Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Brown-eyed Susan colony

with 55 comments

Here’s a wildflower that hasn’t appeared in these pages for a good while: Rudbeckia hirta, known as brown-eyed Susan or black-eyed Susan. (Maybe Susan’s the sister of the Barbara whose buttons you saw last time.) Mixed in are a few firewheels, Gaillardia pulchella, many of which had already gone to seed by the time I took this picture at Tejas Camp in Williamson County on June 7th. Among some of the brown-eyed Susans I found the basket-flower, Plectocephalus americanus, that’s shown below. Sometimes my hair looks like that, except for the pink.

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My country’s current administration is changing the word mothers to birthing people in some official documents. Honest. At least greeting card companies have 11 months to update their products for May 8, 2022, which will be the next Birthing People’s Day. A whole lot of changes are gonna have to get made. Whereas ma and mom were pet forms of the now discredited and unspeakable m-word, I guess children will fondly call the people who birthed them their bir. And of course the verb smother will have to be changed to sbirthingperson. As in: Google, Facebook, and Twitter keep sbirthingpersoning the expression of truths they don’t want you to know.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 12, 2021 at 4:34 AM

55 Responses

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  1. We do get “expanses” of black-eyed susans but nothing like this.

    Steve Gingold

    June 12, 2021 at 4:57 AM

  2. There’s a cashier at a local grocery store whose hair is almost exactly that shade of pink. Whether her name is Susan, I can’t say, but she certainly is a pleasant person.

    I found a large colony of R. maxima in an unexpected place yesterday; I’m going back today to spend a little more time with them. I think all of the Rudbeckia species are delightful; they fairly shout “Summer!”

    As for that other bit of information, my only suggestion is for everyone to add the DSM-5 to their libraries. What can’t be explained at least can be described.


    June 12, 2021 at 6:37 AM

    • Maybe you should show that cashier the second picture and see what her reaction is. So much the better if her name turns out to be Susan.

      There’s nothing rude about Rudbeckia. The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center had R. maxima flowering in several places when we visited last month. I didn’t photograph any because the nearest the species comes to Austin is three counties away; maybe I should have loosened up and taken advantage of the opportunity.

      With regard to your last paragraph, I’m afraid the same mentality that turns mothers into birthing people is now found in the DSM-5’s compiling people. Just because “The inmates are running the asylum” is a cliché doesn’t mean it’s not true.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 12, 2021 at 7:00 AM

  3. The brown-eyed Susan is a happy flower. In the second image, they also make a lovely background for the basket flower.

    I got a good chuckle on Linda mentioning the DSM-5 as it truly makes for some interesting reading. When I worked for the juvenile justice system I was often bored and found myself immersed in reading that big, heavy book! And, to be fair, I’m sure the term, “birthing people” probably rings true in many cases. There’s nothing endearing or “motherly” about some of the people who give birth, not to mention those who are a part of the procreation process.


    June 12, 2021 at 8:45 AM

    • I think my mother used to grow brown-eyed Susans at our home in New York when I was growing up. Now I have them growing wild around me in Texas.

      I wonder how many other people have gone through the DSM-5 as “fun reading.” And you have a take I didn’t expect: “There’s nothing endearing or ‘motherly’ about some of the people who give birth….”

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 12, 2021 at 10:51 AM

  4. Steve, you are laying out one beautiful carpet after another. The brown-eyed susan is well known in our latitudes but I have never seen them in such abundance.
    In the not all too distant future I will be labelled sexist when I am using the emotionally loaded term Mother.

    Peter Klopp

    June 12, 2021 at 8:52 AM

    • You don’t have to wait: plenty of ideologues will label you with all the usual -ists right now.
      As for this modest floral carpet at Tejas Camp, I mentioned to Steve G. that I’ve seen the place looking really fantastic. The most recent time was five years ago:

      An apotheosis of yellow

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 12, 2021 at 10:55 AM

  5. That’s a beautiful find! I’ve only seen the fire wheels in cultivated gardens. In fact, I was just snapping some images of some in a neighbor’s yard yesterday while on my daily walk.

    My kids can always call me Mother, Mom, or Grandma. I don’t care what other people with kids want to be called, but call me Mom, thank you.


    June 12, 2021 at 9:27 AM

    • As you’ve been seeing in other recent posts, firewheels here are common and abundant. They’ve passed their peak now, but not before decorating many a springtime meadow and field.

