Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Archive for February 17th, 2012

A trace of red

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Marsh fleabane gone to seed; click for greater sharpness.

Just as it’s true that “Not all that glitters is gold,” it’s also true that not all that doesn’t glitter isn’t gold (there can be dull gold, for example). Well, I’m here today to tell you that, in spite of a seeming lack of resemblance, the plant that you saw blossoming on August 9 and in a later stage on November 23, marsh fleabane, Pluchea odorata, is a member of the same botanical family as sunflowers, asters, thistles, tatalencho, mistflowers, and Mexican devilweed. Many of the insect-pollinated plants in this huge group share a trait: after their flower heads go to seed, they turn fluffy, like a dandelion (which, though not native to the Americas, also belongs to this family). Today’s picture is a much closer view than the previous one of marsh fleabane, and it reveals that before the plant turns gray it can retain some of its red floral color even as it dries out and gets fuzzy. The receptacle that is revealed at this time appears to many people as the conventionalized sunburst or starburst that is another widely shared family trait. (You saw a variation on the theme in a photograph of goldeneye.)

I took this picture on August 9, 2011, at Meadow Lake Park in Round Rock, a large suburb north of Austin. That was the same place where, on a follow-up visit, I first photographed the Mexican devilweed that appeared in a post last month.

To find out more about Pluchea odorata, including a state-clickable map showing the many places in North America where this species grows, you can visit the USDA website. For those interested in photography as a craft, points 1, 7, and 18 in About My Techniques are relevant to today’s picture.

© 2012 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 17, 2012 at 1:22 PM

Blue curls, but not true blue

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Click for greater clarity.

Yesterday you saw the still-white buds of Phacelia congesta, colloquially called blue curls, as I photographed them on February 9 at the edge of a lot in an otherwise mostly developed part of northwest Austin. A nearby plant had advanced farther, so now you get to see the curls as well as some opening and fully open flowers, and to observe the progression of color from left to right. I’ll add that this is another of those many cases where some people have used the word blue to describe what for me is clearly violet or purple. What’s not clearly discernible is the line in our imagination that separates the world of animals from the world of plants; one crossover comes from the curling buds of this species, which have earned it the alternate colloquial name caterpillars.

In the United States, Phacelia congesta is found primarily in Texas, with a little spillover into New Mexico and Oklahoma; you can see that at the USDA website, where the Texas map implies a presence in Mexico as well.

For those among you who are interested in the craft of photography, points 1, 2, 4, 9, and 14 in About My Techniques are relevant to today’s image.

© 2012 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 17, 2012 at 5:47 AM

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