Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Archive for April 2012

Prickly pear flower interior

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The prickly pear, Opuntia engelmannii, is far and away the most common cactus in central Texas, and its flowers are among the most attractive we have. As you’ve been reading in these pages, by the middle of April this year our prickly pear flowers in Austin were beginning to open in various locations, but the one shown here was among the few in my neighborhood on April 15 that had opened wide enough for me to look down into and photograph its interior. The red surrounding the center of the flower leads me to believe this cactus was Opuntia engelmannii var. engelmannii (there’s also a var. lindheimeri).

© 2012 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 30, 2012 at 5:35 AM

Prickly pear flower opening

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As I mentioned last time, Austin’s prickly pear cacti, Opuntia engelmannii, were laden with buds by the middle of April this year. Some of those buds were already opening, and others have appeared and opened in the days since then. I photographed this one in St. Edward’s Park on April 20. In contrast to the previous picture, which let you look at an opening bud from the side, this one provides a mostly downward view of a bud in a slightly later stage of development.

There are lots of deer in my hilly part of Austin, and they find many a tasty plant to eat—including those in people’s gardens—but deer aren’t likely to nibble at such a well-defended flower.

© 2012 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 29, 2012 at 1:43 PM

Prickly pear bud

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Austin’s prickly pear cacti, Opuntia engelmannii, were laden with buds by the middle of April this year. I photographed this one in my northwestern Austin neighborhood on the morning of April 27. Note the outlines of several prickly pear pads in the background.

I often see prickly pear buds as flaming torches, but that’s probably just me; if you happen to see them like that or in some other imaginative way, please let us know.

© 2012 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 29, 2012 at 5:39 AM

A close view of stork’s bill

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Here’s a close look at a stork’s bill flower, Erodium texanum, with another one mostly hidden behind it. The location was Pedernales Falls State Park, a few miles away from where I took the previous picture showing a stork’s bill colony on March 27. Note the stylized red star at the flower’s center.

© 2012 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 28, 2012 at 1:22 PM

A different purple

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You’ve already seen phlox in these pages, and although I haven’t shown examples of all the colors it can come in, one that I did show is purple. Another purple springtime wildflower in Texas is stork’s bill, Erodium texanum, which like so many other species had a good year in 2012. Here you see a colony of them mixed in with Indian paintbrushes. While this species of paintbrush, Castilleja indivisa, is usually red or red-orange, the colony in today’s photograph shows that there are occasional variants whose color is a pale salmon or a creamy off-white.

I photographed this roadside scene on March 27 east of Johnson City, Texas. The town was named after forebears of Lyndon Johnson, whose wife became a co-founder of what is now called the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. The stork’s bill was named after its seed capsules, which are long and slender.

© 2012 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 28, 2012 at 5:32 AM

Passion

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Passion vine, that is, Passiflora lutea. And I was passionate about recording this view of one of the vine’s tiny coiled tendrils against the backlit leaf behind it. The place was McKinney Falls State Park; the date was April 5.

Those interested in photography as a craft will find points 1, 3, 6, 9, 12, 14, 19 and 20 in About My Techniques relevant to today’s image. (No, I didn’t set out to do all those things, most of them just happened.)

© 2012 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 27, 2012 at 5:28 AM

Yellow against yellow

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Yes, mid-April is definitely wildflower profusion time in Austin. The relatively tall and lemony yellow flowers that you see making their first appearance in these pages are square-bud primroses, Calylophus berlandieri, also called sundrops. They stand out from the much greater number of greenthreads that are shorter plants and have flowers of a yellow that can shade a bit toward orange. The red flowers are Indian paintbrushes, Castilleja indivisa.

The date was April 17, and the location was not a dell but a field across the street from one—from one of the many buildings of Dell Computer scattered across the flat terrain of what has become a commercial section of northeast Austin. This piece of the Blackland Prairie knows nothing of such things, but it does know how to keep on being a prairie. Eventually, of course, something will be built on it, but at least for the week or two after I took this picture the many drivers passing by will have gotten to enjoy the sight—if they’ve looked.

© 2012 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 26, 2012 at 5:31 AM

Something pointy in Texas that doesn’t puncture your skin

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At last, and especially in contrast to yesterday’s picture, here’s a Texas plant that looks menacing, that in fact looks like a bunch of hypodermic needles just waiting to break through your skin, and yet miraculously the would-be needles are pliable and don’t hurt at all (unlike the spines of the white prickly poppy, which are real, and which I can tell you do hurt). These intriguing and happily harmless flowers are Onosmodium bejariense, called false gromwell or marbleseed. I photographed them in McKinney Falls State Park in southeast Austin on April 5.

I was surprised to find from the USDA map that this species grows in most American states and Canadian provinces.

© 2012 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 25, 2012 at 5:31 AM

White prickly poppy capsule

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And here’s a picture from April 6 of a developing white prickly poppy plant, Argemone albiflora, in a field on FM 969 west of Bastrop that was heavily colonized by purple phlox. If the previous photographs of this species left you wondering about the prickly in white prickly poppy, today’s image should leave no doubt about the accuracy of that part of the name.

And if you’re interested in the craft of photography, you’ll find that points 1, 2 and 5 in About My Photographs apply to this picture.

© 2012 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 24, 2012 at 5:30 AM

Inside a white prickly poppy

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Two posts back you saw white prickly poppies, Argemone albiflora, in a large and dense colony. Then you got a close view of the outside of one of the poppy’s diaphanous petals. Now let’s float up and over, then hover to look straight down into the center of one of these poppies. Beyond the obvious appeal of the ball of yellow-orange stamens and the dark red patterns on the stigma at their center, notice the characteristic crinkling of the flower’s delicate white petals.

For those of you interested in photography as a craft, points 1, 9, and the recently added 22 in About My Techniques are relevant to this image. If you’d like to see the many places where white prickly poppies grow, you can visit the USDA website.

© 2012 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 23, 2012 at 5:30 AM

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