Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Archive for February 15th, 2012

The eyes of Texas

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The prickly pear cactus, Opuntia engelmannii, is an emblem of Texas that has appeared numerous times in this blog, and not just for the past week. One post last year dealt with the structure inside a cactus pad, and another with discoloration on the surface of a pad, but I was intrigued in August of 2011 by the the ringed patterns I saw on the outside of some prickly pear pads that were just beginning to decay. At first I thought of the developing deformations as eyes, but the wavy margins of the one shown here and others like it ultimately made me imagine that I was looking at some sort of strange oyster. I don’t know if this is occasionally a normal type of decay for this species or if some agent like a fungus created the effect shown here.

Yet another flight of mind-wandering carries me back to something I’ve seen in old Texas cemeteries: once in a while a tombstone bears a transparent glassy structure, elliptical in shape and bulging shallowly from the surface of the slab, with a photograph of the dead person sheltered inside it. You’re free to impose that image here if you wish, and to see a bas-relief of a shrouded face where none ever existed.

© 2012 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 15, 2012 at 1:14 PM

Lovely Rita, meter maid

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Click for greater clarity.

Well no, I didn’t see any meter maids or even any parking meters when I was photographing on February 9 at the edge of an undeveloped piece of land in northwest Austin (the same place that brought you yesterday’s white anemone). But a lovely ‘Rita I did see, and it was agarita, Mahonia trifoliolata, whose tiny reddish-orange buds, only about a quarter of an inch in size, were opening into scented yellow flowers. Notice how the lobes of the shrub’s stiff, holly-like, tripartite leaves taper to a point; they make the same point as the spines and glochids of the prickly pear: approach at your own risk.

For more information about agarita you can point yourself toward the website of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

© 2012 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 15, 2012 at 5:25 AM

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