Poetic Praise For Pyrrhopappus

Texas’s native “dandelion” ~ Pyrrhopappus pauciflorus


The Dandelion’s pallid tube
Astonishes the Grass,
And Winter instantly becomes
An infinite Alas —
The tube uplifts a signal Bud
And then a shouting Flower, —
The Proclamation of the Suns
That sepulture is o’er.
                              ~ Emily Dickinson


Comments always are welcome.


50 thoughts on “Poetic Praise For Pyrrhopappus

  1. As a kid I always thought the dandelions put some color into the lawn. Couldn’t understand why dad wanted them out! What does a kid know about weeds?!!

    1. Well, the dandelion most people know came from Europe, and certainly does interrupt the broad sweep of a lovely (water-guzzling, herbicide-loving) lawn.

      On the other hand, this little gem is one of our prettiest spring natives. Bluebonnets, Indian paintbrush, and evening primrose get most of the love, but right now these are spreading across vacant lots and roadsides, and they’re just beautiful. Some people never notice them, because they fade early. By evening, a bright yellow field filled with them can look empty, as the flowers close.

        1. Rhubarb and dandelion wine were common when I was growing up. I wouldn’t go to the trouble to make it, but I remember it being quite tasty. Good for your mom!

        2. If you would take the time out of your day and write down how your family made Pyrrhopappus pauciflorus wine, i would be eternally grateful. Sincerely James Thiele in Texas.

          1. I don’t have many memories of the process itself, since that was a ‘big people’s job.’ I do remember that only the yellow petals were used. One of our jobs, as kids, was to pull those out and discard the rest of the flower. There’s nothing quite like a dishpan filled with dandelion petals.

            I think the hardest part today would be finding plenty of flowers that haven’t been affected by pesticides, auto exhaust, and such. Good luck with your project!

  2. My father would have had a great time with that name, as he loved to play around with words, and plant names often lent themselves to his humour. I’m sober and still I’m not going to try to pronounce it!
    Despite all this, it’s a gorgeous flower, and you’ve done it proud.

    1. This particular flower’s been featured before, since it’s a bit of an overachiever. The blooms are highly variable, and most aren’t quite as flashy as this one. I don’t think I’ve ever seen another with so many layers of petals (more precisely, ray flowers). The pauciflorus doesn’t refer to the number of ray flowers, but to the single bloom atop each stem.

      Some flowers do have amusing names, but like you, I sometimes don’t have a clue how to pronounce them. This is the internet age, of course, and there are websites devoted to precisely that issue, like this one.

    1. It’s about time you got some sunshine, don’t you think? I checked your forecast, and that 40/60 pattern isn’t bad. With temperatures like that, you should be seeing some flowers and trees budding, if they aren’t already.

      Speaking of sunny images, you would have loved being down on Galveston Island today. The prickly pear are covered with yellow blooms, there are fields full of yellow coreopsis, the yellow beach primrose is starting to bloom, and what I think were Berlandier’s sun drops were scattered around. It was a very sunny day, indeed.

      1. Boy you’re not kidding, we’ve been overdue, and everybody was outside today enjoying the sunshine. Galveston Island sounds like it’s a beautiful sight this time of year with all those yellow flowers.

  3. Emily knocks it out of the park with this one. The first flower a child gives its mother. Now, I’m a bit more on the fence than I was as a little girl but still – they mean spring is here!

    I have two of your long posts to read. It’s been crazy and I like to “settle” with them so hopefully today!

    1. I think you’re right about those early bouquets. I know that I gave violets and lily of the valley, but those were more for special occasions, like May Day, when we made and filled those little baskets. For ordinary days, dandelions would do — and best of all, no one yelled at us for picking them. Of course, picking them does little good as far as control is concerned, but at least we eliminated some of the seeds — when we weren’t blowing them all over the neighborhood.

  4. These are always so cheerful. Glad to see you promoting them to an audience that most likely knows only the Eurasian dandelion that has taken over the world. It’s the alien dandelion whose flower stalk I assume Emily Dickinson referred to as “a pallid tube.” I don’t believe our native dandelion has that kind of flower stalk.

    1. Now that you mention it, I do remember the tube-like nature of the Eurasian dandelion, and don’t recall our natives sharing that feature. I’ll have to stop and pick one tomorrow and check it out. They are cheerful, and I saw some really cheerful ones on Galveston Island today: the tallest I’ve ever seen, with really large flowers.

      In one of those “Oh, good grief” moments that come along from time to time, when I crossed the San Luis pass bridge from Galveston into Brazoria County, the roadsides were absolutely blanketed with Indian paintbrush. They stretched for miles. They’re past their prime, but it had to be spectacular when they were in full bloom. I can’t remember ever seeing them down there. Maybe all the paintbrushes that weren’t blooming in your area decided to go to the beach this year.

        1. That would do it. On February 17, there were none. Yesterday, they seemed to be a couple of weeks past their prime. So, mid-March would be a good time to at least check them out.

  5. Beautiful photo of a dandelion. Lovely crisp focus and soft colour. Makes all the difference when you’re photographing a common weed/flower. I like your Texan Dandelion much better than our common one, that’s for sure.

    1. “Texas dandelion” is just one of the common names. Another is “small-flower desert chicory.” Sometimes it has many fewer ray flowers; there’s a lot of variation. The color varies, too, but it’s always much softer than the true dandelion’s yellow. I think it’s beautiful, and always look forward to it showing up.

