Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Archive for February 2013

A warm nod to arithmetic

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I’m sure you noticed something curious in the last post: the equivalent (rounded to the nearest whole degree) of Thursday’s warm high temperature of 82°F was 28°C, a number consisting of the same two digits but in reverse order. Some of you must have rushed to Twitter and Facebook to tell all your friends, who must have been thrilled to hear it.

Ever alert math teachers would interrupt their classes with a question now: “Students, are there any other two-digit pairs of equivalent Fahrenheit ~ Celsius temperatures with reversed digits like that one?” What do you think, readers?

A seemingly cynical answer would be “What’s the difference?”, but I know that’s just your way of leading into something related: there’s an interesting way to find the difference between the two numbers in a reversed-digit pair.

a) Find the difference between the two individual digits: in the case of 82, 8 – 2 = 6.

b) Take what you just got and multiply it by 9: in this example, 6 x 9 = 54.

c) The result is the difference between the two two-digit numbers you started with: in this case, 82 – 28 = 54.

What does all this have to do with native plant photography? About as much as the difference between a pair of reversed-digit numbers like 88 and 88, but you know the refrain by now: variety is the species of life.

© 2013 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 10, 2013 at 1:07 PM

Posted in nature photography

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Spring’s here

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Click for greater clarity.

Click for greater clarity.

In contrast to yesterday’s yesteryear pictures of snow, today’s photograph wants to tell you that spring is making its way into Austin. The temperature here got up to around 82°F (28°C) on February 7, which is when I photographed these buds on an agarita bush, Berberis trifoliolata. For several years I’ve been aware of this shrub’s location on some undeveloped land in my neighborhood, so I went to check it out and wasn’t disappointed.

Agarita is one of those species that botanists like to describe as “well defended.” Imagine a world where people’s knees, elbows, fingers, toes, chins, and noses were as sharp as an agarita’s leaflet tips. Or maybe don’t.

© 2013 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 10, 2013 at 6:00 AM

Mais où sont les neiges d’antan? But where are the snows of yesteryear? *

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Blizzard of 1947

Click to bring the past closer.

Pictures on television this morning of people in the Northeast digging out after the Blizzard of 2013 seem to call for this one showing the aftermath of the Blizzard of 1947. It’s not the only photograph ever posted here that I appear in, but it’s the first one ever from Long Island and the first one I didn’t take myself. You won’t see any native plants in this picture, but as I keep saying, variety is the species of life.

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* The title of this post is the famous refrain of a ballade by the medieval French poet François Villon, with the English rendering of that refrain by Dante Gabriel Rossetti. You can read English and Old French versions of the poem, and learn more about it and its influence (even on an episode of Downton Abbey), in an informative article.

© 2013 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 9, 2013 at 10:00 AM

Posted in nature photography

Tagged with ,

Commiserating with you who are in the Northeast

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Click for as much clarity as you can expect from a snowfall.

Click for greater clarity, even in a snowfall.

There’s a blizzard in the Northeast (of the United States) now, and some of you are in the midst of it. I’ll commiserate with you by posting this picture from February 23, 2010, one of those rare days when we had snow in central Texas. It fell for only a couple of hours, and it melted after just a few more, but while it was coming down I drove from place to place in the Northwest (of Austin) and took advantage of the chance for pictures of falling snow.

© 2013 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 9, 2013 at 12:02 AM

Lindheimer’s senna flowers and buds

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Click for better clarity.

Click for better clarity.

Now that you’ve seen some dry pods and some leaflets of Lindheimer’s senna, Senna lindheimeriana, I suppose it’s only fair to show you what the flowers and buds look like. This photograph is from Great Hills Park on September 6, 2004, a day with a heavily overcast sky, but one against which my eye saw the senna flowers forming a welcomingly bright arc. The date tells you that this species normally blooms from late summer through the fall, though occasionally I’ve seen it flowering in the spring as well.

© 2013 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 8, 2013 at 6:13 AM

Lindheimer’s senna leaflets

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Lindheimer's Senna Leaflets with Drops on Them 6200

In a comment a few days ago about some dry pods of Lindheimer’s senna, Senna lindheimeriana, Yvonne Daniel asked if I could post a picture showing what this kind of plant looks like “in the real.” I searched my archives and came across this previously unprocessed* picture taken on December 18, 2008, in Great Hills Park. As I recall, there had been some light rain overnight or that morning, and I found a senna plant looking the way you see it here. The leaflets of this species are covered with little hairs that make raindrops and dewdrops less likely to fall off than they would otherwise be. Soft, fuzzy, raindrop-retaining, and therefore attractive as those leaflets are, they have a somewhat unpleasant smell. Oh well, you can’t have it all. One thing you can have, though, is an article about Lindheimer that appeared last month in the Austin American-Statesman.

