Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Liatris elegans in two stages

with 35 comments

On August 14th we drove some 40 miles east of home and spent a while beyond Bastrop for the first time since last year. Based on a report I’d read, I hoped to find some flowering Liatris elegans, a species that doesn’t grow in Austin. Find some I did. A few of the plants had already even gone to seed, as you see below.

The only species I see in Austin, Liatris punctata var. mucronata, has purple flowers. In fact every other species of Liatris I’m aware of has purple flowers, so the yellow really is special.

And here’s a quotation for today: “Let us not underrate the value of a fact; it will one day flower in a truth.”
— Henry David Thoreau, “Natural History of Massachusetts.”

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman


Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 27, 2020 at 4:42 AM

35 Responses

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  1. Well worth the trip!


    August 27, 2020 at 6:00 AM

    • So much so that we went back nine days later to take pictures of a purple-flowering species that had been budding on the first visit.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 27, 2020 at 6:42 AM

  2. And great quote….


    August 27, 2020 at 6:11 AM

    • When I was in high school I put together a little collection of Thoreau quotes that appealed to me (though I discovered this one only last week).

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 27, 2020 at 6:45 AM

  3. I brought some Liatris from Nebraska years ago. It grew wild in a road ditch near my mother’s house. It did well here for many years, and then all of a sudden one spring I did not notice it. Nothing appeared to have disturbed the area, and we did not have any extreme weather conditions to note that year. It is another one of those mysteries why some plants thrive for years and then just disappear! This yellow species would certainly be special! I didn’t know they existed!


    August 27, 2020 at 7:14 AM

    • I first came across this yellow species out near Bastrop a couple of decades ago, when I was learning about native plants. Even then, with the little I knew, I thought a yellow-flowering Liatris was strange. We’re probably not unusual in that reaction.

      Another early lesson I learned about wildflowers is that a given species can vary a lot in its frequency from year to year—even to the point of disappearing from a location, like your Liatris. Do you know what species you brought down from Nebraska?

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 27, 2020 at 7:32 AM

      • Unfortunately, I moved those Liatris to Oklahoma about 30 years ago, and back then it was more about a pretty wildflower, and I was clueless on all other counts! I do know that up north, Liatris can almost be invasive in some areas, and they are not appreciated by most folks.


        August 27, 2020 at 1:50 PM

  4. Beautiful


    August 27, 2020 at 8:02 AM

    • These two were part of a little colony. I also photographed other flower stalks in the group.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 27, 2020 at 8:15 AM

  5. This is, indeed, an elegant flower. I’m glad your trip was rewarded.


    August 27, 2020 at 8:04 AM

    • Rewarded indeed. I took plenty of pictures in this colony, even as the surrounding trees had me contorting myself to get clear shots with the blue sky as a background.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 27, 2020 at 8:17 AM

  6. Two fitting backgrounds for the stages in the life of a Liatris elegans, Steve! The bright and cheerful blue for the flowering plant and the black for the end (and new beginning) in its life cycle.

    Peter Klopp

    August 27, 2020 at 9:01 AM

    • I hadn’t thought about the symbolism of the black for the seed heads, but it works, and the bright blue seems appropriate for the flowers. However, I’ll add that I’ve also photographed seed heads against a bright blue sky, and flowers against very dark backgrounds.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 27, 2020 at 11:11 AM

      • When I look at photos, I live in the moment. Whatever comment comes to my mind, I write it being inspired by what I see.

        Peter Klopp

        August 27, 2020 at 6:05 PM

        • “Be here now” was a slogan from the 1960s that you may remember. Sounds like you’re following that admonition.

          Steve Schwartzman

          August 27, 2020 at 6:11 PM

  7. I just found my first L. elegans of the season last weekend! Hoping for more!

    Misti Little

    August 27, 2020 at 9:16 AM

  8. A few years ago there was a big colony of Liatris along a highway that I had never seen before or since. It was very odd, almost like some had planted them there to see if they would naturalize. Thanks for sharing!

