My Favorite White Delight

A just-opened White Prickly Poppy

The beauty of bluebonnet and Indian paintbrush-filled fields can’t be denied, but a more widespread if less well-publicized native flower always makes me smile. The White Prickly Poppy (Argemone albiflora) blooms for weeks across wide swaths of Texas: not always in dense colonies, but equally lovely in isolated stands. I found at least a few near every stopping point on the weekend of April 9 and 10.

I once had the pleasure of watching one of these poppy buds open; it took less time than drinking my cup of coffee. While I’ve missed that sight this year, the still-crinkled flower in the first photo recalled that experience, while spreading petals of more mature blooms glowed against a background of bluebonnets and phlox.

That said, little compares to the sight of these flowers, wind-blown and delicate above their otherwise prickly buds, stems, and leaves, shining against a blue Texas sky.


Comments always are welcome.

52 thoughts on “My Favorite White Delight

  1. “….little compares to the sight of these flowers……shining against a blue Texas sky”………I would say that a Snowy Owl with the backdrop of an Ontario sky would give it a good run for its money!

    1. Given what I’ve seen of your photos of that owl, I certainly agree. Notice that I was smart enough to write “very little” compares, rather than “nothing compares”!

    1. I suspect the crinkliness is due to large petals encased in a small, hard bud. The difference between these and the smooth, swirled buds of winecups or prairie nymphs certainly is obvious. Since the petals smooth out so quickly, I’d be willing to come down on the side of ‘that’s just the way they are’ — a natural result of constriction while they develop.

    1. Isn’t it fun? Since they don’t remain crinkly, it took me a few years to realize they emerge from the bud that way. It seems to me they open early in the morning, so catching the crinkles requires early rising.

    1. Those thorns can make photographing them difficult, too. I’ve gotten too close a time or two. Beyond that, the individual flowers don’t last long, so they wouldn’t make much of a vase flower. The cost of gathering the flowers certainly is greater than the benefit, at least in that sense. They’re better seen in the wild.

  2. The petals are so delicate. They almost look like crepe or tissue paper flowers. How exciting to watch it actually open. I often see the red poppies, which I love. Rarely the white. Gorgeous.

    1. Several of us who are ‘of a certain age’ associate these flowers with crepe paper. I certainly did. Is crepe paper still a thing? At one time, crepe paper streamers were the ne plus ultra of party decorations.

      The same friend whose garden allowed me to photograph the opening prickly poppy also contains many red oriental poppies, as well as salmon and pink. As far as I know, there isn’t a red native poppy in Texas, but there is a yellow version of this one that blooms in the far western reaches of the state.

    1. I still remember the moment I finally recognized these poppies; a clump was growing alongside a highway, and after years of searching, there they were. Of course they’d been there they whole time. It was my vision that was lacking, not the flowers! Now, I see them everywhere, and rarely can resist a photo or two. I’m glad you enjoyed these.

    1. And there’s another vote for the crushed or crepe paper resemblance. I love the crinkles, and was so pleased to be able to capture them in the top photo. Of course the white is dramatic, and the relatively large size of the open blooms makes the flowers even more photogenic.

  3. I’ve always loved seeing the taller white poppies popping up from the other wildflowers, with their riotous colors. They’re a particularly elegant flower, I think. What a treat that you witnessed one’s opening up for business!

    1. I think they’re elegant, too. I laugh every time I remember my two or three years’ long search for them. Steve kept posting photos of them, and I’d think, “Why can’t I find one?” Now, I see them everywhere. It’s so interesting to me that I’ve found them along the bayshores as well as in the hill country. They’re not only elegant, they’re obviously adaptable. Not only that, the deer leave them alone!

    1. I didn’t know what a Cherokee rose might be. When I looked it up, I found it resembles our Macartney rose. Both are from Asia: non-native and invasive. When I read that Georgia declared the Cherokee rose to be their state flower, I couldn’t imagine why.

      Then I read that in 1979 the azalea became the official state wild flower (as opposed to the state flower, which remained the Cherokee rose.) In 2013, the Act was amended to specify native azaleas collectively as the state wildflower. I sense the presence of politicians, lobbyists, and interest groups battling it out behind the scenes. We had the same thing happen here. The non-native crepe myrtle was designated the state shrub; eventually, the Texas Purple Sage (Cenizo) was granted status as the state native shrub.

  4. These are lovely, Linda, despite the fact that their crepeness reminds me of a seriously OLD person’s skin! Do they really have prickles, and did you get close enough to smell them?

