Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Archive for January 2013

Some pointed questions

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Click for greater clarity.

Click for greater clarity.

It was when I got close to the prickly pear pad with a hole in it that I noticed close at hand the strange sight that you see here. It may make you ask now, as I did then, how this tiny dry leaf come to be impaled above these prickly pear glochids. I’d say the leaf was at most two-thirds of an inch long, and when I touched it I found that it was on there pretty tightly. I hardly even had to do that, though, because the differing angles of the spines that transfixed the leaf not only guaranteed that the leaf was now firmly attached, but also suggested it had been stuck there at a time when the spines were shorter and their tips closer together. I have to wonder, even at that earlier time, what could have held the tiny leaf firmly enough in place for the growing spines to be able to pierce it; or, alternatively, what could have pressed the leaf onto the developing spines with enough force to make one or several initial piercings. Could a spider have done the work in order to make a little hideout for itself, or might the visible silk only mean that a spider happened along later and took advantage of an already existing enclosure? Questions, questions.

Like the last photograph, this one came from a bluff above Loop 360 near the aptly named Bluffstone Dr. in northwest Austin on January 23.

© 2013 Steven Schwartzman

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Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 31, 2013 at 6:18 AM

A hole in one

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Prickly Pear Pad with a Hole in It 5945

As is appropriate for this subject, click for greater sharpness.

January 23 found me in northwest Austin close to Loop 360 near Bluffstone Dr., and that’s an accurate name because I did follow a path up a rocky bluff overlooking the highway. As I walked along, one thing that caught my attention was this hole—which is actually the lack of a thing—in the pad of a prickly pear cactus, Opuntia engelmannii. There are a lot of these cacti in central Texas, and it’s not that unusual to see a hole in one of their pads from time to time. My guess is that the hole you see here was the result of a process like the one I showed in a post almost a year ago, which I assumed to be the work of a fungus. Still, most of you don’t live near cacti of this type, so a hole in one of them may strike you as strange. Take that as a prelude, because more prickly pear strangeness is coming your way next time.

UPDATE: Holes like this may be caused by fungi in the genus Phyllosticta, as I found in this article.

© 2013 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 30, 2013 at 6:22 AM

Back on the Possumhaw Trail

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Pssumhaw with Dense Fruit by Bare White Tree 5617

In January of 2010, native plant aficionado Agnes Plutino told me that when she’d recently traveled Texas Highway 29 in Burnet County, she’d noticed lots of possumhaw trees, Ilex decidua, laden with fruit on both sides of the road. I quickly acted on her tip, drove that route on January 21, 2010, and stopped probably ten times to take possumhaw photographs between the towns of Bertram and Burnet, about an hour to the northwest of Austin.

Two days short of three years later, on a sunny January 19, 2013, I went back out along what I’ve come to think of as the Possumhaw Trail, even if no one else calls that stretch of highway by that name. I ended up taking my time and pictures in three places on the north side of the road, including this one, which was made dramatic by the bare white tree behind the swathe of dense possumhaw fruit as well as by the blue sky and cirrus clouds above.

© 2013 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 29, 2013 at 6:11 AM

The lot along US 183: a fifth look back

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Ant on Sunflower Plant 2843A

For the last few days I’ve been showing pictures taken at a now-razed property on the east side of US 183 adjacent to the Wendy’s and Costco in my northwest Austin neighborhood. Here’s yet another photograph from yesteryear, or more specifically June 22, 2011. This ant had a better fate—at least up to the time of the photograph, and I can’t vouch for afterwards—than two that I found entombed in resin on this property a few weeks later, on July 17 of 2011. The common sunflower, Helianthus annuus, is one hairy plant, as this picture confirms and as you probably knew already.

This will be the last picture in the retrospective, just as sunflowers were the last holdout on the construction site.

© 2013 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 28, 2013 at 6:16 AM

The lot along US 183: a fourth look back

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Click for greater clarity.

Click for greater clarity.

For the last few days I’ve been memorializing a lot on the east side of US 183 adjacent to the Wendy’s and Costco in my northwest Austin neighborhood. Here’s still another photograph of something that used to be on the site, again from June 22, 2011: it’s a new leaf on a small cedar elm tree, Ulmus crassifolia. As I mentioned back then, the new leaves of this species remind me of marzipan candy made in the shape of real objects.

The young cedar elm tree shown here, which sprang up by the corner of what had become the ruins of a small building, held out longer than most of the other vegetation on the site, but I think it finally got bulldozed a few months ago.

© 2013 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 27, 2013 at 6:16 AM

The lot along US 183: a third look back

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Mecidea major Grass Stink Bug 2134A

Yesterday and the day before I mentioned the razing of a lot on the east side of US 183 adjacent to the Wendy’s and Costco in my neighborhood, and in each post I showed something I once found there. Here’s another photograph of what used to be on the site, this time from June 22, 2011. The stalk was part of a downy gaura plant, Gaura mollis; the patterned and textured insect was a grass stink bug, Mecidea major.

© 2013 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 26, 2013 at 6:18 AM

The lot along US 183: a second look back

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Goldenrod flowers; click for greater detail.

Click for greater detail and size.

Yesterday I mentioned the razing of a lot on the east side of US 183 adjacent to Wendy’s and Costco in my northwest Austin neighborhood. I can’t photograph on the property any more, but here’s a picture I took on October 17, 2011, that gives a close look at some goldenrod that had sprung up there that fall. I’m not sure what species it was, but the genus is Solidago. In light of the property’s razing, there’s an irony to that genus name, which combines two Latin words meaning “I make whole.”

© 2013 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 25, 2013 at 6:20 AM

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