Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Archive for August 2013

Maidenhair ferns and mosses on a limestone overhang along Bull Creek on July 15

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Maidenhair Ferns on Limestone Overhang 0661

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© 2013 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 31, 2013 at 6:12 AM

Mountain pink eradicated

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Mountain Pink Dried Out Against Sky 3427A

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On July 30th, a month ago today, I was walking through a still-undeveloped property in northwest Austin when I came across a mountain pink, Centaurium beyrichii, which was normal in the way it had dried out but abnormal in two other respects: something had pulled the plant, root and all, out of the ground; and something, perhaps the same agent that caused the eradication, had flattened the plant. So there I found it, flat on the ground, looking forlorn, not a great subject for a photograph. I picked the plant up, held it out in front of me at arm’s length—why aren’t my arms longer?—and photographed it, as shown here, against that day’s wispy sky. The plant’s brightness may make you think that I used flash, but the only illumination came from the noontime sun.

If you’d like a reminder of what this species is like when it’s fresh—and not just as a background the way it appeared in yesterday morning’s photograph—you can have a look upward from afar at some plants on a cliff or closely downward at a flowering dome. And for the large majority of you who weren’t visiting this blog in the second week of its existence in June of 2011, I invite you to see what a mountain pink bud looks like.

© 2013 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 30, 2013 at 6:09 AM

Yellow and pink

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Four-Nerve Daisy by Mountain Pink Flowers 7647

Along the Smith Memorial Trail on June 28th I encountered some mountain pinks, Centaurium beyrichii, but as I’d found larger and more photogenic ones a week earlier at the Wild Basin Wilderness Preserve, I photographed one of the newly encountered plants not in its own right but as a formless background for this nearby four-nerve daisy, Tetraneuris scaposa. The last time you saw a four-nerve daisy in these pages, it was playing the background role and a rain-lily stalk was the star. This talk of roles is tempting me to say that all the world’s a stage, but someone else whose last name also begins with an S has already taken that line. Oh well, here it is anyway, as you like it, measure for measure, and sans further ado:

All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages. At first, the infant,
Mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms.
Then the whining schoolboy, with his satchel
And shining morning face, creeping like snail
Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,
Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
Made to his mistress’ eyebrow. Then a soldier,
Full of strange oaths and bearded like the pard,
Jealous in honor, sudden and quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the cannon’s mouth. And then the justice,
In fair round belly with good capon lined,
With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,
Full of wise saws and modern instances;
And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slippered pantaloon,
With spectacles on nose and pouch on side;
His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide
For his shrunk shank, and his big manly voice,
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.

© 2013 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 29, 2013 at 6:07 AM

When isn’t violet violet?

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Wild White Petunia Flower 0449

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When isn’t violet violet? When we’re talking about the color not of the Ruellia you saw last time, nudiflora, nor of various other genus-mates, but of Ruellia metziae, a less common species known as wild white petunia. (Some sources, including Marshall Enquist, classify this as Ruellia nudiflora var. metzae.) In the United States the wild white petunia grows only in Texas.

I took this photograph on July 14th along Old Settlers Blvd. near Greenhill Dr. in Round Rock, a suburb immediately north of Austin that has grown to 100,000 people. There may not be that many little crinkles on this flower, but there are a lot of them, and they add to its charm.

© 2013 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 28, 2013 at 6:10 AM

When is a petunia not a petunia?

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Ruellia nudiflora Flower 7436

When is a petunia not a petunia? When it’s a wild petunia, Ruellia nudiflora, which isn’t even in the petunia family, but rather the acanthus family. This species flourishes all through the hottest part of the year in central Texas and is common here, although today marks its first appearance in these pages. I took this photograph in Bull Creek Park on June 27, exactly two months ago, but I’m still seeing a fair number of these flowers, which generally appear individually or in loose groups. The densest cluster I saw this summer was on the west side of Mopac a bit south of RM 2222, but you won’t be surprised to hear that the mowers cut it down in its flowering prime. There’s a civics lesson for you about our tax money in action.