      Despite the wishes of crazy ideologues, the names you mentioned aren’t going away. That’s a tribute to sanity.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 12, 2021 at 10:59 AM

  6. Birthing People! Oh My! What about . . . oh, nevermind.


    June 12, 2021 at 4:12 PM

    • Crazy, isn’t it? And crazier still is that hardly a day goes by now that I don’t find out about yet another outlandish thing.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 12, 2021 at 5:15 PM

      • Crazy and saddening. While in Oklahoma, Okies questioned me about the ultra liberal and ultra weird culture of California. It was embarrassing. They were fascinated. They do not realize how difficult it can be for an English speaking, non-handicapped, non-Muslim, non-white Caucasian, non-lesbian assigned male at birth man can be here.


        June 12, 2021 at 6:15 PM

        • A lot more people are moving from California to Texas than vice versa.

          Steve Schwartzman

          June 12, 2021 at 8:29 PM

          • Well, of course. I can remember when those who work for Lockheed were migrating to Austin. Those who own homes here can live quite lavishly there. Vice versa, it is expensive for someone to move from Texas to California.


            June 12, 2021 at 8:49 PM

  7. Whether Susan has black eyes or brown eyes I’m sure she’s in favor of motherhood called by its proper name.

    Michael Scandling

    June 12, 2021 at 4:56 PM

    • Well said; good for Susan for refusing to let motherhood become the relationship that dare not speak its name.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 12, 2021 at 5:18 PM

      • I think the thing here is to just go on using the traditional terms but without making the slightest big deal about it.

        Michael Scandling

        June 12, 2021 at 6:27 PM

        • Unfortunately there are fanatics who may eventually come after you for doing that. Some people have advocated a united front against outrageousness.

          Steve Schwartzman

          June 12, 2021 at 7:40 PM

          • I Palo hate ooooo 😝 and
            I am so happy jio o thanks ☺️ thank goodness 😅 I I have to do a very nice nice 😊 thank goodness 😅 thanks thanks ☺️ thanks ☺️ I
            I have mom

            Michael Scandling

            June 12, 2021 at 10:46 PM

            • For the first time ever, I don’t know what to make of a comment of yours.

              Steve Schwartzman

              June 13, 2021 at 6:47 AM

              • That is purely bizarre. I did not send that. By the way, sex is for organisms; gender is for pronouns.

                Michael Scandling

                June 14, 2021 at 9:29 PM

                • Bizarre indeed, now that I know you didn’t send it. If it means that someone has gotten your WordPress password, this would be a good time for you to change it. (If someone who works at WordPress sent the comment, then even changing your password wouldn’t offer protection.) If anything strange happens to you elsewhere, there’s the likelihood someone hacked into your computer and may have other passwords of yours, so vigilance is in order.

                  Many activists have purposely conflated sex and gender. That’s what leads to the claim that someone other than a woman can give birth.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  June 15, 2021 at 7:23 AM

                • Thank you very much. I will change my password. All of my passwords are long, strong passwords and each and every one is unique.

                  Regarding the ongoing discussion I’m old enough to have seen activists on both ends of the political spectrum and I see that they have this in common: they’re mostly interested in making the other side wrong. The issue doesn’t really matter. It’s the making the other side wrong that seems actually to be the most important thing to do. This goes for activists on the left and activists on the right. The most fruitless thing in the world to do is to engage with them. You get absolutely nowhere. Again, I’m talking about sides of the spectrum, left and right. It may look like they’re talking ideology. But they’re actually talking polarization. If an actual, viable, workable solution were to somehow get proposed and put into action, they wouldn’t have a game anymore. And that would be tragic as far as they’re concerned. They just want to fight. Leave them alone. Remember the old man from the 60s: “what if they gave a war and nobody came?”

                  Michael Scandling

                  June 15, 2021 at 8:35 PM

                • Thanks for your insight. I’d be happy to live and let live, except that activists keep coming after more and more things that I value, like freedom of expression. Many people have been cowed into silence because they don’t want to be attacked or lose their livelihoods, but if no one stands up to the aggression then the country as we know it is lost. The Jews in Germany in the 1930s thought that what was happening was an aberration and they could wait it out; look where that got them.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  June 15, 2021 at 8:58 PM

                • Don’t be cowed. Keep communicating. Encourage others to communicate. But make sure that the others actually communicate rather than just yammering. The conversation must be elevated. But in order for the conversation to be elevated, there has to be a conversation to elevate. So keep communicating. Don’t be cowed.

