Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

The best place I know for silverpuff

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Silverpuff Flower Head 3352

On the morning of February 2nd I went over to my local Costco because a few days earlier I’d noticed some silverpuff plants (Chaptalia texana) on a couple of the raised islands in the parking lot. (Presumably those islands were left to preserve trees when the land was leveled to build the store and make the parking lot.) As far as I can tell, nature does most of the tending of those raised plots, with the result that silverpuff has continued to prosper in its native haunt even if surrounded now by cars and commerce.

You may recall from reading posts here two or three years ago that this composite species produces long flower heads that tend not to open much, as you see here. You can also see from this latest picture that the specimens I photographed looked a little the worse for wear. That’s understandable if Marshall Enquist is correct about the typical bloom period being March through May. Ellen Schulz gives an earlier flowering period of late winter to early spring, but January, when these plants appeared, is still hardly late winter, and that month did bring us a few frosty mornings.

Because silverpuff plants are small and short, for many of the pictures I lay on a mat on the ground to do my work. (The store doesn’t open till 10:00 and I was there by 9:00, so although some cars drove past me in the parking lot there weren’t a lot of people to wonder what strange things I was doing.) The blue in the background is from patches of sky visible through the trees. The slightly cool cast of the picture as a whole comes from the fact that the silverpuff group was mostly in the shade of the trees.

On an unrelated matter, today marks the 207th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s birth.

© 2016 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 12, 2016 at 5:11 AM

A focused look at sundrops

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Square-Bud Primrose Flower 4124

The bright but formless yellow of the last post was sundrops, Calylophus berlandieri. Now it’s its turn to appear in its own right and its own focus, again from the unusually early date of February 7th along Interstate 35 in far north Austin.

© 2016 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 11, 2016 at 5:07 AM

Not a normal February juxtaposition

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Small Palafoxia Flower Head by Square-Bud Primrose Flower 4143

On February 7th I was driving north on the access road of Interstate 35 in far north Austin when I saw some unaccustomedly early square-bud primrose flowers, Calylophus berlandieri, also known as sundrops because of their bright yellow color. I pulled over and walked back to take noisy pictures of them (with the noise coming from the fast-moving traffic). Then I was surprised to notice some flower heads of small palafoxia, Palafoxia callosa, which is traditionally a species that blooms from late summer through fall, but here we were only a week into February. I assume the palafoxia is a holdover from 2015 rather than an advance guard from 2016’s seasonal crop. The shadowed structure is a set of palafoxia buds just beginning to open.

© 2016 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 10, 2016 at 4:55 AM

Onion Creek has been a killer creek

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Overturned Tree on Onion Creek 2619

Onion Creek in south Austin, which you saw wind-whipped last time, has a history of flash floods that have knocked down large trees, ruined houses, washed away bridges, and unfortunately also drowned people. Here you see the first of those kinds of devastation as I photographed it on January 21. I don’t know when water raging down the creek felled this tree, but there was a devastating flood on Halloween in 2013, and two more floods in 2015.

Notice in the first photograph that a few man-made objects carried by the creek got caught on what became the uppermost parts of the overturned tree’s base. Nevertheless, the straight object that rises the highest and looks like it could be the leg of an upturned chair is natural. Notice also the bald cypress tree (Taxodium distichum) on the far side of the creek at the left. I can’t identify the fallen tree, but below is a closer look at its revealed roots. Even though it’s a different photograph, not just an enlargement of part of the first picture, I think you can match up the tangled roots in the two images without much trouble. It may not be so easy in the photograph above for your imagination to match up the placid, shallow (on the left), even dry (on the right) Onion Creek with the Shiva Creek that it has repeatedly become.

Roots of Upturned Tree 2613

© 2016 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 9, 2016 at 5:02 AM

Chopping an Onion

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Submerged Rocks in Wind-Swept Onion Creek 2666

The wind, that is, chopping up Onion Creek at McKinney Falls State Park in southeast Austin on January 21. I’d been to the site plenty of times, but never with so strong a breeze, which gave this broadly open part of the creek a surface texture like none I’d seen on it till then. The resulting photographs, with their interlocking patches of color, differ from any I recall taking, whether there or elsewhere, and appeal to me in their abstractness.

© 2016 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 8, 2016 at 5:02 AM

A year ago today (sort of)

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A year ago today (going by the calendar and ignoring the time difference between Texas and New Zealand) I visited the gannet colony at Muriwai, which is on the west coast of the North Island.

People Watching Gannets 3520

The first picture includes only two gannets. Mostly you see lots of flax plants, Phormium tenax, surrounding an observation platform jammed with tourists who seemed to be staring as much at each other as at the birds. I had to wait a while for an open space at the rail, but eventually I was able to get some photographs of the gannets down below:

Gannet Colony at Muriwai 3571

If you’d like a closeup of an Australasian gannet, Morus serrator, you’re welcome to look back at a post from last year.

© 2016 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 7, 2016 at 5:04 AM

A malformed four-nerve daisy bud

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Malformed Tetraneuris Bud 2921

Among the four-nerve daisies (Tetraneuris linearifolia) that I photographed on Bluegrass Dr. on January 29th, I noticed one bud that had folded in on itself in an unnatural way that I’d never seen in this species and that might have been an instance of fasciation. If you’d like, you can compare the way a four-nerve daisy bud normally opens. You can also click the fasciation tag below to scroll down through previous posts showing other afflicted species.

© 2016 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 6, 2016 at 5:01 AM


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