    1. It is, for sure. It’s one of our most dependable wildflowers, too. Even when some of the others are being persnickety and blooming late, or not at all, these just show up and smile. They certainly bring a lot of smiles.

    1. Every now and then, I wonder if a native species can take back territory from an invasive. We’ve always had a mix of the European dandelions and the Texas natives down here, but I haven’t seen more than three or four of the European this year, and the natives are thick. If they could manage to run the invaders out of town, it would be great. But whichever pops up, it is good for the flies, butterflies, and other insects who feed from them.

      Another invasive that helps out down here is trifoliate orange. Despite its downsides, it is a host for the giant swallowtail, which also draws nectar from its flowers. I’ve often seen the fruit, since nothing seems to eat it, but until this year I’d never seen the flowers. When I did, I got to see the butterflies, too.

      1. I suppose if a non-native species has some good qualities then, more or less that is a good thing. I did not realize the trifoliate orange is a non-native and that it is invasive. It does not grow in central Texas (that I am aware of) unless one obtains a plant from the nursery. I might be wrong about that- need to look it up.

        But all the other non-native ones are very invasive. The china berry and Japanese ligustrum and the large bamboo are everywhere and have choked out native shrubs and trees. I despise those plants. I have Chinaberry and the ligustrum on my property. It grows very fast and reseeds everywhere. I have huge trees of both and it would cost me a small fortune to cut them down. Cutting down does not even kill them They will sprout back up before you know it unless poison is applied. Deep cuts can be made in the trunk and sugar water poured into the cuts so that decay will eventually kill the tree. I did this with some hackberry which also came be a pest but it is native. The hackberries sprout up everywhere and they line my fence rows.

  6. These are good nectar sources–duh, of course they are!! Nice shot! You’ve capture the soft yellow beautifully. Emily did just fine, too. :)

    1. That Emily did have a way with words, didn’t she? Sometimes she’s a little beyond me, but I thought this was just perfect — as perfect as that wonderful yellow.

      Of course you’re right that the plant serves a great purpose, too. I often see little flies on them, but I can’t remember ever seeing a bee. I’ve seen plenty of bees on plants with similar structures, like the skeleton plant and basket flower, so I’m sure they come around. You should have seen the bees on the prickly pear flowers today — they were having a good time!

      1. You know, I don’t think I’ve seen bees on that particular flower, either. Just little bitty pollinators like flies and maybe the tiny native bees. I love to see bees go to town on flowers rich in pollen–it’s quite the frenzied show, isn’t it?

        1. I watched a bee burrow into a prickly pear flowers yesterday, and laughed at the antics. That bee was absolutely quivering with pleasure — as well as vibrating pollen off, I suppose. I couldn’t tell. The only thing visible was its little rear end.

    1. They certainly do catch the eye, even if there only are a few of them. The yellow can be almost citron-like, which seems to reflect the light back differently. They’re really delightful little things — I’m glad you found this one appealing.

  7. Have you seen the TedTalk about the research on dandelion root and its cancer-fighting qualities? I think it’s called Nature the Best Chemist…
    I was about to leave for Poza Honda but it’s raining, and a side-distraction just happened with the family, so perhaps i’ll have one more day of internet (late tonight. if so, yippee for internet!)

    1. I hadn’t heard about dandelion as a cancer fighter, but I grew up when it commonly was brewed as a tea to help cure “what ails you.” What the ailments were, I’m not sure, but I do remember some folk wisdom about the leaves being a good way to deal with small cuts and scrapes.

      In our family, they were made into wine from time to time. I suppose that might have been good for whatever ailed them, too.

  8. What a pretty little flower! And what a timely post, Linda. I looked at our lawn yesterday and it was green; today, it’s dotted with yellow. Seems they really did spring up overnight!

    1. Isn’t it funny how quickly they can appear? Obviously, they’re just lurking about, waiting for a little sunshine and warmth to bring on their flowering. There’s an analogy with people there that’s just too obvious for words; the warmth of an occasional smile or kind word can bring on human flowering, too — a point that you often make yourself.

  9. Most all the dandelions in the yards hereabouts are the imported variety of the tenacious taproot. Now and again, I’ll spot pyrrhopappus in an alley or vacant lot.

    1. That tenacious taproot’s the reason those long, narrow-bladed dandelion diggers sell so well. You can’t just pull the things out, even in fairly loose soil. But as you noted, the so-called false dandelion’s remarkably unpicky. It’s one of those that seems a natural poster child for “bloom where you are planted” — even if the planting’s done solely by the wind.

  10. It’s great to see this Texas dandelion up-close with a top-down perspective. I also like using this perspective because of the symmetry and pleasing design.

    1. With this particular flower, there was no reasonable way to do anything but shoot straight down, Maria. Many of these have fewer ray flowers, and while they’re pretty, they don’t have the lush appearance of this one. It almost reminds me of a chrysanthemum, or one of the larger varieties of marigold.

    1. For whatever reason — perhaps because of the alliteration — this is a name I can remember. It has an almost British kind of elegance, don’t you think? “P. Pauciflorus” sounds as though he might be a member of the aristocracy, or at least a hanger-on!

    1. Thanks, Tom. They’re everywhere now. I’ve decided many people don’t know about them because the flowers don’t open fully until after most people have gone to work or to school, and by the time everyone comes home, they’ve closed up so tightly you’d never know they were there. Their best show is for those of us who get to roam around at 10 a.m.

  11. If you would take the time out of your day and write down how your family made Pyrrhopappus pauciflorus wine, i would be eternally grateful. Sincerely James Thiele in Texas.

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