Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Apache plume in northern Arizona

with 31 comments

The flowers of Apache plume (Fallugia paradoxa) reveal the plant’s membership in the rose family.

In its late stage, Apache plume is quite similar to the prairie smoke (Geum triflorum, likewise in the rose family) that I observed in Illinois four years ago, and also to the old man’s beard (Clematis drummondii, in a different botanical family) that you’ve so often seen from central Texas.

Because the closest to Austin that Apache plume grows is far west Texas, I don’t often get the chance to photograph this species, so when I came across a few of these plants in northern Arizona four years ago today, I wasn’t about to pass up my chance to portray them.

Oh yeah, at the same site there was also a minor attraction that I took a few pictures of.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 19, 2020 at 3:49 AM

31 Responses

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  1. This is very reminiscent of some clematis that I found on the Bretagne coast of France. How wonderfully delicate.


    October 19, 2020 at 4:00 AM

    • It’s is an example of what biologists call convergent evolution: the development of the same trait in species that are unrelated (except insofar as all species share DNA mechanisms). In this case the Fallugia and Geum are in Rosaceae, while Clematis is in Ranunculaceae.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 19, 2020 at 4:10 AM

  2. Both of these images are beautifully done. It’s often surprising that in the “late stage” something can be so stunning. And yes, what a lucky thing that you stumbled along that “minor attraction”. You might have blinked and missed that!


    October 19, 2020 at 4:33 AM

    • Thanks. Yes indeed, late stages can be stunning. I’d say the flowers of Apache plume are more attractive than those of Clematis drummondii, but that Clematis catches up and maybe even moves ahead in its later stage. I’m glad you clicked through to the “minor attraction.” Of the thousands of people who visited it that day, I’m pretty sure I’m the only one who also photographed the Apache plume.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 19, 2020 at 4:41 AM

  3. Lovely images, especially those silvery hairs on the clematis.

    Ann Mackay

    October 19, 2020 at 6:58 AM

    • Thanks. The silvery hairs on Clematis drummondii have been attracting the photographer in me for 20 years. (Note, however, that the ones in this post’s second picture are on an Apache plume.)

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 19, 2020 at 7:04 AM

    • Aha, I’m easily confused, LOL! The hairs remind me of pulsatilla seed-heads too – lovely how they catch the light. 🙂

      Ann Mackay

      October 19, 2020 at 7:36 AM

      • Not being familiar with pulsatilla, I looked it up and found that it’s also known as pasqueflower and is in the same botanical family as Clematis, so the resemblance is not as surprising as that of the Apache plume.

        Steve Schwartzman

        October 19, 2020 at 8:07 AM

  4. We loved our times in Northern Arizona and enjoyed your photographs and text, Steve.


    October 19, 2020 at 7:10 AM

    • Glad you enjoyed the post. I’d love to be able to revisit northern Arizona—or anywhere else—but the pandemic has us all in its thrall.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 19, 2020 at 8:04 AM

  5. I love the dark background in the first image. It really shows off the white of the rose.

    I first came across Prairie Smoke in the late 90’s while hiking around Mt. Shasta. I was so excited as I’d never seen anything like it before. I haven’t seen it but a few times since!


    October 19, 2020 at 7:57 AM

    • Agreed: the dark background does a good job complementing the white flower.
      I’d heard of prairie smoke a little before seeing it in person in Illinois four years ago. I see from the map at

      that it has a wide distribution in the north-central and western parts of the country, including your general area. We’re both sorry not to have seen it again more recently.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 19, 2020 at 8:49 AM

  6. I love the dark background for this floral composition, Steve. The Apache plume when going into seeds looks quite similar to our garden clematis at this stage of the life cycle.

    Peter Klopp

    October 19, 2020 at 9:21 AM

    • It was that similarity that struck me the first time I saw Apache plume and prairie smoke, which are in the same family with each other but not with the look-alike Clematis. And yes, the dark background really did its job.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 19, 2020 at 9:36 AM

  7. I wouldn’t have guessed that impressive plume came from that unimpressive blossom, which looks a lot like the invasive multiflora rose that’s currently making a pest of itself in NY. It’s a wonderful feathery plume, very pretty.

    Robert Parker

    October 19, 2020 at 1:41 PM

    • You can fluff up the feathery plumes alongside the allegorical “mighty oaks from little acorns.”

      I’ve heard of the invasive multiflora rose (perhaps from you). Because Apache plume is a native, I have no compunction about showing it off here. I only wish I saw it more often.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 19, 2020 at 2:45 PM

      • The plumage plummets in proximity to the parent. Well, that’s not all that great, the oak/acorn one is more succinct and less nutty.

        Robert Parker

        October 19, 2020 at 4:51 PM

        • Some might say “nuttin’ doin'”, but I think your reference to acorns being less nutty is A-oak-ay.

          Steve Schwartzman

          October 19, 2020 at 6:07 PM

  8. My first encounter with Fallugia paradoxa was at the Grand Canyon, too. Although it isn’t native to this part of Texas, I went ahead and bought one at a Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center sale and have taken photos of both the blooms and the plumes of the Apache Plume ever since. Probably not up to your standard, but then “I Blame The Parkinson’s” when things go amiss, and say I was channeling my “inner Steven Schwartzman” when things go right.


    October 19, 2020 at 5:08 PM

    • I appreciate being channeled, Bob, just as I appreciate the plumes on the three species mentioned here. What a coincidence that your first encounter with Apache plume took place at the same site as in this post. You can well imagine that’s not why I went there, but I certainly took advantage of what I unexpectedly found. “Blooms and plumes,” by the way, is a euphonious phrase. Maybe NPSoT can use it to advantage.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 19, 2020 at 5:22 PM

  9. I love this shrub and hope to plant one in the yard next spring. Our local plant nurseries did not have available this year.


    October 19, 2020 at 10:07 PM

  10. Despite your title, at first glance I thought the flower was a dewberry blossom. When I stopped to think about it, I realized that dewberries are in the rose family too, so the similarity makes sense. The plumes certainly are beautiful. They look like a cross between C. drummondii and Gulf muhly — airy and colorful, all at once.


    October 19, 2020 at 11:08 PM

    • There sure is a resemblance to a dewberry blossom, thanks not to convergent evolution but rather, as you said, membership in the same botanical family. Speaking of Gulf muhly, I noticed some stands of it around town in recent days and made a mental note that I should stop at one for the seasonal show.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 20, 2020 at 8:44 AM

  11. Hilarious minor attraction!


    October 20, 2020 at 11:30 AM

  12. Very cool, all of it.


    October 28, 2020 at 2:15 PM

    • As far from a desert as I am, at least I have our abundant local Clematis drummondii, which never fails to put out its feathery finery for much of the second half of each year.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 28, 2020 at 3:05 PM

      • Up in the mountains we have Western pasque flower – Anemone occidentalis – aka Hippie on a stick. In full seed-bearing phase its flower head is a lot like that Clematis, which they had a funny name for in North Carolina…can’t think of it now. Great plant.


        November 11, 2020 at 7:19 PM

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