Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

By the side of the road

with 16 comments

I take many of my nature pictures along roadsides, even ones with lots of cars passing by (fortunately the noise doesn’t appear in the photographs). On May 10th I pulled over on the north side of RM (Ranch-to-Market) 2222 just west of the Capital of Texas Highway to get a good look at the plants there. Among other things, I found a thriving colony of Gaillardia pulchella, known as firewheels or Indian blankets. Though those flower heads almost always have ray florets that are largely red with yellow tips, I found two fully yellow flower heads on one plant in the colony. Here’s one of them:

The top picture also includes some young Maximilian sunflower plants, which won’t flower till the fall. What the prominent grass is, I haven’t been able to determine.

Today’s title reminded me of the aspirational poem “The House by the Side of the Road,” from Sam Walter Foss‘s 1897 collection Dreams in Homespun:


There are hermit souls that live withdrawn
In the place of their self-content;
There are souls like stars, that dwell apart,
In a fellowless firmament;
There are pioneer souls that blaze the paths
Where highways never ran—
But let me live by the side of the road
And be a friend to man.

Let me live in a house by the side of the road
Where the race of men go by-
The men who are good and the men who are bad,
As good and as bad as I.
I would not sit in the scorner’s seat
Nor hurl the cynic’s ban—
Let me live in a house by the side of the road
And be a friend to man.

I see from my house by the side of the road
By the side of the highway of life,
The men who press with the ardor of hope,
The men who are faint with the strife,
But I turn not away from their smiles and tears,
Both parts of an infinite plan—
Let me live in a house by the side of the road
And be a friend to man.

I know there are brook-gladdened meadows ahead,
And mountains of wearisome height;
That the road passes on through the long afternoon
And stretches away to the night.
And still I rejoice when the travelers rejoice
And weep with the strangers that moan,
Nor live in my house by the side of the road
Like a man who dwells alone.

Let me live in my house by the side of the road,
Where the race of men go by-
They are good, they are bad, they are weak, they are strong,
Wise, foolish — so am I.
Then why should I sit in the scorner’s seat,
Or hurl the cynic’s ban?
Let me live in my house by the side of the road
And be a friend to man.


© 2022 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 21, 2022 at 4:33 AM

Posted in nature photography

Tagged with , , ,

16 Responses

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  1. I love finding single-colored Gaillardia: yellow, of course, but also pink or orange. Did you consider G. aestivalis as the species for this lovely specimen? That was my first thought when I saw the photo, given the shape and placement of the ray florets. Whatever the species, it’s a smile-producer.


    May 21, 2022 at 7:25 AM

    • Because the yellow specimen was in with a zillion regular Gaillardia pulchella plants, I’ve assumed it’s a variant within that species rather than a different species. As I’m not great at distinguishing species, I’ll allow that it could be something else. I’ve found what I’m pretty sure is G. aestivalis when I’ve traveled outside the immediate Austin area.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 21, 2022 at 11:35 AM

      • It just occurred to me that the white Winkler’s Gaillardia is a variant of G. aestivalis. Wouldn’t it be a kick if what you found was a yellow variant of Winkler’s? There are naturally lavender/rose colored forms of that one. All of the Gaillardias can get up to some pretty fascinating tricks.


        May 21, 2022 at 1:38 PM

  2. A beautiful scene, Steve, worth the stop.
    I remember as a child, we had a kitchen trivet with the quote on it of “Let me live in my house by the side of the road And be a friend to man.” Nice to see the full poem.

    Eliza Waters

    May 21, 2022 at 7:43 AM

    • I’m happy to be able to expand that line from your childhood and fill out the rest of the poem for you after all these years.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 21, 2022 at 11:37 AM

  3. You discovered a beautiful place on the roadside, where most people drive by, not even noticing its beauty.

    Peter Klopp

    May 21, 2022 at 9:26 AM

    • It’s often the case, other than in parks or preserves, that I’m the only person who’s stopped to appreciate a place. While I wish more people would appreciate what’s out there, the solitude works to my advantage as a photographer.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 21, 2022 at 11:39 AM

  4. […] 2222 just west of the Capital of Texas Highway covered a tree. On May 10th of this year I went back to the same highwayside and focused on young mustang grape tendrils. In the top picture you see how some had latched on to […]

  5. We both posted roadside flowers yesterday. And you yesterday and I today posted somewhat oddities.

    Steve Gingold

    May 22, 2022 at 7:14 AM

  6. […] Yesterday’s post showed how mustang grape vines (Vitis mustangensis) are great grabbers of other plants. So are Texas bindweeds, Convolvulus equitans, one of which you see here had twined its way around a fiewheel, Gaillardia pulchella, on the same roadside strip along FM 2222 as the mustang grape on May 10th. Curiously, most of the Texas bindweed flowers there had their petals bent back in an atypical way, as shown below. […]

  7. Such a joyfully colorful photo, Steve, and the perfect poem to go with it.


    May 23, 2022 at 7:13 PM

    • We’re fortunate in Texas to have so many floral roadsides.

      Foss’s poem was a lot better known at one time than it is now. I didn’t grow up with it, but came across it within the past decade. I did my tiny part to publicize it again.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 23, 2022 at 9:45 PM

  8. […] of Texas Highway (the same location that provided the pictures for the posts on Monday, Sunday, and Saturday). The critter above is a tachinid fly in the genus Cylindromyia on a firewheel (Gaillardia […]

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