Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Gumweed really is gummy

with 28 comments

On July 18th in southeast Austin I saw my first gumweed (Grindelia sp.) for 2021. Notice the little drops of goo along the serrated edges of the leaves. Holding on to these plants, as I often do to stabilize subjects while I take their pictures, left me with a sticky left hand and I had to be careful not to transfer any of that to my camera. As in other pictures I’ve recently shown here, using flash on a bright day to allow for a smaller aperture and a greater depth of field caused the sky to come out unrealistically dark. The effect isn’t “natural,” but then neither is photography.

◊        ◊

Here’s yet another thought by Wendell Berry, this time from his 1968 essay “Some Thoughts on Citizenship and Conscience in Honor of Don Pratt.”

To hear the boasts and the claims of some of our political leaders, one would think that we all lived in the government. The lower order of our politicians no doubt do so, and they no doubt exhibit the effects. But though I am always aware that I live in my household and in the world, I wish to testify that in my best moments I am not aware of the existence of the government. Though I respect and feel myself dignified by the principles of the Declaration and the Constitution, I do not remember a day when the thought of the government made me happy, and I never think of it without the wish that it might become wiser and truer and smaller than it is.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 17, 2021 at 4:15 AM

28 Responses

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  1. Gummy…sounds like yummy. The flower is attractive but the bud even more so.

    Steve Gingold

    August 17, 2021 at 5:36 AM

    • What appeals to me in the view of the bud is all those green prongs surrounding the opening yellow ray florets.

      I hadn’t heard that song in decades. I never knew the details I just found in a Wikipedia article about it:

      “Yummy Yummy Yummy” is a song by Arthur Resnick and Joey Levine, first recorded by Ohio Express in 1968. Their version reached No. 4 on the U.S. Pop Singles chart in June and No. 5 on the UK Singles Chart. It has since been covered by many artists. Ohio Express was a studio concoction and none of the “official” members appear on the record. Joey Levine sang lead vocals.

      Joey Levine sang “Yummy Yummy Yummy” live for the first time ever in Henderson, Tennessee at the Caravan Of Stars XV, on May 17, 2008.

      Time Magazine included it in its 2011 list of songs with silly lyrics. It ranked No. 2 in Dave Barry’s Book of Bad Songs.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 17, 2021 at 6:11 AM

      • Thanks for the background. I didn’t know any if that and still lived life well. I almost didn’t post the link out of embarrassment for remembering it and was quite shocked to see a recent performance. If I was a “member” I’d deny all participation of ever having recorded it.

        Steve Gingold

        August 17, 2021 at 6:36 AM

        • Etymologically minded me will add that although I knew what tummy meant from the time I was a little kid, as we all did, only much later did I realize the word was actually an alteration of stomach itself, with the initial s having gotten knocked off. I expect that even after three-quarters of a century as a native speaker, there are still obvious things about our language that I’ve never noticed.

          Steve Schwartzman

          August 17, 2021 at 6:46 AM

          • No matter our age (73 here) there is and always will be much left to learn. I shared a quote earlier this morning on my blog. Pablo Casals, when asked why he still practices said because he thought he was improving.

            Steve Gingold

            August 17, 2021 at 10:55 AM

        • I am glad you remembered it. It gave me my biggest smile of the day and brought back memories of the fun we had singing this silly song as kids.


          August 17, 2021 at 6:58 AM

  2. I’d bet on this being Grindelia squarrosa, the curlycup gumweed: the plant I took into the field office at the Cimarron National Grassland in Kansas, where a nice field agent identified it for me. I still have that plant stuck in a vase atop a bookshelf. I’ve found it in Texas, too: in a roadcut between Medina and Vanderpool. That was last December, but the plants were blooming away. Like you, I enjoy all those ‘curls’ that make up the cup around the flower.


    August 17, 2021 at 7:08 AM

    • You may well be right that this was Grindela squarrosa. The BONAP map shows it in Travis County and in fact across much of the country:


      Because I don’t know how to tell the species apart, I didn’t go past the genus name. Bill Carr’s Travis County Plant List includes Grindela nuda, which he indicates used to be Grindela squarrosa var. nuda. He characterizes it as a “rare or seldom collected weed of a variety of disturbed habitats.”

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 17, 2021 at 7:29 AM

      • Now, I’m reconsidering. While I’m certain my Kansas plant is G. squarrosa, another look at my Texas photos suggests I found G. lanceolata, which appears both in Travis County and the counties surrounding Kerrville. After a second look, this one seems to me to more closely resembles G. lanceolata — but there’s pleasure enough in getting the genus right, and the species name isn’t necessary for a good photo!


        August 17, 2021 at 7:43 AM

        • Your last sentence summarizes my position. Bill Carr lists Grindela lanceolata var. texana and says it’s “rare or seldom collected, known in our area from a few specimens.” In fact he calls all four of the Grindela species he lists rare. And yet I’ve often enough found gumeweed in the Austin area, so I don’t know what to make of that.

          Steve Schwartzman

          August 17, 2021 at 8:10 AM

          • Well, Eason has both listed as common, so there’s that. Carr might be referencing only the varieties. I took the time to peek into Rare Plants of Texas and found only G. oolepsis listed — and that’s the end of my explorations for the morning!


            August 17, 2021 at 8:18 AM

  3. I enlarged the image of the gumweed to get a closer look at the goo. I wonder about the purpose of the flower’s ability to create such a sticky substance. Everything we observe in nature appears to have a purpose.
    If the background seems to be artificially dark as a result of using the flash, so be it. Its contrasting effect makes the gumweed flower more beautiful.

    Peter Klopp

    August 17, 2021 at 9:01 AM

  4. The reason for the sticky stuff intrigues me too – not a good idea to get it on the camera! I like all the circles arranged in the top pic – closed petals, prongs and then the leaf serrations. Makes a great composition. 🙂

    Ann Mackay

    August 17, 2021 at 10:55 AM

    • In the past I once saw stickiness from sunflowers get on my fingers and lift a little of the marking on one of my camera’s control buttons. With that in mind, I was especially careful after some gumweed goo got on the fingers of my left hand.

      The details and composition in the top picture pleased me, too. It’s more unusual than the bottom picture.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 17, 2021 at 12:23 PM

  5. Oh, I love the just opening bud top image a lot!


    August 17, 2021 at 11:07 AM

  6. I trust the gumweed flower bud itself is as beautiful as your photograph of it. I, too, don’t object to the dark sky, and I love those green spiky things.

    Linda Grashoff

    August 19, 2021 at 8:00 PM

    • Thanks. The green spiky things look like scrawny fingers reaching out. Maybe someone could turn this into a horror movie: “The Invasion of the Gumweed.”

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 19, 2021 at 11:17 PM

  7. Great effect .. I must try that sometime. Good idea keeping the goo off the camera 🙂


    August 25, 2021 at 3:07 AM

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