Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Yellow star-grass and corn salad

with 34 comments

Yet another species makes its debut here today: Hypoxis hirsuta, known as (eastern) yellow star-grass and common goldstar. I found a bunch of them on March 29th in the same field north of La Grange that was home to Drummond’s sandwort colonies. Nudging a different one of the yellow flowers was some flowering corn salad, Valerianella sp., as shown below.

In some places in that large field the corn salad was the star of the show, with a few Indian paintbrushes (Castilleja indivisa) and sandyland bluebonnets (Lupinus subcarnosus) mixed in.

As a long-time observer of language, in recent years I’ve noticed an upsurge in the construction “It’s not about X, it’s about Y,” spoken by politicians and activists who get interviewed on television to give their point of view about some matter that’s been in the news. My take-away is that when you hear “It’s not about X, it’s about Y,” you can be pretty sure that it really is about X, at least in part, but the speaker wants to divert your attention to Y, which is a favored policy or talking point.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 18, 2021 at 4:46 AM

34 Responses

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  1. After a relatively recent burn on the Nash prairie, I was surprised to see this yellow star popping up. The USDA map doesn’t show it in Brazoria County, but the BONAP map does. I’ve seen it at the Attwater Preserve, too, but after studying some photos, I suspect what I found in east Texas is Hypoxis rigida, or Savanna Star Grass. Either one is a pretty little flower; yours combines nicely with that corn salad: the flower whose name makes me laugh every time I come across it.


    April 18, 2021 at 6:37 AM

    • I’d heard about yellow stargrass from you, so I was glad to finally run across some on my own. I see from the USDA map that the species ranges across much of the eastern United States, including Long Island, so maybe I unwittingly saw some as a kid. Like the middle picture in today’s post, our previous house in Austin was painted yellow and white, which I find a brightly pleasant combination. And yes, corn salad does come across as a laughable name.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 18, 2021 at 6:53 AM

  2. Star grass flowers are similar to forsythia now in riotous bloom here.


    April 18, 2021 at 6:59 AM

    • When I was growing up on Long Island my mother was fond of forsythia as an early harbinger of spring.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 18, 2021 at 9:27 AM

  3. Beautiful! I think I have seen the Hypoxis hirsuta here too. When your friend or partner says “ this is not about me” guess who it’s about…😅

    Alessandra Chaves

    April 18, 2021 at 8:04 AM

    • Ah, now that’s a take on “it’s not about” that I hadn’t considered!

      As for the Hypoxis hirsuta, if you’ve seen any in California, they would have been cultivated specimens, because when I checked the distribution maps just now I found that no Hypoxis species has been reported in the wild in California.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 18, 2021 at 9:38 AM

      • Well, it is possible that I saw something else that looks like them… thanks for checking.

        Alessandra Chaves

        April 18, 2021 at 1:23 PM

        • That’s a problem with botany: lots of plants look similar.

          Steve Schwartzman

          April 18, 2021 at 3:03 PM

          • YES. And sometimes they look different and are classified in the same genus.

            Alessandra Chaves

            April 19, 2021 at 10:53 AM

            • I’ve run into that problem. For example, Verbesina virginica looks very different from Verbesina encelioides.

              Steve Schwartzman

              April 19, 2021 at 11:05 AM

              • Seriously! I looked them up! Very different!

                Alessandra Chaves

                April 19, 2021 at 2:58 PM

                • And of all the Verbesina species, only the white-flowering one (Verbesina virginica) produces the unusual phenomenon I’ve often documented here, namely the extrusion of thin ice sheets from the lower portion of its stalk:

                  A second round of frostweed ice this season

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  April 19, 2021 at 3:28 PM

                • Such an interesting “behavior” I had never heard about.