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* Since around 2006 I’ve taken all my pictures in what’s called RAW format, which is the digital equivalent of a negative in film photography. Each RAW file has to be processed in a computer program (e.g. Photoshop) and converted to a format like .tif or .jpg before it can be posted to a website.

© 2013 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 7, 2013 at 6:17 AM

Willowy clouds

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Bare Black Willows with Wispy Clouds 6271

Click for greater clarity, especially in the treetops.

You may remember last fall’s abstract view of the spiraling leaf of a black willow tree, Salix nigra. Trees of that species are bare now, as you can see in this January 31st view showing the tops of some that border the Riata Trace Pond in north Austin. What caught my attention more than the trees, though, was the long clouds that festooned the afternoon sky, actually airplane contrails made wispy by high-altitude winds. A realist might call it at best a semi-natural phenomenon, but the airplanes were probably made by Boeing, so you could say the contrails-turned-willowy-clouds were a native American species.

© 2013 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 6, 2013 at 6:15 AM

Branching patterns

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Goldeneye Remains 5700

The first thing that I stopped to photograph on January 23, and the last that I’ll show you from that session, was the scraggly and therefore intriguing remains of some goldeneye, Viguiera dentata. I’d hoped for fog pictures that morning, and although I didn’t get any, these dried plants against a gray sky turned into a semi-silhouette in which the farther branches seem to be disappearing into what could have been but wasn’t actually fog. The resulting image has the look of an old-fashioned split-tone photograph that uses black and brown. It’s something different from what you’ve usually seen here, another case of variety being the species of life.

Like the previous six photographs, this one came from a bluff above Loop 360 near the aptly named Bluffstone Dr. in northwest Austin. The fruits of that foray fed this blog for a full week.

© 2013 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 5, 2013 at 6:22 AM

Lindheimer’s senna pods

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Click for greater clarity.

Click for greater clarity.

In a comment a few days ago about the little leaf mysteriously stuck on the spines and glochids of a prickly pear cactus, Ken Bello suggested it was the work of extra-terrestrial aliens and he asked if I’d seen any pods in the vicinity. Actually I had, but they were from a native plant called Lindheimer’s senna, Senna lindheimeriana, a species that until now has been alien to this blog but not to the world of nature in Austin, where I often see it. What I haven’t seen, and hope I never do, is any of the peas in these pods waiting for me to fall asleep so they could take me over, à la the 1956 movie The Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

The Ferdinand Jakob Lindheimer for whom botanists have named this species of senna was a stranger in a strange land, one of many Germans who emigrated to Texas in the 1800s. In his case it was to escape retribution after his support for an insurrection in Frankfurt in 1833. The Germans who fled following the failure of that attempt for political reform came to be known collectively as Dreissiger, which we can translate loosely as ‘[18]30s guys.’ Lindheimer spent time first in Illinois and then in Vera Cruz (Mexico) before moving to Texas, where he ultimately became “the father of Texas botany because of his work as the first permanent-resident plant collector” in the state. The house where Lindheimer lived in New Braunfels still exists and is occasionally open to visitors, of whom I’ve been one.

For a change (especially if you followed the links in the text) you’ve gotten a bigger dose of history than of botany, but variety is the species of life. And I’m not bluffing when I say that, like the last few photographs, this one came from a bluff above Loop 360 near the aptly named Bluffstone Dr. in northwest Austin on January 23.

© 2013 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 4, 2013 at 6:18 AM

And an unexpected green on the unexpected red

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Click for greater clarity.

Click for greater clarity.

On one of the discolored evergreen sumacs, Rhus virens, that you saw yesterday, I was lucky to get a picture of a lacewing that stayed put only briefly. The combination of vivid light green and duller dark red is an uncommon yet pleasant one, don’t you think?

As with the last few pictures, the date was January 23 and the location was a bluff above Loop 360 near Bluffstone Dr. in northwest Austin.

© 2013 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 3, 2013 at 6:16 AM

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