Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

A bitterweed bud and bloom and beyond and a bee

with 18 comments

It’s been a couple of years since I showed you the common wildflower known as yellow bitterweed, Helenium amarum var. amarum. The native-bee-bedecked portrait above is from August 18th in Round Rock. At the same time I took what I believe are my first pictures ever of a bud in this species, so here’s one of those:

Toward the opposite end of the development cycle, here’s what a seed head looks like when it’s decomposing:

Many parts of the United States are experiencing a summer drought now. People longing for cooler and wetter times may find the following cold-weather fact welcome, and probably also surprising: if a lake has a solid covering of ice 12 inches deep, an 8-ton truck can drive on it. If you want to know how much weight other thicknesses of ice can bear, check out this chart. Notice that the relationship isn’t linear: doubling the thickness allows the ice to bear a lot more than twice the weight.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 26, 2020 at 4:38 AM

18 Responses

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  1. The bitterweed with the bee is a beauty, but I find the later stage (your third photo) especially nicely-done. The flower remnant seems to be reaching out for one last kiss, and I can’t help but think that you have granted its wish.


    August 26, 2020 at 4:51 AM

    • Seed heads in their decomposing stages have long appealed to me as portrait subjects. Mexican hats, Texas thistles, sunflowers, and of course Drummond’s clematis are a few species that I’ve often portrayed in their late stages. The bitterweed was pretty new to me, and what caught my attention was the concentric rings around the round cream-colored center: first black, then light, and finally orange remnants of once-yellow flowers.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 26, 2020 at 5:50 AM

  2. I’ve sometimes thought the yellow of this flower is a little different; it seems a bit more dull than sunflowers or goldenrod, and a little more blue. Your photo picks up on that, and the lighting helps to emphasize it. I love the photo of the bud. Are those sepals or bracts? I think bracts. Whichever, they’re remarkable, and really eye-catching.


    August 26, 2020 at 6:43 AM

    • In the range of what English conventionally calls yellow, this one may well be over toward the side closer to green and blue. I’ve noticed that when I process images in Photoshop, certain adjustments tend to push yellow toward orange, and I sometimes use the Temperature slider to compensate and push the yellow back in the opposite direction. I checked and found that I didn’t do that here, however.

      I’d go with bracts, but I’m hardly the person to speak with authority about such things. Texas will have ice storms in August before I am.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 26, 2020 at 7:01 AM

  3. It is not too often that you show the entire life cycle of a wildflower. The bee on the bitterweed appeals to me and symbolizes the interconnectedness of all living things. Greetings from Canada, Steve!

    Peter Klopp

    August 26, 2020 at 7:36 AM

    • Greetings back from the country called Texas. In the “old days” some years ago I typically split up the life cycle over several posts, with just one picture per post to focus attention on each portrait. This year I’ve taken so many pictures that I’m swamped. Because of that, in recent posts I’ve tended to show two or even three pictures, just to get them out into the world. Even so, much remains unshown.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 26, 2020 at 7:43 AM

  4. Great title, it’s like those children’s books that prioritize practicing pronunciation.
    I’ve never seen bitterweed, I didn’t know there were other flowers that grew like coneflowers, with the petals drooping downward.

    Robert Parker

    August 26, 2020 at 8:06 AM

    • The alliterative bug boldly bit boyish me, it’s true.
      That’s a good observation about the ray flowers in this species pointing downward as much as they do. By coincidence, this morning I found another species of Helenium, one I don’t often come across, that also has that characteristic.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 26, 2020 at 12:11 PM

  5. Excellent photos.


    August 26, 2020 at 9:47 AM

  6. I like seeing all the stages of the bitterweed. As for the ice, I will heed the warning and not take any chances, if I happen upon some ice. The ice chart reminded me of a programme which appeared on one of our late night TV spots recently; a rerun of Ice Road Truckers. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ice_Road_Truckers


    August 27, 2020 at 6:09 AM

    • Our cable TV offers a grid on which we can see what programs are on which channels. I’ve noticed the Ice Road Truckers programs in the schedule but have never watched the show.

      I remember that when I was a teenager the father of one of my two close friends told us that ice a foot thick “will bear any weight you’d care to put on it” (I think that was how he phrased it), so you see I’ve known that fact for a long time.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 27, 2020 at 6:56 AM

  7. Interesting to see the stages. Beautiful photos.

    Jane Lurie

    August 28, 2020 at 8:48 AM

  8. The bee and bloom is very nice.

    Steve Gingold

    August 31, 2020 at 3:45 AM

  9. […] that has appeared here only twice before: autumn sneezeweed, Helenium autumnale. (You recently saw another Helenium species that I come across much more often.) Contrasting with that yellow were the buds and flowers of a […]

  10. […] dew. The first picture shows a dewdrop-covered head of Helenium amarum var. amarum, known as yellow bitterweed. I was also happy to find the year of the Mexican hat (Ratibida columnifera) continuing, with some […]

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