Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘bracts

Beyond its accustomed time

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Indian paintbrush (Castilleja indivisa) is an early-spring wildflower in central Texas. Individual plants don’t always know that, as evidenced by today’s portrait from June 14th along Capital of Texas Highway. In case you’re not familiar with paintbrushes of the floral kind, let me point out that the bright red elements are not petals but bracts, which is to say modified leaves. The actual flowers in this genus are pale and small, and therefore inconspicuous.

As with other recent pictures you’ve seen here, this one shows the effects of a ring flash and a small aperture (f/18), one consequence of which is the darker-than-life sky color.


Did you hear about the appropriately named Zaila Avant-garde, who was indeed the avant-garde, i.e. winner, in this year’s Scripps National Spelling Bee? In the linked video she describes being interested in getting an education as a gate-opener. Good for her for saying so!

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 12, 2021 at 4:38 AM

Looking down

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The portrait you recently saw of a bluebonnet looked up at its subject. On the same February 29th outing along the Capital of Texas Highway by the Arboretum I looked almost straight down at an Indian paintrush, Castilleja indivisa. The red elements are all bracts, not petals; the actual flowers are small and inconspicuous.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 5, 2020 at 4:57 PM


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Snow-on-the-Mountain Inflorescence from Above 7046

Most of the prominent brightness in yesterday’s photograph came from the white-margined (marginata) bracts of Euphorbia marginata, a species known on account of that whiteness as snow-on-the-mountain. As I understand it, the five-segmented white collars aren’t technically part of the plant’s flowers, nor are the smaller five-segmented dull-green collars within the white ones. Only the nondescript little elements at the heart of those concentric rings comprise the flowers. Geyata Ajilvsgi notes that there are “30–35 male flowers and one female flower congested in [each] small, cuplike structure.” If that works for snow-on-the-mountain—and it clearly does—then who are we to knock it?

This downward-looking view comes from August 29th along US 183 in Cedar Park, a rapidly growing suburb just to the north of Austin.

© 2016 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 1, 2016 at 4:59 AM

Snow in Texas in August

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Snow-on-the-Mountain Flowers and Bracts by Pond 7661

Okay, so afternoon temperatures are still in the 90s (30s C), but by the week before last the snow-on-the-mountain plants (Euphorbia marginata) in central Texas had already begun flowering. I photographed the ones shown here alongside a pond in the town of Cedar Park yesterday. All the attractive white comes from bracts; the inconspicuous flowers are much too small to see unless you get a lot closer.

© 2016 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 31, 2016 at 4:53 AM

Snow-on-the-prairie not on the prairie

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Snow-on-the-Prairie Flowering 5091

All right, so the Blunn Creek Preserve in south Austin isn’t a prairie, but there on September 14th I found this happily flowering snow-on-the-prairie, Euphorbia bicolor. You don’t have to speak Latin to recognize that the two colors the bicolor refers to are green and white.

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 27, 2015 at 4:48 AM

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