Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Texas toadflax and colorful friends

with 26 comments

From the McKeller Memorial Park north of Gonzales on March 19th, here’s Texas toadflax (Nuttallanthus texanus) in front of some bright red phlox (Phlox sp.). The yellow glow came from a flower head of Texas groundsel (Senecio ampullaceus). How about those saturated colors?

Unrelated to these wildflowers, here are two whimsical quotations from the article “In Naples, the formula calls for pizza,” by Franz Lidz, in the March 2021 issue of Smithsonian:

“Da Michele’s amoeba-like pies overflow the plate, and you’re not sure whether to eat them or keep them as pets.”

“The Dalai Lama walks into a pizza shop and says, ‘Can you make me one with everything?'”

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 28, 2021 at 4:39 AM

26 Responses

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  1. I’m grinning for two reasons. One is the marvelous humor of the Dalai Lama quotation. The other is the fact that I spent a little time last night sorting through toadflax photos from yesterday’s roaming; they certainly differ from this one. I went to Columbus searching for the red phlox, but I found bluebonnets, little yellow ‘somethings,’ and ended up with a much lighter, pastel toadflax image. One plant, two environments, and two ways of seeing: there’s no end to the variety.


    March 28, 2021 at 5:30 AM

    • In Bastrop State Park two days ago we found a few good-sized colonies of toadflax. In some of the plants the flowers were almost white. I began wondering if there’s more than one species of toadflax in the area, and from a Bastrop County plant list I learned that there are. Nuttallanthus texanus coexists with Nuttallanthus canadensis. From online pictures, which may or may not be representative, I’m wondering if the flowers in this post from Gonzales were indeed Texas toadflax, while the ones in the colonies in Bastrop were Canadian toadflax (which is still native in Texas). Now I’m sorry to say you’ll also want to figure out which species you photographed. To further confound things, I’ll add that the USDA maps aren’t always up to date. For example, the one for Nuttallanthus canadensis doesn’t show the species in Bastrop County, but from the plant list I know it’s been found there. The BONAP maps may be better.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 28, 2021 at 7:21 AM

      • All of which is to say that your grin from the Dalai Lama may be followed by the frown of consternation that comes from trying to distinguish similar species.

        Steve Schwartzman

        March 28, 2021 at 7:26 AM

        • You aren’t wrong about that furrowed brow. I found the pale toadflax pictured in my current post in Lavaca County. They were visibly larger than the deeper purple ones I found in Colorado County, and they had longer spurs.

          It could be nothing more than a color variation, but the smaller flowers, combined with a greater overall height, suggests the ones I found near the Attwater Preserve in Colorado County may be N. canadensis.

          If nothing else, now I know there are two species, and I’ll look for those differences. I suspect it’s N. texanus that’s forming such dense colonies along the roadsides. The ones I think might be N. canadensis were scattered, with no more than two or three plants growing together.


          March 30, 2021 at 8:54 PM

          • The key in Shinners and Mahler’s says the spurs in the Canada species are 2–3.5 mm long, and in the Texas species 6–11 mm long. The Texas species has larger corollas, too. Too bad we didn’t know that when photographing our various toadflaxes. Wikipedia points out that Nuttallanthus has gotten moved from Scrophulareaceae to Plantaginaceae due to DNA evidence.

            Steve Schwartzman

            March 31, 2021 at 5:30 AM

            • I finally bought a clear acrylic six-inch ruler marked in mm and inches to carry with me. Now and then, I should use it for something other than a bookmark, since some of the more subtle differences (like the length of a nectar spur) don’t compare well in photos.


              March 31, 2021 at 6:21 AM

  2. I like the way you placed the flowers in front of the colourful blurry background. Superbly executed, Steve!

    Peter Klopp

    March 28, 2021 at 8:04 AM

  3. Yes, I agree with Peter, these shots you achieve with other flowers as the background are just great. “Two-fer” doesn’t seem to do them justice, “double-dipping” sound negative. and Linda has dibs on “lagniappe.” I guess “Synergistic Shot” is pretty close.

    Robert Parker

    March 28, 2021 at 9:06 AM

    • Thanks. I’ll see your synergistic and raise you one with chromatically synergistic. My photographic history over the past two decades includes a long line of lining a subject up with something that provides a contrasting color. I listed it as #5 in About My Techniques.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 28, 2021 at 10:59 AM

  4. In addition to the pairing of focus in front and background plants lending blobs of color, you did a great job of composition, with the slightly off-center triangular form of the toadflax backed by the triangular colors of the flx and groundsel. As always, you provide inspiration to look at flowers from a slightly different point of view. My wife made personal-sized pizzas last night, augmented with various vegetables on hand – I had no problem deciding whether to eat it or keep it as a pet. As for the Dalai Lama, that joke is older than I am (I think). Certainly heard back in the late 1960s or the 1970s.


    March 28, 2021 at 10:39 AM

    • Many jokes and quotations go way back, so much so that their origins are often lost to us. I appreciate your testimonial about the Dalai Lama joke going back at least to the 1960s or ’70s. And I think you made the tright decision in devouring your personal pizza rather than keeping it as a pet; think how much you saved by not having to pay for veterinarian appointments.

      As for composition, I would have lined up the toadflax bud dead-center with the groundsel flowers but when you’re in as close as I was and the wind is blowing, alignment is elusive. Of the several pictures I took of this group, the one shown here came out the best.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 28, 2021 at 12:15 PM

  5. Pretty!

    Ann Mackay

    March 28, 2021 at 11:58 AM

    • Although I’ve used the same general approach many times, this shot came out a little different, for which I’m grateful.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 28, 2021 at 12:17 PM

  6. That is a joyous pair of blooms, with the third unfurled one looking like an exclamation point over their heads.

    Lavinia Ross

    March 28, 2021 at 2:35 PM

  7. A congratulation on your salutation to infatuation with saturation.


    March 30, 2021 at 2:11 AM

  8. I like the mirrored shape in the back.

    Steve Gingold

    April 8, 2021 at 5:55 PM

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