Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

William Blake comes to Great Hills Park again

with 16 comments

Click for greater clarity.

O Rose, thou art sick!
The invisible worm
That flies in the night,
In the howling storm,

Has found out thy bed
Of crimson joy,
And his dark secret love
Does thy life destroy.

—William Blake
Songs of Innocence and Experience

Okay, so this wasn’t a rose but a Texas thistle, Cirsium texanum. On it was a caterpillar rather than a worm. The time was day and not night, and although there were clouds there was no howling storm. The color of the flower wasn’t crimson but pale pink. I’m sure you’ll grant me poetic license and overlook those little discrepancies. The fact remains that the caterpillar had curled itself over the top of this thistle and had eaten its way into the dark secret interior of the bud and destroyed at least a part of its life. I don’t know what kind of caterpillar it was*, whether it was still alive, or what those tiny dark bundles on the green bracts of the thistle were. I do know that the date was May 2—five months ago today—and the place Great Hills Park in my northwest Austin neighborhood; this was the same productive walk that led to a picture of a green anole displaying its dewlap and a spider in a funnel web beneath its cast-off exoskeleton.


* The caterpillar looks like it might be a pale specimen of Heliothis virescens, the tobacco budworm moth, which is found in Austin.

© 2012 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 2, 2012 at 6:08 AM

16 Responses

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  1. What an amazing shot!! You never cease to amaze me with your photography :).


    October 2, 2012 at 6:11 AM

    • It’s what’s out there that’s amazing. I wander around in nature’s maze and record things that I see.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 2, 2012 at 7:04 AM

  2. At first glance, it appeared to be a mushroom. But mushrooms growing on top of a bloom? No. Sobering photo to watch this caterpillar feast away.


    October 2, 2012 at 6:14 AM

    • The image suggested to me not a mushroom but a person arched way over, back downward (I know, people don’t look like this caterpillar, but I was thinking of the pose).

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 2, 2012 at 7:08 AM

  3. What a strange image. It took me a minute to sort it out, even after reading the description – particularly, which way it was going. Now that I’ve done that, all I can think is, “Halloween is coming”. It has that ghoulish feel to it.

    I’m beginning to wonder if I have all of Pilgrim at Tinker Creek memorized. Once I’d gotten the image straight in my mind, I remembered this: ““I am a frayed and nibbled survivor in a fallen world, and I am getting along. I am aging and eaten and have done my share of eating too. I am not washed and beautiful, in control of a shining world in which everything fits, but instead am wandering awed about on a splintered wreck I’ve come to care for, whose gnawed trees breathe a delicate air, whose bloodied and scarred creatures are my dearest companions…”


    October 2, 2012 at 7:11 AM

    • I’d feel even more ghoulish if it were an insect or some other small creature that was getting preyed upon. Halloween is definitely approaching, as evidence of which I site the piles of pumpkins displayed outside some local stores. I had this post scheduled months ago and for one reason or another (e.g. not wanting too many insect pictures in a short span) I kept postponing it; the approach of Halloween wasn’t on my mind, but it fits with the ghoulishness you suggested. I summoned William Blake again, and you Annie Dillard, with what is an apt quotation (and one I don’t recall). I certainly see my share of broken and battered things in nature.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 2, 2012 at 7:26 AM

  4. Poetic license granted! What a great photo! I believe the dark spots might be frass (poop) from the caterpillar.

    Nan Hampton

    October 2, 2012 at 7:25 AM

    • Thanks for the license, Nan, and for your explanation of the dark things. They’re at the right end of the caterpillar for that.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 2, 2012 at 7:29 AM

  5. I love it when I find someone else who sees references to classic literature in their photos! Especially Blake.


    October 2, 2012 at 8:50 AM

    • Even when I was a math teacher I sometimes brought literature, language, and history into what I taught. I’ve occasionally brought a little math into this nature photography blog.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 2, 2012 at 1:49 PM

  6. Oh So Cool!


    October 2, 2012 at 9:57 PM

  7. That’s a really cool shot!


    October 2, 2012 at 11:33 PM

  8. Whoa, that photo is Blake all over!

    Susan Scheid

    October 3, 2012 at 4:43 PM

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