Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

The long floral stalks of gulf vervain

with 15 comments

What distinguishes gulf vervain, Verbena xutha, from other kinds of verbena here is its long and slender flower stalks, which can be straight, curved, or sinuous. The first picture shows you some at the Riata Trace pond on July 30th. When I found a group out in the open I got down on the ground and aimed upward for an artsy minimalist portrait.

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Glenn Loury has written an inaugural essay for The Journal of Free Black Thought. In the essay he quotes a sentence from Ephesians and says that “Bad ideas are the ‘principalities and powers’ that reside in the heads—the ‘high places’—of flesh-and-blood people. These bad ideas need to be combated and overcome by good ideas.” In so saying, he pushes back against the censorship that has rapidly become common in our media. Loury notes that the new journal “is dedicated to the principle that in a liberal democracy, viewpoint diversity and the airing of ideas—all ideas, even ideas that we’re told aren’t properly ‘black’—are essential components in the struggle of good ideas against bad.” That sounds like a good idea to me.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 11, 2021 at 4:43 AM

15 Responses

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  1. I’ve seen this, and didn’t recognize it as V. xutha. When I came across it alongside a canal in Brazoria County, I thought it was an odd form of some other kind of vervain. The long stalks in the first photo remind me of certain plantain species, but they also bring to mind the lanyards we created in our day camp craft classes, more than a few years ago. The upturned ends of the stalks are cute.


    August 11, 2021 at 6:16 AM

    • Now that you mention it, these do look like lanyards. Somehow I’d never thought of that, as many times as I’ve seen this species. And I’ll agree with you about the cuteness of the flowering upturned ends of those long stalks. After I first found these plants years ago it took me a long time to decide they were Verbena xutha. I do hope I’ve identified them correctly.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 11, 2021 at 7:23 AM

  2. In the first picture, I see all the flower stalks in sharp focus. Yet they are different distances away from the photographer. I guess you achieved this with a small aperture setting?

    Peter Klopp

    August 11, 2021 at 9:00 AM

    • Good question. I checked and found that I used a wide aperture of f/4 in the top picture. What helped is distance. The farther the camera is from an object, the less importance there is in the relative distances of closer and farther parts of the object. Even so, if you could look at a larger version of the picture you’d see that not all the flowers stalks are in good focus. I mainly included the first picture as a scene-setter, so people could see the plant’s characteristic configuration.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 11, 2021 at 9:52 AM

  3. These images helped me realize that some type of vervain is doing well on our property. I’ve often admired the flowers, and left the plants to go wild, despite not knowing what they were. I have not noticed if they are a favorite of the deer, but they certainly win favor with me, so I’ll let them multiply!


    August 11, 2021 at 11:01 AM

  4. Our vervain grows straight and tall. I think your sinuous stalks are more interesting.

    Steve Gingold

    August 11, 2021 at 6:58 PM

  5. Ooo, I love this plant! I used to see a Vervain – I forget which one – in fields upstate. The color was gorgeous. But this one’s curves are fabulous! I see Steve G’s comment – that must be the one I remember.


    August 13, 2021 at 10:56 AM

    • I was out taking pictures this morning for the first time in 13 days and saw some more of this gulf vervain. The curving flower stalks are so distinctive that I wonder why more people don’t know about this species. It grows only in the south-central part of the country, so you’re right that the one you remember was something different.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 13, 2021 at 2:29 PM

  6. A lovely arty portrait Steve …


    August 15, 2021 at 3:33 AM

  7. […] November 9th at the Riata Trace Pond, look what the dew did to this gulf vervain (Verbena xutha) inflorescence. For a closer look at the effects of the roration, click the excerpt […]

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