Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

A new month, a new wildflower

with 20 comments

I remember seeing snake herb flowers (Dyschoriste linearis) at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center years ago. I don’t recall ever seeing any in the wild till this spring, when I’ve come across the species at least three times. Either it’s having a good year or my eyes have opened. To give you a sense of scale, let me add that snake herb flowers range from about 3/4 of an inch (18mm) to an inch (25mm) across. The picture above is from Allen Park on May 15th. I’d found the bud below in Liberty Hill on May 6th.

And here’s an unrelated quotation for today: “One of the most treacherous forms of censorship is self-censorship—where walls are built around the imagination and often raised from fear of attack.” You’re welcome to read the full article about PEN International, the 100-year-old organization that upholds writers’ freedom and works against censorship.

In a poll of 2000 people in the United States in mid-2020, 62% of respondents said the political climate prevents them from sharing their political views. After all that has ensued in the year since then, I suspect the percent of self-censorers is higher now.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 1, 2021 at 4:37 AM

Posted in nature photography

Tagged with , , , ,

20 Responses

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  1. Beautiful~!

    Birder's Journey

    June 1, 2021 at 6:39 AM

    • I got painterly light on the flower and that made for a good portrait.
      The “~” in your “Beautiful~!” is a unique addition.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 1, 2021 at 6:54 AM

      • I must hurry to clarify that I like using the Tilde symbol for emphasis with an exclamation mark, as a wavy dash, and NOT for its mathematical meaning of ‘almost equal to’! ☺️

        Birder's Journey

        June 1, 2021 at 7:10 AM

        • I appreciate your clarification, and I’ll add a bit more: the word tilde is etymologically equal to title. In fact the word had been title in Catalan before Spanish altered it to tilde. Also etymologically equivalent is English tittle, so with those three words we have an etymological triplet.

          Steve Schwartzman

          June 1, 2021 at 7:19 AM

  2. The bud in the golden light acquired a metallic sheen. Very impressive macro, Steve!

    Peter Klopp

    June 1, 2021 at 8:30 AM

    • The flowers accompanying the bud were less purple than the flower in the top photograph, so there’s apparently a natural variation in flower color in this species. And who’d’ve expected such a fuzzy bud to lead to so smooth a flower (unless the underside is fuzzy)?

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 1, 2021 at 8:41 AM

  3. I haven’t seen that bloom either, it’s a pretty one. Did you see any interested pollinators during your photo shoot?


    June 1, 2021 at 12:48 PM

    • I looked back at my archive just now to check: I didn’t find a single pollinator in any of the pictures. I can’t remember if I saw any while photographing those snake herb plants. There must have been some, though not necessarily during the times I was there.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 1, 2021 at 1:27 PM

  4. They’re both beautiful images.


    June 1, 2021 at 4:24 PM

  5. Is that a white style I see peeking out? It reminds me of the various Agalinis species. I was suprised to see how widespread this one is across the state, even though it’s not in my immediate area. I’ll have to look for it in the hill country. The flower’s pretty, but that bud is impressive. I like the way the leaves emphasize its linearity, and contrast with the bud’s fuzziness.

    Its name brought to mind snake cotton, and rattlesnake master. I did a little exploring, and found this in an answer Mr. Smarty Plants offered in response to a question about the name:

    “A brief mention of the reason for the name of ‘snake herb’ occurs in the book “Frontier Naturalist: Jean Louis Berlandier and the Exploration of Northern Mexico and Texas,” on page 103. It says that the Commanches and the Lipan Apaches chewed the root of a plant called snake herb and made a poultice of the herb-and-saliva that they put on the wound from snake bites.

    We don’t know if this was a species in the Genus Dyschoristes, however. There are also plants with these similar common names—common names including “snake”: Sanicula canadensis (Canadian blacksnakeroot), Ageratina aromatica var. aromatica (Lesser snakeroot), and Eryngium aquaticum (Rattlesnake-master) to name just a few. So, even though we can’t be completely sure that the plant named in the book above is the same snake herb that is in the Genus Dyschoristes, this is one possible explanation.”


    June 1, 2021 at 9:11 PM

    • I’m so unfamiliar with this species that I don’t know how to answer your opening question about what the white element is that protrudes from the flower’s upper lip. I see the resemblance to Agalinis, which however is in Orobanchaceae rather than Acanthaceae. And I just read that the underside of a snake herb flower is fuzzy, as foretold in the bud.

      So even the folks at the Wildflower Center don’t know for sure if this snake herb was actually used to treat snake bites. The appearance of saliva in what you quoted made me realize that switching the fourth and fifth letters yields salvia.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 2, 2021 at 5:21 AM

  6. […] of Liberty Hill on May 6th—as I did in yesterday’s post—here’s a stark double portrait I made of white milkwort, Polygala alba, in front of a […]

  7. I’m one of the 62% and I think the percentage has been underestimated.

    Alessandra Chaves

    June 2, 2021 at 4:14 PM

    • You may well be right. Some of the people in the poll might not have been willing to admit that they can’t say what they want.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 2, 2021 at 5:26 PM

  8. […] happy to occasionally bring you native wildflowers that haven’t appeared here before, like the snake herb you saw the other day and now this yellow passionflower, Passiflora lutea.* Less flashy than some other passionflower […]

  9. These are both super images Steve .. Thanks for sharing


    June 6, 2021 at 3:27 PM

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