                  Michael Scandling

                  June 15, 2021 at 10:01 PM

                • At your urging, I won’t be cowed into accepting a lot of bull. (Wordplayer me couldn’t resist.)

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  June 16, 2021 at 6:26 AM

                • I didn’t exactly laugh out loud but there was a definite audible chuckle.

                  Michael Scandling

                  June 16, 2021 at 10:49 AM

                • Wouldn’t chuck rather than chuckle have been more in keeping with cows and bulls?

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  June 16, 2021 at 11:29 AM

                • If a woodchuck could…

                  Michael Scandling

                  June 16, 2021 at 11:32 AM

                • And I’m not necessarily saying live and let live. Not quite that. What I’m saying is don’t get sucked into engaging with a lot of idiocy on the extreme ends of the spectrum in either direction. It just doesn’t do any good. It just feeds the fire. Our culture, our nation needs actual dialogue. The people on the extreme ends, both ends, don’t want dialogue. They just want to fight. Screw them. I will always respect a real human being making a sincere effort to engage in real honest to God dialogue. Even if I disagree with what they’re saying. I have agreed with some of the things you have said and I’ve disagreed with others. It doesn’t matter. You are rational human being. I like you.

                  Michael Scandling

                  June 15, 2021 at 10:09 PM

                • Thanks for your “like” and your impassioned plea for rationality, which has taken quite a beating in some quarters lately.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  June 16, 2021 at 6:22 AM

  8. What the f. No way Josey, my day is not going to be called birthing peoples day, what does it even mean? I like the flowers but that news set me off. 😡

    Alessandra Chaves

    June 12, 2021 at 6:27 PM

    • So far the “birthing people” insanity is limited to government documents, as far as I know. I satirically extrapolated it to “Birthing People’s Day,” though I won’t be surprised if reality soon enough gets ahead of my satire. What does it mean? Shakespeare had an answer in Macbeth:

      “… It is a tale
      Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
      Signifying nothing.”

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 12, 2021 at 7:46 PM

      • Government documents should be concerned with educating the American people so they learn to use their language well and stop making up sentences, terms and words that don’t make any sense.

        Alessandra Chaves

        June 12, 2021 at 7:53 PM

        • Of course I agree, but the events of the past year make me think that reasonable people have already lost the war.

          Steve Schwartzman

          June 12, 2021 at 8:50 PM

          • I did some search about this. I don’t understand it. Only women can get pregnant and give birth. And when we do we become mothers. This is a simple biological reality no government documents will change.

            Alessandra Chaves

            June 13, 2021 at 8:10 AM

            • Ideologues don’t care about biological reality. They think that by decree they can change reality. Some tiny fraction of women who give birth apparently believe that they aren’t really women; ideologues want all the rest of us to conform to those women’s delusions. What a sorry state the country has come to. I started speaking out because I feel normal people have to fight back against the madness.

              Steve Schwartzman

              June 13, 2021 at 11:00 AM

              • I’m wondering if I can become tall in the eyes of others if I start believing that I am a couple inches taller than I am. I also revolt against aging and think that if I proclaim that I am young, nobody has the right to disagree with me. It’s simply not right that the cycle of life, which includes birth, growth, aging and death, will apply to me. The limitations of my genetic makeup are also not fair, and my chromosome profile will not limit me because I can make it to be whatever I want, period.

                Alessandra Chaves

                June 13, 2021 at 5:08 PM

  9. What madness! So the Leonorus I planted cannot be called Motherwort… Oh, it is all just too horrible and I am tired of it all.


    June 12, 2021 at 7:07 PM

    • Madness indeed, and it just keeps coming. The fanatics are doing their damnedest to fulfill their goal of totally changing America—for the worst, of course.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 12, 2021 at 7:48 PM

  10. Great photos of the black/brown eyed susans and especially the American basketflower.
    I read the link about “birthing people” and while I’m sure that Mother’s Day is in no danger of being changed to “Birthing Person’s Day,” I can understand the motivation to remove gender from the language in the rules, regulations, and legislation. Women in particular, have been discriminated against for generations. They were granted the right to vote just a little over 100 years ago, and as women have moved into fields once occupied by males, the pay scale has lagged. And the term “rule of thumb,” I have been told, was based on the fine line between “discipline” and “abuse” measured by the width of a man’s thumb – as long as the diameter of the stick was less than that of his thumb, he wasn’t abusing his wife or children.
    Children are the responsibility of their parents – not their property. Women are not owned by their husbands or partners. “Birthing people,” “Nurturing people,” whatever. .. Take a deep breath, count to ten, and take another great portrait of a wildflower.


