Portraits of Wildflowers

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Two takes on buttonbush

with 48 comments

Here are two takes on buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis)
at Brushy Creek Lake Park in Cedar Park on August 29th.
Will the curving leaf tip below hook you the way it did me?

© 2019 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 21, 2019 at 4:41 AM

A buttonbush flower globe

with 25 comments

It’s been a long time since I showed you a buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis) flower globe, so here’s one from the edge of Bull Creek on 7/25. Throw in the 24 hours that made up that day, and you’ve got a 7-24-25 right triangle: 7 x 7 + 24 x 24 = 25 x 25. The arithmetic smells as fragrant as these flowers (and Google once again thinks that’s a unique statement).

© 2017 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 26, 2017 at 4:55 AM

A closer look at a buttonbush seed core, with remnants of visitors

with 4 comments

Click for better sharpness.

And here’s a closer view of a spent seed core from a buttonbush, Cephalanthus occidentalis. Notice the spiderwebs and what appears to my uninformed eyes to be an insect exoskeleton with one of its ends embedded in the seed core. This time the blue in the background is the sky, not the water that appeared in the moth-enhanced photograph from last year that you saw two posts ago. That’s because the creek along which this buttonbush was growing at the Doeskin Ranch in Burnet County had dried up by August 31st of this year, the day when I visited and aimed from below to take this picture.

For those of you who are interested in photography as a craft, points 1, 3, 5, 8, and 16 in About My Techniques are relevant to this photograph.

© 2012 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 6, 2012 at 5:59 AM

What happens to buttonbush globes

with 9 comments

Click for greater sharpness.

Yesterday you saw a picture of a buttonbush, Cephalanthus occidentalis, getting a visit from a colorful moth. Now it’s time to show you that after the plant’s creamy white, wonderfully fragrant flower globes go to seed and begin drying out, they take on a rich color. Who could have predicted that the residual seed cores would turn red? Not I, but that’s what happens. (It’s also common, but not so pretty, for the bush’s leaves to develop the type of brown patches you see here.) This photograph is from August 31, 2011, at Brushy Creek Lake Park in the Austin suburb of Cedar Park.

Buttonbush grows over large parts of North America, as you can confirm on the state-clickable map at the USDA website.

© 2012 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 5, 2012 at 6:03 AM

Damselfly on western ironweed

with 87 comments

I’ve always found western ironweed (Vernonia baldwinii) hard to photograph. Not so this dameslfly on the buds thereof along Bull Creek on July 1st. In looking at John Abbott’s book Damselflies of Texas, I figured this damselfly was in the genus Hetaerina but I wasn’t sure about the species. Yesterday on bugguide.net entomologist T. Hedlund identified the species as Hetaerina americana, known as the American rubyspot. The one I photographed seems to have been a female.

UPDATE: from a different frame I’ve added a closeup showing the details in one segment of the abdomen and a part of the wing. Till now I hadn’t paid attention to the transverse black markings on the iridescent blue.

American Rubyspot Damselfly on Western Ironweed Buds by Buttonbush Flower Globe 1831 Detail

Unrelated thought for today: “Progress, far from consisting in change, depends on retentiveness. When change is absolute there remains no being to improve and no direction is set for possible improvement: and when experience is not retained, as among savages, infancy is perpetual. Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” — George Santayana in The Life of Reason: The Phases of Human Progress. The last sentence is famous but often gets misquoted. Much worse, many people refuse to learn that lesson.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 28, 2020 at 4:40 AM

From 2013

with 50 comments

Buttonbush Flower Globe Along Bull Creek 7255

On June 27, 2013, I photographed this flower head of a buttonbush, Cephalanthus occidentalis, in Bull Creek Park.

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 8, 2015 at 5:17 AM

A fourth year of search engine fun

with 47 comments

My three previous New Year’s Day posts presented curious search-engine strings that brought people to Portraits of Wildflowers in the preceding year. Here’s the latest installment in that January 1 tradition. Indented under each search string is my response to it.

I invite you to follow at least some of the 30 links to posts, the majority of which many of you won’t have seen before. They’ll give you more than enough visual stimulation for an otherwise pictureless day here.

