Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Red admiral butterfly on plum blossoms

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Red Admiral Butterfly on Plum Blossoms 3598

Click for greater clarity and size.

The first thing I checked out when I went to McKinney Falls State Park on March 13th was some Mexican plum trees, Prunus mexicana, that I remembered from last spring. I wasn’t disappointed: so many insects of various kinds were visiting the dense blossoms, especially bees, that the tree hummed. One of those insects was a red admiral butterflyVanessa atalanta.

You may say that I’m putting the metaphorical cart before the horse, but when I looked at the extended and slightly curved wings of this butterfly I couldn’t help thinking of a large jet plane gliding in for a landing. Would that all planes were as colorful.

© 2014 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 11, 2014 at 6:04 AM

Nueces coreopsis and other dense wildflowers

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Nueces Coreopsis and Other Wildflowers 7789

The Nueces coreopsis, Coreopsis nuecensis, doesn’t grow in Austin, but I began to see some about an hour and a quarter south of here on my April 4th foray. The magenta flowers are phlox; the red ones are Indian paintbrushes, Castilleja indivisa; and there are some bluebonnets, Lupinus texensis, mixed in. If you’d like a closer look at a Nueces coreopsis, which is the wildflower in this group that you’re least likely to be familiar with, you can check out a post from 2012.

The location of today’s picture was the grounds of the Christ Lutheran Church of Elm Creek, a property that hosted the largest display of wildflowers I saw anywhere on my trip.

© 2014 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 10, 2014 at 5:58 AM

Black-eyed susan seed head remains

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Black-Eyed Susan Seed Head Remains by Tasajillo 3859

Here a Cylindropuntia leptocaulis, known as tasajillo and Christmas cactus, served merely as a colorful background for the seed head remains of what I believe had been (and technically still was) a black-eyed susan, Rudbeckia hirta. How long was this dry seed head? I’d say about 2/3 of an inch (17 mm). How long was this seed head dry? I’d say since last summer.

Like some other recently shown photographs, today’s is from a March 13th visit to McKinney Falls State Park in southeast Austin.

© 2014 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 9, 2014 at 5:53 AM

Another great field of wildflowers

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Engelmann Daisy Blowing in an Indian Paintbrush Colony 7602

Here’s another great field of wildflowers from my April 4th outing. The dominant red flowers are Indian paintbrushes (Castilleja indivisa), mixed into which are a few bluebonnets (Lupinus texensis). The taller plant with yellow flowers is an Engelmann daisy (Engelmannia peristenia). What caused it to lean so far to the left was the brisk wind that blew unremittingly and made photographing the flowers hard enough for me that I attempted only a couple of closeups the whole day.

Location: Old School Rd. in New Berlin, a town whose name, like the names of many roads in that part of Texas, tells you that quite a few Germans settled in the area in the 1800s. To learn more about that immigration and the so-called German Belt across a swathe of the state, you can read an article in The Handbook of Texas.

© 2014 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 8, 2014 at 6:00 AM

Syrphid fly on buttercup

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Tiny Syrphid Fly on Buttercup 3680

In several places at McKinney Falls State Park on March 13th I found flowering buttercups, Ranunculus spp., and on this one a syrphid fly only about a quarter of an inch (6mm) long. That’s one tiny fly.

© 2014 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 7, 2014 at 5:58 AM

Like shooting Texas wildflowers in the spring

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Phlox and Other Wildflowers 7873

Click for greater clarity.

I’ve always thought it strange when people use the expression “like shooting fish in a barrel.” To my mind that would lead to a shattered barrel and a wet floor, so to indicate that something is easy I’d rather say it’s like shooting (with a camera, of course) Texas wildflowers in the spring. Texas is known for its fields of densely mixed wildflowers, and here’s a first take on that for 2014. On April 4th I finally bit the bullet (but not the one that broke the barrel with the fish in it) and headed south to see some of the floral fields I’d begun reading reports about on the Internet. Sure enough, once I got as far as Interstate 10, about an hour south of Austin, I began finding plenty of roadside yards and fields covered with wildflowers.

Over the next couple of weeks, I’m going to select some of the photographs from that trip and blend them in with others I’d already been preparing for these pages. My thinking is that if I showed you day after day of flower-filled fields it’d be too much of a good thing (and that’s another expression we can therefore avoid).

This first mixture is from FM 467 southwest of Seguin. The magenta flowers are phlox (Phlox spp.). The yellow are Texas dandelions (Pyrrhopappus pauciflorus). The red are Indian paintbrush (Castilleja indivisa). The blue are some passing-their-prime bluebonnets (Lupinus texensis). The closely bunched slender stems with small violet flowers on them are Texas vervain (Verbena halei). Quite a sight, no?

© 2014 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 6, 2014 at 5:30 AM

A pungent but not prickly red and green

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Wild Onion Buds and Flower with Looping Stalk 3735

In contrast to the Christmas cactus, a different red and green that I found at McKinney Falls State Park on March 13th was this wild onion, Allium canadense, with a curiously looping stalk.

© 2014 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 5, 2014 at 5:00 AM


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