Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

A double-headed Mexican hat

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I’d been keeping my eye on a stretch of median in Morado Circle in the Great Hills neighborhood of Austin where I live. At some point the median had been mowed, but now in the spring the vegetation was reasserting itself. A week ago I noticed some Mexican hat plants (Ratibida columnifera) coming up, and when I drove by on March 26th I saw that several were already flowering. The next day I went and sat myself down with them. The flower head shown here caught my attention and I took some pictures of it. Only when I went to look from the opposite side did I discover another central column jutting out at roughly a right angle to the one shown here. In other words, this was an unusual flower head, a twin. While I was still there I didn’t get the impression of fasciation, but in this photograph the stem does seem a little wide and flattened, so perhaps fasciation explains the doubling-up after all.

The two adjacent sets of ray flowers formed a broad collar that isolated one central column from the other. I looked from various angles but couldn’t find a good way to photograph the two columns together. In the end, just for the sake of documentation, I took the picture below.

© 2017 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 29, 2017 at 4:13 AM

New Zealand: Neptune’s necklace

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Something else that intrigued me at Cable Bay on February 13th and at other places on other dates was a type of brown algae known by the imaginative names Neptune’s necklace, Neptune’s pearls, sea grapes, and bubbleweed (Hormosira banksii).

© 2017 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 28, 2017 at 5:06 AM

New Zealand: Cable Bay

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In the Cable Bay section of Doubtless Bay on February 13th I focused on the rocks and shells along the beach. In particular, I was intrigued by clusters of small black mussels that looked to me as if they could be pieces of obsidian.

I take the genus to be Xenostrobus, but if anyone knows for sure, please chime in. Here’s a closer look at a group of these mussels.

© 2017 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 27, 2017 at 5:10 AM

New Zealand: Doubtless you’ve heard of Doubtless Bay

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Doubtless you’ve heard of Doubtless Bay if you’re from or have visited New Zealand’s Northland region. Otherwise you well may not have heard of that body of water, which reputedly got its name when Captain Cook sailed past it and wrote in his diary that it was “doubtless a bay.” We drove along the shore of Doubtless Bay on February 13th and stopped in several places. The one shown above is Coopers Beach, where I was intrigued by the way a stream etched itself into the sand as it flowed into the bay. The flowing water occasionally caused bits of the stream’s sandy banks to crumble, creating the jagged margins you see here.

Looking in the opposite direction, I saw one of my old friends from the first visit to New Zealand, a pōhutukawa tree (Metrosideros excelsa).

© 2017 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 26, 2017 at 4:42 AM

Wild garlic buds opening

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Allium drummondii between Arboretum Blvd. and Loop 360 on March 14.

Point 4 in About My Techniques is relevant to today’s photograph.

© 2017 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 25, 2017 at 5:04 AM

Looking up to prairie verbena

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Another wildflower I found on March 14 in the strip of land between Arboretum Blvd. and Loop 360 was the prairie verbena, Glandularia bipinnatifida.

© 2017 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 24, 2017 at 4:43 AM

New Zealand: pīngao

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On February 13th we visited the Puheke Reserve on the northern shore of the Karikari Peninsula in the Northland region of New Zealand. My attention was soon drawn to a plant that on the whole grew toward the sea even as individual tufts tended to curl back in the opposite direction. The best I can tell, the plant is pīngao, a sedge that botanists classify as Ficinia spiralis. It’s endemic to New Zealand but animal grazing and the spread of a non-native grass have continued to curtail this sedge’s historical range.

© 2017 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 23, 2017 at 4:43 AM

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