Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

In memoriam: the native plants on the lot along US 183

with 12 comments

Click for greater detail.

Click for greater detail.

Since the early days of this blog in mid-2011, I’ve occasionally mentioned a property in my northwest part of Austin on the east side of US 183 adjacent to Wendy’s and Costco that was slowly being cleared in preparation for development. The excessive slowness of the clearing may not have been good business for the owners and developers, but it worked in my favor because I managed to keep visiting and taking pictures a lot longer than I originally thought I’d be able to.

In a post on December 16, 2012, you saw a sunflower that I photographed there the previous day. The little group of sunflowers that it belonged to had held out season after season, but about a week into 2013 I drove past the site one morning and was saddened to see that even “my” last stand of sunflowers had been almost completely destroyed, with only a couple of spent plants spared. Whether any seeds in the ground at the margin of the property will eventually give rise to new sunflower plants remains to be seen; it also depends on the kind of landscaping that the future tenant insists on, and that doesn’t bode well.

As a tribute to the site, over the next several days I’ll post a few more of the many pictures I took there in the last two years. To begin with, here’s a sunflower that I photographed on the property on September 9, 2011. The other visitor to it was an orange sulphur butterfly, Colias eurytheme.

© 2013 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 24, 2013 at 6:23 AM

12 Responses

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  1. What type of lens did you use? Beautiful capture..


    January 24, 2013 at 8:00 AM

    • I used a Canon 100mm f/2.8L macro lens, which in conjunction with the APS-C sensor in the Canon EOS 7D camera is equivalent to a 160mm lens. That’s the combination that produced the majority of the pictures I’ve shown here.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 24, 2013 at 9:26 AM

  2. I detest new delevopments but that is the price our country pays for over population and ultimate development of prime land or prime habitat. More development, I don’t believe is the answer for job growth but then what do I know. Austin should be more progressive and save green space every so many square miles. People would not feel so crowded and life would be more peaceful for all concerned. Air quality would be vastly improved and it might even help the aquafiers. That would really make for a beautiful city.

    Lovely photograph of the butterfly on the sunflower.


    January 24, 2013 at 8:26 AM

    • I’ve also wished that a larger fraction (or any!) of the land in new subdivisions would be left in a natural state. Occasionally some is, but most developers want to cram in as many buildings as they possibly can in order to make money. To its credit, Austin has set aside various tracts of land as nature preserves and continues to buy new tracts for that purpose from time to time.

      In this case, portions of the lot had previously been home to a few small and shabby commercial buildings, but even when those still functioned, various native plants had sprung up on other parts of the lot, particularly in the back. When I started photographing there in 2011, the buildings were abandoned.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 24, 2013 at 9:35 AM

  3. I’ve had the same feeling about properties where I used to paint, overgrown farms and even someone’s big back yard. Within a year after I’d paint it, I’d see a “for sale” sign, then houses or a strip mall would spring up. I felt like a curse! RIP to your cherished property.


    January 24, 2013 at 8:39 AM

    • More than a dozen times I’ve had the kind of experience that you and I have described. In the first of those, even though the land was covered with dense colonies of clasping-leaf coneflowers and horesemints and lesser amounts of other wildflowers, there were already wooden stakes on the property, so I knew development wasn’t far off. It came within weeks, and I have every reason to think I was the last person ever to enjoy that land in its natural state.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 24, 2013 at 9:42 AM

  4. Even living out in the boonies, one is not free from development. Twenty years ago walking our “driveway” (which is actually a tertiary county road through someone else’s property), meant a walk through the woods. Today, it’s mostly cow pasture.

    Beautiful tribute to your “lost land”. Looking forward to more.

    Marvin Smith

    January 24, 2013 at 11:59 AM

    • Thanks for pointing out that even rural areas aren’t immune to the loss of land in its natural state. Of the prairies that once covered large portions of the center of North America, less than 1% remains in something like its original condition.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 24, 2013 at 12:07 PM

  5. This stunning photograph, all on its own, demonstrates the tragedy of heedless development.

    Susan Scheid

    January 24, 2013 at 6:10 PM

  6. I just love vacant lots. I’ve found so many interesting things in them over the years – always things it seems no one else notices. And old RR beds, another great source of botanical treasures. Good for you for keeping a close eye on the lot, and for mourning the loss of it. I love that this beautiful photo above, which most people would think had been taken in some wild preserve, was taken yards from a Wendy’s and a Costco. Sure, I wish there were far fewer Wendy’s and Costco’s, but as long as they’re here, we can often find a few gems hidden at their edges – especially if the landscaping guys aren’t too particular.


    January 28, 2013 at 3:46 PM

    • It’s good to see you sharing my sentiments. I’ve even taken to using quotation marks when I write the phrase “vacant” lot because I usually find these places to be anything but vacant of things that interest me. I’ve also photographed along railroad tracks (and have a picture coming up in a couple of days from a railroad right-of-way). As for landscaping, I always hope for as much benign neglect as I can get.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 28, 2013 at 3:53 PM

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