Portraits of Wildflowers

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Archive for the ‘buds’ Category

Prairie agalinis in front of Texas lantana

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Prairie Agalinis Flower by Lantana Flowers 5062

After a far and then a somewhat nearer look last time at prairie agalinis, Agalinis heterophylla, here’s an even closer look at a flower of that species. Note its speckled throat and the fringe of tiny hairs on its petals. This time there are no partridge peas in the background but instead a flowering Texas lantana, Lantana urticoides. Today’s view is from September 14th in the Blunn Creek Preserve in south Austin.

Two weeks ago I learned that botanists have moved the genus Agalinis from the figwort family, Scrophulariaceae, into a family with a scientific name I don’t remember having heard of, Orobanchaceae, known as the broomrape family. Live and learn (and if you’re in the world of botany, relearn and relearn and relearn…).

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 3, 2015 at 4:50 AM

An earlier and moodier globe

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Following the previous post about buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis), here’s what one of its flower globes looks like in its formative stage. This globe was on the same buttonbush—which really is a bush, and often grows taller than a person—as the fully flowering one shown yesterday. It was overshadowed (not figuratively, as we usually use the word, but literally) when the sun briefly went behind a cloud; I aimed horizontally at nearby foliage, and the resulting photograph has quite a different feel and tonality from the image of the side-lit, fully flowering globe shown last time.

Speaking of equivalents, a term I appropriated from Alfred Stieglitz for my own purposes: the way the buds are packed around the surface of this buttonbush sphere reminds me of the way the buds of green lily (Schoenocaulon texanum) fit into that plant’s differently shaped surface, which we might describe as a gradually tapering cylinder.

(Visit the USDA website for more information about Cephalanthus occidentalis, including a clickable map showing the locations where the species grows; that turns out to be more than the whole eastern half of the U.S.)

© 2011 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 10, 2011 at 5:41 AM

Red yucca

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Buds of red yuca, Hesperaloe parviflora; click to enlarge.

Fleecy clouds last week pulled me to Mount Bonnell, a high place above the Colorado River with a vista downward onto a swathe of west Austin and upward into the unobstructed sky. Along the path I found some budding red yucca, Hesperaloe parviflora, a species that is native farther west in Texas but that has been so widely planted as an ornamental that it now occasionally grows in Travis County on its own. As is my wont, I lay on the ground so I could look up at the red yucca (which isn’t a yucca, but a member of the century-plant family) and position it against the sympathetic sky: background, background, background.

© 2011 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 19, 2011 at 6:00 AM

Camphorweed Lights the Way

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Opening bud of camphorweed, Heterotheca subaxillaris.

Although most of the structures of Austin’s former Mueller Airport have been demolished as part of the redevelopment of the site, one thing that remains is the old air traffic control tower. Those of you who don’t remember it or have never seen it can have a look at some photographs posted by the Austin American-Statesman. Then tell me if you don’t find today’s “towering” camphorweed bud, all one inch of it, a better emblem of the site. I even give you leave to see it as a resinous torch tipped with yellow flames guiding the way.

As yesterday’s post mentioned, Heterotheca subaxillaris is commonly called camphorweed because of its distinctive odor. That scent is conveyed by the sticky resin that most parts of the plant exude in tiny drops; you can see dozens of those droplets on the green bracts and stem shown here. As I wished yesterday that you could smell the plant, I wish today that you could feel its stickiness on your fingers.

© 2011 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 10, 2011 at 10:09 AM

Camphorweed bud and flower

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Bud and flower head of camphorweed, Heterotheca subaxillaris.

The Texas thistles are mostly faded now, but in spite of the drought other flowers have come into their own. Yesterday I went back to Austin’s old Mueller Airport, which ceased functioning as such in 1999 and began to get redeveloped in around 2004. Since the last plane landed there twelve years ago, multiple times that number of native plant species have returned. One that was prominent on yesterday’s visit was Heterotheca subaxillaris, commonly called camphorweed.

To give you a sense of scale, the bud at the top of the picture that’s beginning to open is perhaps a third of an inch (roughly one centimeter) across. If you take a close look at that bud, you’ll see one characteristic that sets camphorweed apart from many of its relatives in the DYC clan (that’s the exasperated acronym for “darn yellow composites,” a reference to all those yellow daisy-type flowers that can be hard to distinguish): each of the pointy bracts that surround the base of the bud is outlined in dark red.

