Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Two takes on giant ragweed

with 13 comments

Giant ragweed (Ambrosia trifida) grows erect, often reaching a height of 10 ft. and occasionally even 15 ft. That makes it a good perch for dragonflies like the one in the top picture. After giant ragweed plants dry out, their stalks may remain upright, as in the dense colony I showed in 2013, or may fall over, like the stalk below whose hollow interior my flash was kind enough to partially illuminate. Both pictures are from along Bull Creek on June 24th.



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If you check out this chart of the 10 most widely spoken languages you’ll see that English is in first place because so many people speak it as a second language. The language that has by far the most native speakers is Mandarin Chinese.


© 2022 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 2, 2022 at 4:34 AM

Posted in nature photography

Tagged with , , ,

13 Responses

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  1. That’s a brilliant look-out post and sunning-place for the dragonfly!

    Ann Mackay

    August 2, 2022 at 5:52 AM

  2. Every time I see trifida in a plant name, I think of Day of the Triffids. According to the Wiki, the fictional tall, mobile, carnivorous plant created by John Wyndham has become a common reference in British English to describe large, invasive, or menacing-looking plants. I’d say the plant shown in the first photo would qualify.

    I had an entirely different impression of the second photo. I see an orchestra on a stage in an outdoor setting like Houston’s Hermann Park, with a contoured proscenium curtain pulled up in the middle.


    August 2, 2022 at 7:01 AM

    • When I got interested in native plants 23 years ago I also associated the trifida of giant ragweed with John Wyndham’s Day of the Triffids, which I remembered from my science fictiony teenage years. What I wrote in 2008 seems relevant today:

      “In 1951 the English science fiction writer John Wyndham wrote a novel about plants that have a whip-like poisonous stinger and the ability to communicate with one another. The plants are also able to move about on three “legs,” which explains why Wyndham called his creatures triffids, meaning literally ‘split into three.’ But there’s no need to resort to science fiction when a prolific plant in Texas has some of those same abilities, is a menace to human beings, and even partially shares a name with Wyndham’s creatures; that plant is Ambrosia trifida, whose species name describes the way the plant’s leaves are typically cleft into three lobes. One thing that makes this plant a monster is its height, which can reach 15 ft. Another is its success in colonizing land: some authors use the adjective ‘rank’ to describe its growth into dense colonies, and the species has been reported not only in 47 of the contiguous United States—the good citizens of Nevada may be too busy gambling to have noticed it—but also in most Canadian provinces. If, for more than a century, chinaberry and Chinese tallow trees have been replacing natives across the woods and prairies of Texas, and if more recently Chinese trade goods have taken root in the fields of American commerce, then Ambrosia trifida has done its patriotic best to reverse the imbalance by becoming an invasive species in the giant country across the Pacific.”

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 2, 2022 at 7:30 AM

  3. The sky is so beautifully blue on the first photo. I like the contortions of the weed too. Lucky you the dragonfly perched for the photo.

    Alessandra Chaves

    August 2, 2022 at 8:13 AM

    • You’ve seen that I often use a blue sky as a cheerful background to isolate a subject. I was lucky the dragonfly perched for a portrait but unlucky that I couldn’t get closer and that some elements of the ragweed lay in front of the dragonfly rather than behind it. Oh well, we take what we can get.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 2, 2022 at 8:30 AM

  4. This is a fantastic shot, Steve. The dragonfly looks as if caught in midflight above the giant rag weed.

    Peter Klopp

    August 2, 2022 at 8:54 AM

    • That’s an interesting perception. Knowing that the dragonfly was perched on the ragweed, my imagination couldn’t go so far as to see the insect in flight.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 2, 2022 at 8:58 AM

  5. If that is anything like the ragweed we have here that causes so much misery then a lot of folks must not care for it very much. The dragonfly certainly knew a good perch when it saw one.

    Steve Gingold

    August 2, 2022 at 2:30 PM

    • Yes, it’s in the same Ambrosia genus as other ragweeds, and therefore a bane of autumn allergy sufferers. At this time of year it’s benign.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 2, 2022 at 5:02 PM

  6. The dragonfly shot reminds me of the kinetic toys for children (and adults!) where one sets in motion a bead and then physics takes over with great effect. I wonder if that dragonfly could “ride” along those twists and turns.


    August 2, 2022 at 2:38 PM

    • What you’ve said leads us to praise your kinetic imagination. All the more power to you if you can get a dragonfly to go riding those ragweed twists and turns.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 2, 2022 at 5:06 PM

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