Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Archive for October 16th, 2020

Maybe autumn’s big five

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I recently referred to the “big four” native plants that are prominent in central Texas in the fall. The number is arbitrary, and even when I said four I was thinking that I could well add asters as a fifth. With that in mind, here’s a picture of one of our native asters, Symphyotrichum subulatum, known colloquially as eastern annual saltmarsh aster, baby’s breath aster, slender aster, annual aster, and blackland aster. Some in Texas call it hierba del marrano (hierba is pronounced the same as its alternate spelling yerba); translated loosely, the Spanish name means pigweed, but I think most people find the flowers as attractive as pigs are alleged to do. Notice the endearing way the tips of the ray florets curl under.

The 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 leaves had turned pleasantly red and yellow, and those colors made a good out-of-focus background to set off the aster. And from August 13th on the Blackland Prairie, here’s a view showing one of these flower heads from below:

The ancient Greek word astēr had the same meaning as its native English cognate star. The Greeks extended the word to designate a daisy-like flower that they saw as a stylized star, and we’ve continued the tradition. Greek asteroeidēs, which meant ‘resembling a star,’ has become our asteroid. Similarly, we call the typographical character * an asterisk, literally ‘a little star.’ And “there you are, little star.”

And if it’s a famous quotation you’re after, try Ralph Waldo Emerson’s exhortation to “Hitch your wagon to a star.” Or, with a floral reference, take these lines from Longfellow’s Evangeline:

“Silently, one by one, in the infinite meadows of heaven,
Blossomed the lovely stars, the forget-me-nots of the angels.”

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 16, 2020 at 4:37 AM

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