Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Prairie celestials

with 38 comments

Tipped off by native plant aficionado Bob Kamper about a goodly number of prairie celestials (Nemastylis geminiflora) in the greenbelt beyond his back fence in Round Rock, a suburb that borders Austin on the north, I went there on April 11th and took pictures of those flowers—many pictures, in fact, because I rarely come across that species. Most of the celestials were in the shade, and so the majority of my portraits were soft, like the one above. Occasionally I found a celestial with at least some direct sunlight on it, and then I was able to make a more contrasty portrait like the one below.

Anything but celestial are the ways in which increasingly many American schools are indoctrinating their students. You’re welcome to read a parent’s testimonial that classical liberal Bari Weiss recently disseminated.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 23, 2021 at 4:37 AM

38 Responses

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  1. Gutmann’s letter is on point. Must reading.


    April 23, 2021 at 4:58 AM

  2. It’s good to have friends who are willing to share such information. Celestial, indeed.

    Steve Gingold

    April 23, 2021 at 5:04 AM

  3. This is one of my favorites, despite the fact that I’ve found it only twice; recently in Gonzales County, and in 2019 outside Willow City (but not on the loop). I appreciate blue flowers, but don’t love them in the way I love other colors. Still, this pale blue is appealing, and it does have the color of an early spring sky, with those stamens shining like the sun.

    I wondered about the specific epithet: I don’t see anything twin-like about the flower, but the constellation Gemini does appear in the sky. The first time I read it, I saw ‘gem in a flower.’ It is a gem of a flower, so why not? I dusted off my Shinners & Mahler’s and found that Nemastylis refers to the thread-like style branches, with those neat darker blue tips.


    April 23, 2021 at 7:34 AM

    • So we’ve both rarely come across celestials. The twinness in the specific epithet geminiflora had likewise sent me to Shinners and Mahler’s, which doesn’t explain it. Looking further now, I see the statement in Eason’s book that the “inflorescence usually produces 2 light blue flowers….” That didn’t seem to be the case with the celestials I saw, so I’m still puzzled. Maybe the specimens in Round Rock were unusually individualistic (in which case the flowers’ centers must also have been emblems of white supremacy).

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 23, 2021 at 7:57 AM

  4. To really appreciate the beauty of this heavenly prairie flower one needs to enlarge it several times to view its delicate features. Great shots, Steve!

    Peter Klopp

    April 23, 2021 at 8:30 AM

  5. Your two portraits once again provide inspiration to ask myself WWSD? (What Would Schwartzman Do?) when taking photos other than for identification/differentiation of a species (and sometimes even for those types of photos).
    Hopefully this little colony will continue to flourish and expand and I’ll be able to give you better info as to when the peak is next year. I think you managed to get in one of the last few days in which there were more than ten plants in bloom.
    And I was lucky enough to go out and take a look on a drizzly afternoon and take several shots of the last late bloomer. The photo I posted in Texas Flora was one in which I asked myself WWSD? and it of course was the best of the ones that I took.
    Thanks again for leading by example.


    April 23, 2021 at 8:30 AM

  6. Wow, that name doesn’t exaggerate, it’s a real stunner, really lovely. So not hyperbole, but hyperbeaut. And both the “soft” and high contrast shots are excellent.

    Robert Parker

    April 23, 2021 at 9:41 AM

    • I like your reaction: hyperbeauty rather than hyperbole (though this math teacher would also have been fine with a hyperbola). You can see why I pursued the tip about where to find celestials.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 23, 2021 at 11:46 AM

  7. Lovely and so tender. What a sweet little flower.


    April 23, 2021 at 9:56 AM

  8. Beautiful flowers. This country sure has an obsession with race. When my son was applying to college there were many questions about race, ethnicity and place of birth. We were confused, our family are immigrants to Brazil and we are immigrants here. I did not want him to misrepresent himself in the applications as one or another minority or majority but we were unsure about what to write down. I wish it had been just about his academic performance, community service, interests and aspirations.

    Alessandra Chaves

    April 23, 2021 at 11:25 AM

    • Obsession is not too strong a word for it. What portion of the population shares that obsession isn’t clear. Noisy (and frequently violent) activists may make their numbers seem much larger than they really are—at least I hope that’s the case, or the country is in bigger trouble than I already think it is. Your “doubly immigrant” history gives you a unique vantage point. I hope you’ll speak out in other forums.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 23, 2021 at 11:52 AM

  9. Great tip off! These are stunning, Steve.


    April 23, 2021 at 3:09 PM

  10. Celestial is a good name – these are so lovely!

    Ann Mackay

    April 24, 2021 at 6:55 PM

  11. Exquisite little flower. It truly does look celestial!

    Birder's Journey

    April 25, 2021 at 3:09 PM

  12. […] occurred to me that two of the plants I photographed on April 11th in Round Rock display radial arrangements. The picture above shows the top of a lace cactus, Echinocereus […]

  13. That second photo is stunning Steve, what a lovely flower


    April 29, 2021 at 1:59 AM

  14. Me too .. 🙂


    April 30, 2021 at 2:57 AM

  15. Really pretty and a beautiful color!


    May 4, 2021 at 12:53 PM

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