Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Loss of weediness

with 19 comments

Chamaesyce; click to see a larger and clearer view.

Yesterday’s post showed a view from several feet away of Chamaesyce hypericifolia or Chamaesyce nutans, in either case a plant that many people are likely to call a weed. But casting aside the adage that familiarity breeds contempt, I have to wonder whether a much closer look at this plant, which weedsayers almost never get to see in such detail, could fail to woo them into appreciators of plants like these. Who wouldn’t enjoy looking at these tiny fruits, only an eighth of an inch across, laid out so richly red against a sky of clear blue? Wouldn’t you?

Today’s colorful photograph from November 16, 2011, comes to you courtesy of the photographic playground known as the Mueller Greenway, a piece of the Blackland Prairie being restored on the east side of Austin. For more information about Chamaesyce hypericifolia, and to see a state-clickable map of the places across the southern United States where this species grows, you can visit the USDA website.

© 2012 Steven Schwartzman

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Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 26, 2012 at 5:09 AM

19 Responses

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  1. These are beautiful. At first glance I thought they looked like begonia flowers, but then I saw the real blossoms. The fruits remind me a bit of pomegranate, although I see they are slightly flattened on three sides. How small are they?

    pixilated2

    January 26, 2012 at 6:43 AM

    • It’s good that you noticed the flattening, which occurs on three sides. Tripartite capsules like this are common in many species in the spurge family, and that three-ness is one clue that a plant is in this family. You can get a better idea of the shape of the fruit if you look back at the picture of fire-on-the-prairie, for example. In the case of this Chamaesyce, they’re tiny, only about an eighth of an inch across, so even if they were palatable, which I don’t think they are, it would take thousands of them to equal the weight of one mature pomegranate.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 26, 2012 at 7:09 AM

  2. I indeed took a look at the USDA map and was surprised to find your Chamaesyce grows in Puerto Rico. I will keep an eye out for it. I began to photograph wildflowers some time ago, but didn’t continue. Your detailed work is inspiring me and I may very well start posting my finds!

    Ronald

    January 26, 2012 at 7:19 AM

    • And you get to claim the southernmost appearance of this species in the United States. I’m glad it will act as a stimulus for you to return to photographing your native plants.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 26, 2012 at 8:57 AM

  3. I have a species of spurge that grows in my garden. You have piqued my interest. I can’t wait until spring to see if they too have the tripartite characteristic.

    Bonnie Michelle

    January 26, 2012 at 8:38 AM

  4. The colors are beautiful and the fruit unique – but taken as the whole, the plant appears to be taking flight.
    It looks precisely like an osprey hovering high above the water, its wings higher than its body as it waits for the perfect moment to dive upon its dinner.

    Perhaps that’s just another way of noting how vibrant and alive your photos appear!

    shoreacres

    January 26, 2012 at 11:12 AM

    • I’ll gladly take some of the credit for vibrant and alive (thank you), but you’re in for your share for having an imagination equally vivid. It’s good that you can conceive this as an osprey waiting to dive, no doubt a sight you’ve seen and enjoyed along the coast. Happy viewing!

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 26, 2012 at 11:24 AM

  5. At first sight I thought it was a kind of strange bird, but then I realized it wasn’t.
    Great colors that you captured here Steven.
    The contrast is just amazing.

    Pablo Buitrago

    January 26, 2012 at 3:29 PM

    • How interesting that you, like the commenter just before you, saw this as a bird. I was as intrigued by the rich colors as the two of you.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 26, 2012 at 3:55 PM

  6. Lovely. I enjoy getting up close and personal with flowers- it is amazing what you can see. I was just out at my site yesterday. It was a great day for a walk, but too early for plants yet. Pretty soon though…. 🙂

    melissabluefineart

    January 26, 2012 at 5:15 PM

    • A native plant friend of mine has been describing my photographs of this type as “up close and personal” for some years now, so I’m glad to welcome you to the club. I use my macro lens more often than any other because I love seeing all those tiny details that can be so intriguing.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 26, 2012 at 7:04 PM

  7. You really have a treasure trove there in your part of the world . . . although, come to think of it, you are also teaching us that if you look, really look, you will be surprised at how much there is to see. Such beauty in small things.

    Susan Scheid

    January 26, 2012 at 9:30 PM

    • Funny you should bring that up now. Just a while ago I was thinking about the things that appear in these photographs and the ways that I present them. Some of them, like the large flowers, are easy for everyone to like, but others take not only a getting close but also a different kind of looking, a different frame of mind. From normal eye level and at normal walking speed many of these things would be consigned to the realm of the ordinary, the nondescript, and even the unlovely—but that’s where I hope to intervene and let people see them as special.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 26, 2012 at 10:00 PM

  8. That is really very pretty! It does pay to look closely at things, doesn’t it!

    montucky

    January 26, 2012 at 11:07 PM

  9. Very delicate! It bears a slight resemblance to some plants that I’m not able to grasp fully in my mental files at the moment but I suspect might be among the Vaccinium crew. Immature lingonberry, perhaps? Or is it just immature of me to ask?

    kathryningrid

    January 26, 2012 at 11:35 PM

    • Good word: delicate. It’s certainly not immature of you to ask what these fruits resemble: in my limited experience, they are shaped a lot like those of the many other family members we have in central Texas, but I’m afraid I’ve not yet been vaccinated with the Vaccinium crew as a whole. I have eaten blueberries, of course, and the protrusion at the distal end a blueberry does remind me of the protrusion of the distal end of the fruit shown above—yet the sides of a blueberry aren’t flattened, nor is the fruit capsule divided into three parts. Win some, lose some, but your memory and imagination are free to soar.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 27, 2012 at 5:13 AM

  10. […] as woolly croton. Like snow-on-the-mountain, snow-on-the-prairie, fire-on-the-mountain, and various other members of the Euphorbia family, this species has small and rather unshowy flowers, a few of which you see […]


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