Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Two Eupatorium species

with 10 comments


Here’s a close view of Eupatorium serotinum, known as white boneset and late or late-flowering or late-blooming boneset or thoroughwort. The species grows in Austin but I took this picture in Houston’s Memorial Park on September 17th.

One of the most prominent plants in Memorial Park that day was one I’d not seen before, and its feathery growth habit immediately caught my attention:



From what I can gather, this is Eupatorium capillifolium, known as dogfennel. Many of these plants’ tips were drooping, either by nature or from the heat. That gave me a chance for a different sort of portrait:




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In 2021 I wrote nine commentaries on the theme of common sense. In particular, I showed that quite a few things people believe to be “common sense” are actually false. If you missed those articles or would like to see them again, I’ve included links at the end.

Two days ago I came across an article by Ronald Bailey in the October 2022 issue of Reason that begins:

In May, New Jersey became the first state to ban single-use bags made from plastic or paper in large grocery stores. The new ban lumps both types of totes together, but one is actually worse for the environment than the other. Which one?

 I think most of us would say plastic. It’s only common sense, right? The article continues:

A 2005 life-cycle analysis commissioned by the Scottish government found that manufacturing paper bags consumes 10 percent more energy than manufacturing conventional plastic bags, uses four times more water, emits more than three times the amount of greenhouse gases, generates 14 times more water pollution, and results in nearly three times more solid waste. A 2007 study commissioned by what is now the American Recyclable Plastic Bag Alliance, an industry group, found that, compared to making plastic bags, making paper bags takes 3.4 times as much energy, produces five times as much solid waste, emits twice as much greenhouse gases, and uses 17 times more water.

Surprised? You’re welcome to find out more in the full article.

Older “common sense” articles involved:

Lengths of rivers

Popular psychology

Rising and falling prices



Baseball batting averages

Direction of inference


Average driving speeds


© 2022 Steven Schwartzman





Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 25, 2022 at 4:33 AM

10 Responses

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  1. I marvel at plant survival in various conditions. I really like this photograph of the dogfennel’s drooping tips. We see white boneset here, but I’ve not noticed it being so prevalent this year. Perhaps the drought in the Midwest has affected growth.


    September 25, 2022 at 7:45 AM

    • I’ve seen plenty of instances of plants hanging on in adversity. Of course sometimes they succumb, as we all eventually must. An early lesson I learned about native plants is that they have good years and bad years in a certain place, sometimes even without any obvious connection to rainfall or temperature. This appears to be an off-year for your white boneset. The dogfennel was new to me, even if taking portraits at unconventional angles isn’t, as in the picture you singled out.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 25, 2022 at 8:50 AM

  2. It took me until this morning to realize that the first photo was bringing to mind still life painting: especially that of the Dutch ‘Golden Age,’ when flowers and fruit (and the occasional skull) were so in vogue.

    I recognized the second photo as fennel because I’ve so often seen fennel-the-herb (Foenicululm vulgare) being grown in gardens. Unfortunately, it seems even cattle will eat their way around this one, and there are notes that it can induce liver failure. Don’t use this one in the kitchen!


    September 25, 2022 at 7:47 AM

    • I see the overtones in the first photograph of Dutch still lifes from the Golden Age. I think the lighting—which I was pleased with—does it.

      People obviously named this sunflower-family plant for its resemblance to the well-known herb, even though that’s in a different botanical family. You’ve done more research about dogfennel than I. The plant seems chemically well protected against would-be munchers.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 25, 2022 at 8:59 AM

  3. The Eupatorium I have in the yard and find widespread locally is E. perfoliatum and also called Boneset Thoroughwort. The thoroughwort comes from the leaves joining and clasping the stem. We also have E. serotinum which is named Late Boneset but isn’t native to our area.

    Steve Gingold

    September 26, 2022 at 5:50 PM

    • I checked the distribution map and found that Eupatorium perfoliatum covers much of the eastern half of the country. In the southwestern part of its range it gets to within two counties of Austin, so maybe someday I’ll see it.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 26, 2022 at 6:55 PM

  4. That is a surprise about the energy requirements for paper bags! But there is also the question of plastic in the environment, so banning both seems a reasonable idea to me.

    Ann Mackay

    September 27, 2022 at 12:50 PM

    • Many things offer surprises when investigated. For most purposes I’m happy with durable bags that can be re-used, but for something like leaf lettuce in a supermarket a thin plastic bag seems best. We keep those thin bags, clean them, and re-use them.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 27, 2022 at 1:08 PM

  5. I love all the green! It reminds me of sea or aquarium plant…it would be a good plant for fish to hide in… probably terra critters too. 😀


    September 27, 2022 at 1:05 PM

    • All the feathery green along the path got my attention right away. I couldn’t provide any pictures of fish lurking therein, but if I spent some time in Memorial Park I’ll bet I could show some insects, spiders, or small mammals in there.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 27, 2022 at 1:12 PM

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