Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Flowers along Bull Creek

with 23 comments

You’ve seen reflections and curious rocks from my foray in Bull Creek Regional Park on August 26th. Now for a floral touch. Above is a species I don’t often find and 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 nearby marsh fleabane, Pluchea odorata.

And here’s an unrelated thought for today: “Impossible things never happen. But improbable things happen a lot.” — Jordan Ellenburg in How Not to Be Wrong. Of those improbable occurrences, Nassim Nicholas Taleb has referred to the ones with great consequences as black swan events.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 24, 2020 at 4:15 AM

23 Responses

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  1. ooh, these are unusual –


    September 24, 2020 at 4:22 AM

  2. The thought came unbidden that you had made up the name “sneezeweed,” but I really knew that, of course, you hadn’t . A quick google-look informed me that the dried leaves were formerly used in making snuff. Another thought comes unbidden, an old Tin-Pan-Alley song by Lou Carter that my mom loved, which included these lines: If I had a nose full of nickels, I’d sneeze them all at you [achoo].”


    September 24, 2020 at 4:42 AM

    • That line about nickels is nothing to sneeze at. I’m guessing that if we go far enough back we’ll find people referring to “a nickel coin,” which would eventually have gotten shortened to “a nickel,” in the same way that “a commercial announcement” became simply “a commercial.” Regarding the Helenium, I’ll add that the practice of taking snuff hasn’t been fully snuffed out.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 24, 2020 at 5:05 AM

      • I admit to having tried snuff for a while back in college days, and I’m glad that it never developed into a habit. Nasty stuff.


        September 24, 2020 at 3:56 PM

  3. Sneezeweed & fleabane, these folks need a better PR firm. The second shot is unusual and really lovely, and I like the bud in the first shot, with the sepals still tightly clenched around it, like a bicycle helmet.

    Robert Parker

    September 24, 2020 at 7:52 AM

    • Vernacular names sometimes trace back to things people used the plant (or a relative) for. Here that means inducing sneezes and getting rid of fleas. Like you, I was happy with the subdued loveliness of the second portrait. As for the first picture, I’ve seen that species only a few times, so I don’t know how typical or atypical those “straps” across the bud are; either way, I’m glad they’re there.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 24, 2020 at 9:17 AM

  4. The sneezeweed photo turned out to be a star among the wildflowers of Texas. It would give it a more poetic name such as sunwheel. But perhaps its name is based on the reaction of people who suffer from allergies.

    Peter Klopp

    September 24, 2020 at 8:49 AM

    • From what I’ve read, people have used dried Helenium as snuff to induce sneezing, as opposed to having to put up with unwanted sneezes caused by a plant like ragweed (several species of which are beginning to flower here now and are about to make some people unhappy).

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 24, 2020 at 9:21 AM

  5. That’s an unusual and appealing view of the fleabane; as with other recent photos, the darker background is really effective.

    As for the sneezeweed, as improbable as it seems, I may have photos of a red version. Everything seems right for mine to be a variant of the one you’ve shown here: the lobed ray flowers, the ball-shaped disk flowers opening from the bottom, and even the form of the bud. Of course, it could be a different Helenium species. I’ll bump it up to the top of the list of things to be investigated.


    September 24, 2020 at 8:59 AM

    • Like plants, we go through phases, and for months now I’ve been in a phase where dark backgrounds appeal. Of course that doesn’t mean abandoning blue skies or other things as backgrounds when they’re available.

      As for your might-be sneezeweed, if the disk is what’s reddish, the species might be Helenium microcephalum, which does grow in your area:


      Steve Schwartzman

      September 24, 2020 at 9:32 AM

  6. I find the colors of the marsh fleabane particularly appealing. The contrast between the lighter, still closed buds in the foreground and the darker, open blossoms in the background create a mesmerizing effect. One’s eyes (at least mine) rove back and forth.


    September 24, 2020 at 9:33 PM

    • The colors of the marsh fleabane flowers have that appeal for me, too. Happy roving back and forth between them and the buds in the foreground. I don’t seem to come across the verb rove much these days. I just checked the etymology and found that in Middle English it meant ‘to shoot arrows at a mark.’ Your use of the word reminded me of a poem by Byron:


      Steve Schwartzman

      September 25, 2020 at 5:53 AM

      • As we established before, Mr. Byron seemed to have had only one thing on his mind…

        I wonder if “roving” was pronounced to rhyme with “loving”.


        September 25, 2020 at 3:04 PM

        • That’s a good question. Even if not, they make what’s called an eye-rhyme, meaning that a reader sees matching spellings at the ends of the two words.

          Steve Schwartzman

          September 25, 2020 at 3:08 PM

  7. Both super shots .. love the colours of the fleabane


    September 29, 2020 at 1:23 PM

  8. […] his September 24 post featuring flowers from along Austin’s Bull Creek, Steve Schwartman included this quotation […]

    Pipe Dreams | Lagniappe

    October 3, 2020 at 7:07 AM

  9. I really like the way the Sneezeweed bud is clasping itself. Having the Fleabane buds front and center ahead of the flowers is an interesting take.

    Steve Gingold

    October 5, 2020 at 4:38 AM

    • The way those elements clasped the bud stood out to me, too, and made the picture special. As for the marsh fleabane, having the flowers in back created a bit of the glow around a subject (in this case the buds) that I’m fond of.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 5, 2020 at 6:37 AM

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