Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Not ferocious or fearsome

with 19 comments

Click for greater size and clarity.

After the last post, with its photograph of a spider devouring a damselfly, here’s a milder picture. Yes, there’s still a spider, but only a tiny one, no more than an eighth of an inch long, and doing no harm to any other creature. If you’d like a closer look at the miniature spider, you can click the icon below.

Many of you recognize the plant as a Texas thistle, Cirsium texanum, with a flower head that is fading and about to start decomposing. Doesn’t the bundle of purple florets remind you of an old-fashioned shaving brush? The conspicuous pappus snagged on the right side of the flower head had apparently blown over from another Texas thistle in a more advanced stage of decomposition.

I took this picture on June 8 on a stretch of Bluegrass Dr. that has remained in a natural state even though houses line most of the road. This portion of it slopes down steeply enough that the immediately adjacent land there is probably (and thankfully) unsuitable for building. That has made the fringes of land on both sides of the road suitable for me to keep taking nature pictures over the past few years.

© 2012 Steven Schwartzman


Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 31, 2012 at 6:13 AM

19 Responses

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  1. Fantastisch und sogar eine kleine Krabbenspinne. Top!!


    July 31, 2012 at 6:18 AM

  2. Especially love pix with itty bitty bugs that I can magnify even more! I opened up my OS magnifier to get an even closer look for grins. Your picture makes me think of Braniac and Kandor, the Kryptonian city he shrank. If anyone’s a Superman geek, you’ll understand a huge being looking at a very small living object.


    July 31, 2012 at 6:43 AM

    • It’s good to see that you used the technical term itty bitty bug. I wouldn’t have made the connection to Superman, but now I’m reminded of the Lilliputians and Brobdingnagians in Gulliver’s Travels.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 31, 2012 at 8:15 AM

  3. I love this photo! A spider in its beautiful domain. The spider is a baby Mecaphesa crab spider. If the flower were in bloom, I’d say it was there to catch predators. The crab spider Misumena vatia has been shown to shop around on flowers to find the one that gets the most prey options; this flower also tends to be producing the most nectar, and we don’t know exactly what cues the spider keys on. This baby Mecaphesa could be only coincidentally on a blooming flower, but it could be there because somehow it thinks this flower is about to become a good cafeteria.

    • Thanks, as usual, for the extra information about the spider. Even though this flower head was on its way out, it still probably attracted insects; I’ve often been surprised to see insects gathering nectar from flowers that I would have thought too far gone to provide any. Whatever the reason that the baby spider was there, it added something to the picture.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 31, 2012 at 2:07 PM

  4. This is the most elegant shaving brush I have ever seen!


    July 31, 2012 at 2:38 PM

  5. I am in awe…again!

    Sheila T Illustrated

    July 31, 2012 at 9:30 PM

  6. Despite their rather uncomfortable exteriors, thistles have the most beautiful flowers when you look at them closely! And this one is a great home for the spider.


    July 31, 2012 at 10:05 PM

    • Yes, I’m quite fond of thistle flowers, too. The main native species in central Texas is this species, the Texas thistle, of which I’m still seeing a few flowering here and there even now.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 31, 2012 at 10:25 PM

  7. Wow that is one tiny spider! Beautiful picture! And it does remind me of a shaving brush!

    Michael Glover

    August 1, 2012 at 10:34 PM

    • It was tiny, but my lens managed to resolve it. I’ve never used a shaving brush, and you may not have either, but the resemblance is certainly there.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 1, 2012 at 10:41 PM

  8. Welcome back to Texas! Have been staying offline a bit, but could not resist coming over today. Glad I did–finally figured out what those guest posts were! I was so amazed the first time I saw milkweed in bud & bloom–had no idea what it was. Bash Bish, BTW, is not so far from where we live–we’ve been to that parking lot, in fact.

    Susan Scheid

    August 1, 2012 at 10:35 PM

    • Yes, and welcome back to you, too. In New York you get to revel in common milkweed, something I was able to do only by traveling halfway across the country.

      Wow, so you’ve been to the Bash Bish parking lot, too. Too bad you didn’t go there on the morning we did, or we could’ve said hi.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 1, 2012 at 10:45 PM

      • That would have been fun, wouldn’t it? Still, when I trod there again, I can say Steve trod here too!

        Susan Scheid

        August 2, 2012 at 8:45 PM

  9. The spider’s nice, but the shape’s the thing for me here. It’s a lovely Gibson Girl silhouette, or perhaps a Hurricane cocktail from Pat O’Brien’s in the French Quarter. The symmetry’s marvelous, and the color of a thistle just can’t be beat.


    August 3, 2012 at 3:03 PM

    • The shape’s the thing—not wherein you’ll catch the conscience of a king, but rather the spirit of this Gibson Girl of a flower. And speaking of Texas thistles, I’m still finding a few flowering here and there even though it’s August.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 3, 2012 at 3:16 PM

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