Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

The often seen and the seldom seen

with 22 comments

In several posts this year you’ve seen little snails that have climbed onto plants in central Texas. The plant that this snail found its way onto is one I’ve encountered only a couple of times in my two decades of nature photography. I couldn’t even remember its name, and had to go searching. Botanists call it Ammannia coccinea, whose species name is Latin for ‘scarlet.’ Colloquially descriptive names are scarlet tooth-cup and valley redstem. I found this specimen not in a valley but at Cypress Creek Park out by Lake Travis on October 4th. Turns out the species has a pretty wide distribution across a large part of the country.

And speaking of things seldom seen, I don’t believe I’ve ever come across a bluebell (Eustoma sp.) as late in the season as October 4th, but that’s what happened when I was calling it a day after photographing the little snail and already heading back toward my car. This was the one and only bluebell I saw there.

 © 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 11, 2020 at 4:35 AM

22 Responses

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  1. That is a very interesting plant. I’ve never seen it here, despite what the map indicates. I see that it is in the loosestrife family, and is absent from the two top tiers of counties in Illinois. We do have bluebells, but as you say, not usually now! Two lovely portraits.


    October 11, 2020 at 8:06 AM

    • I wish I saw this plant more often so I could play around with it, photographically speaking. The little snail gave this picture some extra oomph. As for the bluebell, I thought it was past its season but when I looked in a botanical field guide for my area it had October as the last month in the bloom period, so apparently my find wasn’t as unusual as I figured.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 11, 2020 at 10:21 AM

      • Huh, I didn’t realize its bloom time extended so late, either.


        October 13, 2020 at 7:32 AM

        • I assume bluebells bloom later in the year down here than they do in your area, where cold arrives so much sooner.

          Steve Schwartzman

          October 13, 2020 at 7:47 AM

          • I’m sure you’re right about that.


            October 16, 2020 at 8:36 AM

  2. If you had not mentioned the tiny snail on the wildflower, I would have certainly missed it. It is a problem of our perception. We often don’t see little things unless our mind has been alerted to look for them. So for me, your title is very fitting, Steve.

    Peter Klopp

    October 11, 2020 at 8:22 AM

    • You’ve probably heard me say it’s common for me to look at photographs on my monitor and see little things I wasn’t aware of at the time I took the pictures. In this case, though, I’d caught sight of the snail, so I took a bunch of pictures that included it.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 11, 2020 at 10:31 AM

  3. I’ve never seen even a photo of the valley redstem. It’s quite attractive, and remarkably varied, from the magenta bloom at the top to the reddish tinge of the leaves. They all play off nicely against the banded color in the background.

    There are a lot of stragglers out there in the world. On October 4, I found a beautiful white prickly poppy blooming at the Attwater Refuge.


    October 11, 2020 at 11:09 AM

    • I hadn’t even heard of valley redstem until I found the plant six years ago, and I had to get someone at the Wildflower Center to identify it for me. You have, however, seen the photograph I posted back then, but you can hardly be faulted for not remembering—just as I’ve forgotten species from your part of the state. The bands of color in today’s picture strike me as good complements to the red and magenta flowers.

      As for stragglers, there have been plenty here, too. This morning I photographed a few Indian blankets, for example.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 11, 2020 at 12:06 PM

  4. It is late in the season for bluebells and not even ‘fashionably late’ though a bluebell sighting is always nice.


    October 11, 2020 at 3:06 PM

    • Yes, it was nice, and nothing I’d have expected. Cypress Creek Park turned out to be a good place for me last Sunday, one I’d photographed at as seldom as I’d seen valley redstem.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 11, 2020 at 3:16 PM

  5. I love the upside down snail!

    Lavinia Ross

    October 11, 2020 at 4:57 PM

    • The snails start climbing in an upright orientation but they can apparently end up in any orientation, based on what I’ve observed.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 11, 2020 at 9:13 PM

  6. The bluebell image is particularly pretty. Flowers are winding down here now, asters are blooming, but not much else.


    October 11, 2020 at 7:30 PM

    • It’s hard not to like bluebells; I’ve grown fond of the view from below.

      As you’ve seen in recent posts here and will keep seeing for a while, central Texas is at the peak of its fall bloom season.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 11, 2020 at 9:20 PM

  7. I love that snail and the architectural look of the plant it’s on. 🙂


    October 13, 2020 at 11:51 AM

  8. That snail has a very attractive shell! I have come across lupine and other flowers out of season like your bluebell … freaks of nature I guess … nice freaks!


    October 14, 2020 at 2:24 PM

    • I’m happy to have a freak like this bluebell around. I’ve recently seen occurrences of a few other species that normally flower in the spring.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 14, 2020 at 6:31 PM

  9. […] picture above comes from October 4th at Cypress Creek Park (where I photographed a snail on a valley redstem and also a late-season bluebell flower). Fortunately the aster was growing close to another plant (I’m not sure what it was) whose […]

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