Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

A new tall yellow

with 22 comments

On September 16th we drove the 25 miles or so to Tejas Camp in Williamson County. Walking along the edge of the great meadow there, we saw nary a flower of any kind, just the opposite of the way the field had looked in the late spring of 2016 when it was covered with wildflowers. Still we kept on. Things changed abruptly after we followed a side path over to the north fork of the San Gabriel River. The parts of the river bed without flowing water had become hospitable ground to many kinds of native plants. The most conspicuous, because some of them were taller than a person and had plenty of long-stemmed yellow flowers on them, was river primrose (Oenothera jamesii), which I don’t remember ever seeing before. Below is a close-up of one flower.

A view from the side is also worthwhile.

And here’s an unrelated quotation for today: “Deliberate much before you speak or act, because you can’t call back what you’ve said or done.” — Epictetus, Fragments.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 26, 2020 at 4:31 AM

22 Responses

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  1. In your first shot, the primrose is so beautifully highlighted against the elemental, darker, stratified rock wall behind it.


    September 26, 2020 at 4:57 AM

    • I took some horizontal pictures of a colony of these flowers with woods beyond them, and I debated using one of those as a scene-setter. I eventually went with the vertical photograph because it emphasizes the height of these plants and it also includes some of the vertical bank of the creek whose water allows the river primroses to flourish there.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 26, 2020 at 7:39 AM

  2. Beautiful colours.


    September 26, 2020 at 5:46 AM

    • It’s hard to beat a rich yellow. The middle portrait sets that off against a soft blue.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 26, 2020 at 7:42 AM

  3. These are lovely, delicate blossoms. I love the soft yellow.


    September 26, 2020 at 7:07 AM

  4. The structure of the flower’s familiar, but the height certainly isn’t. In that respect, it reminds me of another genus of wet-ground-loving plants in the Onagraceae: the Ludwigias. I like the first photo that shows the plant in its entirety, but my favorite’s the one with the black background. It reminds me of the Berlandier’s sundrops, with that dramatic black center and stigma. The shadows are especially nice.


    September 26, 2020 at 8:39 AM

    • ps: Epictetus might smile at a modern variation on his advice: “Think before you speak, and Google before you Tweet.”


      September 26, 2020 at 8:50 AM

    • It’s its height that gives this evening-primrose family member away. A view that includes only the flower could be showing a different species, so similar are some of the flowers in the genus Oenothera—especially before the recent lumping in of genera like Gaura. Speaking of which, the Berlandier’s sundrops you mentioned went from Calylophus to Oenothera. I added the third picture primarily because of the shadows that you also mentioned. I’d seen river primrose in Marshall Enquist’s book “forever,” so was glad to finally find it and get good pictures of it.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 26, 2020 at 9:27 AM

  5. The wild primrose looks equally good with a bright blue sky and a dark background. The only flowers that are still doing well as the fall season has begun here in the northern latitudes are the sunflowers.

    Peter Klopp

    September 26, 2020 at 9:25 AM

    • Hooray for the ever-hardy sunflowers! You won’t be surprised that the common species, Helianthus annuus, is still flowering here. In addition, the majestic Maximilian sunflowers are just coming into their own now, to the point that I could photograph some yesterday morning. Goldenrod is likewise just getting going now, with large-scale flowering still a couple of weeks ahead. This is what I’ve called our second season, meaning the most prolific for wildflowers after the spring.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 26, 2020 at 9:32 AM

      • You live in a photographer’s paradise, Steve.

        Peter Klopp

        September 27, 2020 at 9:27 AM

        • It seems that way. Sometimes we have to look harder than at other times to find good things. In the fall it’s easy.

          Steve Schwartzman

          September 27, 2020 at 9:32 AM

  6. That’s a pretty one. Flower ain’t bad either.


    September 26, 2020 at 2:48 PM

    • Not bad at all, and the flowers are larger than those of any other evening-primrose species I’m aware of. Botanist Bill Carr described river primrose as “exceptionally conspicuous in moist to saturated soils of unshaded limestone creekbottoms in counties to the immediate north and west, but apparently rare in such habitat within Travis County.” The only locations he gives for the species in Travis County are along Southwest Parkway—far from our part of Austin, which I guess is why I had to go 25 miles north to see any.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 26, 2020 at 3:46 PM

  7. I really like that last picture! 🙂


    September 27, 2020 at 10:08 AM

    • The third picture was a late addition to the post. For your sake, I’m glad I included it.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 27, 2020 at 1:24 PM

  8. While dark backgrounds certainly enhance the detail and color of a flower, I especially like the sky with that soft cloud for a background.

    Steve Gingold

    September 27, 2020 at 7:18 PM

  9. So pretty! I’ve always liked that clear yellow and simple structure of Oenotheras. My field guide says we should have an O. contorta here but I’ve never seen it. I love the second photo, it’s good to have the first to see the whole plant (yes, tall!) and the shadows of the stamens & pistil – really nice! 🙂


    September 28, 2020 at 7:10 PM

    • Another instance of that cheery yellow. I was especially happy with the middle picture and others like it that I took, all of which conveyed softness. Not long before posting, I added the last picture precisely because of the shadows that the inner parts projected onto the petals. I hope you won’t have to contort yourself too much to see Oenothera contorta.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 28, 2020 at 8:18 PM

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