Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Fascination of Plants Day

with 36 comments

Today is Fascination of Plants Day. The word fascination is fascinatingly close to fasciation, the strange botanical phenomenon that I’ve shown you various examples of. On May 5th I was photographing some of the many Mexican hats (Ratibida columnifera) that were coming up along the Sierra Nevada fringe of Great Hills Park when I noticed one flower head that lacked the characteristic flattening and spreading that fasciated plants exhibit but that had four central columns instead of the normal one. Whether that’s still fasciation or a different anomaly, I don’t know. I do know it was weird enough to show it to you on Fascination of Plants Day.

In case you’re not familiar with Mexican hats, I’ll add that the ray florets display varying amounts of yellow and brown. Often there’s a mixture of the two. Sometimes one color mostly drives out the other color, as in the middle picture, or entirely excludes it, as below.




§         §         §



By now you’ve probably heard about a deranged 18-year-old guy who drove several hours from a little town in New York to Buffalo, the state’s second largest city, to gun down people in a supermarket on May 14th. Most of the victims were black, and that apparently was no coincidence. A long manifesto allegedly written by the shooter soon surfaced, and the document made clear that he hated both blacks and Jews. The killer’s racist and anti-Semitic statements, along with the fact that he is white, almost immediately led some people in the news media to proclaim him, with good reason, a racist and a white supremacist. Among those people in the media were not a few who also somehow concluded that the killer is a Republican or a conservative and a follower of the conservative television network Fox News. How politically convenient—and how inconvenient that those quickly proved to be false accusations.

I couldn’t find the shooter’s manifesto online to check it for myself—it was apparently taken down not long after the incident—but I did find a May 16th Washington Examiner article by Tiana Lowe headlined “The Buffalo shooter was an eco-socialist racist who hated Fox News and Ben Shapiro.” That hardly sounds like your typical Republican or conservative, does it? Here’s a portion of Tiana Lowe’s article:

Hence, a seemingly concerted effort from the corporate media accusing the Buffalo barbarian of being some sort of Tucker Carlson [a Fox News host] acolyte would be baffling if it weren’t so transparently malicious. In the 180-page document purported to be authored by the shooter, he does not mention Carlson once. The sole explicit mention of Fox News is an infographic demarcating top Fox hosts such as Maria Bartiromo and Greg Gutfeld as Jewish. (Rupert Murdoch is decried as a “Christian Zionist” who may have Jewish ancestry,” although it’s never publicly admitted.) Ben Shapiro is mentioned multiple times, including as an example as the “rat” phenotype of Jewish people.

Moreover, the Buffalo shooter is a self-described “ethno-nationalist eco-fascist national socialist” who loathes libertarianism and conservatism in particular.

“Ask yourself, truly, what has modern conservatism managed to conserve?” the shooter wrote. “Not a thing has been conserved other than corporate profits and the ever increasing wealth of the 1% that exploit the people for their own benefit. Conservatism is dead. Thank god. Now let us bury it and move on to something of worth.”

Hell, the shooter admits that he’s a socialist, “depending on the definition.”

“Worker ownership of the means of production?” he writes. “It depends on who those workers are, their intentions, who currently owns the means of production, their intentions and who currently owns the state, and their intentions.”

The diatribe implies “those workers” better be white gentiles who worship Mother Earth. Here, crucially, is the shooter on his homicidal obsession with environmentalism.


To be continued tomorrow and the next day.


© 2022 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 18, 2022 at 4:32 AM

36 Responses

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  1. […] from ‘Portraits of Wildflowers‘, alerted me to this date the other day, which I must admit I had not heard of before. I […]

  2. I grew Mexican sunhats last year, after seeing them on your blog, but so far there is no sign of them reappearing. Fascinating but also rather odd looking flowers!


    May 18, 2022 at 6:23 AM

    • Of course here in Texas we’re used to them. I remember that the first picture of one I ever posted, when my blog was still pretty new in 2011, attracted attention.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 18, 2022 at 7:22 AM

  3. flowers are the life of the life.


