Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

An octagon in the eleventh month that proclaims itself the ninth

with 20 comments

Hot on the heels of the out-of-season Indian paintbrush you saw last time, here’s another prodigy. It’s the Engelmann daisy, Engelmannia peristenia, a spring wildflower that normally has done its thing no later than July, but that I photographed in northeast Austin on November 13th. Engelmann daisies typically have eight ray flowers, as in this picture, and there’s a tendency for them to curl under, as you also see here.

If you’re wondering why September, October, November, and December, whose names indicate that they’re the seventh, eighth, ninth, and tenth month, are actually the ninth, tenth, eleventh, and twelfth month, it’s because the Roman calendar originally began in March. January and February got added later, bumping the already-named months two places further down the line. And here’s another related tidbit: before July and August got appropriated for Julius Caesar and Augustus Caesar, those months had been called Quintilis and Sextilis, whose names proclaimed them the fifth and sixth month in the original calendar.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 1, 2020 at 4:35 AM

20 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. Would this beautiful daisy be named after the German-American botanist Engelmann? I would guess yes. We have the Engelmann spruce thriving in the alpine region.

    Peter Klopp

    December 1, 2020 at 8:51 AM

    • You guessed right. In this case Engelmann got not only a species named after him but a genus (although the genus Engelmannia is monotypic, meaning that it consists of a single species).

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 1, 2020 at 10:14 AM

    • Engelmann rings a true chord with me, as two of my guitars have Engelmann spruce tops. It makes simply wonderful tonewood.


      December 20, 2020 at 1:33 AM

      • This is the first time I’ve encountered the term tonewood. Did you know that tone and tune are etymologically the same word?

        Steve Schwartzman

        December 20, 2020 at 10:07 AM

        • No, I didn’t, but I’m not at all surprised. Thanks for the enlightenment; I’ll tune in to the new revelation and atone for not realizing the connection sooner.


          December 21, 2020 at 2:28 AM

          • Speaking of which, did you know that atone is literally ‘[to be] at one’? The fact that the pronunciation of one shifted to be the same as won obscures what would otherwise be an easy identification of the one part of atone.

            Steve Schwartzman

            December 21, 2020 at 6:53 AM

  2. I didn’t know this about the months, very interesting. I think starting the year in March, and skipping January and February is a great idea. Just have winter weather in December, and skip right to spring.

    Robert Parker

    December 1, 2020 at 11:51 AM

    • Somehow I don’t think people far down in the southern hemisphere would go along with skipping January and February, which are their warmest months. We didn’t have to deal with cold during our two February visits to New Zealand.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 1, 2020 at 11:56 AM

  3. I have been a very poor (nonexistent in recent times) correspondent, but am glad to come back over to see this photo introduced by a brain-teasing title.

    Susan Scheid

    December 1, 2020 at 6:04 PM

    • Hi, Susan in the New York of my childhood. I was looking at your blog yesterday and enjoyed the design by Nicholas Roerich. This post’s brain-teasing title let me combine botany, math, etymology, and history, plus of course photography.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 1, 2020 at 9:07 PM

  4. I’ve seen the occasional oxeye daisy with a curled ray but only like this as they are passing.

    Steve Gingold

    December 2, 2020 at 3:42 AM

    • You’ve implicitly raised a question I don’t know the answer to: whether the rays in this species ever unfold again before fading.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 2, 2020 at 6:28 AM

  5. Beautiful! What a mystery that we are still seeing blossoms this time of year!


    December 2, 2020 at 12:32 PM

    • After the light freeze yesterday morning we’ll see how many wildflowers made it through. At least some, I assume.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 2, 2020 at 1:18 PM

  6. I can’t remember the circumstances now, but it was only this year that something caused me to ponder why the eleventh month carries a name that suggests the ninth. I finally figured it out, and as a bonus figured out why my Orthodox friends’ feast days — like Christmas — are different than mine. They still use the Julian calendar.

    The daisy’s lovely. I don’t think it could have done a better job of evenly folding back its ray flowers. Are those greenish striations an artifact of the light, or does this flower have nerves like the four-nerve daisy?


    December 2, 2020 at 7:01 PM

    • I think the greenish striations in the rays are really there. I’m guessing they’re indeed akin to the “nerves” in a four-nerve daisy. And yes, this specimen was just right for a portrait. All the flower heads I photographed had some degree of curling going on.

      The numbers inherent in the names of our last four months are something elementary school teachers should point out and explain to students, but that rarely happens—in large part because elementary school teachers don’t know it, either.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 2, 2020 at 8:49 PM

  7. Wow, I actually did not know that about July and August.


    December 6, 2020 at 11:25 AM

  8. Love the flower photo and the information about month names. I apologize for leaving so many comments at once. I’ve fallen way, way behind.


    December 21, 2020 at 2:46 PM

    • This was a good find so far out of season. As for the month names, you know me when it comes to word origins. Etymology rocks.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 21, 2020 at 10:21 PM

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: