Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Prairie agalinis has been out for some time now

with 37 comments

So much has been going on in 2020 that I’ve neglected to show you any prairie agalinis, Agalinis heterophylla, which has been out in various places for a good while now. The first time I photographed any this year was September 16th, along the North Fork [of the] San Gabriel River in Williamson County, as shown in today’s portrait. These flowers vary in length from about 0.75 to 1.25 inches.

I don’t know about you, but when I look at the larger-spotted, ellipse-shaped part of this flower, my brain tends to see it as concave even though I know it’s convex. Call it a floral equivalent of a Necker cube. Oh, what a world of illusions we live in. And in lieu of a quotation today, you’re welcome to turn your eyes and brain loose on some more optical illusions.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 31, 2020 at 4:30 AM

37 Responses

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  1. That’s a delicate, little beauty! And thank you for getting me sidetracked this morning with optical illusions.


    October 31, 2020 at 6:42 AM

    • Because you followed through, my allusions to illusions weren’t delusions. Nor is the appeal of prairie agalinis a delusion.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 31, 2020 at 8:18 AM

  2. That’s a beauty, nice color.

    Robert Parker

    October 31, 2020 at 8:04 AM

  3. I finally dove into the world of Agalinis, and discovered I’ve surely encountered four species: this one, two others in our coastal counties, and a different one in east Texas. One thing I’ve learned: if a common name includes the word ‘false,’ pay attention. The ‘false beach foxglove’ isn’t a foxglove, and it doesn’t grow on the beach. It’s Agalinis fasciculata. I found this one described as ‘false prairie foxglove.’

    I couldn’t figure out why this one looks so different, and I’ve decided it’s perspective. All that business that goes on inside these flowers is hidden; it’s an unusual and pleasing view.


    October 31, 2020 at 9:03 AM

    • Ah, falsity in names. Your doubly false false beach foxglove is a good example. You may be aware that one of the various common names for Baccharis neglecta is false willow, given poverty weed’s weak and willow-like branches and leaves. (The etymologist will add that false goes back to the same Latin verb that has given us fail.)

      At four Agalinis species, you’re well ahead of me. As for this view from the side, I just did a quick look through previous pictures I’ve posted of these flowers and found that I’ve roughly equally often shown pictures that allow a look inside the “bell.” Now we’ll have to see what kinds of views you’ll eventually show.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 31, 2020 at 9:36 AM

  4. Rich colors and a lovely portrait. I hadn’t heard of Agalinis until I found one this fall. Is this one of the species that is partially parasitic?


    October 31, 2020 at 9:45 AM

    • Thanks. In order to answer your question, I went searching and found the following in Wikipedia: “Agalinis (false foxglove) is a genus of about 70 species in North, Central, and South America that until recently was aligned with members of the family Scrophulariaceae. As a result of numerous molecular phylogenetic studies based on various chloroplast DNA (cpDNA) loci, it was shown to be more closely related to members of the Orobanchaceae. Agalinis species are hemiparasitic, which is a character that in part describes the Orobanchaceae.” I didn’t known about the hemiparasitic nature of this genus, nor that it has been moved to a different botanical family.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 31, 2020 at 9:50 AM

      • I read about the hemiparasitic nature of some Agalinis species at the Native Plant Trust website I consulted for ID. Some books call them Gerardia.


        October 31, 2020 at 11:17 PM

        • That other name always reminds me of giardia, a type of bacterium that causes intestinal problems in people. When I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Honduras we would occasionally get sick from it.

          Steve Schwartzman

          November 1, 2020 at 7:47 AM

          • Giardiasis isn’t just a Central American or third world problem. It affects US water supplies as well, though it’s uncommon here.


            November 1, 2020 at 7:29 PM

            • I’ve not heard of it here, most likely for the reason you said, namely that it’s uncommon. For us in Honduras 50 years ago it was a reality.

              Steve Schwartzman

              November 1, 2020 at 8:41 PM

              • I used to do water sampling in my area, I remember seeing it as a report item. And CDC reports numbers of cases in the US.


                November 2, 2020 at 12:31 PM

  5. After looking at the lovely prairie agalinis, which I have not seen before, I went exploring the optical illusions you recommended to us. There were some illusions which allowed me to see them in two ways as intended by the artist. The picture that revealed two faces in one moment and then suddenly a vase in the next is one of them. Then there are others when no matter how hard I tried I could only see one thing. I am a bit embarrassed about my somewhat inflexible mind.

    Peter Klopp

    October 31, 2020 at 9:54 AM

    • If it’s any consolation to you, there were some supposed illusions that only registered one way for me, too. Perhaps at a different time the alternative interpretation will click for us.

      In checking the BONAP maps for Agalinis just now, I found that 8 species grow in parts of the eastern half of Canada, but none over by where you are. That could well be why you weren’t familiar with it.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 31, 2020 at 10:06 AM

  6. This is a beautiful shot of an Agalinis and you’re right, I was struggling to see just where on the flower you were focused. It does indeed look concave. We have a few different species here and they can be tough to differentiate.


    October 31, 2020 at 9:56 AM

    • Fortunately as artists our prime concern is in representing things in effective ways. If we figure out what those things are, so much the better, but I try not to get too hung up on it.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 31, 2020 at 10:09 AM

      • It adds satisfaction when you can. You can also consider the service you are doing in documenting what is there for botanists in the future.


        November 1, 2020 at 9:35 AM

        • You just made me realize I don’t know the etymology of that word. I found out that botanical is from Late Latin botanicus, from Greek botanikos, from the botanē that meant ‘fodder, plants.’

          Steve Schwartzman

          November 1, 2020 at 12:52 PM

  7. What a pretty flower – never seen one of those before. But oh, it’s confusing to the brain – it really does look concave! 🙂

    Ann Mackay

    October 31, 2020 at 10:09 AM

    • Prairie agalinis is one of the flowers we look forward to in Austin as summer turns into fall. That doesn’t account for the turning of convex into concave in this picture. I welcome the strangeness.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 31, 2020 at 10:13 AM

      • I can see why you look forward to them appearing!

        Ann Mackay

        October 31, 2020 at 11:08 AM

        • And also snow-on-the-prairie, gayfeather, goldenrod, Maximilian sunflowers, goldeneye, and various asters! Fall is our second season here.

          Steve Schwartzman

          October 31, 2020 at 11:15 AM

  8. Pretty … looks like an orchid.


    October 31, 2020 at 1:02 PM

    • And yet the most common orchid in Austin doesn’t look anything like this. Orchids are a huge and diverse family.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 31, 2020 at 1:18 PM

  9. Gorgeous, thanks for sharing! 🌞

    Lisa at Micro of the Macro

    October 31, 2020 at 8:03 PM

  10. Beautiful photograph, Steve. Such pretty markings and color.

    Jane Lurie

    October 31, 2020 at 9:19 PM

  11. I agree with you and Melissa regarding the seeming-concavity, and the optical illusion links provided a welcome tangent.


    October 31, 2020 at 11:31 PM

  12. I’ve seen some Agalinis near where I find Fringed Gentian but haven’t shot it yet. Next year. It’s a pretty little flower.

    Steve Gingold

    November 3, 2020 at 2:57 AM

  13. How lovely! Yes I see it as concave also …


    November 6, 2020 at 3:58 PM

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