Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Limewater brookweed

with 31 comments

Along the Capital of Texas Highway on June 27th I noticed a plant with tiny white flowers of a distinctive shape. I didn’t recognize the wildflower, but thanks to Casey Williams of the Texas Flora group on Facebook I learned that it’s Samolus ebracteatus ssp. cuneatus, known as limewater brookweed and limestone brook-pimpernel. It was my first identified new species for 2020. While Austin has plenty of plants in the evening primrose family, this is one of the few in the actual primrose family, Primulaceae. Botanist Bill Carr says of the species that it’s “frequent in moist clayey soil around springs and on seepage slopes, often at the base of limestone cliffs.” Sure enough, I found the plant at the base of a limestone cliff that was seeping water. Below is a view looking into one of the flowers, which was only about a quarter of an inch (6mm) across.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 9, 2020 at 4:46 AM

31 Responses

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  1. How exciting! I took one look at your photos and thought, “That’s it. That’s the still-unidentified flower I found at Artist Boat and along the Hamby Nature Trail.” I looked it up in Eason, and sure enough; that’s what it is. Eason describes it as being “common along springs, river and creek banks, and beaches,” and adds that it’s always found around water sources, whether salt or fresh. From the name alone, I would have assumed it was a central Texas or hill country flower.

    I especially like the first photo. Its shape is distinctive, and you’ve captured it beautifully.

    shoreacres

    July 9, 2020 at 6:29 AM

    • Then we’ve both profited from the identification. The common names reference limestone, so I’m surprised to hear that the plant is also at home on beaches—such a different environment from where I’ve found it in Austin. After finding the plant in the place shown in today’s post, I remembered seeing what I suddenly realized could have been the same plant a few miles away last year. Tomorrow’s post will offer an in situ view from that other location.

      Yes, the flower’s shape is distinctive. I didn’t initially notice it because the flowers are so tiny, but once I set about taking pictures with the macro lens, a side view revealed the profile.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 9, 2020 at 6:48 AM

  2. This is lovely! A flower I have never seen.

    mlg42 mlg42

    July 9, 2020 at 6:38 AM

    • I suspect most people, even in areas where this plant grows, are unaware of it, given how inconspicuous the flowers are.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 9, 2020 at 6:49 AM

  3. What a dainty beauty! I especially love that first image. It looks as if the blossom is kissing the first light of day. The name is unusual, and fitting!

    Littlesundog

    July 9, 2020 at 7:14 AM

    • A dainty beauty it is. I’ve been compiling a list of local native plant names that have “weed” in them, my motivation being an imagined book of photographs showing the beauty of such so-called weeds. I was happy to add limewater brookweed to my list, which now includes 50 kinds of plants. (Some of the weed names are no longer common, but I grant myself poetic license to include them anyway.)

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 9, 2020 at 8:13 AM

      • What a great idea!! I learned to appreciate weeds long ago – mostly for the production of seed to feed wild birds all winter – even some mammals. Everything has importance in nature. Especially weeds!

        Littlesundog

        July 9, 2020 at 9:41 AM

  4. Soon you will have enough photos to publish a book on the wildflowers in Texas, Steve.
    Again I am impressed by the choice of the blurry green background on the first photo, but how did get the orange background on the second picture?

    Peter Klopp

    July 9, 2020 at 8:38 AM

    • Thanks for your encouragement. Actually I had enough photographs for a book on central Texas wildflowers more than a decade ago. I submitted a book proposal to all the publishers I thought would be interested but I didn’t succeed. Unfortunately the publishing industry has fallen on harder times in the years since then, so my prospects aren’t good.

      As I recall, the background in the second picture came from an area of mud or ground that was far enough away from the close flower to show color but no detail. It worked well.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 9, 2020 at 8:45 AM

      • Both are lovely shots, Steve.

        Tina

        July 9, 2020 at 12:00 PM

      • I guess you need to dig up some of the medicinal properties of your wildflowers. That would add some spice to the book. Alas, I am just kidding. It is too bad that the publishers aren’t interested. Perhaps sometimes in the future. Best wishes! Peter

        Peter Klopp

        July 9, 2020 at 5:41 PM

    • Thanks for asking, was going to ask the same thing.

      Tina

      July 9, 2020 at 11:58 AM

      • And now you both know. It’s standard practice for me to look around to see if there’s a way to line my subject up against a non-distracting background. It’s not always possible, but we do what we can.

        Steve Schwartzman

        July 9, 2020 at 12:55 PM

  5. What a cool specimen! Will keep an eye out when I’m in Austin next!

    Misti Little

    July 9, 2020 at 8:59 AM

    • The flowers are tiny, so you’ll have to keep your eyes peeled. Both of the times I’ve seen this plant have been in the Bull Creek watershed.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 9, 2020 at 9:45 AM

  6. It’s beautiful, and I love the golden background of the second one.

    circadianreflections

    July 9, 2020 at 9:29 AM

    • The flower loses nothing for being tiny. And you know me with backgrounds; the one you mentioned worked well in its color without distracting detail.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 9, 2020 at 9:48 AM

  7. That is a delicate little beauty!

    Lavinia Ross

    July 9, 2020 at 10:13 AM

    • It sure is! Now that I know what it is, I’ll look for it when I’m out in suitable environments. In fact I have pictures of one such environment coming up tomorrow.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 9, 2020 at 10:39 AM

  8. What an intriguing name.

    tonytomeo

    July 9, 2020 at 7:55 PM

    • Yes, that name grabbed me, too. The “limewater” made sense, given that I found the plant at the base of a limestone cliff that was seeping water.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 9, 2020 at 8:59 PM

  9. […] you saw two views of a tiny wildflower that got identified for me as Samolus ebracteatus var. cuneatus, known as limewater brookweed and […]

  10. Utterly beautiful, so frail and tiny with a lovely name.

    Dina

    July 11, 2020 at 6:11 AM

    • These flowers certainly are tiny, and they may look frail, yet the plant is hardy.

      The word “brook” doesn’t get used as much in American English now as it once did, although there’s been a bit of resurgence:

      https://tinyurl.com/yb4amzzt

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 11, 2020 at 6:47 AM

  11. The name made me think of American brooklime – but, that’s a whole other flower in a whole other family. 🙂 I’m glad that you have added a new flower to your list!

    bluebrightly

    July 12, 2020 at 4:01 PM

    • There are so many native species in Travis County’s plant list that I don’t recognize. Each new one I identify is a little victory.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 12, 2020 at 8:46 PM

  12. A new species … ! And very photogenic at that Steve. Super images as always 🙂

    Julie@frogpondfarm

    July 17, 2020 at 4:26 PM

    • Thanks, Julie. I’m always on the lookout for native species I haven’t see or identified before.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 17, 2020 at 5:32 PM


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