Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Archive for December 2012

Silverleaf nightshade fruit

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Click for greater clarity.

Click for greater clarity.

In 2011 I showed photographs of a bud and the center of a flower of silverleaf nightshade, Solanum elaeagnifolium, one of the most common wildflowers in central Texas (so common that some people consider it a weed). Now here’s a picture taken at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center on December 4th, 2012, showing the small fruits of this native species. If they look a bit like cherry tomatoes it’s not coincidental, as tomatoes are also in the nightshade family (and used to be classified in the same Solanum genus). The shriveled leaves and grayish stalks are part of the nightshade, while the tan stalks and slender brown leaves are from a native grass known as little bluestem, Schizachyrium scoparium.

© 2012 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 21, 2012 at 3:00 PM

Texas yellowjacket

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Yellowjacket on Poverty Weed Branch 2876

Click for better clarity, even if smaller size.

Although I didn’t disturb the red admiral that you saw yesterday, even when the front of my camera lens got close to it, eventually a yellowjacket flew in and chased the butterfly away. (I just noticed that yellow trumped red in this instance.) The yellowjacket landed on the poverty weed branch, and I thought it might also want the liquid in the small opening that had attracted the butterfly; but no, the yellowjacket soon flew away and didn’t come back, at least not while I was there.

The curving little twig at the top right of this photograph is the same one that appeared close to the butterfly’s eye in the previous picture.

© 2012 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 21, 2012 at 6:18 AM

Vanessa atalanta

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Click for greater clarity.

Click for greater clarity.

Behold Vanessa atalanta, a red admiral butterfly. On the sunny morning of December 13th I saw perhaps a dozen of them in the half-hour that I spent by a poverty weed bush, Baccharis neglecta, in my neighborhood. What I’d never seen before was the way this butterfly drew sustenance not from a flower (those of the poverty weed had long since given way to seed-bearing fluff, and even most of that had blown away by this late date) but from a small opening in the bark of one of the bush’s branches. I don’t know what liquid the red admiral’s tongue was able to extract from that opening, but the butterfly was so caught up in what it was doing that it let me get very close and take picture after picture.

If you’re interested in learning more about red admiral butterflies, here’s an article about them. If you’re interested in photography as a craft, points 1 (which I often mention) and 18 (which I’ve rarely mentioned) in About My Techniques are relevant to this photograph.

© 2012 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 20, 2012 at 6:22 AM

Greenthread

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Yesterday I mentioned that the groundskeepers of an apartment complex in my neighborhood have mostly left alone a little roadside embankment where I’ve been able to photograph native plants year after year. Not so with the highway crews, who two weeks ago mowed down a colony of greenthread, Thelesperma filifolium, that came up late in the season and, until the untimely mowing, brightened the same plot of ground that had produced the dense rain-lilies you saw in September. I didn’t manage to photograph the latest colony before it got annihilated, but here’s a portrait of a single greenthread flower head from October 17th in the northeast quadrant of US 183 and Mopac.

If you’re interested in photography as a craft, you’ll find that points 1, 2 and 4 in About My Techniques are relevant to this photograph.

© 2012 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 19, 2012 at 6:15 AM

Texas red oak, too

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Click for greater clarity.

Click for greater clarity.

In the same place at the edge of a road in my neighborhood where I photographed the lone Virginia creeper leaf you saw the other day, I found this Texas red oak, Quercus buckleyi, turning similarly warm and bright colors. For whatever reason, the groundskeepers for the adjacent apartments have left this little embankment mostly alone, so I’ve been able to take pictures here year after year. Let’s hope the benign neglect continues.

To take this photograph I crouched down and aimed mostly upwards. (Because there was a grape vine between the red oak and me, it’s necessarily included here.) While we’re talking about photographic craft, I’ll add that points 3 and 12 in About My Techniques are relevant to this photograph.

© 2012 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 18, 2012 at 6:13 AM

Climbing with aerial rootlets

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Poison Ivy Vine on Tree 6051

A comment and response in the previous post mentioned that poison ivy can grow as a vine. To make that clearer, here’s a picture from January 19, 2012, of two poison ivy vines that had climbed a tree in a wooded part of Great Hills Park. The aerial (as opposed to underground) rootlets that poison ivy uses to attach itself to a tree can be a warning sign to people who might otherwise innocently touch or lean against a tree like this one. The second word in the scientific name Toxicodendron radicans means ‘rooting,’ and now you see why that word was chosen.

© 2012 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 17, 2012 at 12:53 PM

Two-fruit panorama

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Click for greater clarity and considerably larger size.

Click for greater clarity and considerably larger size.

The little red fruits scattered throughout are on a possumhaw tree, Ilex decidua, which hadn’t yet lost its leaves. The clusters of little off-white fruits in the left half of the picture (you’ll probably have to click the image to enlarge it) are from poison ivy, Toxicodendron radicans. At the far right of the photograph, the leaflets beginning to turn reddish atop a brown stalk are also poison ivy. Few people like this species, but you have to give it credit for versatility: it can grow as a low plant, a stalk, a bush, or even a vine that can climb tall tree trunks. I don’t know how an individual poison ivy plant “decides” which form to take.

Date: November 26. Place: near Bull Creek in northwest Austin.

© 2012 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 17, 2012 at 6:13 AM

It’s the middle of December and we still have a few sunflowers

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Click for greater clarity.

Click for greater clarity.

We’ve had a bunch of cloudy weather in the past couple of weeks, and I don’t like shooting into a gray or white sky, but here’s a picture of a wild sunflower, Helianthus annuus, that was part of a group I saw yesterday morning behind the Wendy’s on US 183 in my northwest Austin neighborhood. Imagine that: sunflowers on December 15.

© 2012 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 16, 2012 at 6:17 AM

The same thing that happened last year

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Deer Antler 2315

After I photographed frostweed ice on the morning of December 11th, the weather forecast called for another night with near-freezing temperatures in Austin. Sure enough, the next morning I found that more frostweed stalks in Great Hills Park had done their ice trick, so once again I took lots of pictures. What else is new?

After a good two hours, much of it spent hunched over or lying on the ground (because frostweed ice forms at the base of the plant’s stalk) I was ready to straighten up and head for home when the same thing happened that had happened to me after I took frostweed ice pictures in that very location last year: I discovered a discarded deer’s antler that was barely visible in the undergrowth. This new one was the largest I’ve found, with a curving distance of 15 inches from base to farthest tip.

In 2011 I highlighted the part of the antler that had been attached to the deer’s head, so with this latest antler I’ve given you a different view. Don’t you love the bumpy texture, and don’t you wonder, like me, whether the bumps serve some purpose?

© 2012 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 15, 2012 at 6:17 AM

Virginia creeper creeps on apace

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Click for greater size and clarity.

Click for greater clarity and considerably larger size.

Known as Virginia creeper or five-leaf creeper, Parthenocissus quinquefolia is among the most common vines in central Texas, but in spite of its commonness it’s making its first appearance in these pages today. One of the virtues of this plant in central Texas is that its leaves, each composed of five leaflets radiating from a common point, regularly turn yellow and orange and red in the fall and thereby add welcome autumn color to a region not noted for it. I photographed this spiderwebbed specimen in my neighborhood on November 24.

Virgina creeper creeps across large parts of North America, as you can confirm on the state-clickable USDA map.

For those of you who are interested in photography as a craft, points 1, 3, 6, 7, and 12 in About My Techniques are relevant to this photograph.

© 2012 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 14, 2012 at 6:15 AM

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