Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Archive for July 2013

What else the rain brought out

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Copper Lily Flower with Pale Blue Sky 1772

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In October of 2011 Dee Smith alerted me to some copper lilies, Habranthus tubispathus, that he’d seen. His e-mail reminded me that I’d come across some of those little flowers a year or two earlier on a lot near the eastern end of Balcones Woods Dr., so I went back there and, sure enough, found about 10 of them.

Two days ago a similar thing happened when Kathy Comer e-mailed me about some copper lilies she’d seen, so once again I returned to the property a couple of miles from where I live, and this time I counted exactly four of these flowers. Because copper lilies don’t rise far from the ground, I lay down beside each one and aimed either sideways or, as here, upward.

[You’ve had three days of unexpected lilification, thanks to the welcome rain. Tomorrow I’ll resume the posts I’d originally planned.]

© 2013 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 21, 2013 at 6:09 AM

Rain-lily turning pink

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Rain-Lily Turning Pink 1165

A rain-lily, Cooperia pedunculata, springs up suddenly a few days after a rainfall but lasts only a few days more, soon turning pink and then magenta as it begins to shrivel. I photographed this rain-lily yesterday on an undeveloped property adjacent to Fry’s Electronics in far north Austin.

© 2013 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 20, 2013 at 6:09 AM

We had rain

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Rain-Lily Flower 1123

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We had scattered rain from last weekend through Wednesday evening, so now we have scattered rain-lilies. I found this Cooperia pedunculata flower yesterday morning close to Bull Creek.

© 2013 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 19, 2013 at 6:02 AM

The well-defended plant has benign and fragrant flowers

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Two Bull Nettle Flowers 7750

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The only parts of bull nettle, Cnidoscolus texanus, that aren’t covered with chemical-filled hypodermic needles are the flowers. They’re white, somewhat waxy, and fragrant. I’ve dared to lean in and sniff some, and I can say that the scent reminds me of gardenias.

Like the last photograph, this one comes from northwest Austin on July 2.

© 2013 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 18, 2013 at 6:22 AM

A well-defended plant

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Bull Nettle Capsule Forming 7743

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It’s bull nettle, Cnidoscolus texanus, making its first conspicuous appearance in these pages. All those hollow needles are intended to be hypodermic with respect (disrespect!) to any person or animal that makes contact with the plant. Once that happens, the needles pierce the offender’s skin, break open, and release noxious chemicals that cause burning and itching. Fortunately I don’t speak from experience. And speaking of speaking, people who speak Spanish have traditionally called this plant mala mujer, which we can translate equally alliteratively into English as wicked woman.

This photograph, taken in northwest Austin on July 2, looks straight down at a developing bull nettle seed capsule. The nuts that develop inside it are edible; again, I don’t speak from experience, but you can read about it in this article.

© 2013 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 17, 2013 at 6:19 AM

Young and old

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Gaillardia Seed Head by Flower Head 3969

This spring you saw plenty of pictures here of Gaillardia pulchella, known as an Indian blanket or firewheel. On June 13th in the Blunn Creek Nature Preserve I photographed two stages of this species: in the foreground was a spent and drying seed head, while behind it was a fresh flower head that still deserved the name firewheel. You may think it’s unseasonal to include the flowering stage now that we’re in mid-July, but I’m still finding a few of these flowers as I wander about.

Points 1, 2, 5 and the seldom-mentioned 16 in About My Techniques are relevant to this photograph.

© 2013 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 16, 2013 at 6:11 AM

Strangeness on the back of a sunflower

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Sunflower Flower Head with Leaf Growing Out of Back 6557

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When I browsed one margin of the construction site on the east side of US 183 adjacent to Costco and Wendy’s on June 24th, I found the head of a sunflower, Helianthus annuus, that was strange: out of the back of it grew a leaf where I don’t believe I’ve ever seen a leaf on a sunflower. Maybe “my experience was limited and underfed”*, or maybe this really was unusual.

———–

* Bob Dylan, “Love Is Just a Four-Letter Word

© 2013 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 15, 2013 at 6:20 AM

Yet another living remnant at a construction site

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Sunflower Flower Head 6567

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Long-time readers of this column may remember that in the summer of 2011 I began talking about a property on the east side of the US 183 freeway adjacent to a Costco and a Wendy’s in my neighborhood. The lot was being cleared in preparation for construction, but the razing took place so slowly that I could still visit from time to time and take pictures of plants and insects. Now, two years later, construction is well along on what seems to be a hotel, but at the margins of the property a few native plants have survived, including the remnants of a colony of sunflowers, Helianthus annuus. Once construction is finished I expect landscapers will come and tear out these last few native plants and replace them with Bermuda grass and petunias and other such tame things, but as of June 24th I could still enjoy the glorious wild sunflower you see here. (Although I posted a picture of a wonderful sunflower colony in May, this is the first close-up of a sunflower I’ve shown in 2013. What took me so long?)

If my account of the property along US 183 is new to you, you’re welcome to look back at some of the posts that have dealt with it:

Living amber exacts its deadly toll

New cedar elm leaf

Greenbrier in autumn

Peppervine flowers and buds

The lot along US 183

Spring arising

Family resemblance

They’re back

© 2013 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 14, 2013 at 6:22 AM

Cliff swallow

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Cliff Swallow Flying Away from Nests 7665

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Cliffs are the natural places where these birds, Petrochelidon pyrrhonota, have made their nests of mud for eons, but in recent decades cliff swallows have found that the undersides of highway bridges work pretty well too. It was on June 28th that I used my longest lens to photograph this cliff swallow flying away from a row of nests beneath the southbound Loop 360 bridge over [Old] Spicewood Springs Rd.

I was surprised at being able to stop the bird’s flight with a shutter speed of “only” 1/500 of a second, but the swallow was just taking off and hadn’t built up speed yet. Isn’t it curious the way the edge of the tan patch on the bird’s upper bill lines up with the similarly colored edge of the hole behind it? That makes it look as if the outline of the hole is beginning to spiral outward, or maybe it’s just my perfervid (no, not perverted) imagination.

© 2013 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 13, 2013 at 6:20 AM

A closer look at American germander

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American Germander Flowering 8506

In case you’re not familiar with the American germander, Teucrium canadense, that appeared as a colony in the last post, here’s a closer look at an individual flowering plant I’d photographed at the other end of Great Hills Park on May 29th. Notice the many buds still waiting to open.

© 2013 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 12, 2013 at 6:07 AM

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