Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Prairie redux

with 17 comments

Sunflower Colony 4955

“I haven’t been back to any of the three bluebell colonies I recently found on the prairie in northeast Austin….” So saying, I headed back to the prairie, where the bluebells have begun to go to seed. But the sunflowers (Helianthus annuus) just keep on coming in the heat: new buds and flowers mix with the rayless dark disks of predecessors that they will follow soon enough. There’s a wild energy in the randomness of a large colony, with parts of plants going every which way. How to capture that in a rectangle? Here’s one attempt.

© 2011 Steven Schwartzman, for whom the ray folded down onto the disk of the large sunflower at the left makes the picture.

– – – –

P.S. In a bit of botanical-literary synesthesia brought on by the word ray, I hope you won’t mind if I cite the famous poem by Byron:

She walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that ‘s best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes:
Thus mellow’d to that tender light
Which heaven to gaudy day denies.
One shade the more, one ray the less,
Had half impair’d the nameless grace
Which waves in every raven tress,
Or softly lightens o’er her face;
Where thoughts serenely sweet express
How pure, how dear their dwelling-place.

And on that cheek, and o’er that brow,
So soft, so calm, yet eloquent,
The smiles that win, the tints that glow,
But tell of days in goodness spent,
A mind at peace with all below,
A heart whose love is innocent!

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 25, 2011 at 7:49 AM

17 Responses

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  1. Joli capture, Steve! Le jaune des tournesols contraste joliment contre le ciel bleu.

    [Note for English speakers: Anne says that she likes the way the yellow of the sunflowers makes a pretty contrast with the blue sky.]


    June 26, 2011 at 6:39 AM

  2. […] dragonfly, appeared against a patch of blue sky rather than against the clouds that you can see in yesterday’s picture of the sunflower […]

  3. really nice capture!


    July 2, 2011 at 2:47 PM

    • Thanks, Moon. I’m glad you get to see what a Texas prairie can look like. Much of this area was once covered with scenes like this, but agriculture, ranching, and human settlement have eliminated some 99% of the native prairies at the heart of North America. I celebrate the remnants I can find.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 2, 2011 at 2:57 PM

  4. Lovely picture, so natural and a reminder that even sunflowers are sometimes sad.

    Elsa del Valle-Gaster, Ph.D.

    July 2, 2011 at 9:50 PM

  5. Beautiful picture, Steve, like all of your others. The Byron poem brought back fond memories of one of the first girls I had a crush on when I was younger. She introduced me to “She Walks in Beauty” and told me that it was her favorite. I was probably too proud then to admit that I loved, too, but whenever I see it I think of her.


    July 13, 2011 at 5:20 PM

    • I’m glad that when you saw the poem here it resonated with a romantic episode from your past. Your comment brings a unique perspective. Perhaps you should follow up and see what became of the girl.

      More prosaically, I once cited the poem as evidence to contradict the bit of folk etymology that claimed the English word gaudy came from the name of the Catalan Art Nouveau architect Antoni Gaudí.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 13, 2011 at 6:52 PM

      • You’re right. Maybe I should see what became of her. It’s pretty easy these days.

        By the way, I need to correct an omission in my comment. I meant to say, “I was probably too proud then to admit that I loved IT, too…”

        I have to ask a question: Do you submit articles about linguistics and etymology to academic journals or the like?


        July 13, 2011 at 6:59 PM

      • I read between your words and inserted the “it” that I assumed you meant. Like you, I rewrite and re-rewrite my posts and comments, but even then I still occasionally miss something here and there. The good thing about articles that live online is that we can always correct them (at least the ones that are under our control).

        When it comes to language, I think of myself more as a popularizer than as a scholar. Maybe I’m wrong, but I think the types of articles I post in my Spanish-English column wouldn’t appeal to editors and referees of articles for academic journals. I’ve long thought that the types of connections I make would be useful for students and teachers of languages, but the education establishment has gone off in various other (and to my mind fatuous) directions. Así es la vida.

        And yes, cherchez la femme.

        Steve Schwartzman

        July 13, 2011 at 8:20 PM

  6. […] Prairie redux […]

  7. You did seem to capture much of a sunflower’s life cycle in that rectangle.


    September 9, 2011 at 10:31 PM

  8. The folded-over petal is probably the roof of a spider’s home.

    Spider Joe

    February 27, 2012 at 11:47 PM

    • For me, that folded-over ray flower has always made the picture, and now you’ve given it added significance.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 28, 2012 at 6:01 AM

  9. […] a sunflower colony […]

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