Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Uncommon coreopsis

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Coreopsis Flower Head in Bubbles 2959

No, this post’s title doesn’t refer to some rare species, but who’d expect to find a coreopsis plant alive and apparently still thriving as it drifts sideways in an unaccustomed current? You see, the record rains of May had temporarily turned a ditch along Burnet Rd. by the old Merrilltown Cemetery in far north Austin into a brook. When I stopped there on May 29th, little rafts of bubbles kept flowing by and briefly clinging to the buds and flower head shown here before being swept south, while the coreopsis, still rooted, could undulate in the water without being swept away.

This is the second time you’ve recently seen coreopsis in an unaccustomed way, the first being as a dense colony covering parts of a Galveston cemetery.

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 6, 2015 at 4:46 AM

When small is big

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Smallanthus Flower Head 4882

Hardly anyone in Austin knows about a native plant that botanists classify as Smallanthus uvedalius, which apparently has the vernacular names hairy leafcup, yellow leafcup, and bear’s foot. Although the flower heads I’ve seen on this sunflower-family species are small or moderate—the one shown here was about 1.25 inches (3 cm) across—the plant’s leaves are large, even huge, occasionally reaching 70 cm (28 inches) in length and 40 cm (16 inches) in width. To give you a sense of those leaves’ shape and size, and to show you how much larger than the flower heads they are, here’s an overview:

Smallanthus Flower Head and Leaves 4838

These pictures, which mark the debut of this species here, come from June 3 along the upper reaches of Bull Creek. That’s still in my extended neighborhood, but I was surprised to learn that this seemingly little-known plant grows across much of the eastern United States.

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 5, 2015 at 4:58 AM

The resurgence continues

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Black-Eyed Susans Amid Burned Bastrop Forest 6089

Today is the official birthday of the United States of America, which now enters its 240th year as a nation. The country has its share of problems—which country doesn’t?—but let’s hope for a resurgence. On that theme, some of you will recall, and others of you will now learn, that in September of 2011 a huge fire burned for days and destroyed most of the pine forest in Bastrop State Park, along with over 1600 nearby homes.

In the first spring after the devastating fire I posted some early evidence of recovery in the form of a prominent white prickly poppy flower whose pristine brightness contrasted with the burned pines beyond it. One month ago today I went back for my first visit to the area in 2015, and the colorful views that I saw in many places encouraged me. Here’s one showing how densely the brown-eyed (or black-eyed) susans, Rudbeckia hirta, were flowering.

In order of prominence, this photograph offers you blue, white, and at the bottom a bit of red, so a happy reversed red, white, and blue to you on this Independence Day.

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 4, 2015 at 5:25 AM

Anemone seed core remains

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Anemone Seed Core Remains by Bluebonnet 9840

When I was looking through my archive to select pictures for the retrospective miniseries you saw early last month, I came across some images from March 27, 2012, at McKinney Falls State Park in southeast Austin that I’d forgotten about. This portrait from that group, which employs the technique of limited focus, shows a single seed that was still clinging to the downy remains of a ten-petal anemone, Anemone berlandieri. (If you don’t recall what one of these anemones looks like when it’s fresh, you can have a look back at that stage.) The formless purple in the background was all that remained, photographically, of a bluebonnet, Lupinus texensis.


© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 3, 2015 at 5:18 AM

Twistleaf yucca flowers with clouds

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Twistleaf Yucca Flowers with Clouds 3938

In April you saw a landscape view of some yucca plants flowering above a roadside cliff, but I feel I owe you a closer look at blossoms in this genus. Here, then, is a twistleaf yucca, Yucca rupicola, that I photographed in Leander on June 1st. In a post from 2012 I offered up a visual confirmation of the name twistleaf, but today is the first time you’re getting a detailed look at the flowers of that species, which happens to be endemic to central Texas.

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 2, 2015 at 3:33 AM

Spittlebug spittle

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Spittlebug Spittle 3631

Here’s a picturesque mass of spittlebug spittle at Tejas Camp in Williamson County on June 1 (though I don’t know how many other people would call it picturesque). This has been a common sight around central Texas in the month since then.

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 1, 2015 at 5:38 AM

A small white snail that climbed onto a drying basket-flower

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Small White Snail on Dry Basket-Flower 2998

This is from May 29th on the Pflugerville-Round Rock border. I can tell you that the basket-flower is Centaurea americana, but for me the snail remains Molluscus unknownus.

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 30, 2015 at 5:37 AM


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