Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography


with 51 comments

While driving on Park Road 1C in Bastrop County on August 23rd I spied a plant standing right at the edge of the pavement that was so unusual it made me pull over as soon as I could. It turned out to be the same Liatris aspera, known as tall gayfeather and tall blazing-star, that you recently saw here (do have a look back at the second picture in that post for comparison), but fasciation had greatly distorted the upper part of this budding specimen. The closer view below, which shows the plant rotated about 90° from its orientation when I took the first picture, reveals details of the super-duper wide flattened stalk, along with other irregularities. Call it strange and you’ll get no argument from me.

I chose to post these pictures today to coincide with Wonderful Weirdos Day, even if the creators of that celebration, being people, had their own kind in mind. All I can say is fasciated plants are my kind of people.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 9, 2020 at 4:40 AM

51 Responses

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  1. wow, mother nature sure can be an abstract artist at times


    September 9, 2020 at 4:53 AM

    • The artist in me agrees. Whether the plant is “happy” to be abstracted to that extent, I don’t know.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 9, 2020 at 5:29 AM

  2. Our goldenrod patch has a lot of fasciation happening but none are as unique and interesting as this one.

    Steve Gingold

    September 9, 2020 at 5:13 AM

  3. Strange!

    Robert Parker

    September 9, 2020 at 5:25 AM

  4. Curious to know how the blossoms will appear


    September 9, 2020 at 7:19 AM

  5. This I have not seen on my excursions into the countryside.


    September 9, 2020 at 7:34 AM

    • I’d say I independently come across a fasciated plant two or three times a year on average. Sometimes a fasciated plant occurs close to another. The one shown here was about a hundred feet down the road from a smaller one of the same species. Later I came across another fasciated tall Liatris about a mile away. Now that you’re aware of fasciation, you may begin to notice instances of it.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 9, 2020 at 7:43 AM

  6. The strange shapes that plants can produce have always been a source of amazement for me. Your photos confirm for me again the creativity of nature, Steve.

    Peter Klopp

    September 9, 2020 at 8:44 AM

    • One could argue that these strange forms, as severe aberrations from the norm, are a kind of creativity run amok. On the other side, one could counter that life itself is a form of aberration from nothingness. Ah, philosophy: I’ll content myself with taking pictures first and trying to understand afterwards.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 9, 2020 at 10:25 AM

  7. Strangely wonderful, wonderfully strange.

    Michael Scandling

    September 9, 2020 at 10:26 AM

  8. It looks like something out of “The Little Shop of Horrors”—not my favorite movie, but this bit of fasciation would fit the bill.


    September 9, 2020 at 11:40 AM

    • A horror it well may be, and yet I “shop around” for things like this to make portraits of. Hooray for such strangeness!

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 9, 2020 at 11:49 AM

  9. Wow, that is an amazing example!

    Eliza Waters

    September 9, 2020 at 2:09 PM

    • It’s one of the best (or from the plant’s viewpoint, worst) I’ve seen. May we encounter more.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 9, 2020 at 2:23 PM

  10. Carstopper indeed! For a moment I thought it was another plant with a weird name! 😉

    marina kanavaki

    September 9, 2020 at 2:57 PM

  11. Good heavens! Super-duper is exactly the phrase to describe this one. The two views are so different, and fascinating. The top image looks to me like a fire-breathing dragon; the second may be the best example of the flattening I’ve ever seen. This seems to be the year for odd Liatris. I found three that were unusual last weekend, and unusual in different ways. Once I get the lotuses out of my system, I’ll show them.


    September 9, 2020 at 8:46 PM

    • Now you’ve got me wondering in what ways other than fasciation a Liatris could be unusual. From what you said, we’ll find out soon enough. As for this specimen, I also think it’s the widest flattened stalk I’ve ever seen. I wonder if anyone else passing by caught sight of it and stopped for a closer look.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 10, 2020 at 5:14 AM

  12. How far did you have to backtrack walking, to get a better look at this interesting specimen? I doubt many people would even notice a plant along the roadside, let along stop to investigate it! Tapping into my inner weirdo, I see a victorious chicken in that second image.


    September 10, 2020 at 7:16 AM

    • The first place I felt I could safely pull over was 100–200 feet down the road from the fasciated plant. Interestingly, when I later walked back to the car I noticed a smaller fasciated specimen of the same kind directly across the road from where I’d parked. As for the victorious chicken, you’re gonna make us wonder what’s in the drinking water where you are.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 10, 2020 at 7:59 AM

  13. ‘Little Shop of Horrors’ comes to mind! Or, if plants could talk what would this one say?


    September 10, 2020 at 12:19 PM

    • You’re the second commenter here to mention “Little Shop of Horrors.” You’ll have to tell us what this plant would say if it could talk.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 10, 2020 at 12:31 PM

  14. Definitely worth the stop for a snap!!


    September 11, 2020 at 6:43 PM

    • I took pictures of this strange plant from many angles and distances, and with two lenses.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 11, 2020 at 8:39 PM

    • Regarding your phrase “stop for a snap,” I suddenly realized that if you spell stop and snap backwards you get pots and pans.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 12, 2020 at 4:37 AM

      • 🙂


        September 12, 2020 at 9:03 PM

      • Fabulous! 🙂


        September 18, 2020 at 11:45 AM

        • Later I refined it when I realized I could write and as it’s often actually pronounced: ‘n’. That makes snap ‘n’ stop an exact palindrome of pots ‘n’ pans.

          Steve Schwartzman

          September 18, 2020 at 2:09 PM

          • 🤣👍🏻


            September 18, 2020 at 4:23 PM

            • You could make that palindromic with 🤣👍🏻🤣 or 👍🏻🤣👍🏻.

              Steve Schwartzman

              September 18, 2020 at 5:44 PM

  15. I think I would have to stop and get closer to this one, too. Glad you took some shots to share. Its kind of alien and fascinating, and also beautiful.

    Peter Hillman

    September 12, 2020 at 4:37 AM

    • Yes, I’m pretty sure that as a photographer you’d have stopped and gotten closer to something so alien-looking, too. I’ll have a follow-up to this post a week from now.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 12, 2020 at 4:40 AM

  16. You certainly have a good eye, Steve. This is amazing and so well portrayed.


    September 18, 2020 at 11:48 AM

  17. That is some serious fasciation – your post title is perfect!


    September 18, 2020 at 2:45 PM

    • I though it a clever title, too. When I think about it now, I have to wonder whether anybody else (the majority of whom were cyclists) stopped for the fasciation, which was right at the edge of the road.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 18, 2020 at 5:20 PM

  18. […] The heavily fasciated tall gayfeather (Liatris aspera) that we saw in Bastrop was only budding on August 23rd, so back we went on September 6th to find out what the flowers would look like once they emerged on this distorted plant. Even after two more weeks of development, the flowers were just barely beginning to come out, so I figured we might have to wait a week or two longer and make the 95-mile round trip yet again. Fortunately, as we began heading home we spotted another fasciated specimen about a mile away, and it was fully flowering. In the picture above, the flower stalk in the distance lets you compare a normal specimen to the fasciated one in the foreground. The picture below gives you a closer look at the heart of the strangeness. […]

  19. This plant is no stranger to strangeness, I agree.


    September 19, 2020 at 10:35 PM

  20. I know I’m late here, and sorry for that, but I do find the fasciation fascinating, and I find myself wondering if it’s a form of plant cancer, and if the seeds produced by the heavily-affected individuals tend to grow into mature plants with similar tendencies. Just wondering if these are one-time divergences or if the anomaly might be hereditary.


    September 25, 2020 at 2:38 AM

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