Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

When they signed up to be Maximilian sunflowers, did they sign up for this?

with 34 comments

The post’s title is the curious thought about Helianthus maximiliani that came into my head while I wandered in the northeast quadrant of Mopac and US 183 as the snow continued into the afternoon on January 10th.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 12, 2021 at 4:32 AM

34 Responses

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  1. Sunflowers or snowstalks – what’s the difference between friends? Mind you some of them do seem to be finding the snow heavy.


    January 12, 2021 at 7:22 AM

    • “Snowstalks” is a great word; I wish I’d invented it.

      The plants may have found the snow heavy, but it lifted my spirits and raised my hopes of getting good pictures.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 12, 2021 at 7:38 AM

  2. Of course they signed up to attend the winter ball! Even you couldn’t pass up the magic event!


    January 12, 2021 at 8:12 AM

    • And sure enough I had a ball going around photographing all these unfamiliar sights. No way I would’ve passed it up.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 12, 2021 at 8:51 AM

  3. I like that: snow stalks. Is that photo near the retaining pond on the north side of 183? Beautiful, if cold.


    January 12, 2021 at 8:28 AM

    • You’re right about the location. The pond is triangular (if you include the smaller piece at the northern end) and wedged right into the intersection. The pond is formed on its eastern (and longest) side by an artificial rampart of earth. The Maximilian sunflowers have maintained a colony for some years now on the pond side of that rampart. I’d walked that rampart (and the lower parts too) as recently as November 1st, and various times before then. The area is a good source of native plants.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 12, 2021 at 9:02 AM

  4. What a shock for these sun-loving plants! A blanket of snow so far south, what a sight!

    Peter Klopp

    January 12, 2021 at 8:28 AM

    • By this time, as you can see from the many little brown seed head remains, the Maximilian sunflower plants were in their dormant winter stage, so I don’t think the wintry weather bothered them. The cold was more likely to get to me, but even I didn’t feel bothered because I was so intent on getting as many pictures as I could of the various native plants looking different from their usual appearance.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 12, 2021 at 9:23 AM

  5. Their brother and sister snow stalks to the north relish the snow, but I imagine the southern end of the gene pool may well be feeling a bit shocked at the turn of events.


    January 12, 2021 at 8:48 AM

    • I’d thought about the presence of Maximilian sunflowers much further north, so the species as a whole can withstand sub-zero temperatures. You raise an interesting question about whether the groups this far south are less well adapted to freezes. What I can say is that this colony has been in place for some years now and has come back just fine each spring. I don’t know if that would be the case if we had deeper and more sustained freezes of the sort you get up there.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 12, 2021 at 9:30 AM

      • You could mail some seeds up and I could plant a test plot.


        January 13, 2021 at 8:59 AM

        • Well, all the Maximilian sunflowers here have long since spent their seeds.

          Steve Schwartzman

          January 13, 2021 at 9:19 AM

          • Of course. I meant next summer.


            January 14, 2021 at 8:46 AM

            • Which is already speeding our way. I wish the vaccine were keeping pace.

              Steve Schwartzman

              January 14, 2021 at 11:26 AM

              • I saw in one community that they are vaccinating 24/7. At that pace surely they, at least, will get ahead of the virus. Not so much here. I don’t think I’ll even make the list until March.


                January 15, 2021 at 8:21 AM

                • It’s looking like we won’t get it here before then, either. One problem seems to be not enough people available to give the shots outside of daytime working hours, but that’s certainly not the only reason for the delays.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  January 15, 2021 at 8:27 AM

                • I have to say, I’m discovering how naive I’ve been about vaccinations. Turns out it is complicated to get them out. Hopefully it will get smoother and quicker soon, as we’re losing so many people every day.


                  January 16, 2021 at 8:27 AM

                • I sure hope so.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  January 16, 2021 at 8:32 AM

  6. These are beautiful snowy scenes from your area! It will be interesting to see how the cold and snow affects next year’s growth.

    Lavinia Ross

    January 12, 2021 at 10:34 AM

    • It will. Going into winter we’d been in a drought, so I hope the recent precipitation contributes to good wildflowers a couple of months from now.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 12, 2021 at 10:52 AM

  7. Snow in Texas ?? I always thought Texas was sun, drought and cacti !


    January 12, 2021 at 1:02 PM

    • North Texas, especially the Texas Panhandle, regularly gets snow. The further south you go in the state, the less often it happens. In Austin we typically get a little snow once every several years. We also get occasional droughts, the most severe recent one being 2011, when forested areas and thousands of homes burned down.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 12, 2021 at 3:25 PM

  8. There is a wonderful grace in this photo, Steve!


    January 12, 2021 at 2:24 PM

  9. Your mention of wildflowers a “couple of months from now” startled me; apparently I’m lagging a couple of months behind the calendar. I did see a great 1929 photo from Floresville yesterday — with a 3″ snowfall. I think that’s about what your area received: enough to be pretty, but not enough to become a real problem.


    January 12, 2021 at 5:22 PM

    • Yes, before we know it spring will be here. I’ve found anemones in Austin as early as late January.

      Three inches of snow in Floresville in 1929: who’d have guessed? That was probably too long ago to nurture flowers there this spring, but you never know. If only I could see a repeat of the 2019 performance.

      The snowfall from two days ago has proved to be the gift that keeps on giving, with some lingering sheets of thin ice in Great Hills Park this afternoon.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 12, 2021 at 6:14 PM

  10. That looks more like what I see here in the meadows and fields once winter settles in. I guess it’s a treat for you.

    Steve Gingold

    January 13, 2021 at 4:29 AM

  11. I like this and not just because I have a winter sunflower field shot with the exact same colors. My shot was sunflowers in a farm field though.


    January 13, 2021 at 11:48 AM

    • This snowfall was a rare chance for me to tread on your territory. You’re probably aware that the cultivated sunflowers with the large heads, which I assume are the kind you saw in a farm field, were bred from wild American sunflowers, Helianthus annuus. The Maximilians are a different species. They normally stand tall, as the ones in the rear of my picture were still doing, so I played up the contrast with the bending ones in the foreground.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 13, 2021 at 12:05 PM

  12. Ah, love that title! The more I see your snow photos, the more I think I remember hearing about your snow. Most of the news has been rather single-subject lately….


    January 14, 2021 at 1:45 PM

    • It’s not unusual for post titles and sometimes opening lines of text to come to me while I’m still out in nature. I was happy to find the reality of this snowfall outdid the previous night’s weather forecast.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 14, 2021 at 2:10 PM

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