Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Archive for November 2011

Oxalis drummondii

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Oxalis drummondii Flower 4882

November 19: walked east along Brushy Creek Regional Trail from Twin Lakes Park. Temperature warm, near 80°. Encountered this little wood-sorrel flower, Oxalis drummondii, in the shade. Low light, unwanted wind: what to do? Focused on the center of the flower and got the opening bud beneath it in focus as a bonus.

More species info here.

© 2011 Steven Schwartzman

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Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 23, 2011 at 5:17 AM

Happy new

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Helenium autumnale; click to enlarge.

I’ve roamed central Texas looking at native plants for a dozen years now, but the fact remains that there are more species on the plant list for Travis County that I haven’t photographed than that I have. For that reason I’m always happy to encounter something new, especially if I’m able to identify it. Walking in Bull Creek on November 17, I came across an erect plant several feet tall with flowers that looked familiar, even if the plant didn’t. The flowers were similar to those of a much lower species, Helenium amarum, called yellow bitterweed, but this plant was too tall to be that, and its leaves were different. Looking in my trusty Wildflowers of the Texas Hill Country, by Marshall Enquist, I realized that this must be the fall sneezeweed that I’d repeatedly noticed in that book but had never seen for real.

The scientific name Helenium autumnale confirms that this is indeed a species that flowers in the fall. And yes, I did spend a lot of time sneezing and blowing my nose, not because of this one plant, but more likely because of all the sumpweed and ragweed still thriving out there, and because of a high level of mold in the air; all are occupational hazards of this beleaguered nature photographer. But back to the picture: note the still-green buds in several stages of opening at the left, the freshly and fully opened flower head at the right, and the one beginning to go to seed at the left.

When I looked at the map on the USDA website, I was surprised to see fall sneezeweed shown for all the contiguous American states except New Hampshire, and for most Canadian provinces. Helenium autumnale is a relative of another sneezeweed that very early readers of this blog—which is to say almost no one—saw in its fourth post, on June 7.

© 2011 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 22, 2011 at 5:09 AM

Flaming fruit and leaves

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Flameleaf sumac; click for greater detail.

You first saw prairie flameleaf sumac, Rhus lanceolata, in this column when I interrupted an aster sequence to show you a welcome display of fall color that I ran into on November 11. On the alert for more color from this species now that I’d noticed its leaves beginning to change, three days later I went to a place along Spicewood Springs Rd. near Loop 360 where I’d photographed some of these small trees last year, and I found the scene you see here.

Flameleaf sumac is known for the varying reds that its leaflets turn in the fall, but they may first turn yellow, the color that predominates in this photograph. Like other species of Rhus, this one produces clusters of small but numerous fruits; they start out green, turn red, then dull down to gray or grayish-black. From these fruits, with ample quantities of sweetener added to mitigate the tartness, people have made sumac-ade.

For more information about Rhus lanceolata, you can visit the websites of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center and the USDA.

© 2011 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 21, 2011 at 5:18 AM

Chiaroscuro

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I’d like to finish up this group of pictures taken at the Arbor Walk Pond on November 8 with one that includes the type of flower that began the series, the water-primrose, but this time it appears only as a featureless yellow glow behind the aster that is the primary subject of the picture and that presents its own smaller yellow in detail, surrounded by an asterisk of violet-tinged white.

© 2011 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 20, 2011 at 5:10 AM

Acalypha too

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Acalypha phleoides

As I was finishing up on the afternoon of November 8 at the Arbor Walk Pond in north-central Austin, luxuriating in my flower-covered Acalypha, the sky began to clear a bit in the west, beckoning me home. So I faced that way, but not yet taking any step toward home, got down low, put my head to the ground, and struggled with my camera to line up a single flower stalk against its now-light-filled fellows behind it. Of the poles, wires, and buildings adjacent to the expressway bordering the site, I need say no more, except that I managed to keep them out of my viewfinder and so created the undisturbed view you find here.

For more information about Acalypha phleoides, including a state-clickable map showing where this species grows, you can visit the USDA website.

For those interested in the art and craft of photography, points 1, 2 , 6 and 12 in About My Techniques are relevant to today’s picture.

© 2011 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 19, 2011 at 5:10 AM

Acalypha

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Acalypha phleoides flowers; click for greater detail.

The last thing I photographed on November 8 at the Arbor Walk Pond in north-central Austin was Acalypha phleoides, known as three-seeded mercury and shrubby copperleaf. The shrubby part fits, sort of, but clumpy would be a better word, because this group of plants was rounded and rather low, rising not more than a foot off the ground. But humble stature aside, the plants were fully flowering, and each stalk in the little forest of them was lengthily covered with a span of red feathery female flowers.

And oh, patriarchy: look how a few compact male flowers lord it over the much greater number of soft and feathery females compliant below. The male flowers apparently develop later and therefore initially take up only a little space on the tip of the stalk, but the span devoted to them eventually increases in length as well.

All in all, the reddish floral display was quite appealing, as I think you’ll agree from the picture, which shows a sloping portion of the upper regions of the flowering clump.

For more information about Acalypha phleoides, including a state-clickable map showing where this species grows, you can visit the USDA website.

© 2011 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 18, 2011 at 5:10 AM

Velvetleaf mallow

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Still another species that I found adjacent to the Arbor Walk Pond on the gray afternoon of November 8 was Allowissadula holosericea. The species name is a made-up Greco-Latin compound that means ‘all silky,’ a reference to the plant’s large leaves that are covered all over with soft hairs. That feature has led to the species’ common name of velvetleaf mallow, and I can attest, from years of irresistible touching, that the leaves really do feel like velvet.

For more information about velvetleaf mallow you can visit the websites of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center and the USDA. The map at that second site shows that in the United States this species grows a little bit in New Mexico but otherwise only in Texas, with Austin being at the eastern edge of its range. Lucky Austin, lucky me.

© 2011 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 17, 2011 at 5:24 AM

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