    June 12, 2021 at 7:11 PM

    • That widely bruited-about “rule of thumb” trope is false. The phrase existed long before anyone tried to explain it as having originated in the sense you cited:

      Only biological women can give birth, delphoclastic ideologues notwithstanding. (On the model of iconoclast, literally ‘breaker of [religious] icons,’ I created delphoclast, ‘breaker of wombs.’)

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 12, 2021 at 8:09 PM

      • Well, the NY Times said I’d used up my allotment of free reads, so I did a search, and I see that you are correct. Thanks for clearing out that bit of common misinformation.
        I recall having read sometime (long past) that it might be technically possible (eventually) for a male to carry a fetus to term, though it would probably be an ectopic pregnancy – and the scientist who was being interviewed remarked that he didn’t see why any man would want to do that (carry a child through to Caesarean birth), even if it were technically possible.
        It took some searching, but I finally found the reference to Delphius as hollow or womb. Clever way with words you have. Once again, an educational post, although that was collateral learning and not intended (at least not on my part).


        June 12, 2021 at 9:20 PM

        • The commonly put-forth explanation for “rule of thumb” is an example of what linguists call folk etymology, which is a folksy way of saying false etymology. The human imagination being what it is, people are quick to come up with explanations that often lack only one thing: the truth. Many folk etymologies can be proven false by looking at a good dictionary or relevant history book. I’m reminded of the claim that the English adjective gaudy derives from the name of the Catalan architect Gaudí, famous for the Sagrada Família and various other Art Nouveau structures in Barcelona. There’s one little problem, however: English speakers were using gaudy long before Gaudí was even born.

          Back in the biology department: women have genes, hormones, and organs specialized for maintaining developing babies and ultimately delivering them. Men don’t. C’est la vie.

          Steve Schwartzman

          June 12, 2021 at 10:05 PM

          • As for biology, that’s something I can live with. Tomorrow being Father’s Day, I can safely. say that the best gift my ex-wife ever gave me was our daughter, and to allow me to have custody when we separated. Males can’t give birth or suckle their young (in our species, at least – https://www.scientificamerican.com/gallery/see-a-male-seahorse-give-birth/. ) – but we can nurture and take care of our offspring, regardless of their gender – or ours. So that they will focus on the content of one’s character, and not on other immutable biological differences.


            June 19, 2021 at 2:03 PM

            • Happy Father’s Day to you a bit in advance. You can start accruing interest from this afternoon.

              Steve Schwartzman

              June 19, 2021 at 4:02 PM

  11. When I first read about the brown-eyed version of this flower I thought of her as the sister (or cousin) of the black-eyed version. Did not realize that the names were used interchangeably. And there is nothing wrong with pink hair even for gents. 🙂


    June 12, 2021 at 10:56 PM

    • I think my mother used to grow black-eyed Susans, and that’s the version of the name I remember from childhood. Only after I got interested in Texas native plants did I learn that some people call them brown-eyed rather than black-eyed, which I believe better matches reality. How dark a brown has to be before someone calls it black probably varies from person to person, as with so many other color names.

      My father’s hair turned grey at an early age and so did mine, presumably as a result of genetics. A couple of decades ago a friend of mine said I should dye my hair to increase my prospects of getting a job. I’m certain he didn’t have pink in mind.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 13, 2021 at 7:02 AM

  12. Well, you’ve certainly stirred things up! Birthing people sounds like a term that will make far more folks feel excluded than those who’ll feel included. It’s good to think about these things but not always so good to formalize or legislate them. Sorry I’ve been away so long, once more!


    June 13, 2021 at 8:45 PM

    • You might say a whole lotta shaking’s been going on since you were last here. So many people are aggressing against what I think is right that I’ve felt I have no choice but to speak out. Wildflowers are pretty but they won’t save my country.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 13, 2021 at 9:28 PM

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