Portraits of Wildflowers

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When they signed up to be Maximilian sunflowers, did they sign up for this?

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The post’s title is the curious thought about Helianthus maximiliani that came into my head while I wandered in the northeast quadrant of Mopac and US 183 as the snow continued into the afternoon on January 10th.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 12, 2021 at 4:32 AM

Thankfully some Maximilian sunflowers are still flowering

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“Linger,” said the warm weather to the Maximilian sunflowers, and they listened. You’re looking at Helianthus maximiliani along Impact Way in Pflugerville on November 20th.

A happy dose of sunshiny yellow to you all.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 26, 2020 at 4:45 AM

A new place for Maximilian sunflowers

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On October 19th, while driving home from Central Market along W. 45th St., I glimpsed a stand of Maximilian sunflowers (Helianthus maximiliani) on the west bank of Shoal Creek. Never having noticed any of those sunflowers there in other years, I went back the next morning to see what I could do with them. Getting in there wasn’t easy, but I scampered over rocks and pushed my way through a jungle of giant ragweed that had sprung up in the mostly dry creek bed. Then I struggled up the rough slope to get to the sunflowers. The first picture shows some of them beneath a line of paloverde saplings (Parkinsonia aculeata) that had spring up at the edge of the embankment.

Maximilian sunflowers often stand tall. They often lean, too, as in the second picture. It’s also not unusual to see a stalk that has bent so far over that it ended up with its flowers near or even on the ground. That’s what you see in the third photograph. Notice the narrowleaf sumpweed (Iva angustifolia), which had formed a carpet across the plateau atop the creek’s bank, along with some asters. The sunflower stalk’s sinuosity and the redness of its lower portion got my attention.

Below you get a better look at how colorful a Maximilian sunflower stalk sometimes is.

As of today there are still some Maximilian sunflowers brightening up central Texas.  

And here’s a relevant quotation: “My heart found its home long ago in the beauty, mystery, order and disorder of the flowering earth.” — Claudia Alta Taylor Johnson (known as Lady Bird), in a letter in Native Plants magazine, Fall 2002 issue.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman


Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 13, 2020 at 4:33 AM

Maximilian sunflowers in February!

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Maximilian sunflowers (Helianthus maximiliani) are fall-blooming wildflowers—except when they decide to bloom in February. More precisely, the date was February 27th, and the place was the northeast quadrant of Mopac and US 183. In this perennial species even a plant with dead leaves was giving rise to new flowers.

In both photographs the droplets attest to a morning that had been misty and occasionally even drizzly. In fact I’d gone out hoping to photograph some fog but it had dissipated by the time I reached this site. Speaking of which, I’ve photographed Maximilian sunflowers on this plot of land in their traditional season, and I’ve also photographed common sunflowers there. It was on one of those that I took a picture of a tiny bee fly that got Freshly Pressed in just the second month of this blog way back in 2011. Maybe you’ll be freshly impressed if you take a look at it.

© 2019 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 8, 2019 at 4:33 AM

A triangular array of gorgeous Maximilian sunflowers

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October 27th was the first completely sunny day here for the past two months, so out I went that morning to photograph my first Maximilian sunflowers (Helianthus maximiliani) of the season. As I drove around on the Blackland Prairie in northeast Austin and adjacent Pflugerville and Round Rock, I ended up taking pictures at seven sites in what stretched to over five hours. In the southeast quadrant of A.W. Grimes Blvd. and Louis Henna Blvd. in Round Rock I photographed this triangular floral display:

As dazzling a display of yellow as it was, I’m sorry to tell you that these flowers were growing all by themselves at a construction site, so this was most likely the last time any Maximilian sunflowers would be there. To see the scene as it actually was and to imagine yourself in my place as I scrunched close to the ground and worked hard to isolate the flowers from all the distracting human elements around them, go ahead and click the tiny thumbnail below.

As the two photographs taken together demonstrate, there are times when even in the unlikeliest of places “pure” nature photography is still possible.

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 30, 2018 at 4:48 AM

Maximilian sunflowers in far north Austin

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On October 12th, four weeks after returning from Alberta, I finally went out onto the prairie side of Austin in search of fall wildflowers. I found them. Maximilian sunflowers (Helianthus maximiliani) seemed to be at their peak. If you could use a blast of yellow today, you’ve got it.

© 2017 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 14, 2017 at 4:51 AM

And here’s a look at those Maximilian sunflowers in their own right

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Behold some Helianthus maximiliani along the North Walnut Creek Trail on July 24th. A couple of nearby Maximilian sunflower flower heads played the role of the golden glow behind the bluebell in yesterday’s portrait. I’ll repeat what I mentioned in a comment: I’d already found some Maximilian sunflowers blossoming along this trail on June 21st, a good two months before even the earliest part of their traditional bloom period. Let me add that last year in my neighborhood I found one of these plants flowering on May 5th. Regardless of the season, Maximilian sunflowers always strike me as cheerful.

© 2017 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 26, 2017 at 4:53 AM

Maximilian sunflowers and feathery clouds

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Along State Park Road P31 south of Guadalupe River State Park on September 29th I stopped to photograph some Maximilian sunflowers (Helianthus maximiliani). The only way I could line up any of the tall plants against the array of feathery clouds overhead was to face toward the sun. Even with a lens hood on my wide-angle lens I had to hold one hand out in front of and above that lens to block the sun that was just above the frame in order to eliminate flare and polygons inside the frame. It was hit and miss, what with my left hand involuntarily moving as I held the camera in my right hand while the plant swayed back and forth in the breeze, so I took a bunch of pictures in the hope that at least a few would work well. The one shown here seems pretty good.

© 2016 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 9, 2016 at 5:00 AM

Maximilian in May!

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A Maximilian sunflower in May? Yes indeed, on May 5th in the fringe between Loop 360 and Arboretum Blvd., I found a bunch of Helianthus maximiliani plants, one of which had produced a bud that was beginning to open. For those of you who aren’t familiar with this kind of sunflower, let me explain that it normally doesn’t bloom here any earlier than late August, and primarily in September and October, so this specimen was quite a prodigy.

Maximilian Sunflower Bud Opening in May 3450

By the time of my return on May 11th, I found one flower head that had fully opened.

Maximilian Sunflower Flowering in May 4310

© Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 28, 2016 at 5:04 AM

We still had Maximilian sunflowers in mid-November.

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Maximilian Sunflowers by Paloverde 8936

I photographed these Maximilian sunflowers, Helianthus maximiliani, in the northeast quadrant of Mopac and US 183 on an overcast November 15th. The tree behind the sunflowers was a paloverde, Parkinsonia aculeata.

Similar to the way in which three spirits in a row visited Scrooge, between now and Monday I’ll have visited three yellow flower pictures upon you.


I’m away for a few days. You’re welcome to leave comments, but it may take me a while to answer.

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 21, 2015 at 4:59 AM

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