Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Archive for February 2013

Huisache is early this year

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Click for greater clarity.

Click for greater clarity and size.

February 14 is the earliest in Austin that I think I’ve ever seen flowers on a huisache* tree, Acacia farnesiana, but that’s the day when I found my first one blossoming this year. As an added benefit, it was also the closest tree of this species that I know of, just half a mile from where I live.

An individual huisache flower globe, which reaches about 3/8 of an inch (1 cm) in diameter, is already fragrant, but the aroma of these flowers en masse, especially downwind of them, can be overwhelming.

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* This is a Spanish version of an Aztec word. The pronunciation is approximately wee-sáh-cheh.

© 2013 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 20, 2013 at 6:20 AM

Remains of a Mexican hat colony

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Click for better clarity and larger size.

Even while spring is beginning to make its presence felt in Austin, as you saw from the last two posts and earlier ones of agarita buds and elbowbush flowers, the dried-out remains of last year’s plants still predominate. Here’s what was left of a colony of Mexican hats, Ratibida columnifera, on an embankment in Great Hills Park on February 5th. Some of you may recall seeing a closeup of one of these seed head remains early last November; it was just a few feet away from where I saw this sight. If you’d like to compare the dry colony to its former fresh and flowering self, you can check out a photograph taken last June a little further down the same embankment on another day of wispy clouds.

© 2013 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 19, 2013 at 6:05 AM

Fresh Mexican hats

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Mexican Hat Flower Head Forming by Open Flowers 7919

Even in December and January I saw an occasional Mexican hat flowering, something that’s not unusual for Ratibida columnifera, although the faded remains of plants at that time of year far outnumber the living ones. Now, a month and a half into 2013, new growth is hard to miss: I found this group near the corner of Braker Lane and Stonelake Blvd. in northwest Austin on February 14. As I lay on the ground within a couple of feet of the right edge of the right lane, I had to ignore all the cars passing by and I hoped the drivers would ignore me. (At another Mexican hat that I photographed around the corner, a driver did pull over to see if I was okay, but he saw that I was, waved to me, and took off.)

Mexican hat grows not only in Mexico and Texas but also in large parts of the United States and Canada, as you can see from the state-clickable map at the USDA website.

© 2013 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 18, 2013 at 6:16 AM

Spring arising

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Redbud Tree Flowering Above Greenbrier Vine Tangle 7468

Feast your eyes on this blossoming redbud tree, Cercis canadensis, rising sunnily above a tangle of greenbrier vines, Smilax bona-nox, on the afternoon of February 13. The location was a margin of land between a driveway that runs behind the stores in a shopping center, and a construction site that happens to be on the property where I’ve often mentioned having taken pictures while I still could. So here’s an unexpected and literal fringe benefit from that now-being-built-on site.

© 2013 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 17, 2013 at 6:21 AM

Milkweed vine pod

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Click for greater clarity.

When I was on the power lines right-of-way west of Morado Circle on February 1st, I found not only the pods and seed-bearing fluff of an antelope-horns milkweed, but also a couple of hundred yards away the almost completely spent pod of a milkweed vine. I’d say it was most likely Matelea reticulata, one of whose striking green flowers you saw last October, and a backlit leaf of which you saw in November. This is the first time here that you’re getting a look at one of its pods.

This also marks the end of what what has become a six-part look at the dried-out remains of plants that have lasted on one long strip of ground through the latter part of 2012 and the beginning of 2013. Next time we’ll spring back to spring.

© 2013 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 16, 2013 at 6:10 AM

Green lily no longer green

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Click for greater clarity.

It’s been the better part of a year since these pages have featured the flowers of Schoenocaulon texanum, known as green lily or Texas sabadilla. Last May I showed a “Twin Towers” picture of flowering green lilies growing in the same place where I wandered on February 1st of this year, so now you get to see what became of a flower stalk of this species. If I hadn’t already told you that this photograph and the one from last year show the same species, I don’t think you’d be able to tell.

Math-minded as I am, I was especially intrigued by the way the tip of this seed stalk had spiraled inward as it dried out. And if you’re interested in photography as a craft, you’ll find that points 1, 3, 14 and 16 in About My Techniques are relevant to this image.

© 2013 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 15, 2013 at 6:20 AM

The bur in buffalo bur

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Click for greater sharpness.

Click for greater sharpness.

Last June you saw a picture of Solanum rostratum, known as buffalo bur. The emphasis then was on the bright yellow flowers, but now it’s on the bur in buffalo* bur. Today’s photograph shows the spent remains of one of this plant’s fully open—and fully armed—seed capsules, which I found on February 1 within sight of the place where I photographed the milkweed fluff you saw in the last two posts. I sat on the ground for some time right next to this plant, which had dozens of dry seed heads like this one, and I came away not only with photographs but with some spine tips in my right leg. It’s one of the prices I pay for sharp pictures.

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* As for the buffalo (or more correctly bison), those animals did once roam the hills and plains of Austin, but I’d need a very expensive camera with time machine functionality built in to take a picture of them in my neighborhood.

© 2013 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 14, 2013 at 6:19 AM

A milkweed comet, or Parallelism gives way to divergence

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Click for greater clarity.

In yesterday’s post you saw some fibers of antelope-horns milkweed fluff that were briefly still parallel, which is the way they’d been since they formed inside their closed pod. In just a short while, though, that parallelism inevitably gives way to divergence, as in this view of a different seed and its attached fluff from the same Asclepias asperula pod as last time. (You’ll see individual strands more clearly if you click the photograph.) And with my imagination soaring from the botanical to the celestial, I can’t help thinking of a comet.

Those of you who are interested in photography as a craft will find that points 1, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 15 in About My Techniques are relevant to this photograph. If you’d like to see the many places in the southwestern United States where this milkweed species grows, you can check out the state-clickable map at the USDA website.

© 2013 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 13, 2013 at 6:18 AM

Order becoming chaos

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Click for greater clarity.

If you’ve ever seen a mass of milkweed fluff loose on the ground you know what chaos is, but before that chaos there was order. Here you see some fibers that, though free except where they attach to their darker seed, still briefly hold the parallelism with which they were packed inside the pod that gave birth to them.

This is Asclepias asperula, known as antelope-horns, and it’s the most common milkweed in Austin. I’d never seen a pod with fluff still in it that had apparently survived intact through the winter and was finally coming undone as late as February 1; in fact the date was so unseasonal that when I first caught a glimpse of the fluff clustered on the ground some distance away I thought a furry or feathery animal had recently met its end.

As for location, this was on the right-of-way beneath the large power lines that cross a portion of my neighborhood to the west of Morado Circle in northwest Austin. Last spring, in a view a couple of hundred yards further west, you saw some fresh antelope-horns milkweed plants that were part of a resurgent wildflower meadow.

© 2013 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 12, 2013 at 6:17 AM

Speaking of elbows

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Click for greater clarity.

Speaking of elbows, which I did yesterday morning as frivolously as I dragged in arithmetic that afternoon, here are a number of emerging flowers on an elbowbush, Forestiera pubescens, that I found along one of the trails at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center on February 3. Elbowbush regularly begins flowering here in February, but even for this species the 3rd of the month is on the early side. While the early bird may get the worm, this plant gets no worms, but more to the point not even any petals; so if you’re at a party sometime soon and stumble into a heated discussion about whether all flowers have petals, you can become the center of attention by stating authoritatively that elbowbush flowers don’t have petals.

To see the places in the southwestern quadrant of the United States (considered as if Alaska and Hawaii didn’t exist) where this species grows, you can check out the state-clickable map at the USDA website.

© 2013 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 11, 2013 at 6:16 AM

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