On a more cheerful note—etymology is always cheerful—petunia happens to be one of the few words in English that traces back to an aboriginal language family of South America, in this case Tupí-Guaraní. In contrast, the genus Ruellia was named after Jean Ruelle, a French herbalist who lived from 1474 to1537. Ruelle is the French word for ‘a small street.’ Mower is the English word for ‘as small a number of wildflowers as possible.’

© 2013 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 27, 2013 at 5:50 AM

Paper wasps at their nest on a dry giant ragweed plant

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Paper Wasps at Nest on Dry Giant Ragweed 3196A

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While walking the trail around the Riata Trace Pond in north Austin on July 30th, I came across some paper wasps at their nest on a dried-out giant ragweed plant, Ambrosia trifida. I took a couple of dozen pictures, and for the last group of them I zoomed in as close as my lens would let me. That closeness prompted one of the wasps to zoom out at me, which I took as a signal that it was time for me to leave. I left.

And now I leave it to you to see if you can say the phrase wasps’ nests quickly a dozen times without messing up. If you make it, try wasps’ nests’ wisps. Slow’s easy, but fast’s a stinger.

© 2013 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 26, 2013 at 6:08 AM

Something new under the sun after all

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Small Tan Snail on Firewheel Seed Head Remains 1491

The firewheel was dead: to begin with.* There is no doubt whatever about that. But the little snail had given this dry Gaillardia pulchella a new sort of life by anointing it with slime, some of which accounted for the firewheel’s glistening in a way I’d never seen. Now you get to see it too.

Like yesterday’s picture, today’s is from a July 19th session on a piece of the Blackland Prairie along Schultz Ln. in southern Round Rock.


* Bonus points to anyone who can identify what this is a parody of.

© 2013 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 25, 2013 at 6:13 AM

Remember basket-flowers?

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Basket-Flower Colony Dried Out in Landscape 1208

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Do you remember what a basket-flower looks like? Sure you do. Yes, you do indeed.

Today’s picture shows what a large colony of Centaurea americana looks like after it has gone to seed: sere, yes, yet still something to see and celebrate in our sunniest season.

Date: July 19.  Location: Meister Ln. at Schultz Ln. in Round Rock.

© 2013 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 24, 2013 at 6:14 AM

Dry sunflower with sinuous stalk

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Dry Sunflower Seed Head on Sinuous Stalk 3142

This latest entry in the give-dry-plants-their-due series* shows a sunflower, Helianthus annuus, at the Riata Trace Pond in northwest Austin on July 30. It was the undulating stalk that drew my attention because I don’t know if I’d ever seen that feature in sunflowers themselves the way I have in some other members of the sunflower family.


* The give-dry-plants-their-due series, admittedly intermittent, shows no signs of drying up. In fact tomorrow’s post will feature a whole colony of dry plants, and individual ones will play minor roles in the two posts after that. Desiccated plants needn’t be a dry subject at all.

© 2013 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 23, 2013 at 6:12 AM

Swallowtail butterfly on Texas lantana

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Black Swallowtail Butterfly on Texas Lantana Flowers 2446

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Here you have what I think is a black swallowtail butterfly, Papilio polyxenes. The colorful flowers, which make their debut in these pages today, are Texas lantana, Lantana urticoides. In the 1800s this plant was also known as a calico bush, but calico has gone out of fashion and so has that name. Also no longer in vogue is the previous scientific name for this species, Lantana horrida. How someone could ever have thought these lovely flowers horrid is beyond me.

This is the seventh and last in a series of pictures from the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center on July 23.

© 2013 Steven Schwartzman

NOTE: Yesterday, at the request of a commenter, I added a closeup of the central part of the saltmarsh mallow in that day’s post.

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 22, 2013 at 6:16 AM

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