Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Duckweed and more

with 20 comments

Click for greater size and detail.

Click for greater clarity.

Here’s a picture from October 17, 2012, a year and a day ago, on a foray into the northeast quadrant of US 183 and Mopac. What you’re seeing is the surface of a small pond. I think the little green platelets are duckweed, but I don’t know what the even smaller and more numerous red thingies are; if anyone does, please let us know.*

At this size it’s hard for you to tell that there are also at least five tiny insects in the picture. You can get a better look at a couple of them by clicking the icon below, which will bring up an enlargement of a part of the photograph that will also give you a closer view of the little red thingies.

Duckweed and Small Insects1494A

By the way, isn’t it interesting that this close downward look at a small body of water is so different from one that appeared in January?

For more information about duckweed, including a view of its minuscule flowers, check a post at Seeds Aside.

If you’re interested in photography as a craft, you’ll find that points 1 and 15 in About My Techniques are relevant to this photograph.


* Based on a couple of the comments, I’ll add that the red thingies seem to be Azolla caroliniana.

© 2013 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 18, 2013 at 6:02 AM

20 Responses

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  1. I first ‘clicked for greater clarity’ before reading. I saw one obvious insect near the bottom and two other I thought might be with white markings. But, not five.

    There is a pond we pass on our walk routes that is about 1/4 covered with duckweed. Thanks for giving me a close-up look. Now, I don’t need to wade out and look for myself. 🙂

    Jim in IA

    October 18, 2013 at 7:30 AM

    • You’re welcome to the close-up look. I have the advantage of being able to see the full-resolution image on a large monitor, so let me say again, based on the smaller size of the posted image, that you have good eyes. By coincidence, I walked past this little pond yesterday, and there was no covering of tiny floating plants at all. You might still want to take a look at the covering on your pond.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 18, 2013 at 9:28 AM

  2. Wonderful in its mystery–could be dried seeds and lima beans.


    October 18, 2013 at 7:39 AM

    • It does have a dried-seeds-and-lima-beans look, doesn’t it? I gather that ducks eat duckweed, and some peoples in Asia do, too, so your reference seems appropriate.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 18, 2013 at 9:30 AM

  3. Duckweed’s one of my favorite plants, but I’ve never seen its flowers, so thanks for that. I think the red plant might be Azolla, or red water fern.

    I was delighted to see you use “thingie”. That’s one of my favorite words, a default for occasions when I haven’t a clue what something is, or words at hand to describe it.


    October 18, 2013 at 8:10 AM

    • Thanks for the reference to Azolla. I checked Bill Carr’s Travis County Plant List and found only one species, Azolla caroliniana, which is [happily] native, and which I then looked up elsewhere. At


      I found that it “is a freshwater aquatic fern, with scale-like fronds 5–10 mm long, green to reddish, most often reddish in strong light and in winter.” As far as it goes, it fits. Let’s hope that thingy is correct.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 18, 2013 at 9:41 AM

  4. I am fairly certain that the reddish plant is Azolla caroliniana. It’s commonly found growing along side duckweed here in Southeast Texas.


    October 18, 2013 at 10:52 AM

    • In an earlier comment, a reader suggested Azolla, which I’d never heard of, but I checked Bill Carr’s Travis County Plant List and found exactly one species, Azolla caroliniana. Thanks for confirming that you think that’s what this is, too. With plants that I don’t recognize, there’s always the possibility of an alien interloper, so I’m glad that Azolla caroliniana turns out to be a native.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 18, 2013 at 12:20 PM

  5. Thank you on your lesson on composition – I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately. Not so much in the eye of the beholder – more in the brain.


    October 18, 2013 at 12:53 PM

    • You’re welcome. It’s ultimately all in the brain, isn’t it?

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 18, 2013 at 1:21 PM

      • It is all in the brain. It has been suggested I look at a lot of good photographs every day to help with composition. I don’t want to copy but perhaps it might stimulate something. It’s original compositions that stand out.


        October 18, 2013 at 3:27 PM

  6. Wonderful stuff. This would make a grand tile pattern for a shower or patio; might make me think I could walk on water!


    October 18, 2013 at 1:19 PM

    • Only in a climate with sustained freezing temperatures could you walk on this, and by then I have no idea what the poor plants would look like. A patio along the lines of this pattern, on the other hand, seems eminently doable.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 18, 2013 at 2:46 PM

  7. Steve, I’m with Jay on this one. Try looking here: http://waynesword.palomar.edu/plnov98.htm
    About halfway down there is a picture of its “reproductive parts” and they look very like the red plants in your image.

    When I first viewed today’s photo I thought you’d taken a picture of a succulent garden. I had no idea that it was a lilliputian water scape!


    October 18, 2013 at 8:42 PM

    • Thanks for that informative link, Lynda. I had no idea that people in Asia use a species of Azolla to increase their rice crops. That makes me wonder if anyone has tried to put our native Azolla caroliniana to similar use.

      “Lilliputian” is a good word to describe these tiny plants. Yay, macro lens.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 18, 2013 at 11:28 PM

  8. Thanks for adding the close-up revealing the bugs. I’m guessing those are what we call “waterbugs.’


    October 19, 2013 at 4:58 AM

    • You’re welcome for the insects. By whatever name, those bugs added something good to the photograph.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 19, 2013 at 7:38 AM

  9. I will confess I don’t generally think of duckweed as a pleasure to behold, and here you’ve gone and done it. I suspect the red thingies (I do like that name for them) contribute, because at least there is a contrast!

    Susan Scheid

    October 24, 2013 at 9:45 PM

    • Your comment reminds me of a song from “My Fair Lady”:

      “This evening, sir, you did it! You did it! You did it!
      You said that you would do it And indeed you did.
      This evening, sir, you did it! You did it! You did it!
      We know that we have said it,
      But you did it and the credit
      For it all belongs to you!”

      And long live thingies!

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 24, 2013 at 9:54 PM

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