Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

A confirmation on upper Bull Creek

with 16 comments

Yesterday you saw two views of a tiny wildflower that got identified for me as Samolus ebracteatus var. cuneatus, known as limewater brookweed and limestone brook-pimpernel. Later it occurred to me that I might have spotted the species last year at the base of a limestone overhang a few miles away along the upper reaches of Bull Creek, so on July 1st I went back to the spot to find out. Sure enough, that was it. The picture above shows you a few of those plants practically lost among some healthy southern maidenhair ferns (Adiantum capillus-veneris) and inland sea oats (Chasmanthium latifolium).

If you could float back maybe 30 feet from this ferny nook and look to your left, you’d get the view shown below of the scalloped limestone cliffs along this scenic stretch of Bull Creek. Notice the dead trees hanging upside; that phenomenon was the focus of a post in 2016.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 10, 2020 at 4:42 AM

16 Responses

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  1. This follow-up provided a salutary reminder to assume nothing. When I noticed ‘var. cuneatus‘ today, it occurred to me to wonder whether we shared the same sub-species. In short: no. After roaming around, I finally discovered the USDA Subordinate Taxa page. How I’ve missed that I don’t know, but now I do know that the sub-species common in my area is S. ebracteatus var. alyssoides . I was intrigued to see A. Heller’s name attached to it. I tried to find out if it’s the same Heller who’s credited with Heller’s plantain, but none of the references I found for Plantago helleri had any information.


    July 10, 2020 at 5:25 AM

    • That makes two of us: I never noticed the subordinate taxa page, either. When limewater brookweed got identified for me, the identifier provided the genus and species. Having never hear of Samolus ebracteatus, I checked Bill Carr’s Travis County plant list and that’s when I found out about the subspecies. Fortunately it’s the only one he lists, so I didn’t have to try to figure out which one I’d photographed. I still don’t know in which ways the subspecies differ, nor have I found out anything about the Heller of Heller’s plantain.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 10, 2020 at 6:29 AM

  2. How these plants can grow on the bare rock astounds me, Steve. I see plenty of water at the foot of the rock formation but is there enough moisture on the rock to sustain life? It is truly miraculous.

    Peter Klopp

    July 10, 2020 at 8:36 AM

    • The vegetation in the first picture has been there for years, so apparently enough water is seeping out of the rocks to sustain it. Plants are pretty hardy.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 10, 2020 at 12:41 PM

  3. Your pics made me really want to visit there. Thanks

    Nancy Basinger

    July 10, 2020 at 9:04 AM

  4. The maidenhair fern is one of my all time favorites.

    Lavinia Ross

    July 10, 2020 at 11:07 AM

    • Yes, they’re certainly pretty. It’s easy to see why they’re among your favorites. In my hilly part of Austin we have enough creeks that I never have to go far to see maidenhair ferns. In fact I included some in photographs I took of a waterfall on a different part of Bull Creek this morning.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 10, 2020 at 12:46 PM

  5. I know that spot and it’s gorgeous there. I haven’t been there in a while and imagine that it’s loaded with people right now. Like others, I’m always amazed when plants seemingly grow out of rocks. Lovely shots!


    July 10, 2020 at 12:43 PM

    • Whenever I go to this spot I see scattered signs that people have been there, yet in all the years I’ve been going there I think I encountered someone else only once. I wonder if you’re thinking of a different stretch of Bull Creek.

      In a couple of days I should have a post showing mountain pinks, which have a predilection for growing right out what looks like solid rock.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 10, 2020 at 12:51 PM

  6. wow, what an interesting rock! beautiful

    Andraz Jenkole

    July 11, 2020 at 11:49 AM

    • This is one of my favorite places in Austin. People from elsewhere are surprised to find we have scenes like this.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 11, 2020 at 1:05 PM

  7. It looks almost tropical! In Texas! The rock formations are beautiful and the ferns are lovely.


    July 12, 2020 at 10:39 AM

    • There are secluded places here that people from elsewhere probably wouldn’t expect. Even some (or maybe many) people here don’t know about them.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 12, 2020 at 2:06 PM

  8. I can hardly take my eyes off those rock formations, Steve! Even with all that lush maidenhair fern hanging around!


    July 12, 2020 at 3:58 PM

    • That stretch of Bull Creek is a small answer that Austin makes to California when it comes to scenic formations. The maidenhair ferns usually look good in their limestone grotto (the exceptions being when we have our occasional droughts).

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 12, 2020 at 8:43 PM

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