Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Archive for October 2013

With the rain came rain-lilies

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Rain-Lily Colony Flowering 8385

Click for greater clarity and considerably larger size.

On Friday, September 20th, Austin finally got several inches of rain. A few days later, right on schedule, up came the rain-lilies, Cooperia drummondii. On September 23rd and 25th I went to a place that had a pretty good colony of those flowers, which I portrayed in various ways. During my second visit a man saw me photographing and came over to tell me he knew of an even better colony not far away. That’s how I ended up on Ridge Oak Dr. at Perry Ln., where I took this panoramic picture.

© 2013 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 22, 2013 at 6:00 AM

Partridge pea against a blue sky

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Partridge Pea Flower 7140A

Another thing I saw beneath a clear sky on the Blackland Prairie in northeast Austin on the morning of September 12th was flowers of partridge pea, Chamaecrista fasciculata. The dark red markings near the base of some of the petals are a characteristic of this species, as is the inward curve of one petal. Also notice the yellow stripes on some of the maroon stamens.

To see the many places in the United States where partridge pea grows, you can consult the state-clickable map at the USDA website.

© 2013 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 21, 2013 at 6:01 AM

A gall, I presume

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Gall in Dry Liatris Stalk by Flowers 7437

It’s common among flowering spikes of blazing-star, Liatris mucronata, to see dry stalks left over from the previous year. In this dry and broken stalk I noticed what seems to be a gall, a swelling that develops after an insect stings a plant in order to create an abode for itself, or more likely its offspring. How an insect knows to do that, I can’t say, but it’s a common phenomenon. So is digestion, which I also don’t know how to do, but fortunately my body does.

I photographed this dead-end of a dry blazing-star stalk near a living and flowering one on a piece of the Blackland Prairie in far northeast Austin on September 12th.

© 2013 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 20, 2013 at 6:00 AM

A little white snail on some blazing-star flowers

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Small White Snail on Flowering Liatris 7232

Little snails have appeared several times in these pages, but never on anything as appealing as this flowering spike of blazing-star, Liatris mucronata. I photographed the two together on a piece of the Blackland Prairie in northeast Austin on September 12th. For Austinites, this is the familiar (and only) species of Liatris that grows here, and that’s why I’d been excited to come across Liatris elegans and Liatris aspera when I visited Bastrop State Park in early September.

© 2013 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 19, 2013 at 6:01 AM

Duckweed and more

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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

Sensitive briar

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Mimosa roemeriana, known as sensitive briar because of the way its compound leaves fold up when touched, produces small flower globes like the one shown here. These globes grow close to the ground, and you can see color traces of three others in the background.

I took this picture a year ago today, on October 17, 2012, in the northeast quadrant of US 183 and Mopac, where I found a resurgence of wildflowers of various kinds. Last fall you saw several other photographs from the same session: a greenthread flower head, some mealy blue sage flowers, a greenbrier tendril and thorn, and an unusually brilliant greenbrier leaf.

© 2013 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 17, 2013 at 6:09 AM

A closer look at soft golden-aster

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Soft Golden-Aster Flower Head by Horseweed Stalk 6467

Here’s a closer look at one of the flower heads of soft golden-aster, Chrysopsis pilosa, that I found in Bastrop State Park on September 6th. As in the last photograph, the reddish stem is from a horseweed plant, Conyza canadensis. The tiny insects are a bonus. Whether the many spots on the rays of the flower head have anything to do with those insects, I don’t know, but the connection is plausible.

© 2013 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 16, 2013 at 12:23 PM

Horseweed “overshadowed” by brightness

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Soft Goldenaster Seed Heads by Horseweed 6444

Click for greater clarity and size.

The Conyza canadensis in the last picture was fasciated, but here you get to see what normal horseweed plants are like—at least you do if you don’t get distracted by the bright yellow wildflowers that were growing in their midst in Bastrop State Park on September 6th. I didn’t recognize the yellow flowers but Joe Marcus at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center identified them for me (thanks, Joe) as Chrysopsis pilosa, a species that’s known as soft golden-aster (pilosa means ‘covered with soft hairs’). Nearby I found some camphorweed that was flowering, and I’ve since learned that soft golden-aster used to be classified in the same Heterotheca genus as camphorweed. In addition to the bright yellow flowers of the soft golden-aster, notice the characteristic reddish stems of the horseweed.

© 2013 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 16, 2013 at 6:08 AM

Fasciated horseweed

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Horseweed Fasciated 6673

Click for greater clarity and size.

When I went to Bastrop State Park on September 6th, another native plant I noticed was horseweed, Conyza canadensis, the third species in a row to make its debut in these pages. The common name tells you that many people consider this plant a weed, but it was doing its job of bringing abundant green to some of the land made bare by the conflagration of 2011. I even found one horseweed that was noticeably fasciated, and that’s the one you’re seeing here.

If fasciation is new to you or you’d like a refresher, you can find a discussion of the phenomenon in a post about a fasciated Liatris from a couple of years ago. Posts since then have shown examples of five other fasciated species:


poverty weed;

prairie verbena;

old plainsman;

Texas mountain laurel.

So, while fasciation isn’t common, it’s apparently not all that rare, either, given that four of the seven examples are from this year alone.

© 2013 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 15, 2013 at 6:02 AM

But wait!

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Liatris elegans Flowers 6611

“But wait!” as so many cheesy television commercials like to say. For coming here two days in a row, you’re going to get another species of Liatris absolutely free.* I’d seen this one in Bastrop before, but a good 12 years ago and perhaps not again since then. This is Liatris elegans, and as you can see, its flowers differ in color from the usual violet or purple of so many other species in the genus. (Books say that Liatris elegans can also have pinkish or pale violet flowers, but I haven’t seen that in the plants at Bastrop.)

Like the last few photographs, this one comes from my visit to Bastrop State Park on September 6th.


* Following the general trend toward a devaluation in the meanings of words, many commercials now often use the word absolutely incorrectly. Absolutely means ‘without any conditions; no strings attached.’ If you have to buy one of something to get a second one at no additional charge, that second item is not absolutely free. To make things worse, i.e. even farther from absolutely free, commercials of that sort have taken to slipping in another condition: “Just pay separate shipping and handling.” In contrast, today’s photograph really does come to you at no charge whatsoever.

© 2013 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 14, 2013 at 6:00 AM

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