    The Belmont Rooster

    August 27, 2020 at 1:34 PM

    • You’re welcome. Regarding the Liatris you saw along a highway, you may be right that someone had planted them and they didn’t sustain themselves—possibly because mowers cut them down in their prime. That happens a lot.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 27, 2020 at 2:48 PM

  9. It’s pretty and I bet the butterflies love it. Too bad it isn’t hardy here.

    Eliza Waters

    August 27, 2020 at 4:34 PM

  10. Lovely shots, both. I scrolled back and forth (really, up and down) in an attempt to decide if I had a favorite. I don’t, they’re both gorgeous. I’ve never seen a yellow liatris–it’s very nice and a nice change from the purples.


    August 27, 2020 at 5:02 PM

    • Fortunately there’s no need to pick a favorite: you’re welcome to enjoy them both.

      If you’re up for driving to Bastrop and going along Park Road 1C a little west of the crossing with Harmon Rd., there’s likely to still be a little of the yellow flowering. The purple-flowering Liatris aspera will be out in force along the same road. I say both of those things judging from what we saw when we returned this past Sunday.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 27, 2020 at 5:10 PM

  11. I’m curious–where did you read the report that said it was flowering some 40 miles away? Congrats on your successful quest!


    August 27, 2020 at 5:17 PM

    • A successful quest it was. The way I heard about the yellow Liatris flowering in Bastrop was on a Facebook group called Texas Wildflowers. I also check out Facebook’s Texas Flora group. In the fabulously floral spring south of San Antonio in 2019 I visited and took lots of pictures at several sites I’d never otherwise have known about. I’ve also posted a few pictures of unknown (to me) plants I’ve photographed and asked if anyone recognizes them. Several times someone has.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 27, 2020 at 6:10 PM

  12. I found Liatris elegans at the very end of its life last year at Sandylands. I’d hoped to see it in bloom this year, but when I made my visit on July 19, they were just beginning to bud. I’d hoped to go back, but somehow it didn’t happen. I think I’m going to try again this Sunday, since Hardin and Tyler counties were just on the edge of Laura, and received only tropical storm force winds.

    When I first saw the plant last year, it was such a puzzle. It took me a while to figure out that it was Liatris, even though it wasn’t purple. I’d love to see it in full bloom, like your first photo. I’ve never seen it down here, so a trip it will have to be. I’m especially eager to see the color of the plants at Sandylands, since I remember them being pink and white, rather than yellow. That might have been due to an end-of-life color change, like evening primroses.


    August 27, 2020 at 7:33 PM

    • I remember the same puzzlement about 20 years ago when I came across Liatris elegans for the first time, also out in Bastrop County. The form made me think it was a kind of Liatris but the color was off. Somehow I eventually tracked down what it was. As far as I’ve found, it’s the only yellow-flowering species.

      I had to look up Sandylands on a map to remind myself where it is. I see it’s adjacent to the Big Thicket. Good luck finding some fresh Liatris elegans. The plants in the colony in Bastrop last Sunday were on average beginning to fade; let’s hope the ones in east Texas, with presumably more rain, are fresher.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 28, 2020 at 6:00 AM

  13. Let’s not underrate the power of a simple background for it allows the subject to flower, in truth.

    Michael Scandling

    August 28, 2020 at 3:09 PM

    • You can allow a subject to flower, and you can make a flower subject to a simple background.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 28, 2020 at 5:26 PM

  14. Like you, I see only the purple variety of liatris, Steve. I didn’t know that a yellow version existed.


    August 28, 2020 at 6:50 PM

  15. […] we visited the Bastrop forest on August 14th in search of Liatris elegans, which we happily found, we also noticed many conspicuously tall, erect plants of a different species, Liatris aspera, […]

  16. […] pictures for 2020 of Liatris punctata, known as gayfeather and blazing-star. (You recently saw L. elegans and L. aspera in Bastrop.) In this portrait I played up the linear leaves of another gayfeather […]

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