    May 18, 2022 at 7:19 AM

  4. Although the commentary by Tiana Lowe is well-written the headline chosen by the Washington Examiner doesn’t accurately reflect what Tiana wrote. Tiana writes that the shooter is a self-described “ethno-nationalist eco-fascist national socialist”. In other words, he was a confused mess. Much like the Christchurch mosque shooter whose actions apparently inspired the Buffalo shooter. My heart goes out to all those affected in Buffalo and to the people in Christchurch who are being re-traumatised by this man’s actions. https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2022/may/18/buffalo-shooting-unease-in-new-zealand-as-live-stream-of-christchurch-inspired-attack-finds-foothold


    May 18, 2022 at 8:33 AM

    • You said it well: the shooter was / is a confused mess. That’s why, in addition to the horror of the act itself, I’m troubled that so many in the media and politics immediately made things even worse by jumping to blame people of a conservative ~ libertarian worldview.

      The hypocrisy is appalling, again in the service of an ideology. This past November a mentally disturbed black man with a history of anti-white racist statements drove his car into a holiday parade of predominantly white people in Waukesha, Wisconsin, killing six of them (including some “dancing grannies”) and injuring more than 60. The President of the United States couldn’t be bothered to visit the survivors of that massacre but made sure to go to Buffalo yesterday. A truly compassionate—as opposed to opportunistically ideological—leader would have gone to both places.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 18, 2022 at 11:06 AM

      • Do you know of such a non-opportunistically idealogical leader/President in recent American history? That is a genuine question in case it comes off as a sarcastic one. In NZ we give the compassionate, non-ideological role to the Governor-General ie non-political head of state. We hope our politicians will be compassionate but we put our faith in the GG. So far, so good, although there are some people who would like to sever our connection with the Queen.


        May 18, 2022 at 7:19 PM

        • Your genuine question is an excellent one. (I wouldn’t mind sarcasm, too.) The sad fact is that I can’t think of a recent president who didn’t “play politics.” It’s one reason I’ve never liked politics or politicians. I didn’t know that New Zealand has the non-political office of Governor-General. What a good idea. It reminds me of something I’ve heard about the American Indians: some (many?) of the tribes had a war chief and separately what you might call a domestic chief.

          Steve Schwartzman

          May 19, 2022 at 6:55 AM

  5. Beautiful flowers to show off on Fascination Plant Day. I’d never heard of this day before you mentioned it.
    The only fascinator I’ve been interested in for months is a hat by that name. 🤣


    May 18, 2022 at 9:46 AM

    • I hadn’t heard about this day till last year, either.
      I think I learned about the hat kind of fascinator from you last year as well.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 18, 2022 at 11:15 AM

  6. Those are lovely portraits of the Mexican hats. This is the first year I remember coming across pure yellow ones, although they’ve surely been around; they’re exceptionally pretty. That’s quite an oddity in the first photo. I haven’t found any truly fasciated plants recently, but I have come across some oddities, like a six-petaled prairie nymph and a flattened Texas dandelion bloom that looked fasciated despite the absence of a flattened stem.

    As it happens, I came across a report of an avian oddity recently: a yellow cardinal. I remember seeing a report of one several years ago; they’re pretty fascinating, too.


    May 18, 2022 at 1:01 PM

    • Mexican hats make great portrait subjects. It doesn’t seem like I’ll ever want to stop photographing them. And I’m happy to hear that to this four-columned Mexican hat you can add your flattened Texas dandelion. And that yellow bird sure is a cardinal oddity. Too bad we’re unlikely to ever see one.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 18, 2022 at 2:58 PM

  7. I heard about the Mexican hats and now I’ve seen them too, thanks to you.

    What a sad story below…..!


    May 18, 2022 at 2:01 PM

    • It’s interesting that you’d heard about Mexican hats but hadn’t seen pictures of any till now. Too bad you can’t walk the streets of Austin and see them for real; they’re at their peak now.

