Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Two takes on square-bud primrose flowers

with 44 comments

Along the Capital of Texas Highway on June 13th I found some bright yellow flowers of Oenothera berlandieri, known descriptively as square-bud primroses and poetically as sundrops. How could I not get down low and make abstract portraits of such sunny wildflowers? The first picture shown here plays up the idea of “a light shining in the darkness.” In the second, I was intrigued by the way one of the plant’s leaves curled into a spiral and turned reddish-brown as it dried out. A spider had been intrigued enough to hang out inside the spiral.

Unrelated proverb for today: You can’t unring a bell.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman


Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 30, 2020 at 4:41 AM

44 Responses

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  1. Fabulous photos!

    Ms. Liz

    July 30, 2020 at 5:57 AM

  2. There is much poetry in your sundrop images. I especially like the way you describe the first one as a light shining in the darkness. It is rare to find such biblical references in today’s world. And the spiralled leaf is simply fantastic, Steve.

    Peter Klopp

    July 30, 2020 at 7:57 AM

    • Poetry is just fine with me, whether it be in words or images. The original Greek verb poiein, from which poet and poetry come, meant ‘to create.’

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 30, 2020 at 11:20 AM

  3. Cool! A flower puffing out yellow phosphorescent breath or pollen.
    Once you’ve telephoned a girl to go out dancing, you’d better not cancel the date!
    You can’t unring a belle.

    Robert Parker

    July 30, 2020 at 8:19 AM

    • Touché!


      July 30, 2020 at 8:21 AM

      • ☎️🕺💃😀

        Robert Parker

        July 30, 2020 at 8:24 AM

        • For those of us who haven’t learned to read or speak Emoji, can you decipher your comment?

          Steve Schwartzman

          July 30, 2020 at 11:23 AM

          • The red thing is an old-time, pre-cellphone communications device, a “telephone.” The little people are dancing. So it’s ringing somebody up, to go dancing!

            Robert Parker

            July 30, 2020 at 11:40 AM

            • Thanks for your explication—or is it exegesis?

              Steve Schwartzman

              July 30, 2020 at 12:46 PM

              • I had to look that up, that’s a good word to memorize.

                Robert Parker

                July 30, 2020 at 1:00 PM

                • Gotta hand it to those Greeks for handing us words like exegesis, thesis, hypothesis, synthesis, genesis, mimesis, apheresis, psychokinesis, etc. If all of those terms make you feel like barfing, the Greeks have even given us emesis.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  July 30, 2020 at 1:23 PM

    • You’re in fine shape, as always. You topped “yellow phosphorescent breath” with “can’t unring a belle.” Unless, of course, it’s the belle who has yellow phosphorescent breath.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 30, 2020 at 11:22 AM

  4. When I saw the spiral-and-spider combination, I wondered which came first. Did the spider make use of the already-formed spiral, or did the spider’s work help to bring about the spiral? Unanswerable, probably.

    The texture in the first photo’s as pleasing as the color. When I found a few of these along the River Road outside Center Point earlier this month, I was perplexed by the flowers’ black centers and black-tipped stigma. Finally, those were the clues that helped me identify them.


    July 30, 2020 at 8:20 AM

    • I, too, wondered about the sequence. I see so many flowers and leaves that a spider has bent to its purpose. As you said, there’s probably no way to know in this case.

      Some square-bud primroses have black-tipped stigmas and others yellow-tipped ones. As I understand it, the difference isn’t significant enough to create subspecies.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 30, 2020 at 11:55 AM

      • I didn’t realize some have yellow-tipped stigmas. That may explain why Eason called the black-tipped O. berlandieri subsp. pinifolia.


        July 31, 2020 at 8:35 AM

        • And I hadn’t heard of any subspecies. Marshall Enquist, who doesn’t mention any varieties or subspecies, says that in some individuals the color of the throat matches that of the stigma, while in other individuals they differ. I see in Bill Carr’s Travis County Plant list that the former Calylophus berlandieri ssp. pinifolius, which I think is what these pictures show, was also called Oenothera berlandieri ssp. pinifolia, and he now has it as Oenothera capillifolia ssp. capillifolia. Can I just stick with “pretty yellow flowers”?

          Steve Schwartzman

          July 31, 2020 at 9:03 AM

          • “Pretty yellow flower” is fine by me. Genus and species generally satisfy me — although sometimes it’s useful to know a few more details. Speaking of details, I sent Val Bugh a photo of the cutest white fuzzy caterpillar I’ve ever seen. It looked like it was made of angora, and I almost touched it. Lucky I didn’t. It was a different species of flannel moth caterpillar, and like the asp, has those stinging hairs. I didn’t notice them until Val pointed them out. Whoops!


            July 31, 2020 at 10:45 AM

    • That’s a really interesting thought and, though I’ve seen many a leaf bent to a spider’s dedicated purpose, I think it unlikely that so few gossamer strands could have been placed with that intent. And since orb webs are typically produced in spiral fashion, maybe a little hopeful one thought that someone had already laid the groundwork for an easy finish. And, by the way, we have both Greek (speira=coil, twist, or wreath) and Latin (spiralis=winding or coiling) to thank for our spidery spiral.


      July 31, 2020 at 3:26 AM

      • In the “Which came first, the spider or the curl?” you have a bent for the curl.

        The Romans got spīra, and hence spīralis, from Greek speira, so in the cultural question of “Which came first, the Greek or the Romans?” the answer is clear.

        Steve Schwartzman

        July 31, 2020 at 7:21 AM

      • Personally, I’d bet on the spider bending the plant, and I don’t think it was an orb weaver. Most examples I come across are “webbed” in an exceedingly messy way; no self-respecting orb weaver would claim the work. I also suspect there were more strands involved in the beginning, as well as a more flexible leaf. Webs can be damaged or destroyed, too.

        My hunch is only that, of course. However it happened, I enjoy finding evidence of the process.


        July 31, 2020 at 8:50 AM

        • I’ll take the easy way out and say that I’m content I got to photograph the results, whatever the cause might have been.

          Steve Schwartzman

          July 31, 2020 at 9:07 AM

  5. Ah, perfect!

    marina kanavaki

    July 30, 2020 at 11:16 AM

  6. I like both those trains of thought. I also like the thought of a spider living in the curl for a little while. 😀


    July 30, 2020 at 1:42 PM

  7. There is a cultivar of this known as ‘Siskiyou’, but I do not think that it is endemic this far west.


    July 30, 2020 at 10:59 PM

    • Can a cultivar ever be considered endemic?

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 31, 2020 at 6:09 AM

      • I suppose, if it is found in nature. Natural variants are typically known as varieties, but would be considered cultivars if they must be propagated by unnatural means to maintain their distinctiveness.


        August 1, 2020 at 5:12 PM

  8. Hi
    Wonderfully . I am so happy.I


    July 31, 2020 at 10:42 PM

  9. Both are very nice. The curled leaf is a great observation.


    August 2, 2020 at 4:18 PM

    • I find that curled leaves can make good photographic subjects. Yesterday I made some portraits of drying silverleaf nightshade leaves that struck me as highly sculptural.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 3, 2020 at 6:44 AM

  10. Ah I’m so pleased you got down low and took these amazing shots Steve! Stunners …🙂👏


    August 4, 2020 at 3:20 PM

  11. Your photos are really beautiful.

    Mazoli IC

    October 9, 2020 at 11:20 PM

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