Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

From river primrose to eryngo

with 34 comments

In the previous post I showed you the flowers of a native plant that was new to me, river primrose (Oenothera jamesii), bunches of which I found along the north fork of the San Gabriel River in Williamson County on September 16th. The yellow flowers are large, so you won’t be surprised to see, as you do above, that the plant’s buds are also sizable, maybe 4 inches long in this case. But what, you ask, is that rich purple in the background? It’s eryngo (Eryngium leavenworthii), whose inflorescences some people liken to little purple pineapples, and others to thistles, given how spiny the plant is. Strangely, though, eryngo turns out to be in the same botanical family, Apiaceae, as parsley, dill, anise, cumin, and celery. Because I’ve teased you with eryngo as a background glow, I guess I’ll have to show you one in its own right.

In an unrelated fact for today, see if you can get your arms around the fact that embracery is a legal term meaning ‘an attempt to influence a court, jury, etc., corruptly, by promises, entreaties, money, entertainments, threats, or other improper inducements.’

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman


Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 27, 2020 at 4:34 AM

34 Responses

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  1. Embracery seems to be more popular than ever, especially in politics these days.

    Steve Gingold

    September 27, 2020 at 4:46 AM

    • I wonder if it’s really more common these days or if we just have more ways of finding out about things now than we used to. I’m inclined to look on human nature as constant (or changeable on an evolutionary scale so vast as to seem constant for all practical purposes).

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 27, 2020 at 6:51 AM

  2. In your first photo, the river primrose seems to be offering up a ‘chef’s kiss’ to the photographer.

    I’m still amused when I remember how frustrated I used to be when I’d see these gloriously purple eryngo and wonder why I couldn’t find one. Eventually, I figured out that ours are a different species: E. hookeri. Now I know there’s a third species: E. prostratum. It can be found in east Texas, and with luck I’ll find it today.


    September 27, 2020 at 5:47 AM

    • Your quotation puts a bit of a different spin on this classic.


      September 27, 2020 at 6:04 AM

    • Regarding your first link, I found this paragraph interesting: “That gesture, called al bacio (‘as good as a kiss’), is one with sincere roots in traditional Italian culture. In American popular culture, however, the image of a chef giving the kiss of the fingers, as it is found on pizza boxes and cans of tomato paste, is a concoction of post-World War II advertising, and the use of the al bacio gesture perpetuated the stereotype.”

      Your mention of the Hooker’s sent me looking at a distribution map, which has my county marked for it. Then I look at Bill Carr’s Travis County Plant List, where I found that the species is “rare in moist calcareous clay in seasonally wet spots in Blackland Prairie grasslands or pastures. No recent reports or specimens.”

      I hope today gives you a chance to prostrate yourself before some E. prostratum.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 27, 2020 at 7:02 AM

  3. The blurred backgrounds on both are lovely. The vibrant purple in the first image makes me think the river primrose has an aura of royalty! I would never have guessed that eryngo would be in the same botanical family as many herbs! It appears more like a thistle of some sort with those prickly leaves.


    September 27, 2020 at 6:53 AM

    • Let’s hear it for out-of-focus backgrounds, and all the more so if they impart a royal air. Now I can say I’ve hobnobbed with royalty.

      Biologists have a concept called convergent evolution, in which unrelated species develop a common characteristic. In this case, eryngo developed the spininess we normally associate with thistles and that most other plants in its own botanical family lack.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 27, 2020 at 7:18 AM

  4. Hmmm…now what could have influenced your choice of unrelated thought? The other day I was on the trail at Grant Woods and encountered two middle-aged thugs wearing Trump 45 shirts, with a depiction of a gun. Scary. I edged past them without making eye contact and they didn’t bother me but I felt they would if given the slightest provocation. yikes.

    On a much happier note, I love these photos. Lucky you to find such amazing, extravagant flowers.


    September 27, 2020 at 9:03 AM

    • Extravagant flowers for extravagant me! The word extravagant means literally ‘wandering outside.’

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 27, 2020 at 9:12 AM

      • It does? Then it is indeed an appropriate adjective for you but not for the flowers.


        September 27, 2020 at 9:17 AM

  5. I’d rather be embraced by the beauty of your photos than facing embracery charges. Have a great Sunday, Steve!

    Peter Klopp

    September 27, 2020 at 9:18 AM

  6. I embrace the outstanding extravagance of this beautiful plant. And I salute the photographer who exposed for such glorious intricate detail without blowing out the red and blue channels.

    Michael Scandling

    September 27, 2020 at 9:46 AM

  7. Enjoyed that new word: slipping it into the political conversation in the American age of horror.


    September 27, 2020 at 2:01 PM

  8. It does looks like a little purple pineapple! It’s a very attractive plant and I bet the bees love it.

    Eliza Waters

    September 27, 2020 at 6:19 PM

  9. The little purple pineapple is very attractive. What a pity the word embracery is no longer embraced in common language. I wonder why it became obsolete. The crime itself is still flourishing.


    September 28, 2020 at 4:34 AM

    • I hadn’t seen any of those little purple pineapples for a year or two, so I was glad when Eve spotted a few and called my attention to them; otherwise I might not have noticed them, as caught up as I was with so many other things.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 28, 2020 at 7:13 AM

  10. This is one I know as a garden plant. The nursery trade sure took off and ran with this one! There are so many cultivars! “They” have marketed a number of different species and hybrids – I don’t know if leavenworthii has been used. It’s been a long time since I gardened. Yours is beautiful and you’re lucky to be able to see it growing wild.


    September 28, 2020 at 7:14 PM

    • I remember that after I saw our local species in a field guide about 20 years ago, I was really eager to find this distinctive plant in the wild. Even after two decades I still remember where I finally came across it, which was near Lake Georgetown in the county directly north of ours.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 28, 2020 at 8:22 PM

  11. Eryngo definitely resembles a pineapple in my eyes. And while I like the yellow color of pineapples, I try to imagine my reaction when cutting into the fruit and meeting with purple pulp. Gulp? Yes and yes.


    September 29, 2020 at 9:01 PM

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