Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘sunflowers

Sunflower yellow

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Helianthus annuus; August 22; northeast quadrant of Mopac and US 183.
More of these sunflowers persisted through August, and
now into September, than I remember seeing in any previous year.

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“When schoolchildren start paying union dues,
that’s when I’ll start representing the interests of schoolchildren.”
— Albert Shanker (1928–1997), long-time head of the United Federation of Teachers.
His remarkably honest statement goes a long way toward explaining why
American public schools do such a poor job educating students.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 5, 2021 at 4:31 AM

Two kinds of sunflowers in one morning

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I’ve never seen as many “common” sunflowers (Helianthus annuus) still flowering at the beginning of August as I have this year. Maybe it’s a consequence of the sustained freeze we endured back in February. Whatever the reason, as I drive around town now groups of those sunflowers seem to be everywhere. The picture above shows one flower head at a pond on Kulmbacher Dr. in far north Austin on the morning of July 31st. A little earlier that day I’d seen my first Maximilian sunflowers (Helianthus maximiliani) of the year at the corner of FM 1325 and Shoreline Drive, as shown below. Those typically fall-blooming sunflowers are a sign that despite the lingering of the common sunflowers botanical autumn is at hand.

In 1597, herbalist John Gerard commented: “The Indian Sun or golden floure of Peru is a plant of such stature and talnesse that in one Sommer being sowne of a seede in Aprill, it hath risen up to… fourteene foot in my garden, one floure was in weight three pound and two ounces, and crosse overthwart the floure by measure sixteene inches broad.”

From the Lewis and Clark expedition in 1805 we have this: “Along the bottoms, which have a covering of high grass, we observe the sunflower blooming in great abundance. The Indians of the Missouri, and more especially those who do not cultivate maize, make great use of the seed of this plant for bread or in thickening their soup. They first parch and then pound it between two stones until it is reduced to a fine meal. Sometimes they add a portion of water, and drink it thus diluted: at other times they add a sufficient proportion of marrow grease to reduce it to the consistency of common dough and eat it in that manner. This last composition we preferred to all the rest, and thought it at that time a very palatable dish.”

And in the 1899 book The English Flower Garden, W. Robinson wrote: “It is true that not a few of this genus [Helianthus] are coarse and weedy… All the larger kinds are noble plants.” For me they’re all noble plants.

(I’ve interrupted the Portraits from Our Yard series for one day and will do so again periodically to keep you up to date with current botanical developments.)

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 2, 2021 at 4:29 AM

Yellow to the max

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How could I go through the fall and not let you feast your eyes on some more Maximilian sunflowers (Helianthus maximiliani)? I took the first two pictures along McKinney Falls Parkway in southeast Austin on October 10th. The light-gray band across the upper part of the photograph above was morning fog, which I rarely get to see in my part of the world (maybe ’cause I don’t go out early enough or to the right places).

And how could I not include at least one picture of Maximilian sunflowers with a clear blue sky? The one below is from October 6th on the Blackland Prairie in northeast Austin.

As an unrelated quotation for today, here’s a “decalogue of canons for observation in practical life” that Thomas Jefferson put forth in 1825, the year before his death.

      1. Never put off till tomorrow what you can do to-day.
      2. Never trouble another for what you can do yourself.
      3. Never spend your money before you have it.
      4. Never buy what you do not want, because it is cheap; it will be dear to you.
      5. Pride costs us more than hunger, thirst and cold.
      6. We never repent of having eaten too little.
      7. Nothing is troublesome that we do willingly.
      8. How much pain have cost us the evils which have never happened!
      9. Take things always by their smooth handle.
      10. When angry, count ten, before you speak; if very angry, an hundred.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 18, 2020 at 4:36 AM

What will fall call forth?

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One of central Texas’s answers to the title question is Maximilian sunflowers, Helianthus maximiliani.
All these pictures are from the morning of September 25th along Orleans Dr.*

Like people, individual Maximilian sunflower flower heads can vary a lot,
so here’s another one in the same colony for comparison:

* Orleans Dr. is a neighborhood street without a neighborhood. That southeast Austin street and adjacent ones were once lined with houses, but nearby Onion Creek has flooded often enough to make living there untenable. A few years ago the city government bought out the homeowners and had the houses torn down. Google has only partly caught up to that reality. Here’s a correctly houseless view showing where I photographed the Maximilian sunflowers. At the same time, here’s a view that incorrectly shows houses that are now ghosts.

And let that be a lead-in to a quotation for today: “Are we not Spirits, that are shaped into a body, into an Appearance; and that fade away again into air and Invisibility? Oh, Heaven, it is mysterious, it is awful to consider that we not only carry a future Ghost within us; but are, in very deed, Ghosts! These Limbs, whence had we them; this stormy Force; this life-blood with its burning Passion? They are dust and shadow; a Shadow-system gathered round our Me; wherein, through some moments or years, the Divine Essence is to be revealed in the Flesh.” — Thomas Carlyle, Sartor Resartus.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman


Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 2, 2020 at 4:22 AM

Above and beyond the call

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Above and beyond the call of yellow put forth in the lower foreground by camphorweed (Heterotheca subaxillaris), you’ll find leanings and standings of Maximilian sunflowers (Helianthus maximiliani). Reaching in from the bottom left are some branches of paloverde (Parkinsonia aculeata).

This fall prairie display graced an undeveloped property along Joe Barbee Dr. in far north Austin on October 12th. I occasionally saw other Maximilian sunflowers around Austin through November. Just two days ago I found a few in the northern suburb of Cedar Park; while the bit of snow we’d had left their ray flowers bedraggled, the plants still stood erect.

© 2017 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 11, 2017 at 5:28 PM

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

Sunflowers started coming out early this year

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Sunflower Flower Head in Colony 6062

Sunflowers (Helianthus annuus) started coming out in April this year, but I didn’t spend any time with a group of them till May 29th. The colony shown here on that date was in the same place on the west side of Capital of Texas Highway that I’d found it the year before, adjacent to a seasonal stand selling peaches from Fredericksburg.

Sunflowers are always so cheery.

© 2016 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 25, 2016 at 5:00 AM

First Maximilian sunflowers of the season

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Maximilian Sunflower Flower Heads 4940

Since July I’d been seeing occasional Maximilian sunflower plants, Helianthus maximiliani, but September 5th was the first time this year that I noticed any flowering. The location of this floral epiphany was the land around one of the ponds near the Costco in Cedar Park.

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 9, 2015 at 5:37 AM

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