Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

To Bastrop we did go

with 24 comments

For the first time since the spring, on September 23rd we drove 45 miles southeast to Bastrop State Park. One reason for going there at this time of year was the expected flowering of several plants that don’t grow in Austin. Among them are two species of Liatris, including the Liatris aspera, rough blazing-star, shown here. Below is a closeup of one flower cluster.

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I recommend Jonathan Haidt’s new essay about how monomania makes groups illiberal and stupid.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 4, 2021 at 4:31 AM

24 Responses

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  1. well worth the drive


    October 4, 2021 at 4:37 AM

  2. Very interesting. A friend found the same plant well north of Houston and I asked what it was, saying it looked like a combination of liatris and ironweed. It really is lovely. I’m wondering if it might have crept out of Bastrop and Fayette counties into Colorado county; I’ll have to keep an eye out for it if I can get away to the Attwater preserve.


    October 4, 2021 at 6:19 AM

    • I predict you won’t be too chicken to head across the prairie to the Attwater preserve.

      Your comment about creeping out of Bastrop and Fayette County had me creeping over to the USDA map that I assumed had raised the possibility of a presence in Colorado County. I was surprised to see Liatris aspera growing as far away and in places with as frigid a winter as northern Minnesota and Ontario. My one and only association to the species is in the warmth of Bastrop. Add to that the iron-rich ground from which grew the first specimens I ever encountered:

      Tall blazing-star

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 4, 2021 at 7:08 AM

  3. Another beautiful flower I have not seen. Thanks for the article. Good read.

    Alessandra Chaves

    October 4, 2021 at 7:08 AM

    • You can understand my eagerness to head over to Bastrop to catch this species flowering. In contrast to the beautiful blue sky in the first picture, compare the background I was able to get in 2013 when I first encountered the species, that I linked to in my reply to the previous comment.

      Speaking of links, I just went back to Jonathan Haidt’s article and this time I followed some of the links he provided in it. One of his linked articles involves the walking-on-eggshells atmosphere you’ve described several times.

      Haidt is the author of The Righteous Mind, which I highly recommend. He’s also the co-author of The Coddling of the American Mind, equally recommended. Last week we met that book’s other author, Greg Lukianoff, when he came to be interviewed in Austin.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 4, 2021 at 7:40 AM

  4. This is a very interesting plant that seems like a column reaching for the sky. How tall can this flower grow, I wonder?

    Peter Klopp

    October 4, 2021 at 8:47 AM

    • According to one of my wildflower guides, this species can grow to at least 5 feet in height. As with other species of Liatris, the spikes may grow upright or may lean at varying angles.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 4, 2021 at 1:48 PM

  5. I love liatris and those lavender spires.

    Lavinia Ross

    October 4, 2021 at 11:16 AM

  6. […] Another species that doesn’t grow in Austin that I therefore drove to see in Bastrop State Park on September 23rd is Palafoxia hookeriana, called showy palafoxia, sand palafox, and Hooker’s palafoxia. This plant is sticky to the touch, as the short, soft, goo-tipped hairs in the second picture’s lower left confirm. (So do the fingers of anyone who has handled one of these plants, but I think you’ll agree that a picture of gooey fingers would take away from this post’s esthetic appeal.) […]

  7. I often find it difficult to find a good way to photograph tall flower spikes, so I really like the way you’ve tackled this one.

    Ann Mackay

    October 5, 2021 at 8:48 AM

  8. A tower of flower power! Interesting essay. “I wanted to put the students from all five colleges together in a giant classroom and make them talk to each other until they could each write an essay using at least three of the five lenses to examine a complex social issue of their choosing.” Such an essay would have been standard practice back in my high school days. What has happened to the art of essay writing? What has happened to the art of debating? The best fun I had on the debate team was when our side had to argue for something which we actually didn’t agree with.


    October 7, 2021 at 5:15 PM

    • This “tower of flower power” may be your picture of the hour.

      Alas, schools have done away with so many of the useful things they used to teach. You’ve read some of my many criticisms of education, which has only continued to decline. As traditional liberals have complained in the last few years, too many schools are no longer invested in teaching students how to think, but what to think.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 7, 2021 at 7:01 PM

      • Not sure what the current situation is in NZ schools but I was encouraged by this link which shows debating is still alive in NZ schools. https://www.debating.org.nz/about/


        October 7, 2021 at 7:32 PM

        • I’m glad debating survives there. I suspect certain topic are off-limits to debaters in American schools.

          Steve Schwartzman

          October 7, 2021 at 9:52 PM

          • Perhaps not, if they are enlightened enough to have debating.


            October 7, 2021 at 10:31 PM

            • Having no experience with or knowledge of secondary school debate teams, I did a little searching to see if I could find examples of topics that were off limits. Instead I found an instance where an entire debate team had been banned because it consisted of home-schooled students. Home schooling has been on the rise in the United States, in large part because increasingly many parents don’t want their kids to be indoctrinated with illiberal views in the public schools.

              “The situation is enraging home school parents, who like all other citizens pay taxes to support public schools, are shut out of events that are often open to out-of-state teams. They’re also pointing out the irony of curbing the free speech rights of students the debate competitions are designed to promote.”


              Steve Schwartzman

              October 8, 2021 at 4:55 AM

              • That’s sad. I wonder if the situation has changed since 2016.


                October 16, 2021 at 11:27 PM

                • I don’t know. Given how much crazier and more illiberal this country became in 2020, the odds are that the situation has not improved.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  October 17, 2021 at 12:33 AM

  9. […] The other species of Liatris we saw on September 23rd in Bastrop that doesn’t grow in Austin is Liatris elegans, elegant blazing-star, which is unusual in having pale yellow or cream-colored flowers rather than the expected purple ones. As with other Liatris species, the flower spikes of this one tilt at varying angles, with the most extreme being largely horizontal, as above (which meant I had to lie on the ground and aim high enough to get a shot clear of distractions in the background). Even so, the predominant orientation for Litatris flower spikes is upright, which you can confirm in the closer frame-filling view below. Does your imagination let you see how “blazing star” came to be a common name for Liatris? […]

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