Can you name this flower?

– Posted in: Garden Photography

I got this e-mail from Margaretta Mitchell, photographer extaordinaire, who need an ID for a book she is completing and the homeowner could not remember the flower.

She had consulted books and websites and everything suggested a Scaevola but Scaevola are all blue except for a few new white cultivars  What rare new thing was this?  The color is so sumptuous I wanted to know and find it for myself.

The petal arrangement is so distinctive I began to realize that a Scaevola is what it must be, and there could be a color shift in her photo.  I have had a color shift problem when photographing certain blue flowers and have always called this the Ageratum effect where all my Ageratum photos end up as pink flowers.

This color shift might be considered a classic case where the camera always lies, but in fact, it is not the camera that lies but the human eye.  Many blue flowers have pigments in them that reflect infrared color that the human eye can not see.  Haven’t we all seen those PBS specials where flowers are photographed under special light to reveal markings and patterns that attract birds and butterflys?

I tested my theory by bringing Gretta’s photo into PhotoShop where I changed the hue channel of red and took out the color we can’t see and then played with magenta and blue saturation.  Voila !  Scaevola the way we humans know it.

Scaevola color corrected

Scaevola color corrected

Darn it though.  I want the rustic orange one.  Oh to be a butterfly and see all the colors of nature.

Saxon Holt
Saxon Holt is the owner of, a garden picture resource for photographs, on-line workshops, and garden photography stories. An award winning photojournalist and Fellow of The Garden Writers Association with more than 25 garden books, he lives and gardens in Northern California. PhotoBotanic - Garden Photography online at
Saxon Holt

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Jim August 30, 2008, 4:47 pm

Ha! And all this time I thought the photographer was the charlatan. Turns out it’s the camera!

I’ve noticed this often with blue/purple flowers. They look great in person & the camera lies.

Actually I would call the photographer a charlatan if s/he were to give the uncorrected photo to a publisher without a disclaimer. We don’t want to be unintentionally fooling the public… Saxon

Mr. McGregor's Daughter August 30, 2008, 5:44 pm

What a funny puzzle. (I would have said it is a red Scaevola.) I’ve never seen a color shift that dramatic. My camera turn blue flowers purple and purple flowers blue and tends to wash out the pinks.

All digital cameras have their own “fingerprint” and handle color differently which is why there is a “calibration” tool on most better cameras and in image software that removes camera bias. This is independent of hidden colors that nature provides and the camera reveals.

Margaretta told me that part of what made that particular flower shift so much was that it was shot in late afternoon when the light is more red anyway. I forgot to mention that in the original post. -Saxon

Betsy August 30, 2008, 5:45 pm

I bought a pink scaevola this past spring: “Bombay Pink”. I realize this isn’t the orange color in the photo, but it’s closer than the blues you mention.

Thanks for chiming in Betsy. I just looked up the Bombay Pink and will probably look for it myself but nowhere near the orange color I really want. – Saxon

Les August 30, 2008, 5:52 pm

How disappointing. When a rusty orange scaevola is bred, I want it.

Yeah, you and everyone else. The pink one that Betsy pointed us to is nice but when it comes to warm colors pink and orange are, shall we say, very different.

– Saxon

wiseacre September 7, 2008, 8:29 am

That was one dramatic color shift. I think I’ll pick some of the flowers and bring them in to compare with the photos. It’s time to pay more attention to what my camera is doing since I got a new one and just starting to lean into the learning curve.

Time I learned how to do some color shifts too using my image editor. I use Paint Shop Pro 5. It too could stand upgrading but I’ve never managed to use it to it’s full potential.

Try to do the image editing as soon as you can while you remember the “true color”. It is easy to like the wrong colors once you forget. I still want the orange Scaveola…. Saxon

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