      As for the second part of the post, yes, what happened it sad, and sad too that so many ideologues tried to use it to their advantage and blame innocent people.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 18, 2022 at 3:03 PM

  8. Interesting anomaly in the Mexican Hat. Your photos of this flower are very pretty and it goes well with the black background, makes them pop.

    There are psychopaths and sociopaths in both parties.

    Alessandra Chaves

    May 18, 2022 at 7:13 PM

    • Yes, I’ve been going with black backgrounds a lot recently, thanks to how often I’ve been using my ring flash. I’m making an effort to take some more pictures with brighter backgrounds. Not that the black isn’t effective to isolate a subject, as you said, but I prefer variety in the kinds of pictures I show.

      As for psychopaths and political parties, this psychopath seems to combine extreme elements from both ends of the main political spectrum.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 19, 2022 at 7:02 AM

  9. Interesting variations in Ratibidas – I wonder if the multi-coned one was a well-timed and placed bite from an insect causing it? Hard to say!

    Eliza Waters

    May 18, 2022 at 7:23 PM

    • That’s a plausible suggestion about a well-timed and -placed insect bite. Maybe a botanist could help us out.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 19, 2022 at 7:07 AM

  10. A profusion of fascinating Mexican Hats, fine photographs, all of them.


    May 18, 2022 at 8:18 PM

  11. Fasciated. The word in my world here is used for certain species of birds, like the Fasciated Wren vs the Band-backed Wren, both so close that even the professionals have trouble deciding which is which. They state, ‘Fasciated’ strictly based on location or will argue, ‘Sí, the band backed is more chestnut and even though this Fasciated shows chestnut, it’s not Band-backed…’ etc… Does that ever happen in botany – sí, it looks like A but it is indeed B, even if it looks like A. https://ebird.org/species/faswre1

    • The explanation for the seeming discrepancy in how fasciated gets used with plants versus birds goes back, as so many things do, to etymology. The Latin word fascia meant ‘band, bandage, swathe.’ The way the affected parts of plants typically take on a flattened or banded appearance is why botanists began referring to such plants as fasciated. In the case of your bird, there must be some part of it that looks like a band or ribbon—as indicated by the alternate name you gave: band-backed wren. The word fascist also shares an etymology, as you can see in the Word History section of the article at


      Steve Schwartzman

      May 19, 2022 at 7:24 AM

  12. I love your connection between fascination and fasciation, Steve. I have an Amsonia tabernaemontana in my garden that has 90% permanently fasciated leaves, as pointed out to me by a plant breeder friend. Unfortunately, I was not able to post my fascination with oak leaf hydrangea due to “garden back” so I was glad to stop by here for your Plant Fascination post. 🙂


    May 19, 2022 at 6:55 AM

    • Wow: 90% permanently fasciated leaves. That must be something to see. I’m sorry that the “garden back” you thought might get you did get you. If you’re a long-distance planner, you might do what I did and schedule a post now for May 18, 2023, called “Fascination of Plants Day.” When that date eventually approaches, there’ll be time to fill in the post’s contents.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 19, 2022 at 7:30 AM

  13. Lovely flower portraits! I think you could have a ‘Fascinated by Fasciation’ day! 🙂 (Thank you for letting me know about ‘Fascination of Plants Day’.)

    Ann Mackay

    May 20, 2022 at 3:16 PM

    • I’ve made plays on words with fascination and fascination several times. The first seems to have been in the early months of the blog, way back in 2011:

      It was fasciation, I know*

      I haven’t come across any classic examples of fasciation recently. The next time I do, I’ll try to remember your ‘Fascinated by Fasciation Day’ as a potential title.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 20, 2022 at 3:40 PM

  14. Plants sure are fascinating! Delightful flowers Steve … the second shot makes me think of a skirt blowing in the wind …


    May 24, 2022 at 2:39 PM

  15. […] days ago you saw a Mexican hat (Ratibida columnifera) flower head that strangely had four columns instead of the single one that’s the norm. On May 15th the Mexican hats at the Floral Park Drive entrance to Great Hills Park were going […]

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