Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Archive for September 1st, 2012

Snow-on-the-prairie flowers: an even closer view, sans spider

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Click for greater size and clarity.

The last post mentioned that people who view the soft and fuzzy elongated bracts of snow-on-the-prairie from a distance sometimes mistake those distinctive upper leaves for petals. It also explained that the flowers of Euphorbia bicolor are nondescript little things that don’t include the surrounding outer “collar” of five white lobes or even the inner one of five pale green segments, both of which would seem to us to be flower parts. The flower in the previous picture, like the partially obscured one here, wasn’t open yet, but the two prominent ones seen in this photograph had opened to reveal a cluster of stamens. We humans may be confused about what constitutes a flower in this species, but nectar- and pollen-seeking insects aren’t.

Like the last photograph, I took this one on August 23 at Southeast Metropolitan Park.

© 2012 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 1, 2012 at 1:03 PM

A still closer look at snow-on-the-prairie, along with a resident

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Click for greater size and clarity.

Here’s a view of snow-on-the-mountain, Euphorbia bicolor, that’s a quantum leap closer than the last two. Now you can almost feel how soft and fuzzy the bracts of this plant are. From a distance people sometimes mistakes these showy bracts for flower petals, but that’s not what they are. The flower—not yet open—is at the lower left, but it doesn’t include the outer “collar” of white lobes or even the inner one of five pale green segments: the actual flower is the nondescript little thing at the center of the inner ring.

And speaking of little creatures, it’d be hard to miss the prominent spider sitting on its temporary green throne. Spider Joe Lapp has identified it as a northern crab spider, Mecaphesa asperata. I assumed it was responsible for rolling up these bracts and tying them together with some of its silk in a way that reminds me of a linen napkin held inside a napkin ring, but Spider Joe thinks that’s unlikely: “Sometimes these spiders take over refuges that other spiders or caterpillars have folded, so it really all depends on the folding itself. These spiders can only fold flimsy things like petals and sepals — except when they’ve made an egg sac, in which case stiffer things can be folded.”

I took this picture on August 23 at Southeast Metropolitan Park. For those of you who are interested in photography as a craft, points 1, 6, 8, and 18 in About My Techniques are relevant to this photograph.

© 2012 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 1, 2012 at 6:01 AM

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