Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Anemone flower by dry leaf

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Purple Anemone Flower by Dry Leaf 9223

When I walked in the greenbelt north of Old Lampasas Trail in northwest Austin on March 15th I found a fair number of anemones (Anemone berlandieri) in a place where I’d found them equally numerous in the early spring of other years. The flowers of this species range in color from white, as you saw last month, to the rich purple shown in this specimen. The nicely contrasting background brown came from a large, dry leaf on the ground near the anemone.

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 30, 2015 at 5:08 AM

Pokeweed

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Pokeweed Flower Remains and Leaves 0558

The post about puccoon this morning led Gallivanta to raise the matter of the word’s origin, which is in a language of the Algonquian Indian family. In my reply I mentioned that the linguistic root means ‘red,’ something that’s hard to understand when looking at bright (and crinkled) yellow flowers. Apparently the roots of some puccoon species are red, and that explains the name.

The Algonquian word for ‘red’ has also given us the name of an unrelated plant, pokeweed (or pokeberry), Phytolacca americana, which I remember from my childhood on Long Island and which also grows natively here in central Texas. This photograph from 2006 shows the red stalks in the plant’s inflorescence. I assume this is the stage where the flowers have fallen off and the little fruits are beginning to form. Those fruits (“berries” in common parlance) will eventually turn purple, and if you handle them you can easily stain your hands purplish red; in fact another name for the species is inkberry.

Many people consider this plant a weed (hence the common name with weed in it), and I should add that all parts of the plant are poisonous.

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 29, 2015 at 12:07 PM

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Crinkled

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Fringed Puccoon Flowers 9138

I have the impression it’s not all that common for flowers to be crinkled, but one central Texas wildflower certainly fits the description: Lithospermum incisum, known as fringed puccoon. I photographed this one when I walked in the greenbelt north of Old Lampasas Trail in northwest Austin on March 15th.

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 29, 2015 at 5:24 AM

An agarita bush flowering

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Agarita Flowers 9132

On March 15th I went up near Old Lampasas Trail in northwest Austin to see if I could find any morel mushrooms in the place where so many had appeared a few years ago. I didn’t see a single one, but I managed to get some fire ant bites, my first for 2015. The land didn’t look particularly floral, but as I kept walking I gradually came across various wildflowers of the season, like these fragrant ones on an agarita bush, Mahonia trifoliolata.

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 28, 2015 at 5:44 AM

Easter daisy

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Easter Daisy Flowering 9081

A fringe benefit of my trout lily quest at Nan Hampton’s country place on March 13th was the chance to see a plant that’s widespread across much of the western United States and parts of western Canada but that reaches the southeastern limit of its range in Lampasas County and therefore doesn’t quite make it to Travis County and Austin: Townsendia exscapa, known as Easter daisy. The best little clumps of these flowers I found on my visit were the ones in the seemingly (to people) harshest conditions, which is to say that the plants grew in caliche and amid stones but seemed to thrive in that environment, as you see here in a photo that marks the first appearance of this species in these pages.

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 27, 2015 at 5:28 AM

Trout lily in dappled light

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Trout Lily Flower 8815

I hope you’ve been enjoying the pictures from New Zealand, but I’m going to interrupt that sequence for a little while to catch you up on what’s been happening in central Texas, which you can summarize in one word: spring.

On March 13th I drove out with Nan Hampton to her country place near Lometa, which is in Lampasas County about an hour and a half north-northwest of Austin. The main botanical purpose for my going out there was to see the trout lilies (also called dogtooth violets), Erythronium albidum, that were coming up. For years I’d noticed the entry in Marshall Enquist’s Wildflowers of the Texas Hill Country but had never seen the plant in the wild, so this was an opportunity to check off one more species from that book.

Bill Carr describes this native perennial as “a striking spring wildflower of forested areas of eastern North America, here at or near the southwestern limit of its range. Rare in oak-juniper woodlands on mesic limestone slopes.” I’ll add that trout lilies typically grow in the underbrush and stay pretty close to the ground, so photographing them meant I had to get close to the ground too and gingerly push aside low branches. Another difficulty was the dappled sunlight coming through the underbrush, but rather than try to work around it, which probably would have been impossible, I lived with the dappling and incorporated it into my portraits, along with artifacts created by the interaction of the bright spots of light with the glass elements in the camera’s lens. You know what they say: if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. This time you can consider me a joiner.

Note in the lower left a part of one of the trout lily’s characteristically mottled leaves.

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 26, 2015 at 5:05 AM

Bellbird

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Bellbird 3973

Click for greater clarity.

At the Tiritiri Matangi Open Sanctuary on February 8th I saw a bellbird, known natively as korimako and scientifically as Anthornis melanura. You can read more about the korimako in New Zealand Birds Online.

On the technical side I’ll add that there wasn’t a lot of light in the bush (forest, for most of the rest of us), so I raised my camera’s ISO to 4000 and lowered the shutter speed to 1/200, which even with image stabilization is slower than I’d normally go with a 280mm (equivalent, thanks to a 1.4x extender) focal length. Not all the pictures I took of the bellbird came out well, but this one isn’t bad (except maybe for the movement of the bird’s lower bill, but we’ll act like educational bureaucrats and claim that that gives the picture authenticity).

———

For two weeks you’ve been seeing some wonderful things from New Zealand. I’ve by no means run out of them, but for the next week and a half I’ll catch you up on the spring that was slow to arrive in central Texas this year because of cold temperatures but that is now in full force. After that I’ll go back to another round of photos from picturesque Aotearoa.

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 25, 2015 at 5:24 AM

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