Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Archive for May 2012

We interrupt our regularly scheduled milkweed post…

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We interrupt our regularly scheduled milkweed post to remind you that many meadows and fields in central Texas are still home to dense stands of mixed wildflowers. Here you see primarily two species that have already appeared in individual views in these pages, Mexican hats (Ratibida columnifera) and coreopsis (Coreopsis tinctoria). Note that the rays of the Mexican hats vary from virtually all yellow to almost completely brown. The traces of pink mixed in with the yellow and brown are horsemints, Monarda citriodora. This has been a good year for all three of those wildflowers.

Date: May 11.  Place: Brushy Creek Lake Park in Cedar Park, an adjacent suburb to the north of Austin.

The antelope-horns milkweed series will resume presently (in its original sense of ‘soon’).

© 2012 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 23, 2012 at 5:28 AM

Same visitor, different view, additional colors and patterns

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The edge-on view of the red admiral, Vanessa atalanta, that you saw in the last post emphasized the red-orange coloring on the butterfly’s dorsal surface but gave no hint of the ventral side’s colors and patterns. Now you get to see them, just as you once again get to see an antelope-horns milkweed, Asclepias asperula. By the way, this is not just the same species of butterfly as last time, but the same individual. Date: April 11. Location: TX 71 west of Austin.

Although butterflies fly mostly rightside up, once they land they seem at home in whatever orientation makes it easy for them to draw nectar from flowers. At the time I took this picture, that meant upside down.

(Before today’s two pictures, a red admiral appeared once in these pages, when it was a small element in the lower-left corner of a panorama showing a resurgent wildflower meadow. In that photograph the butterfly was on a blackfoot daisy, but the picture coincidentally gave pride of place to antelope-horns milkweed.)

© 2012 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 22, 2012 at 12:50 PM

Same wildflower, similarly colored visitor, different type of insect

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We’re still looking at Asclepias asperula, or antelope-horns milkweed. The colors visible on this visitor are similar to those of Oncopeltus fasciatus, the large milkweed bug that you’ve seen in the last two posts, but now we have a red admiral, Vanessa atalanta, a butterfly species that has been abundant this spring in central Texas.

Date: April 11. Location: TX 71 west of Austin.

© 2012 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 22, 2012 at 5:42 AM

Growing up on antelope-horns

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And in contrast to the earlier stage shown in the last post, here’s what a large milkweed bug, Oncopeltus fasciatus, looks like when it’s all grown up. Would you have predicted this from the previous picture? I wouldn’t have.

© 2012 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 21, 2012 at 12:53 PM

Another podcast*

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Once the flowers of Asclepias asperula, or antelope-horns milkweed, get pollinated, the plant goes to work producing seed pods with a surface that some sources describe as warty. Judge for yourselves whether you think that’s a good word—if you can take your eyes off the brightly colored little creatures that often hang out on these pods or other parts of the plant. The insects shown here appear to be nymphs of Oncopeltus fasciatus, known as the large milkweed bug.

© 2012 Steven Schwartzman

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* I first used the word podcast last summer in connection with a different local milkweed species, Asclepias viridiflora.

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 21, 2012 at 5:34 AM

Antelope-horns milkweed flowers

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Eventually the buds of Asclepias asperula, known as antelope-horns milkweed, open into the five-pronged flowers you saw a few posts back. Now here’s an even closer view, with no distractions, to show you the intricate structure of those flowers. You’ll recall that the flowers form a sort of dome, but if we flattened out the perspective I think the resulting pattern* would lend itself to wallpaper. I’m talking about the good old-fashioned kind of wallpaper that people put on the walls of rooms rather than on the monitors of computers, though the pattern would work for the newer type of wallpaper as well.

For those of you who are interested in photography as a craft, points 1 and 9 in About My Techniques are relevant to this photograph.

© 2012 Steven Schwartzman

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* I sometimes use the WordPress tag patterns, but I’ve found that almost everything on WordPress that gets categorized that way has to do with fabrics, weaving, clothing, sewing, etc. How about some equal time for patterns in nature and abstract patterns?

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 20, 2012 at 1:44 PM

Antelope-horns milkweed buds

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Sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander, or so they say. And in the movie Sunset Blvd. the character of Norma Desmond says: “All right, Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close-up.” So now the Mr. Schwartzman who readily brought you a close-up of a blackfoot daisy in the last post also brings you this close view of the buds of antelope-horns, Asclepias asperula, which appeared with some blackfoot daisies two posts ago. I’ll call your attention to the red star incised on each green and pudgy pentagonal bud; note also the long, stiff, folded leaves that characterize this species.

For those of you who are interested in photography as a craft, points 1 and 2 in About My Techniques are relevant to this photograph.

© 2012 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 20, 2012 at 5:22 AM

Blackfoot daisy from below

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Here, from April of 2010, is a closer look at a blackfoot daisy, Melampodium leucanthum. The markings on the underside of the rays that you could barely discern last time are clear in this close view from below.

For those of you who are interested in photography as a craft, points 1, 3, and 5 in About My Techniques are relevant to this photograph.

© 2012 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 19, 2012 at 1:14 PM

Two kinds of wildflowers

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Do you remember the lush wildflower meadow that appeared here on April 8? Prominent among the species pictured then was antelope-horns, Asclepias asperula, the most common milkweed in Austin; less conspicuously you saw some blackfoot daisies, Melampodium leucanthum. Now you get a closer look at both.

The blackfoot daisy in the foreground, though white, is called blackfoot because of its dark roots. Behind the daisy is a dome of antelope-horns milkweed flowers, each divided into five radially symmetric parts. Note the not-quite-open antelope-horns bud just to the left of the daisy, and another bud in the lower left. Also notice a few more blackfoot daisies in the background, including the one near the top of the frame that gives you a hint of the pattern on the underside of its white rays.

© 2012 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 19, 2012 at 5:28 AM

Anole

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Analoe Lizard with Red Dewlap on Branch 4079

On the afternoon of May 2, in preparation for a public nature walk in Great Hills Park the following Saturday morning, I walked through a portion of the park and jotted down the names of the prominent native wildflowers I saw so I could list them in a handout for the people who would attend. At one point I encountered a yellow-crowned night heron, just as I had on January 19, but this time my movement startled it and it flew away before I had time to take a single picture.

When I’d mostly finished my note-taking and was walking back toward the trailhead I’d entered the park from, I caught a glimpse of a green anole lizard, Anolis carolinensis, near the tip of a dead branch. I hadn’t seen one of these slender lizards for quite a while and hadn’t photographed one for years, so I set down my camera bag, put on my longest lens, and settled in to see what I could do.

My first pictures were so-so, but gradually I moved a little closer, and the anole began to display, perhaps because it felt I was encroaching on its territory. From then on, my challenge was to get pictures of the anole with its red dewlap extended—not an easy task, because the lizard kept its colorful flap of skin out for only a few seconds at a time before withdrawing it. As I took pictures the anole changed position occasionally, sometimes holding itself with its head up and other times reversing position and ending with its head down. The downward stance gave me an advantage I’d never had before, because in that position the dewlap just happened to be lit from behind by sunlight coming through the trees in front of me. That accounts for the unusually bright red-orange that you see here.

© 2012 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 18, 2012 at 5:40 AM

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