Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Archive for April 2012

Not just people

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It isn’t just people who are drawn to the white prickly poppy, Argemone albiflora. Here’s a spotted cucumber beetle, Diabrotica undecimpunctata, that I found on one of the poppy’s diaphanous petals in St. Edward’s Park two days ago. This kind of beetle doesn’t seem to have 11 spots, as the species name implies, but 11 times the 2 of two days ago is 22, and today is April 22, and that date this year happens to be Earth Day, so here’s a second photograph—an entomologicofloral photograph—to celebrate two of life’s kingdoms on Earth Day.

Those of you interested in photography as a craft will find that points 1, 2, 8, 18, and 19 in About My Techniques apply to this image.

© 2012 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 22, 2012 at 2:52 PM

Symphony in white

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In the winter of 1861–62, James McNeill Whistler painted a now-famous portrait that he called “The White Girl” and later, more abstractly, “Symphony in White.” I’ve borrowed his second title for this picture of a very different subject, a field of white prickly poppies swaying in the breeze. The date was April 1, the place a field on FM 2342 in Burnet County.

Argemone albiflora is the only poppy native to the Austin area, where it’s a common sight in the spring. Like so many other species of wildflowers in 2012, this one has been having a good year. A panoramic view of a whole field of them blowing in the wind seemed to me appropriate for Earth Day, which is today. (And I hope you’ll agree that in this blog every day could be thought of as Earth Day.)

© 2012 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 22, 2012 at 5:34 AM

Nueces coreopsis

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In case this morning’s wildflower mixture left you wanting a closer look at the Nueces coreopsis, Coreopsis nuecensis, here’s your shot at one, via my shot of several.

Another name for coreopsis is tickseed, based on the appearance of the seed capsules in this genus. The dark red markings on the flower heads of this species have given it the alternate name crown tickseed. The Nueces, by the way, is a river in Texas; the word is Spanish for ‘walnuts.’

© 2012 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 21, 2012 at 1:29 PM

Another Texas wildflower mixture

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We’re not done yet with mixtures of spring wildflowers. The yellow flower making its first appearance in these pages is the Nueces coreopsis, Coreopsis nuecensis, which doesn’t grow in Austin but is found not far to the south and southeast. By now you probably recognize the Indian paintbrushes, firewheels (also called Indian blankets), bluebonnets, and phlox mixed in among the coreopsis. This is yet another picture from our almost-300-mile grand tour of wildflowers south of Austin on March 31.

© 2012 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 21, 2012 at 5:45 AM

Not a Christmas cactus

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My post for December 25, 2011, appropriately showed a Christmas cactus, Cylindropuntia leptocaulis. The cactus in today’s photograph, which shows the view looking straight down at the ground, has the same color scheme, but it’s a different genus and species, Escobaria missouriensis, that I photographed in the Texas Hill Country on Nan Hampton’s property outside of Lampasas on March 22. The four small red fruits were no longer attached to the cactus but were kept in place by its spines and by gravity.

© 2012 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 20, 2012 at 5:32 AM

Dwarf dandelion and two close visitors

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And now here’s a closeup of a fully open dwarf dandelion flower head, which was about half an inch across. I photographed it on March 14 in an undeveloped lot at the corner of Braker Ln. and Kramer Ln. in north Austin. While in past years this was a good place to see native plants, in the spring of 2012 the lot was almost totally covered by the invasive Rapistrum rugosum. I walked through much of the property but the dwarf dandelions and a few gauras were the only native flowers I could find to photograph.

While we’re on that subject, I’ll note that the various species of dwarf dandelions are in the genus Krigia, which Shinners and Mahler’s Illustrated Flora of North Central Texas says was named for David Krig or Krieg, who was either German or Hungarian, and who collected botanical specimens in Maryland; he died in 1713. It just so happens that the German word Krieg means ‘war,’ which was the title of a recent post in which I invoked that metaphor to describe the conflict between native species and alien invasives.

© 2012 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 19, 2012 at 1:32 PM

Dwarf dandelion flower head opening

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Dwarf Dandelion Flower Head Opening 1746

UPDATE: Soon after this post was published in 2012, Sue Wiseman alerted me to the fact that the picture originally shown here wasn’t really a dwarf dandelion at all, but Hedypnois cretica, an increasingly common European invasive, referred to descriptively based on its origin and botanical family as a Cretan composite. I’ve replaced that photograph with one I took of an actual dwarf dandelion on a field trip to Bastrop State Park led by botanist Bill Carr on April 27, 2014. There’s nothing like having an expert with you to identify plants.

I suspect that even in areas where these little flowers are common, many people are unaware of dwarf dandelions, which botanists place in the genus Krigia (this one being K. oppositifolia). As John and Gloria Tveten write in Wildflowers of Houston: “While these tiny plants do not attract attention when alone, they frequently form large, showy colonies that blanket sandy fields or roadsides.”

© 2012, 2014 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 19, 2012 at 5:24 AM

Red and “blue” and now yellow too

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I’ve long been fascinated by the combinations of colors in wildflower meadows, but I’m hardly alone in that: agencies and individuals in Texas often plant bluebonnets (Lupinus texensis) and Indian paintbrushes (Castilleja indivisa) on the same plot of ground because their bold colors go so well together. What further distinguishes the mixture in today’s photograph is the presence of all the little yellow flowers, which almost certainly were not planted by anyone but themselves. They’re in the genus Krigia and are called dwarf dandelions because they stay close to the ground and their open flower heads are only about half the width of those of the Texas dandelion and European dandelion. This has been a good year for dwarf dandelions, and I’ve seen dense colonies in various places, including this one along US 281 in Granite Shoals on April 1.

© 2012 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 18, 2012 at 5:40 AM

An edge-on look at pearl milkweed

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The usual view from above of a flower of the pearl milkweed vine, Matelea reticulata, gives barely a hint of the orange concealed beneath the little pearly covering, nor of the fact that the “pearl” doesn’t have much depth. This photograph, a get-down-on-the-ground edge-on follow-up, reveals those features (no extra charge for all the hyphens). Whether the orange attracts pollinators or serves some other purpose, I don’t know.

If you’re interested in photography as a craft, you’ll find that points 1, 22, and the newly added 23 in About My Techniques are relevant to this image.

© 2012 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 17, 2012 at 1:45 PM

A similar green flower

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Yesterday you saw a flower of Matelea edwardsensis, a milkweed vine that grows natively in the Edwards Plateau of central Texas and nowhere else in the world. As a follow-up, here are two flowers of its close relative Matelea reticulata. This is a more common species, and one a little more widely distributed in Texas, that not only shares the green reticulation of its genus-mate but also adds the unusual distinction of a mother-of-pearl roof on the top of its tiny central structure. That nacreous covering has led people to use the name pearl milkweed for this vine. I photographed these two pearl milkweed flowers, the larger of which was about two-thirds of an inch across, in a shaded part of Great Hills Park on April 12.

As intriguing as pearl milkweed flowers are, the vine’s leaves have an unpleasant odor that has been described as akin to burned rubber; at times I’ve likened it to not-so-fresh fish. But let’s forget the sense of smell and use our eyes to appreciate the patterns on these little flowers.

For those of you who are interested in photography as a craft, points 1 and the newly added 22 in About My Techniques are relevant to this image.

© 2012 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 17, 2012 at 5:43 AM

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