Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

I cotton to snake cotton

with 24 comments

I rarely come across snake cotton (Froelichia gracilis), so I got excited on August 2nd when I discovered a colony of it in a dry sump at the edge of Great Hills Park. On one of the snake cotton plants I noticed spiderwebs and soon saw the spider. Below is the picture I took of it using daytime flash and a small aperture; that combination gives the impression of dusk rather than broad daylight.

Then on August 14th out beyond Bastrop I found a few stalks of snake cotton
and was able to get a picture showing one of the plant’s small and inconspicuous flowers:

Here’s an unrelated quotation for today:
“Qui grate beneficium accipit primam eius pensionem solvit.”
“Anyone who receives a benefit with gratitude repays the first installment of it.”
Here’s an alternate translation (I wanted to make it sound more colloquial):
“If you accept a favor with gratitude you’ll repay the first installment on what you owe.”
Seneca the Younger in De Beneficiis (On Benefits).

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 28, 2020 at 4:32 AM

24 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. I am very grateful that you have favoured us with these beautiful snake cotton images. I particularly like the background in the second photo but all the photos made me froelich.


    August 28, 2020 at 5:53 AM

  2. I’m delighted you found the snake cotton, and got the added pleasure of that spider. The plant fascinates me: especially those tiny flowers. I finally decided they remind me of the flowers of ball moss. The lighting you created in the first photo certainly complements the plant; I like the golden glow.


    August 28, 2020 at 7:08 AM

  3. I am sure I have run across snake cotton before, and just did not know what it was. The USDA plant guide shows it is quite prolific throughout the Midwest US. It’s an unusual plant, and has me wondering what purpose it serves in nature. Well, other than what we see in the second image where it has produced the perfect structural element for a spider’s snare!


    August 28, 2020 at 8:29 AM

    • It is an unusual plant. I can’t think of anything else like it. With regard to the second picture (as well as the first), I noticed that many of the stalks in this colony had curves in them, sometimes even several curves, so that seems to be the way this species grows. That makes less work for spiders, as you pointed out.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 28, 2020 at 5:09 PM

  4. Interesting little plant, and a new one for me. I quite like the first photo too, and of course, the spider is always a nice addition.


    August 28, 2020 at 8:43 AM

    • You’re in luck. The USDA map has snake cotton marked for Lake County and several of your neighboring counties:


      Now that you’re aware of it, perhaps you’ll notice some. As for the first picture, I like the dark area across the top; I aimed toward a grove of shaded trees.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 28, 2020 at 5:16 PM

      • I see in my reference that it does indeed grow here as an introduced species. I’ll have to keep an eye out for it.


        August 29, 2020 at 10:30 AM

        • Given how much further north of us you are, you might still find some this season. Does your reference say how it got introduced to your area? I’m guessing it happened inadvertently, because snake cotton doesn’t have fancy flowers that gardeners would favor. On the other hand, I find the cottony look appealing.

          Steve Schwartzman

          August 29, 2020 at 10:35 AM

          • No, it doesn’t, and that is an interesting point. I suppose it must have hitchhiked in some hay or something like that.


            August 30, 2020 at 8:12 AM

  5. A crafty spider made good use of the bend in the stalk of the cotton snake.

    Peter Klopp

    August 28, 2020 at 8:45 AM

    • Lori (Littlesundog) also noticed how the spider made use of that bend in the stalk. I this species the stalk are often curvy or sinuous. I wonder if a study would turn up more spiderwebs on average for this species than for others of similar size with straight stalks.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 28, 2020 at 5:19 PM

  6. I wonder how a banker or landlord would interpret the quote. Most of them would likely not be satisfied with gratitude as a payment, as countless unfortunate people can attest.


    August 28, 2020 at 6:47 PM

  7. Sinuous stalks surely simplify spiders’ settling solutions.


    August 30, 2020 at 3:55 AM

  8. Did you get a closer look at the spider? The abdomen looks like it might have an interesting pattern. Nice use of the flash.

    Steve Gingold

    September 5, 2020 at 2:43 AM

    • It was a pretty small spider. I looked at the full-size image just now and found that the patterning on its abdomen wasn’t as interesting as you’d hoped. Only every now and then do I use flash in the way I did here, and part of the effect as I presented it is due to how I processed the image.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 5, 2020 at 5:30 AM

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: