Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Prairie paintbrush inflorescences

with 40 comments

From March 24th at the Doeskin Ranch in Burnet County, here’s a close look at the inflorescence
of one prairie paintbrush, Castilleja purpurea var. lindheimeri, in front of two others.

And here are two versions of a blessing known as the Selkirk Grace
that’s attributed to Scottish poet Robert Burns:

Some hae [have] meat and canna [cannot] eat,
And some wad [would] eat that want [lack] it,
But we hae meat and we can eat,
Sae [so] let the Lord be Thankit!

Some Folk hae meat that canna eat,
And some can eat that want it;
But we hae meat, and we can eat,
So let the Lord be Thanket!

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 4, 2021 at 4:35 AM

40 Responses

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  1. Lovely – an incandescent inflorescence? I wonder if ‘Folk’ is a later addition to the Selkirk Grace to make it clearer? I’m familiar with the first version, but not the second.

    Ann Mackay

    April 4, 2021 at 4:43 AM

    • I like your “incandescent inflorescence.” With this species I feel especially obligated to say “inflorescence” because all the orange color comes from bracts. The true flowers are small and easily overlooked. As for your speculation about “folk” as a clarification, I canna say.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 4, 2021 at 5:10 AM

  2. I’ve only seen this species on the Willow City loop and surrounds. It’s a beauty. I thought of flames when I saw your photo. The dark background’s especially appealing here.

    I smiled at the Selkirk Grace. It reminded me of what we’d try to get away with when we were kids and it was our turn to ‘say grace’. You might say it was a bit of an abstraction itself: “Good bread, good meat — good Lord, let’s eat!”


    April 4, 2021 at 7:18 AM

    • This species isn’t really uncommon, and yet I don’t come across it often. Fortunately I found individual plants or small groups scattered around the property. What you said at the end reminded me of a flippant Passover blessing: “They tried to kill us. We survived. Let’s eat.”

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 4, 2021 at 7:27 AM

    • And yes, the portrait has a flame-like feel.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 4, 2021 at 7:34 AM

  3. I really love the warmth this image exudes. I’ve never heard of a prairie paintbrush, but after checking out the NRCS website, it is probable that I have seen them here in Oklahoma.


    April 4, 2021 at 7:48 AM

    • Yes, warm indeed. And let’s hope that this picture presages your seeing one up there. I’ve learned that a zillion species of paintbrush exist in the United States.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 4, 2021 at 8:07 AM

  4. I love that poem, Steve!
    A Happy Easter to you,


    April 4, 2021 at 9:04 AM

  5. What a beautiful Easter post! I love the fiery glow of the prairie paintbrush, Steve. Happy Easter!

    Peter Klopp

    April 4, 2021 at 9:30 AM

  6. Nice to see the Selkirk Grace! I’ve not come across the “folk” version before either.

    • Both of these versions (I think) are new to me. I wish I knew the history so I could’ve given details in this post.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 4, 2021 at 2:35 PM

  7. Not sure which species occurs here in central ca but they are called Indian paintbrush here. The flowers were consumed as condiment by some ca natives. They are very pretty and are out now in abundance.

    Alessandra Chaves

    April 4, 2021 at 3:51 PM

  8. Gorgeous photo!

    Birder's Journey

    April 4, 2021 at 4:35 PM

    • Sorry for the late reply: WordPress inexplicably treated your comment as spam and I just noticed it. Thanks for appreciating this portrait, which is a recent favorite of mine.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 13, 2021 at 2:50 PM

      • Now I must apologize for not replying to your apology from a week ago! I was out of town visiting a new grandchild and was away from blogging all this time. Not to worry, of course, one of the little foibles of WordPress is that these things sometimes happen.

        Birder's Journey

        April 20, 2021 at 7:51 AM

  9. Like a vegetative flame!

    Eliza Waters

    April 4, 2021 at 4:39 PM

  10. Now that is an extremely pleasing composition, Steve, the golden-orange and green on a dark background!

    Lavinia Ross

    April 5, 2021 at 11:49 AM

    • Thanks. I was really happy with the way this turned out. The raw camera file captures a lot of information, and then in processing the image I molded that information into what you see here.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 5, 2021 at 2:17 PM

  11. Love the lighting, angle and depth of field here! Indian paintbrush is one of the things that blooms first near home, before other varieties bloom up high in the mountain basins.


    April 5, 2021 at 12:18 PM

    • The species we have here also bloom relatively early in the spring. Based on what you said about yours, I wonder if all of the many species bloom early in their respective seasons (with your northern spring coming later than ours down here).

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 5, 2021 at 2:19 PM

  12. !
    Do you remember telling me about Castilleja affinis? It was a long time ago. Anyway, after the fire, and so much associated vegetation management, someone mentioned that the species lives up above where I work (!) and that I actually worked in a small area where it lives! NO WAY! Supposedly, there is not much of it there, and it is not prominent. I don’t care! I want to see it! I don’t know what I would do if I find it. I would be inclined to remove other vegetation around it, but it might like to live among friends. I know nothing about it. I will probably put a few flags around it so that it does not get removed. If I can find seed, I would take it. Now that I know there is a native species, I can purchase seed, but that would be cheating. Eventually, when I get my own garden and surroundings going, I intend to get seed for species that are native to Oklahoma, even if only Castilleja coccinea.


    April 5, 2021 at 1:52 PM

    • I do remember you telling me that you hadn’t seen any paintbrushes, and that it surprised me, given how common Indian paintbrush is down here in Texas and how many species of paintbrushes grow across the country. I do hope you find some of the Castilleja affinis that has been known to grow in your area, even if it’s uncommon. Perhaps you could contact the nearest native plant society chapter and see if a member could point you to some.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 5, 2021 at 2:26 PM

      • That is the embarrassing thing about all this. Now that I ask, others are surprised that I have never seen them. Although uncommon, they are not exactly rare either. Sporadic colonies bloom in the Pajaro Valley. I used to drive a delivery truck through an area where they likely bloom.


        April 8, 2021 at 12:43 AM

      • I will be up in the region where they supposedly live here on Friday, or next week. If they are not blooming, I will not know how to recognize them. I suspect that I can identify them by looking for something that I can not identify.


        April 8, 2021 at 12:45 AM

  13. Stunning colour Steve .. I really like the name Prairie paintbrush. Great shot


    April 10, 2021 at 2:45 PM

    • Yes, the color gets to me, too.
      “Prairie paintbrush” has metaphor, rhythm, and alliteration.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 10, 2021 at 4:53 PM

  14. Who says photography is a lesser art? This says it isn’t.

    Steve Gingold

    April 12, 2021 at 1:49 PM

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