And now I have a deep metaphysical question for you: when does a bud cease to be a bud and begin to be a flower? I can’t answer that, but I can tell you that the object in the lower portion of the photograph is no longer a bud; it’s still a flower (in the conventional sense of the word), but it’s fading. Its rays are conspicuously curled up, and its disk is beginning to dry out.

Regardless of the stage of flowerness of the plant, another distinctive characteristic of this species, and the one for which it was named, is the pleasant camphor scent imparted to the fingers of anyone touching the plant. I wish I could send that to you over the Internet, but this time technology fails me.

© 2011 Steven Schwartzman

(You can visit the USDA website for more information about Heterotheca subaxillaris, including a clickable map showing the many states where the species grows.)

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 9, 2011 at 10:18 AM

Texas thistle opening

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Opening of a Texas thistle bud; click to enlarge.

And now, after interrupting the flow of this column yesterday, I’d like to go back to the bud of a Texas thistle, Cirsium texanum, and in particular to a close-up of the way one looks when the first few disk flowers begin to poke their way out. You can compare it to a baby bird hatching out of its shell if you like, but I’m reminded of a solar flare, and the yellow background of Engelmann daisies lends itself to that sunny metaphor, even if the “flare” itself is pink. This picture, like those in the last two posts, comes from my visit to the old Union Hill Cemetery in Williamson County on May 4, 2010.

© 2011 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 5, 2011 at 4:39 PM

Texas thistle bud beginning to open

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One of the joys of the Texas thistle is an early glimpse of its tightly packed flowers when a bud begins to open.

© 2011 Steven Schwartzman

(For more information about the Texas thistle, including a clickable map showing where it grows, you can visit the USDA website.)

Prairie redux

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Sunflower Colony 4955

“I haven’t been back to any of the three bluebell colonies I recently found on the prairie in northeast Austin….” So saying, I headed back to the prairie, where the bluebells have begun to go to seed. But the sunflowers (Helianthus annuus) just keep on coming in the heat: new buds and flowers mix with the rayless dark disks of predecessors that they will follow soon enough. There’s a wild energy in the randomness of a large colony, with parts of plants going every which way. How to capture that in a rectangle? Here’s one attempt.

© 2011 Steven Schwartzman, for whom the ray folded down onto the disk of the large sunflower at the left makes the picture.

– – – –

P.S. In a bit of botanical-literary synesthesia brought on by the word ray, I hope you won’t mind if I cite the famous poem by Byron:

She walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that ‘s best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes:
Thus mellow’d to that tender light
Which heaven to gaudy day denies.
One shade the more, one ray the less,
Had half impair’d the nameless grace
Which waves in every raven tress,
Or softly lightens o’er her face;
Where thoughts serenely sweet express
How pure, how dear their dwelling-place.

And on that cheek, and o’er that brow,
So soft, so calm, yet eloquent,
The smiles that win, the tints that glow,
But tell of days in goodness spent,
A mind at peace with all below,
A heart whose love is innocent!

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 25, 2011 at 7:49 AM

Bluebell bud opening into a flower

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Unfolding of a bluebell bud, Eustoma exaltatum

I haven’t been back to any of the three bluebell colonies I recently found on the prairie in northeast Austin, but I’ll take you back to something I saw when I visited the third of them. As the bud shown here began unfolding, it revealed a portion of the flower’s bright yellow, fuzzy-looking, two-lobed stigma. The two patches of orange below it are anthers. Each of the five elongated purple tubes surrounding and towering over the yellow and the orange would soon unfurl into a broad petal. For an earlier stage in the process, see last week’s photograph of a bluebell bud; for a later stage, see the recently posted photograph of fully open flowers.

© 2011 Steven Schwartzman

(The website of The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center has more information about bluebells, also called bluebell gentians and prairie gentians.)

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 24, 2011 at 6:50 AM

More about bluebells

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Bluebells, Eustoma exaltatum.

So I’m bouncing around between bluebells and mountain pinks, with bluebells again this morning. Here’s how they look from above, where you can see their “good mouths”—that’s what Eustoma means—wide open. Today marks three years to the day since I took this picture on the prairie in northeast Austin.

© 2011 Steven Schwartzman

(The website of The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center has more information about bluebells, also called bluebell gentians and prairie gentians.)

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 20, 2011 at 7:03 AM

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