Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Mexican hats, firewheels, Engelmann daisies

with 28 comments


Anyone walking along the north side of Wells Branch Parkway just east of Wells Port Drive on May 11th, as we did, would have enjoyed seeing these mixed colonies of Mexican hats (Ratibida columnifera) and firewheels (Gaillardia pulchella). In some places Engelmann daisies (Engelmannia peristenia) asserted themselves too, as shown below. All three species seem to be at or near their flowering peak in the Austin area now.



And here’s a quotation for today: “Mathematics knows no races or geographic boundaries; for mathematics, the cultural world is one country.” — David Hilbert. I became aware of that quotation from the current article “America is Flunking Math,” published on Persuasion.


© 2021 Steven Schwartzman





Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 18, 2021 at 4:30 AM

28 Responses

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  1. I love the mixed wildflower colours you get to enjoy!

    Ms. Liz

    May 18, 2021 at 4:50 AM

    • We generally find the wildflower displays with mixed colors more appealing than those of a single color.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 18, 2021 at 6:28 AM

  2. We have these planted in the arboretum here, they are fun to photograph.

    Alessandra Chaves

    May 18, 2021 at 8:11 AM

    • Do all three of them grace the arboretum?

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 18, 2021 at 8:18 AM

      • I am not sure about the Engelmann daisies. The Mexican hat for sure and the firewheels for sure. Very pretty flowers. I am very allergic to the Mexican hats, tried to photograph and had sneeze fits.

        Alessandra Chaves

        May 18, 2021 at 8:23 AM

        • I figured the arboretum probably has Mexican hats and firewheels, which are well known and widespread. Although Engelmann daisies grow in 10 American states, I get the impression people as a whole are much less aware of them than of the other two. And I remember your allergy to pollen, which I’m sorry makes your work photographing wildflowers all the more difficult.

          Steve Schwartzman

          May 18, 2021 at 8:32 AM

          • Daisy-looking flowers look very similar, it’s hard to identify them.

            Alessandra Chaves

            May 18, 2021 at 8:35 AM

            • You said it. Botanists refer to them as DYC’s, meaning darn (or damn) yellow composites. There sure are a lot of them. Leaves and seeds and growth habits distinguish species in ways that flower heads alone often can’t.

              Steve Schwartzman

              May 18, 2021 at 8:42 AM

  3. So in your opinion how can American schools better prepare students for math? Very sad to be so behind in this important discipline. It’s a foundation for almost everything else in the sciences .

    Alessandra Chaves

    May 18, 2021 at 8:27 AM

    • The solution is so simple that you know educational bureaucrats will never implement it. The schools need to go back to ensuring that grade by grade students learn the basics of arithmetic. There can be no excuses, no more “social promotion,” which is the passing along of students from one grade to the next even if they haven’t mastered the material from that first year and are therefore almost guaranteed to fail in the following year. There must be no more “bigotry of low expectations.”

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 18, 2021 at 8:40 AM

  4. You delighted me this morning with two lovely flower carpets and a quote paying tribute to the universality of mathematics. Add music and art to the quote and the picture will be complete.

    Peter Klopp

    May 18, 2021 at 8:32 AM

    • Such flower carpets are the joy of May here. I’ve been reveling in them (with more to appear here in the days ahead) while I can, because they’ll soon be gone as the long summer settles into Texas.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 18, 2021 at 8:45 AM

  5. A beautiful patch of wildflowers, Steve. The red and gold colors remind me a bit of marigolds.

    Lavinia Ross

    May 18, 2021 at 11:17 AM

  6. How did the three different flowers know that their colors would complement one another perfectly? 🙂


    May 18, 2021 at 1:11 PM

  7. Such gorgeous flower fields! 🙂

    M.B. Henry

    May 18, 2021 at 2:51 PM

    • That’s how we do it down here. May typically marks the culmination of our spring wildflowers.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 18, 2021 at 3:31 PM

  8. Mathematics is said to be a universal language. These are two more glorious Texas fields of flowers.

    Steve Gingold

    May 18, 2021 at 4:30 PM

  9. People who think ‘wildflower season’ is over when the bluebonnets fade are missing a good bit. In the second photo, I see Engelmann daisy leaves near the bottom left, but what’s that cluster of foliage in the bottom right corner? I can’t decide if it’s more Engelmann daisies, or something else.

    Do you remember my tale of our Garden Club ladies who had their wildflower patch mowed down by the powers that be? Apparently they were successful in making their wishes known, because when I drove by last weekend, there were Mexican hats blooming there, along with a few beebalm and quite a few coneflowers. A win is a win.


    May 18, 2021 at 9:10 PM

    • That clump of foliage at the bottom right belongs to Mexican hats. You see some of the attached flower heads if you go to the center of the photograph and continue to the right and slightly upward.

      You’re right that too many people here think wildflowers = bluebonnets. It came as a revelation to me when I learned that we have hundreds of species of wildflowers in my area. And some of our Texas native species have your Garden Club ladies to thank this year.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 18, 2021 at 9:32 PM

  10. Brazil is way down. I’m not surprised since a good proportion of the population doesn’t have enough to eat. Few of our public schools are good. To get a good education for their kids, one basically has to live in a big city and go to private school, or mange to get into a good public school, which is hard. The army school is one such good school, but very hard to get in: parents camp in front of the registration booth for days to try to give their kids a chance. It’s tough there for those who don’t have money.

    Alessandra Chaves

    May 19, 2021 at 8:27 AM

    • There is the same great desire of many minority parents to get their kids into charter schools in large American cities. Unfortunately the teachers unions keep trying to kill the charter schools because they don’t like the competition.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 19, 2021 at 9:14 AM

  11. These are one of my favorite wildflowers here in Oklahoma! On my way to Nebraska (nearly two weeks ago) I saw many roadside wildflowers and am happy to report that on my return they had not been mowed down. Hopefully, they all go to seed before that happens.

    A friend told me years ago that all three of her children lacked in math skills, so she and her husband decided to hire a tutor during the summer months to get their kids up to speed. Bravo to the parents who make this realization, and care enough to do what it takes to make sure their children do not fall through the cracks.


    May 28, 2021 at 8:30 AM

    • Hooray for those wildflowers between Oklahoma and Nebraska not having been mowed down. On the Facebook Texas Wildflowers group I’ve already heard one account of the opposite this year. Unfortunately that’s a common experience, as you’ve heard me complain here for years.

      As for your friend hiring a math tutoring, it’s a scandal that with the high school taxes we pay, so many schools teach so little to their students—and much of what the have been teaching lately is untrue. Other examples exist in world history of a country working to destroy itself; the [anti-]Cultural Revolution in Communist China comes to mind. I just didn’t expect it to happen here. Naive me.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 28, 2021 at 9:10 AM

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