If any of you crave above-and-beyond-the-call stimulation, you’re welcome to look back at the corresponding search-engine posts from New Year’s Day in 2012, 2013, and 2014.


bubttonbush or similar

It seems that search engines have lost none of their prowess in deciphering misspellings. In this case the searcher was after a buttonbush.

purple flower that looks like a pinnample

That led to a post about eryngo, which looks like a small purple pineapple, if not a pinnample.

texas wild flowers old mans bread

Old men, even bearded ones, don’t live by bread alone.

pretty poison meanung

That query led to a post called “Pretty poison, differently grown and differently hued,” but I doubt it had much meanung for the searcher.

bindvee purple flower pictures

That took the searcher to purple bindweed.

najvaho wld flowers

Now that’s a novel (but confused) spelling of Navajo. The search led to the wildflower colloquially called Navajo tea.

whine rock letus

Make that white rock lettuce, and let us not whine about it.

land bur imsge

I have no idea what this person intended with “land bur,” but the search engine led to an image that included some buffalo bur plants as a minor element in a landscape.

how does frostweed get the icecycles?

It rides wintry bicycles.

homeless man falls to death austin tx march 27 2014

By a strange coincidence, that led to my post from March 27, 2014, entitled Do the homeless appreciate wildflowers?

vines in mallorca purple flower

In the summer of 1985 I spent three weeks on the island of Mallorca. Is that enough of a connection to Mallorca for the search engine to have brought someone to my blog about nature in Texas almost three decades later?

gallus est divisio in tres partes

The literal translation of this bad Latin is: “The rooster is division into three parts.” I’d used the correct Latin quotation as the title of a post about a gall in an oak tree.

sex mania
sex maniya

This search string has come up multiple times every year, but only in 2014 with the maniya spelling. The post that the search engine led the undoubtedly let-down men (I assume) to shows a wildflower called zexmenia, which native plantophiles jokingly call sex mania.

scientific name of sexmania

Mania sexualis.

native plant vexmania

That’s a new variant this year, but I don’t feel maniacally vexed by it.

bill flower

I’ve got a billfold and birds have bills, but while I’ve posted pictures of flowers and birds’ bills, I’ve never used the word billflower. I have, however, shown a wildflower called stork’s bill.

yoon sung hyun

Turns out Yoon Sang-Hyun ia a Korean singer, but why a search engine would have routed someone looking for that singer to my blog is an inscrutable mystery of the Far East.

honduras so am flowers and fauna

At first I read so am as if it were the English words so and am, but then I realized the searcher meant South America. The only problem is that Honduras isn’t in South America. That reminds me of the story, perhaps apocryphal, of the guy who applied to the Peace Corps. Eventually he got a letter of acceptance that indicated his group would be sent to Honduras. “That’s great,” said the guy, “I’ve always wanted to go to Africa.”

how to plant four four nerve daisies

It might be simpler to plant one sixteen-nerve daisy.

what grass has purple zebra head

Beats me: I don’t even understand the question.

if you saw a flower with no petals would it still be a flower

If a tree falls in a forest and there’s no one around, does it still make a sound?

kool aid tree, image

I guess that would be a Texas mountain laurel.



spiderwort doesnt flower

Oh yes it does!

wildflowers don’t have buds

Oh yes they do!

purple wildflowers of western new york

Central Texas, western New York: we’re all one big happy family, right?

fascination deformed flower

Make that fasciation.

what is the fascination with robert plant.

I don’t know, but the searcher was taken to a post about a fasciated plant.

snow on a mountain flower

That led not to a picture of snow on a flower in the mountains but to snow-on-the-mountain flowers.

free to use photo buckeye butterfly

The search engine may think my picture of a buckeye butterfly is free for other people to use, but I beg to differ.

engelmannia peristenia ice cream plant

No, the Engelmann daisy doesn’t secrete ice cream nor does it look like any kind of ice cream I’ve ever seen. Apparently cows and other livestock find this species so tasty that people have referred to it as an ice cream plant, based on the human liking for ice cream.

in the month of may, where can i go in the texas hill country to view photographs about life in america for latinos?

Beats me.

texas thistle cirsium botanical art

Hooray! The search engine found that my picture of a Texas thistle is art.

predilected flower

That led to a post entitled Predilections, which mentioned the tendency in the Engelmann daisy of the ray flowers to curl under.

rattan fryit

You go ahead and fry it, but I think the rattan vine, being woody, is too tough for me to eat.

sad miss youpichers

I guess the searcher was looking for “pichers” (pictures) to illustrate the theme “I’m sad and I miss you,” but none of my posts that had been accessed that morning matched that theme.

luke middleton dewlap

Is Luke Middleton an anole?

vulture on tree ligying

I’ve seen and even photographed vultures on trees, but none of them were ligying. I guess vultures don’t like to ligy. I’ll bet most of you don’t like to ligy either.

what are 30 different kind of wild flowers in texas

We have to wonder why the searcher wanted 30. There are hundreds of native species of wildflowers in Texas.

