Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Archive for November 2011

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

Which grass? Switchgrass.

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Switchgrass; click for a lot more detail.

Yet another species that I found at the Arbor Walk Pond on the gray-clouded afternoon of November 8 was Panicum virgatum, commonly called switchgrass. Many of our native grasses take on warm hues in the fall, and that’s certainly true of this one, which looks good enough to eat. Okay, it’s not really edible, but let your eyes feast on its curves and colors.

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

For those interested in the art and craft of photography, point 6 in About My Techniques is relevant to today’s picture.

© 2011 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 16, 2011 at 5:02 AM

Mexican hat

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Another species that I found flowering near the Arbor Walk Pond on the still-cloudy afternoon of November 8 was Ratibida columnifera, commonly known in Texas as Mexican hat due to the resemblance of its “column” to the tall central part of the iconic broad-brimmed hats worn by Mexican men. These flowers have their heyday in late spring, when they can form large colonies, but it’s not unusual to see a few isolated plants flowering here or there during the summer and well into the fall.

Ratibida columnifera, also called upright prairie coneflower, made its flowering debut in this column in a supporting role in a July 26 picture showing a couple of Mexican hat flower heads beneath a snow-on-the-mountain plant that hadn’t yet flowered itself. In today’s view, the spiraling ranks of disk flowers are just beginning to appear on the central column.

For more information, and to see a clickable map of the many places in the United States and Canada where this species is found, you can visit the USDA website. Mexican hat also grows, appropriately, in northern Mexico.

For those interested in photography as a craft, points 1 and 2 in About My Techniques are relevant to today’s picture.

© 2011 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 15, 2011 at 5:06 AM

Not named for Beethoven

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Water-primrose flower; click to enlarge.

Dawned drizzly and damp, did the day of November 8: no pictures for me that morning. But by afternoon, with dark clouds still looming in skies that had managed to shake loose only some brief scatterings of drops that hardly qualified as rain, eastward I turned, to Mimi’s restaurant on Mopac, not to eat there but to wander, boots on, haltingly down the wet embankment at the southern edge of the property to Arbor Walk Pond, around which pleasingly many species of wildflowers were still managing to flower. Northerners, let me add that the temperature was in the mid to upper 70s.

A couple of springtimes ago I lay pressed against that embankment and looked upward in a line that cleared the top of the restaurant, in order to take pictures of some pink evening-primrose flowers against a bright blue sky. On this gray autumn afternoon, though, I looked the other way, and when I did, my attention fell first on a group of water-primroses, relatives of that other plant. Of all that I saw, these were the plants rising highest with flowers, propelled upward by the water they can never live away from. Several similar species of Ludwigia inhabit central Texas, and I can’t tell you for sure which one this was. I can tell you that the genus was named not for Beethoven, the composer of the Pastoral Symphony, but for another German, Christian Gottlieb Ludwig, an eighteenth-century botanist.

© 2011 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 14, 2011 at 5:09 AM

A closer look at heath asters

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Two days ago you got a panoramic view of some densely flowering heath asters, Symphyotrichum ericoides, and now here’s a closer look. Most of this species’ flower spikes are more horizontal than vertical, but once in a while one stands upright. I photographed these upstanding flowers in Manor, a town on the Blackland Prairie about ten miles east of Austin, on November 3.

For more information about this species, including a state-clickable map showing the many places in North America where heath asters grow, you can visit the USDA website.

© 2011 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 13, 2011 at 5:17 AM

Fall color!

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I was going to show you a closer look at heath asters in today’s post, but yesterday some fall color intervened, so here it is, hot off the [Word]Press. Take that, you lovers of red and orange.

Central Texas doesn’t have the great displays of autumn leaf color that so many people in northern regions revel in (and that I remember fondly growing up with in New York), but down here we do have prairie flameleaf sumac, Rhus lanceolata, and it’s our most widespread and reliable source of color at this time of year. In saying “this time of year” I mean November or even the first part of December, months when for many of you in other places the deciduous trees have long since lost their leaves to the cold and the early dark. That’s one advantage of a southern latitude.

I found this young flameleaf sumac living up to its name alongside a utility driveway leading to a sump behind Seton Northwest Hospital in my likewise described—minus the Seton and the Hospital—part of Austin. Several of the older flameleaf sumacs on this property were great in 2010, but so far this year those trees aren’t doing much when it comes to warm colors; perhaps they still will. In the meantime, this little one is the best I’ve seen in 2011, and not at all bad in its own right, so I’m passing it along to all of you.

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 12, 2011 at 5:07 AM

A rather different aster

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Symphyotrichum ericoides; click for considerably more detail.

While the Symphyotrichum subulatum that you saw yesterday is a diffuse aster whose flower heads grow in relative isolation, Symphyotrichum ericoides, known as heath aster, can produce dense masses of flowers like the ones shown here. I photographed them on the Blackland Prairie along the far eastern edge of Austin on November 3. This picture is good evidence that the prolonged drought hasn’t deterred these asters at all.

For more information about Symphyotrichum ericoides, including a state-clickable map showing the many places in North America where heath asters grow, you can visit the USDA website.

© 2011 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 11, 2011 at 5:37 AM

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