    1. I’ve never detected any kind of scent with these flowers, Debbie. It may be that the vibrant bundle of pollen laden stamens is enough to attract pollinators. On the other hand, I sure have detected those prickles. Every part of the plant is covered with them: leaves, stems, buds, seed pods. It may be that even the prickles have prickles! They’re as close to a deer-proof flower as there is.

    1. I’ve seen fields filled with these flowers, but I often prefer photographing individual blooms, or small groups, because of the interplay between the flowers and the background. Like you, I really enjoyed seeing this single plant in the midst of the colorful flowers.

    1. The moss roses I’m familiar with are succulents with not a prickle in sight, so I looked up your William Lobb. Even there, I couldn’t see the similarity — until I got past the color and looked at the buds. Sure enough: prickles galore. Then, I read some descriptions that mentioned the thorny stems. But I’m wondering: what do all the sites mean when they describe the buds as “mossy”?

    1. I wouldn’t have thought of that, but you’re right; I can see it now. My first thought was of crepe paper: that wrinkled staple of 1950s kid art and parties.

    1. Aren’t they pretty? Most of the flowers here that grow tall enough to provide that kind of view are yellow, like sunflowers. I do like the drama and contrast the blue background provides. The white really shines against it.

  5. Lovely photos of the Prickly Poppy . There’s a bush in our local arboretum and I saw one flower last Saturday. The flowers usually arise in the end of spring, which here is end of May….

    1. I suspect the flower you saw might have been another of the Argemone species. I see there are some native to California or nearby desert regions, like the A. corymbosa. They’re virtually indistinguishable from one another, except for differently-colored saps and other such characteristics. Every one of them is appealing; I’m glad you’ve seen one already.

    1. They really are attractive. There are plenty of smooth or ruffly flowers, like tulips or roses, but the crinkled effect of these emerging buds is a little unusual.

  6. Rumpled and crumpled, that is a lovely texture and the pure white petals are beautiful, especially against the blue Texas sky. Love the orange center. What a treat it must have been to watch the flower open while sipping your coffee.

    1. It was great fun — and a bit of a surprise that it happened so quickly. I’m learning that flowers often open more quickly than I’d expect; sitting around wait to watch the process isn’t the worst thing in the world. Another great bit of fun is finding a beetle in one of these. They’re so pollen rich that some of the insects end up covered in gold dust while they’re feeding on the petals.

  7. I managed to get some to germinate and grow in my garden last year or the year before last and figured the prickles would keep the deer away but, no. My deer ate them. *hands head sadly* I did get to enjoy some in the fields between DFW and my house last weekend. Love them so much!

    1. Obviously, you’re growing some tough deer up there! Still, fields filled with them suggest they’re far from a preferred food. I really enjoy seeing them mixed with other plants, like mustard or butterweed, but anytime I find a field of them — pretty rare, really — I just smile. I’m glad you got to enjoy them during your trip!

    1. Thank you so much! I wish I could take you on a stroll through our springtime fields. It’s just so lovely now; the heat hasn’t become oppressive, as it can be in summer, and everything is fresh and colorful. Many parts of our state need rain, but we’ve had enough to keep it a lovely season.

  8. Crepe paper is exactly what we think of when we encounter the Pricklypoppy! Gini says she has memories of starched crinolines which look similar in texture, but I’ll defer to her expertise on that one.

    Your last photograph against the sky is really something quite special!

    1. It sounds as though Gini’s crinolines might have been fabric; the ones I wore were made of netting, but they also were starched. The practice was to starch them, then prop them up on the basement floor to dry before tucking one under a poodle skirt or whatever. Casual curiosity led me to this entirely amazing article about the history of the darned things; Gini might enjoy it. Death by crinoline’s not a phrase that ever had crossed my mind.

      All that aside, I do love the poppies; it was exciting to see your yellow ones. Those would look good against a blue sky, too.

    1. They seem pretty forgiving; I’m surprised they didn’t take for you. I’ve seen some nice stands of them down around Boling-Lago, at the edge of pastures, so they don’t have to have drier or rocky conditions. On the other hand, that area may have sandy loam; hard to say.

      In any event, they’re beautiful. I never can get enough of seeing them.

  9. Prickly poppy, just the name alone is awesome. And that it opens fast enough for you to watch is also fantastic. I’d love to see that. It really pops against that blue sky.

    1. White flowers and a blue sky make for a wonderful combination, like sunflowers and blue skies. The relatively large prickly poppy flowers add to the drama; even though each flower lasts only a couple of days, the plant is happy to provide multiple blooms in sequence. I’m always happy to find them.

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