Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Gayfeather fresh, gayfeather gone to seed

with 23 comments

On October 23rd we visited the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center for the first time in 2020. While some gayfeather (Liatris punctata var. mucronata) was still flowering, as shown above, most had already gone to seed. The yellow flowers mixed in were partridge pea (Chamaecrista fasciculata).

And here’s an unrelated quotation for today: “Innovation is the child of freedom and the parent of prosperity.” — Matt Ridley in How Innovation Works, 2020.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 18, 2020 at 4:36 AM

23 Responses

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  1. You’ve captured some fantastic color in that first image. In the second image it appears that some of the liatris have a more bulbous seed head. The NRCS map shows that this is a native species to Oklahoma, but I cannot say I have ever come upon any. They’re lovely.


    November 18, 2020 at 6:33 AM

    • The most common shape for inflorescences in this species is long and roughly cylindrical. You’re right, however, that some are shorter, and others not only shorter but wider, even to the point of looking bulbous. I see now that way back in this blog’s fourth month and first fall I pointed out those variations with respect to the flowering stage:


      Of whatever shape, I do hope you’ll come across some in Oklahoma next fall.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 18, 2020 at 6:52 AM

      • With one click you doubled the number of likes on that old post. I’ll bet you didn’t know how powerful you are—or maybe you did. The best any future clicker can do is increase the total by 50%.

        Steve Schwartzman

        November 18, 2020 at 7:08 AM

  2. I also like the first picture very much. It is the yellow colour that cheers me up on gray days when you cannot even see the mountains. I am quite content being your 50% clicker, Steve.

    Peter Klopp

    November 18, 2020 at 8:31 AM

    • In the 3+ weeks since our visit it’s likely that all Liatris spikes in our area now look like the ones in the second picture rather than the first. If it’s yellow you’re after on gray days, you’ll have a happy dose of it here tomorrow, along with some bright red. And thanks for taking the 50% plunge. The next taker will increase the total by only 1/3, the one after that by 1/4, etc. If you plot the points on a graph, they all lie on a hyperbola.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 18, 2020 at 8:49 AM

  3. Appreciate the juxtaposition of the gayly blooming and seedy post-bloom images of the Liatris, if you had included the Springtime green stalks without any flowers the family portrait would have been complete. (You probably have an example elsewhere). (I once was cited by my HOA for having scraggly weeds in my yard, and had to explain that these were the bluebonnets which had bloomed the month before and needed to reseed. Got me a variance from the HOA regulations, after they consulted with the BCMUD horticulturist).
    In reference to @Littlesundog and Liatris in Oklahoma, I have seen them at a State Park information building in the Ouachita Mountains in Southeastern Oklahoma – though not the same species. It’s been a while, so I can’t say where it was…memories fade like the blooms on the Gayfeather.
    I always thought that Necessity was the Mother of Invention – either that, or Laziness, or the compulsive need to improve. Of course, neither Freedom, nor Innovation, nor Prosperity are defined in the quotation, so it (and my preceding comment), are open to interpretation.
    It goes without saying that your photos are excellent, but I’ll mention it anyway.


    November 18, 2020 at 8:40 AM

    • Thanks for your anyway-mentioned comment about the pictures here. Regarding green Liatris stalks, I’ve shown them in previous posts. The one I linked to in my reply to Littlesundog has within it another link to a post that includes green stalks, though not in the spring:


      In common parlance seedy has a negative connotation. Of course I don’t feel negative at all about Liatris spikes that have gone to seed. A favorite early photograph (alas, with a very low megapixel count) shows a whole colony of them backlit on the Blackland Prairie.

      Fortunately I don’t have to deal with HOAs. I sympathize with native plant people who do.

      Matt Ridley’s book explains how he thinks of freedom, innovation, and prosperity. I found it a good read.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 18, 2020 at 9:07 AM

  4. I sure enjoyed this visit to Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, Steve, thank you. Your photos are a treat.

    Jet Eliot

    November 18, 2020 at 11:18 AM

  5. It’s almost hard to believe the flower in your first photo, loaded with showy blossoms, isn’t a cultivated variety – – it’s terrific.

    Robert Parker

    November 18, 2020 at 12:16 PM

    • Maybe we’re sometimes blasé about wildflowers in Texas, given how good they are. So familiar am I with our local gayfeather that it didn’t occur to me to think how someone from elsewhere might react to it.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 18, 2020 at 1:13 PM

  6. Yet another wildflower that’s new to me. It’s beautiful in both forms and nice to see such a rich grouping of the more advanced ones.


    November 18, 2020 at 2:35 PM

    • We have hundreds of native wildflower species in my county alone, so there are a bunch that would be new to me, too. Every now and then I stumble upon a new one. Two decades ago I got pulled into loving the gone-to-seed stage of this species when I came across a whole colony of them. They reminded me of burned-out candles.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 18, 2020 at 3:17 PM

      • Happy coincidence–they reminded me of burned-out sparklers from a kids’ 4th of July celebration.


        November 19, 2020 at 2:36 PM

  7. I like seeing the field of Gayfeather gone to seed, because that’s one color that never appeals to me (the flower color) so I’ve never liked that plant in gardens. But now I half-like it. 🙂


    November 20, 2020 at 11:03 AM

  8. I’ve come to love these in seed, although when I first met them, they seemed a little bland and uninteresting. They haven’t changed, of course; familiarity has bred affection. It’s interesting to see them paired with the partridge pea. Again, I don’t know if this has been a banner year for that plant or if I’m just more aware of them, but they’ve been thick as can be, and I’ve found them everywhere from east Texas to Galveston to Attwater. They’re a sweet little plant, and their pairing with the liatris is another example of our purple-and-gold/yellow autumn delights.


    November 21, 2020 at 7:53 AM

    • You probably saw in my reply to Gary that two decades ago I got pulled into loving the gone-to-seed stage of this species when I came across a whole colony of them. It was on a “vacant” lot that has so far managed to hang on, even of the dirt road on one side has long since gotten paved. Two days ago on the prairie about a mile north of that site we found a few particularly long gayfeather seed spikes, one of which may yet show up in a post.

      I’ve seen partridge pea flowers in various places in 2020, as recently as eight days ago, in quantities I’d call average. I’m happy to hear you’ve had a banner year where you are.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 21, 2020 at 8:12 AM

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