 лишайники на деревьях москва

The Russian translates as “lichens on trees Moscow.” I’ve showed lichens on trees in Austin, but as far as I know, even though Russia annexed Crimea in 2014, it still hasn’t taken over Texas.

funnel of death

That certainly sounds ominous. I have no idea what the searcher was after, but one of my posts offered up a spider in a funnel web, which is death for insects that come too close.

+identify bardness of the hair

Even if you grant that h is close to b on the keyboard, it’s hard to know if the person was really looking for “hardness of the hair.” Or maybe an East Asian was looking for “baldness of the hair.” In any case, I write some verses from time to time, so I guess my bardness is intact.

the buds begin to open

Which buds? Any old buds? Couldn’t you be a little more specific?

firewheel fun facts

The post that this led to mentioned that while photographing a firewheel I got my first two fire ant bites of the year. Was that supposed to be a fun fact?

rare goldfish breeds

The word goldfish has never appeared in any of my posts, nor would it be likely to, because goldfish are native to Asia, not Texas.

austin’s butterfly

Gee, I thought we have more than one butterfly in Austin.

blue eyed grass not doing well

But the picture that the seeker was led to shows blue-eyed grass thriving.

blubonnet photos by richard reynolds

Richard Reynolds is an excellent nature photographer, and he’s photographed bluebonnets, but this isn’t his blog.

can i see a picture of a cactus flower with yellow blue bonnet

I’ve often thought bluebonnet flowers look purple, but that’s a far cry from yellow.

how many brown eyed susans flowers are there in georgia

You expect someone to have gone out and counted them?

word sort of rainbow

Did the person mean a weird sort of rainbow? I have no idea, but the search led to a different sort of rainbow.

where canibuymexicanwildtophatflower

I don’t know, but the next time Walmart has a sale on spaces, I hope you stock up on a bunch so you can separate your words properly.

what kind of flower or plant leaves a skeleton like cockus


portraiys of white squirrels

Yes, I did “portraiy” a white squirrel.

downy guara daves

How about downy gaura Steve’s?

scwartzman the photographer
steve scwartzmman, photo

That which we call a photographer, by any other spelling would be as good.

photography blog of austin steven

Maybe this person didn’t know how to spell my last name. In any case, when I tried that search string with Google on the morning of December 10, the day it appeared, my blog was the seventh hit. Yay, me!

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman in Austin

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 1, 2015 at 1:35 AM


with 26 comments

Texas Thistle with Spherical Flower Head 8985

Speaking of plants with globose flower heads like buttonbush and sensitive-briar, here’s yet another: Cirsium texanum, the Texas thistle. You saw an opening bud of this species in June, so I’d be remiss if I didn’t show you this follow-up picture of a follow-up stage. Note that a Texas thistle has only disk flowers; there are no ray flowers.

Today’s photograph comes from the same May 28th session as last time on Burnet Rd. near the old Merrilltown Cemetery in far north Austin.

© 2014 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 17, 2014 at 6:05 AM

Cephalanthus occidentalis

with 29 comments

Buttonbush Flower Globe 6174

As you heard last time, I got more than a hundred chigger bites from my outing on June 27th. That affliction put me into prudent mode and I ended up not returning to nature for a week and half, by which time the bites had stopped itching and were mostly gone. On July 7th I ventured back out and spent some time along Bull Creek in my northwest part of Austin. One of the results was this chiaroscuro photograph showing a flower globe on a buttonbush, Cephalanthus occidentalis. These flower globes, by the way, are quite fragrant, so if you’re in one of the many areas in the United States or Canada where buttonbushes grow, make sure you stop and smell the buttons.

© 2014 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 10, 2014 at 5:50 AM

A moth that keeps to the straight and narrow

with 40 comments

Those of you who have been following this column since its early days may recall the Yin-Yang, celestial orb picture of a buttonbush flower head, Cephalanthus occidentalis, from early August of 2011. This bush (or even small tree) thrives near water, so it’s no surprise that I found one on September 5 of that year when I visited Twin Lakes Park in the town of Cedar Park, a rapidly growing suburb adjacent to the northern boundary of Austin. Not only did I find flowers, and below them buds, but on the already open flowers I found an Ailanthus webworm moth, Atteva aurea. Because of its elongated shape, colorfully patterned body, and often diurnal wanderings, the moth surprises some people by being, in fact, a moth.

© 2012 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 4, 2012 at 6:03 AM

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