Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘weird

Flourishing fasciation

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The heavily fasciated tall gayfeather (Liatris aspera) that we saw in Bastrop was only budding on August 23rd, so back we went on September 6th to find out what the flowers would look like once they emerged on this distorted plant. Even after two more weeks of development, the flowers were just barely beginning to come out, so I figured we might have to wait a week or two longer and make the 95-mile round trip yet again. Fortunately, as we began heading home we spotted another fasciated specimen about a mile away, and it was fully flowering. In the picture above, the flower stalk in the distance lets you compare a normal specimen to the fasciated one in the foreground. The picture below gives you a closer look at the heart of the strangeness.

For more information about fasciation, you can read this article or this other one. The phenomenon could even serve as a reminder of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s iconoclastic statement in “Self-Reliance“:

“Whoso would be a man, must be a nonconformist.”

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 19, 2020 at 4:41 AM

Carstopper

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While driving on Park Road 1C in Bastrop County on August 23rd I spied a plant standing right at the edge of the pavement that was so unusual it made me pull over as soon as I could. It turned out to be the same Liatris aspera, known as tall gayfeather and tall blazing-star, that you recently saw here (do have a look back at the second picture in that post for comparison), but fasciation had greatly distorted the upper part of this budding specimen. The closer view below, which shows the plant rotated about 90° from its orientation when I took the first picture, reveals details of the super-duper wide flattened stalk, along with other irregularities. Call it strange and you’ll get no argument from me.

I chose to post these pictures today to coincide with Wonderful Weirdos Day, even if the creators of that celebration, being people, had their own kind in mind. All I can say is fasciated plants are my kind of people.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 9, 2020 at 4:40 AM

One strange Mexican hat

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On July 20th near the Taylor Draper entrance to Great Hills Park I came across one strange dude of a Mexican hat (Ratibida columnifera). It had way more ray florets than a Mexican hat is supposed to have, and for once fasciation didn’t seem to account for it. Oh well, we take our weirdnesses wherever and however we find them.

I’m thankful to Dr. George Yatskievych at the University of Texas for providing an explanation: “Replacement of flowers is a bit different process [than fasciation].  Each meristematic cell on the receptacle produces a set of cells with the potentiality to become either a ray or disc floret.  Regulatory developmental genes in more than one gene family determine the outcome of the differentiation…. This accounts for ‘rayless’ mutants, as well as heads in which part of the disc has become replaced with rays.  This includes so-called ‘doubled’ heads in groups like zinnias and dahlias that have extra cycles of rays toward the periphery of the disc, as well as odder mutants with rays appearing in an atypical locations, such as the center of a disc.  In some cases, this switch to a different floral morphology is caused by something that disrupts normal development of the head (such as insects or micro-organisms), but in other cases there is a genetic mutation (in which case the plants will tend to pass the mutation to at least part of the next generation).  One of the more interesting mutations that I have seen pops up occasionally in Gaillardia, in which the marginal florets have corollas that are enlarged, but are still basically shaped like a disc floret at their tips. The bottom line is that there can be more than one cause, but it always comes down to the expression of regulatory genes during floral development.”

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 5, 2020 at 4:45 AM

Sometimes a right angle is the right angle

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How about this curiously flexed rain-lily (Cooperia drummondii) that I found at the Doeskin Ranch on April 8th? And before anyone gets all bent out of shape by the flower in the picture not quite living up to the post’s title, yes, I realize that the angle here is a little less than 90°. I claim geometricopoetic license.

I also claim—and I think you’ll agree—that this is quite a different take on a rain-lily from the March 26th one that appeared here not so long ago.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 20, 2020 at 4:40 PM

A Mexican hat mitten

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How about a Mexican hat that looked more like a mitten? I saw this strangely forming Ratibida columnifera in Austin six years ago today. Note the spider silk in various places. The colors in the background were from an Indian blanket, Gaillardia pulchella.

© 2019 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 6, 2019 at 4:56 AM

A new oddity

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On March 10th I went back to the lot along Balcones Woods Dr. where I’d photographed the stemless evening primrose flowers you saw here not long ago. The highlight of my latest stop was a strange ten-petal anemone flower (Anemone berlandieri) that had two central fruiting columns instead of the one that’s normal.

Sometimes flower parts get doubled as part of the phenomenon called fasciation, which I’ve documented in a bunch of posts over the years, but this time I didn’t see any of the noticeable flattening or distortion or elongation that fasciation typically brings with it. To continue investigating, I returned to the site on March 16th. By then the richly colored sepals had fallen off and dried out or blown away, so I had to search for several minutes to find the plant again. While the new evidence shown below argues against fasciation, what caused the rare splitting of one seed column into two remains a mystery. (I call this conjoining rare because even a local expert like botanist Bill Carr says he’s never seen an anemone do this.)

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 19, 2019 at 4:34 AM

The Bay of Fundy

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The Bay of Fundy, which lies between New Brunswick and western Nova Scotia, is famous for having the world’s greatest difference in sea level between low tide and high tide, as much as 50 ft. With such rapid rising and falling every day, the water can get pretty muddy. That’s apparent in the first photograph, a view looking out from Hopewell Rocks, New Brunswick, a few minutes before noon on June 7. By then the fog over the land across an arm of the Bay was rapidly lifting; soon the clouds had dissipated.

The next morning, in Saint John, New Brunswick, we witnessed a strange phenomenon. People describe rivers as flowing downstream, with the down meaning literally from a higher elevation to a lower one, due to gravity. The Saint John River also flows from greater elevation to lower elevation, but as high tide approaches, the water surging in from the Bay of Fundy rises so much that the river reverses and the water temporarily flows in the direction we would normally call upstream. That’s what you see in the second photograph, where the river was flowing from the left, which is conventionally downstream, to the right, which is conventionally upstream.

Here’s a plaque that tells more about the strange and occasionally deadly phenomenon:

On a lighter note, I can’t resist saying that, photographically speaking, the Bay of Fundy makes for a bay of fun day.

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 2, 2018 at 4:33 AM

Eight minutes later

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fasciated-saguaro-with-wispy-clouds-and-ocotillo-1963

During my 2014 trip to Arizona I encountered two fasciated saguaro cacti (Carnegiea gigantea). The 2016 trip led me to just one. I found it at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum on November 7th, eight minutes after I’d photographed the copper ore you saw last time. Rising at the left are the branches of an ocotillo (Fouquieria splendens).

© 2017 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 22, 2017 at 4:49 AM

Make that three junipers in a row

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Ashe Juniper Hanging Upside Down from Cliff 2860

It has been said, accurately or not, that when the British surrendered to the Americans at the Battle of Yorktown in 1781, the British musicians played the song “The World Turned Upside Down.” Send some of those notes out now for this poor Ashe juniper tree (Juniperus ashei), which had gotten largely uprooted but still clung to life as it hung upside down over a cliff along Bull Creek in northwest Austin. The photograph shows how things looked on July 21, two weeks after I’d first caught sight of the inverted tree. Notice how much of the juniper’s foliage remained green.

This was not my first take on upside-down-ness over Bull Creek.

© 2016 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 31, 2016 at 4:53 AM

Conjoined firewheels

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Conjoined Firewheel Flower Heads 4547

In the Balcones District Park on May 13th I found these two firewheel (Gaillardia pulchella) flower heads conjoined back to back on a single stem. The fact that the stem was somewhat flattened makes me think fasciation* was at work here. The purple in the background came from horsemints (Monarda citriodora).

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* You can pronounce the sc in fasciation as ss or sh.

© 2016 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 12, 2016 at 5:00 AM

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