state. When deadheading to collect seed, gloves must be worn since they tend to be prickly and sharp.

    I imagine I would have enjoyed your “earlier version of the second paragraph”. I am quite disgusted with what is happening in our country.


    July 4, 2020 at 9:05 AM

    • Thanks for your good wishes. I agree that firewheels make us feel happy. Maybe we could replace each elected official with a firewheel: wouldn’t that be a happy sight?

      The earlier version of the second paragraph mentioned the growing threats to free speech and to the presumption of innocence.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 4, 2020 at 12:21 PM

  7. Happy birthday, Steve. Would that we could be guided a bit more by rationality, but that seems to be out of style these days.

    Michael Scandling

    July 4, 2020 at 11:31 AM

    • “Rationality? What’s that?” — That’s how an awful lot of people might react these days. The same could be said for facts and statistics. In any case, thanks for your birthday greeting.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 4, 2020 at 12:27 PM

      • Statistically, you’re another year older today. But I can imagine that you don’t look a day older than yesterday. But imagination isn’t rational.

        Michael Scandling

        July 4, 2020 at 6:31 PM

  8. I hope we can too! Happy Independence Day and the bloom dancing to its own tune is lovely!


    July 4, 2020 at 2:06 PM

    • Well said: the bloom dancing to its own tune. Too bad I didn’t find it when it was still flowering.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 4, 2020 at 4:38 PM

  9. Happy Birthday, Steve!

    Eliza Waters

    July 4, 2020 at 2:06 PM

  10. SSweet shot, and many more happy returns, birthday boy!


    July 4, 2020 at 4:04 PM

  11. Happy Birthday, Steve. This is colorful enough to be both a candle in honor of your day and a nice flare in honor of the country’s independence. All I can say at the moment for our country’s woes is…Humans!

    Steve Gingold

    July 4, 2020 at 5:46 PM

    • Thanks for the birthday wishes. I like your vision of a candle and a flare, and also your summary of the country’s woes in one word: Humans!

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 4, 2020 at 5:58 PM

  12. Many Happy Returns Steve!


    July 5, 2020 at 2:03 AM

  13. Happy birthday!!


    July 5, 2020 at 8:28 PM

  14. It looks as though your firewheel had to take a little detour on its way to flowering. Let’s hope that the country can straighten itself out like the firewheel did. I’ll not throw you a curve, though — just a straightforward hope that your birthday was a good one.


    July 6, 2020 at 7:09 AM

    • That’s a hopeful analogy: the country righting itself like this firewheel did.

      In other years we’ve gotten together with friends on the Fourth. This year the day was like any other, except for a bunch of good wishes over the Internet, including yours, and a couple of phone calls.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 6, 2020 at 4:23 PM

  15. Your compositions are always amazing! I too wonder at the clouds doing your bidding 🙂


    July 8, 2020 at 2:29 PM

    • In other frames I missed a good alignment with the clouds, so it’s not true that the clouds always do my bidding. Fortunately one success is all it takes.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 8, 2020 at 4:02 PM

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