Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Western horse-nettle

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Western Horse-Nettle Flowering by Firewheels 4197

The last post brought you a bud of Solanum elaeagnifolium, called silverleaf nightshade. Now you’re seeing a close relative, Solanum dimidiatum, known as western horse-nettle. The flowers of the two species are quite similar, but their leaves are different. If you think these buds look like little eggplants (aubergines, for you of the British persuasion), you’re on to something, because eggplant is Solanum melongena. Still, don’t try eating western horse-nettle or silverleaf nightshade, because they’re poisonous.

The red and orange in the background come from our old friend Gaillardia pulchella, known as firewheel and Indian blanket. The location of this June 16th photograph was another old friend, Great Hills Park.

© 2014 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 25, 2014 at 5:55 AM

Silverleaf nightshade bud

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Silverleaf Nightshade Bud by Mexican Hat Flowers 9924

From the same May 30th visit to a “vacant” lot on Grapevine Dr. that brought you yesterday’s picture of yellow eggs comes this photograph a budding silverleaf nightshade, Solanum elaeagnifolium, a common Austin species that can be found flowering for much of the year. The yellow, orange and brown in the background are from some of the Mexican hats that had largely taken over the property.

For more information about Solanum elaeagnifolium, including a state-clickable map showing the many places in the United States where this species grows, you can visit the USDA websiste.

© 2014 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 24, 2014 at 5:48 AM

An unexpected yellow

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Yellow Insect Eggs Under Developing Mexican Hat Flower Head 9850

Near the end of May, Wanda Hill alerted me to a colony of Mexican hats, Ratibida columnifera, along Grapevine Dr. in the part of our neighborhood closer to where she lives. On May 30th I went there and spent time photographing some of the individual Mexican hats (and talking to fellow photographer Alex Suárez, who also lives in the neighborhood and happened to drive by shortly after I got there). Beneath one developing flower head I discovered the clutch of tiny eggs you see here. I don’t know what kind of insect they’re from, but on that already sunshiny morning I was happy to get an extra dose of yellow, even one this small. How small, you ask: perhaps 1/3 of an inch, or 8mm, across the whole group. Add to the yellow the blue of the sky and the rich brownish red of the ray flowers on the fully open Mexican hat behind this still green and flowerless one, and you’ve got quite a colorful combination.

© 2014 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 23, 2014 at 5:59 AM


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Exuviae on Leaf 6422

Entomologists (biologists who study insects) use the Latin plural exuviae to designate the cast-off exoskeleton of an insect that has molted. While I was photographing in a shaded area along Bull Creek on July 7th I came across the exuviae of what I take to be a cicada (genus Tibicen). Sloughed-off “skins” can be as dirty as the one you see here, but then if you hung out on a leaf for weeks on end you might get pretty dirty too (or should I say ugly dirty rather than pretty dirty?).

© 2014 Steven Schwartzman


Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 22, 2014 at 5:56 AM

The opening of a basket-flower

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Basket-Flower Opening from Above 9102

Do you remember the great colony of basket-flowers that you saw last month? Now here’s a May 28th closeup taken during the same outing but a quarter-mile west at Meister Place in southernmost Round Rock. Today’s picture shows a Centaurea americana flower head as it was opening. People say seeing is believing, but that’s not always so: despite differences in form and color, all the florets you see here are disk flowers; this species has no ray flowers. (For a refresher on disk flowers versus ray flowers, you can refer to a recent post.)

The European species Centaurea cyanus, known as bachelor’s button and cornflower, has long been widely cultivated in the United States (at least partly because European immigrants brought it with them as a reminder of home). For those of you in the United States who are gardeners and are fond of that species, I’d encourage you to plant this beautiful American relative, the only Centaurea species that’s native here.

© 2014 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 21, 2014 at 5:52 AM

No flowers, buds, plants, grasses, seeds, trees, leaves, bugs, sky, or bright colors

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Just bubbles at the base of a small waterfall in Great Hills Park on July 18th after a good overnight rain. The center part could be ice, don’t you think?

Bubbles at Base of Small Waterfall in Creek 7986

Click for better clarity.

Details: 1/800 sec. (to stop much of the movement) at f/14 (to get good depth of field) with flash (for enough light to make those two settings possible simultaneously).

© 2014 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 20, 2014 at 5:54 AM

Prairie parsley seeds and a bonus

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Prairie Parsley Seeds with Insect Egg 6028

Here’s a closer look at Polytaenia nuttallii, called prairie parsley, on a piece of the Blackland Prairie east of Interstate 35 in far north Austin on June 27th. In addition to all these seeds at the ends of umbelliferous stalks you get the pale ovoid insect egg on a threadlike stalk of its own at the top. I can’t identify the insect that produced the egg, but one group of insects whose members attach eggs on hairlike stalks like that is green lacewings.

© 2014 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 19, 2014 at 5:53 AM


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