                  Alessandra Chaves

                  April 19, 2021 at 7:06 PM

                • I hadn’t, either, for almost the first quarter-century I lived in Austin. Then I got interested in native plants. The frostweed ice trick, as I call it, is one of the most interesting phenomena in botany. I’ve shown an instance of it almost every year of the decade that this blog has been running.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  April 19, 2021 at 8:26 PM

  4. The dark background enhances the beauty of the yellow star-grass. I often wondered about the number of petals (six in this specimen). Some flowers will always have the same number, while others with many petals seem to have more variability.

    Peter Klopp

    April 18, 2021 at 8:41 AM

    • You raise an interesting point. I wonder if geneticists have figured out the mechanism(s) that allow for a variable number versus a fixed number.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 18, 2021 at 9:41 AM

    • And yes, you know how often I go for a dark background to isolate a brighter subject.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 18, 2021 at 9:42 AM

  5. Corn salad -now what is the history of the name behind that flower?

    Lavinia Ross

    April 18, 2021 at 11:46 AM

  6. Nice to see we have another wildflower in common. Yellow Star-grass is one of my late spring favorites here.

    Steve Gingold

    April 21, 2021 at 5:44 PM

    • Hooray for commonality! I had to travel more than an hour from home to find this, as it doesn’t grow in Austin.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 21, 2021 at 5:54 PM

      • I haven’t seen them in Amherst so have to travel as well but only for about 20 minutes.

        Steve Gingold

        April 21, 2021 at 6:01 PM

        • I wish I could drive 20 minutes and miraculously find myself near Amherst.

          Steve Schwartzman

          April 21, 2021 at 7:20 PM

          • 7 hours and you’re there.

            Steve Gingold

            April 22, 2021 at 2:37 AM

            • I must have driven through that Amherst on my way from Austin to Santa Fe but don’t remember anything about it. Interestingly enough, the Wikipedia article about the Amherst in Texas says it was named for the college in Massachusetts:


              Now if you could just find the magic elixir that will turn 7 hours into 20 minutes….

              Steve Schwartzman

              April 22, 2021 at 6:02 AM

              • There are 12 towns/cities named Amherst (my next door neighbors have visited them all) in the U.S. and probably all were named after the guy our town was named for, i.e. the college as well. The college recently changed its team names from the Lord Jeffs as that person, Lord Jeffery Amherst, apparently sought smallpox infected blankets to give to the local Native Americans. Thus his name is now shamed.

                Steve Gingold

                April 22, 2021 at 2:43 PM

                • That’s a good project your neighbors carried out. I’m not sure, but we might have stayed in a hotel in Amherst, NY, when we visited Niagara Falls in 2019.

                  So if Amherst College changed its team names for the reason you said, wouldn’t the same rationale require changing the name of the college itself?

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  April 22, 2021 at 4:50 PM

                • One might think so and from there the town itself. I think that might be too complicated so the teams are the limit, at least so far. Not much else is changing. There is an inn/restaurant in town, The Lord Jeffery, which I highly doubt will be changing its name.
                  We also have a town nearby, which hosts part of the Quabbin Watershed, named after a former royal governor, Jonathan Belcher, who was also an owner of much land and there are those who would rather it be renamed Crystal Springs which has some history. Belchertown has a bit of bodily noise humor to it.

                  Steve Gingold

                  April 22, 2021 at 5:07 PM

                • Yup, Belchertown definitely has negative PR value. From your point of view as a nature photographer, anything that dissuades people from going there might be welcome.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  April 22, 2021 at 5:17 PM

                • I don’t think the name is hindering much. It is a growing community with some upscale neighborhoods. I’d rather live in a town named Crystal Springs but, like Amherst, I doubt the name will be changing any time soon.

                  Steve Gingold

                  April 22, 2021 at 5:20 PM

                • Too bad. I was hoping someday I might get to visit Gingoldville.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  April 22, 2021 at 5:40 PM

                • Believe me, it’s a scary place.

                  Steve Gingold

                  April 22, 2021 at 6:14 PM

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