Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Blue stars and Barbara’s buttons

with 18 comments

Drove the 36 miles out to the Doeskin Ranch on April 27th in hopes of finding some blue stars (Amsonia ciliata). Found a few. Also found some flower heads of Barbara’s buttons (Marshallia caespitosa) with both a longhorn beetle (Typocerus sinuatus) and a bug of some sort.

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman


Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 1, 2022 at 4:28 AM

18 Responses

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  1. These are two of my favorites. Down here, Amsonia tabernaemontana is most common; I’ve not seen any evidence of it yet this year, although I’m watching around Brazoria county. A few years ago, after they burned part of the prairie, the bluestar came back so enthusiastically it was truly amazing.

    I’ve only seen Barbara’s buttons in east Texas, but it’s also a favorite. It always reminds me of Palafoxia.


    May 1, 2022 at 6:52 AM

    • I see the resemblance of Marshallia to Palafoxia, especially the loosely structured small palafoxia that’s the only species we have in Austin:

      Small palafoxia flowers and a goer thereon

      For whatever reason, I don’t come across blue stars in Austin, even though the species has been found in my part of town. That’s one reason for heading out to Doeskin Ranch, where the finding is a lot easier. It’s good to hear your Amsonia tabernaemontana rebounded so strongly after the prairie burn.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 1, 2022 at 7:52 AM

  2. I like the colourful bug visiting the flower with another guest I would not have seen without you mentioning it.

    Peter Klopp

    May 1, 2022 at 9:43 AM

  3. Beautiful captures, the beetle is a perfect touch!

    Eliza Waters

    May 1, 2022 at 11:21 AM

    • This was the only Barbara’s buttons flower head I remember seeing insects on. It clearly worked in my favor.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 1, 2022 at 12:40 PM

  4. Beautiful bluestar! I grow 2 types of Amsonia here but not this one. One of my favorite plants for late spring. Barbara’s Buttons is a new one to me!


    May 1, 2022 at 12:40 PM

    • Do the Amsonias that you grow produce flowers that look pretty similar? Sometimes two species in the same genus are look a lot alike, and other times you’d hardly guess that two species really are in the same genus.

      Barbara’s buttons is a species of the south-central United States, and that’s probably why you haven’t heard of it.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 1, 2022 at 12:46 PM

      • The flowers are very similar – the foliage is quite different between A. tabernaemontana and A. hubrichtii. I’m growing a new cultivar of A. t. called ‘Storm Cloud’ which has spectacular black flower stems but the blossoms are all tabernaemontana.


        May 1, 2022 at 12:57 PM

        • The species name in Amsonia tabernaemontana roused my curiosity so I looked it up and found it pays tribute to Jacob Theodore von Bergzabern, (d. 1590), a Heidelberg botany professor who Latinized his German last name as Tabernaemontanus.

          Steve Schwartzman

          May 1, 2022 at 2:30 PM

  5. The longhorn beetle was a lucky find! The photos came out really well.

    Alessandra Chaves

    May 1, 2022 at 1:46 PM

    • I don’t often run across longhorn beetles, so yes, it was a lucky find. The photographs pleased me, too.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 1, 2022 at 2:32 PM

  6. Glad to see you found them. I love that photo of the blue stars. Blue and green in nature can be such a winning combo.

    Todd Henson

    May 1, 2022 at 1:51 PM

    • Last year we found a slew of blue stars at the Doeskin Ranch. This year, after trekking a couple of miles there without finding any, I was about to conclude there were none. However, Eve was a bit ahead of me (that’s often the case because taking pictures slows me down), and she found several that she pointed out. Blue and green work well together, but then I can be induced to favor almost any color combination.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 1, 2022 at 2:37 PM

  7. Barbara’s buttons, what a lovely name!

    • Who the eponymous Barbara was, no one seems to know. I assume one reason the name got chosen was for the alliteration it created with “buttons.”

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 2, 2022 at 2:27 PM

  8. We have some blue stars waiting to form buds here in the yard. No Barbara’s Buttons though. That’s a nice ménage à trois although all seem to be going about their own business. Is that a flower longhorn?

    Steve Gingold

    May 4, 2022 at 4:05 AM

    • Here’s to your coming blue stars. I hadn’t realized how widespread the genus is. I wasn’t familiar with the beetle, which bugguide.net identified as Typocerus sinuatus, and which I now see Wikipedia calls a notch-tipped flower longhorn.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 4, 2022 at 7:50 AM

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