Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Archive for November 2012

A lot going on here

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1) The yellow flower head that has lost its rays is goldeneye, Viguiera dentata.

2) The plant with the questing red tendril that has managed to catch hold of the goldeneye and seems to be straining back to reel it in is a greenbrier vine, Smilax bona-nox.

3) The long daubs of bright red-orange in the background are the leaflets of a prairie flameleaf sumac, Rhus lanceolata, at its colorful peak. More about that next time.

The date was November 20, and this photograph came at the end of four hours spent photographing, mostly on the prairie, but by the time I took my last pictures of the day I was close to home on an undeveloped property behind Seton Northwest Hospital.

For those of you who are interested in photography as a craft, points 1, 2, 5, 12, 15 and 16 in About My Techniques are relevant to this photograph.

© 2012 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 30, 2012 at 6:20 AM

A closer look at bushy bluestem

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Here’s a closer look at the bushy bluestem, Andropogon glomeratus, that I found growing at the Riata Trace Pond in northwest Austin on November 8.

For more information about the wet-ground-loving Andropogon glomeratus, including a map showing the many places in the United States where it grows, you can visit the USDA website.

© 2012 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 29, 2012 at 1:00 PM

Bushy bluestem

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One of the most attractive native grasses in the fall is bushy bluestem, Andropogon glomeratus. The plant thrives in damp or even wet soil, so it’s often seen along the edges of lakes and creeks. In this case, the water in the background was from the Riata Trace Pond in northwest Austin, during the same session on November 8 that brought you a picture of another (and smaller) appealing grass, silver bluestem.

To see the many places where the wet-ground-loving Andropogon glomeratus grows, you can visit the BONAP website (use your browser’s Zoom In command to enlarge the maps).

© 2012 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 29, 2012 at 6:21 AM

Oh, those native grasses

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Here’s a native grass, Schizachyrium scoparium, that’s known as little bluestem. That color name aside, slender sections of this grass often turn red in the fall. This picture, which I sat on the ground and leaned over to take, is from the same October 29 session in northwest Austin that brought you the photograph of a ladies’ tresses orchid.

© 2012 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 28, 2012 at 6:13 AM

One of our mistflowers

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From late October into November this year, the Ageratina havanensis in Austin got passionate about putting out flowers. This close floral view of the bush that is called mistflower, shrubby boneset, and Havana snakeroot comes from northwest Austin on November 4.

In the United States Ageratina havanensis apparently grows only in Texas, with Austin being on the far eastern edge of its range; at least that’s what the USDA map shows. The species name havanensis implies that this plant was first identified in Cuba, and it grows natively in Mexico as well, so this is one of those cases where Texas provides the northernmost habitat for a tropical or at least subtropical species.

As for the title of today’s post, let me add that people have given various plants in the genera Eupatorium, Ageratina, and Conoclinium the common name mistflower.

© 2012 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 27, 2012 at 6:12 AM

Not a snail

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As I walked in Lockhart State Park on November 3rd, I eyed the bright red fruit of some Carolina snailseed, a common vine in central Texas. Then I thought I saw a tiny snail some distance away on another vine, Clematis drummondii, and I was taken with the idea of a snail near some snailseed. When I got closer, though, I quickly saw that the snail wasn’t a snail. No, it was clearly the larva of an insect, but I had no idea what kind. I e-mailed Val Bugh (thanks, Val) and she told me it’s probably Labidomera clivicollis, a milkweed leaf beetle. Call this critter one strange dude if you like: I don’t think it will object, and I won’t either.

© 2012 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 26, 2012 at 6:16 AM

Ball moss

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Another thing I photographed at the Spring Lake Natural Area in San Marcos on November 15th, though admittedly less dramatic than a bird with a frog dangling from its beak, is this ball moss, Tillandsia recurvata, on a dead branch. Ball moss isn’t a moss, and only vaguely could this cluster be called a ball: so much for truth in advertising. It’s also the case that ball moss isn’t a parasite but an epiphyte, a plant that grows on another for support but not for nutrients: so much for appearances.

While this isn’t ball moss’s first appearance in this blog, it’s its* first starring role. The one other time it appeared in these pages was in a barely visible bit part, overshadowed figuratively and literally by lots of bright red possumhaw fruits. Ball moss grows in Mexico and in parts of the southern United States, as you can confirm on the zoomable USDA map. This species is very common in and around Austin.

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* Can I get extra credit for using the much-confused it’s and its as consecutive words?

© 2012 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 25, 2012 at 6:14 AM

Pigeonberry

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Here you see a humble first for these pages, Rivina humilis, known as pigeonberry and, based on the colors of its small fruits and its pink blossoms, rouge plant. How often do you see magenta and red together? And how often do you get asked a question like that (or like this)?

As was true for the last few pictures, I took this one on November 15th at the Spring Lake Natural Area in San Marcos.

© 2012 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 24, 2012 at 6:21 AM

The familial puffball

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Symphyotrichum subulatum, known colloquially as eastern annual saltmarsh aster or hierba del marrano, belongs to the sunflower family. Like many another member of that family, it produces seed heads in the form of puffballs like this one. You can also see here that even as the puffball is beginning to come apart, a bud has branched off the same stalk and is trying to open into a flower head; I’m not sure it’s going to make it.

I took this picture, like the previous one showing a flower head of this species in its prime, on November 15th at the Spring Lake Natural Area in San Marcos, a town about 40 miles south of where I live in Austin.

For more information about Symphyotrichum subulatum, including a state-clickable map showing the many places in eastern North America where this species grows, you can visit the USDA website.

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Note: Comments on my post the other day about a bird with a frog in its mouth have led me to add a footnote that includes a link to pictures of a pied-billed grebe swallowing what seems an impossibly large frog.

© 2012 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 23, 2012 at 6:20 AM

Hierba del marrano

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On the far side of the pond in San Marcos from the place where I took pictures on November 15 of a bird holding a frog in its bill, I found a type of aster known botanically as Symphyotrichum subulatum and colloquially as eastern annual saltmarsh aster, or by some in Texas as hierba del marrano (hierba is pronounced the same as its alternate spelling yerba). Translated loosely, the Spanish name means pigweed, but I find the plant as attractive as pigs are alleged to do. Last fall I showed a view of this kind of aster, though from below. Either way, I hope you’ll enjoy this little wildflower, which is common in Austin and its surroundings.

For more information about Symphyotrichum subulatum, including a state-clickable map showing the many places in eastern North America where this species grows, you can visit the USDA website.

© 2012 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 22, 2012 at 6:16 AM

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