Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Two takes on buffalo bur

with 20 comments

I see buffalo bur (Solanum rostratum) fairly often in Austin, yet I haven’t shown any pictures of it here since 2015. Today’s post puts an end to the five-year hiatus. You may notice the flower’s similarity in shape, but not color, to that of its genus-mate silverleaf nightshade, which appeared here recently. The picture below, also from west of Morado Circle on July 5th, shows you the prickly seed capsules that put the bur in buffalo bur, and caution in people who get close. The flowers in the background were two-leaf senna.

Would you like to know what the British conductor Sir Thomas Beecham had to say about the harpsichord?
Sure you would. He said it “sounds like two skeletons copulating on a corrugated tin roof.”

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 9, 2020 at 4:27 AM

20 Responses

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  1. Wow, those look even nastier than the sand burs that I remember all too well from childhood in Michigan and from visiting relatives in Wisconsin. For some strange reason, when I see the name, I always think there should be a double r (maybe it’s a flashback to having watched too many Perry Mason episodes in my youth).


    August 9, 2020 at 4:45 AM

    • I can reassure you on both counts: the dictionary gives the spelling of bur with one r or two; and buffalo burs have caused me much less trouble than sandburs because the latter are smaller, much less noticeable because they generally grow close to the ground, and therefore easier to step on.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 9, 2020 at 6:25 AM

  2. I once read that scientists got inspired by the sticky nature of bur to invent velcro. Great photos as always, Steve!

    Peter Klopp

    August 9, 2020 at 8:03 AM

  3. Well, harpsichords are rather staccato, like the second image.

    Michael Scandling

    August 9, 2020 at 11:09 AM

  4. Makes me glad they don’t grow here, thistles are bad enough.

    Eliza Waters

    August 9, 2020 at 11:13 AM

    • Texas, alas, is more inhospitable to human skin than many other places—and I speak from experience.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 9, 2020 at 6:12 PM

  5. Is it related to buffalo wings?


    August 9, 2020 at 11:31 AM

  6. Lovely little flower and such a happy shade of yellow (which is already fairly happy, but still…). I’d gladly steer clear of the seeds though. Ouch! I grew up in Corpus and my parents’ home and garden was on sand. We had “sticker burrs” though I really don’t know exactly what the plant is. I just remember how if feels in the foot.


    August 9, 2020 at 1:57 PM

  7. I’d recognize those stamens anywhere. I read that another common name for this plant is ‘buffalo nightshade.’ It’s interesting that the fruits of silverleaf nightshade and this one are so different.
    It’s also interesting that the flower itself reminded me of the two-leaf senna that’s lurking in the background.

    In the first photo, it seems all parts of the flower — even the petal edges — have just enough curve or hook to suggest the prickly burs to come.


    August 9, 2020 at 7:10 PM

  8. The various burs and tickfoils have developed an ingenious if painful way of getting themselves around.

    Steve Gingold

    August 10, 2020 at 4:09 AM

    • Ingenious, yes, but it would be disingenuous of people to say they like the resulting encounters.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 10, 2020 at 6:41 AM

  9. Quite a contrast in these two!


    August 18, 2020 at 12:29 PM

  10. Very handsome plant portraits.


    September 4, 2020 at 9:34 AM

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