Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Non-linear mealy blue sage

with 16 comments

The stalks of mealy blue sage (Salvia farinacea) are known to depart from straight lines.

These pictures from August 25th at the intersection of Mopac and US 183 confirm that.

The stalk in the third picture loops us around into a quaint little article called “Dangerous Amusement” that appeared in The Philadelphia Medical Journal on August 10, 1901:

“Loop-the-Loop” is the name of a new entertainment which goes further in the way of tempting Providence than anything yet invented. The “Loop” is an immense circle of track in the air. A car on a mimic railway shoots down a very steep incline, and is impelled around the inner side of this loop. Part of this journey, of course, is made “heads down,” the people in the car retaining their places by the great centrifugal force. The authorities at Coney Island are said to have prohibited “looping-the-loop” because women break their corset strings in their efforts to catch their breath as they sweep down the incline, and moreover, a young man is reported to have ruptured a blood vessel in his liver. We predict other accidents from this contrivance yet. No person with a weak heart or bad arteries should try it.

Loop the Loop opened in 1901 and was discontinued in 1910.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 22, 2020 at 4:08 AM

16 Responses

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  1. straight from sage country


    September 22, 2020 at 6:07 AM

    • Let me get straight to my reply: I haven’t thought of where I live as sage country, although various species of Salvia do grow natively here. West Texas is sometimes thought of as sagebrush country.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 22, 2020 at 6:42 AM

  2. That’s a nice segue to the rollercoaster. Those Philadelphians were a dour, out-of-the-loop bunch in 1901, objecting to burst corset strings!

    Robert Parker

    September 22, 2020 at 8:28 AM

    • I guess the problem of burst corset strings eventually got taken care of because we don’t hear about it any more. Speaking of segues, this sounds like the sort of topic you’d spin around into a post.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 22, 2020 at 8:38 AM

      • A public discussion re corsets?! My blushes, man, I’m mortified by the mere suggestion of such indecent impropriety !!

        Robert Parker

        September 22, 2020 at 9:10 AM

  3. My S. farinacea also twist and turn, similarly. I usually cut them back hard in late July/August and they’ve sent forward the next round of blooms for the autumn pollinators. It’s one of my favorite plants!


    September 22, 2020 at 8:42 AM

    • The twisting and turning seem to be genetic dispositions. I can understand how that would contribute to making this one of your favorite plants. I’ve noticed in the wild that after the spring flowering there’s often another, usually lesser one, in the fall. It sounds like your July/August intervention may make the fall flowering more robust.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 22, 2020 at 8:51 AM

  4. I love the bright blue sky you used as a background for your flowers. It is so rare in our region because of all the forest fires south of the border.

    Peter Klopp

    September 22, 2020 at 9:43 AM

    • Smoke might make a pleasantly soft background. I’d experiment with that if I were up there now, as I did in 2017.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 22, 2020 at 10:14 AM

      • I definitely would not have to deal with harsh light. That’s for sure. We had a solid rain today continuing into the night. That should help clear up the air so essential for healthy living.

        Peter Klopp

        September 23, 2020 at 9:47 PM

  5. A beautiful flower and blue skies there, Steve. How’s your weather today? I heard on the news Beta has made landfall.

    Lavinia Ross

    September 22, 2020 at 10:36 AM

    • Austin is 200 miles in from the coast, too far away for a tropical storm as such, but we have had rain (in fact the sound of it falling woke me up at 4 in the morning).

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 22, 2020 at 12:14 PM

  6. What an interesting set of photos. I’ve never seen this phenomenon; I generally come across mealy blue sage in early summer, when it’s still in full flower and upright. It is a pretty blue, although every time I see its name I get an almost irresistable hankering for Cream of Wheat. I especially like the silvery simplicity of the stalks themselves.

    As for the Loop-the-Loop, fifty-three years after the Philadelphia experiment ended, it re-emerged, somewhat transformed.


    September 22, 2020 at 2:43 PM

    • Along the lines of “the gang that couldn’t shoot straight,” I sometimes think of this species—admittedly with exaggeration—as the sage that can’t grow straight. And I think back fondly on those winter mornings in childhood when my mother made us Cream of Wheat for breakfast, always cooked with raisins and lots of milk. As for the song you linked to, I hadn’t heard it in decades.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 22, 2020 at 3:16 PM

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