Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Archive for September 14th, 2011

A strange embrace

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Giant ragweed caught on a Maximilian sunflower; click for more detail.

You may have seen photographs or documentaries that showed two male deer competing by charging at each other with their heads down. On rare occasions their antlers lock and the stags can’t disengage; when that happens, their fate is—to borrow a phrase from the Cold War—mutually assured destruction. I have nothing so dramatic to show you, but when I visited the prairie restoration on the south side of Austin’s former Mueller Airport on September 7, I found a peculiar linking that had taken place in the world of plants rather than animals.

While I was photographing the Maximilian sunflowers, Helianthus maximiliani, that I was happy to find flowering on the prairie, as you’ve seen in the last post and the one before it, I noticed that the tip of a giant ragweed plant, Ambrosia trifida, had gotten stuck on the tip of a much shorter Maximilian sunflower plant. Giant ragweed grows erect, so I’m assuming a strong wind must have blown this one sideways, at which time it would have gotten hooked on the other plant; and there the ragweed had remained, in a posture unnatural to it. The locking together must have occurred some days earlier, because the flowering tips of the ragweed had followed their gravitropic instinct and as they kept growing had gradually turned upward into their normal orientation perpendicular to the ground. More on this giant of all ragweeds next time.

As I mentioned in the last couple of posts, if the sky in today’s picture seems more pallid than the usual brilliant blue brought on by the drought, it’s not an illusion. There was a haze in the sky on September 7 due to drifting smoke from the complex of wildfires that burned large expanses of the forest in Bastrop County, some 30 miles east of Austin. After more than a week, some of those fires are still burning, and the latest estimate I’ve heard is that 1500 houses have burned down along with the tens of thousands of acres of trees.

© 2011 Steven Schwartzman

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Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 14, 2011 at 5:58 AM

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