Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Archive for February 2014

Spring

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Redbud Tree Blossoming 1886

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We’re still having some chilly mornings near the end of this coldest winter in a long time, but indisputable signs of spring have started to appear. For the last week or so I’ve noticed various redbud trees, Cercis canadensis, beginning to blossom here and there, including this densely flowering one that I photographed yesterday on D-K Ranch Rd. in northwest Austin. The clear blue sky was a welcome change from all the overcast days we’ve recently had, and the high temperature for this afternoon is predicted to be around 80°F (27°C). That’s a nice warm way to end the month of February, don’t you think?

© 2014 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 28, 2014 at 6:02 AM

Ant on pearl milkweed

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Ant on Pearl Milkweed Flower 5952

Another thing I photographed on October 30, 2013, in a “vacant” lot on Jollyville Rd. in northwest Austin was this ant on a pearl milkweed flower, Matelea reticulata. There aren’t a lot of green flowers in the world, much less flowers with a small and approximately pentagonal mother-of-pearl canopy over the reproductive heart of each one, but that’s what we’ve got in this common vine. The distance across one of these flowers is about 2/3 of an inch (17 mm).

In Wildflowers of the Texas Hill Country, Marshall Enquist lists the bloom period for this species as April–July, but I’ve also found milkweed vines flowering in the fall, as this photograph from the end of October confirms.

© 2014 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 27, 2014 at 6:04 AM

Standing on frostweed

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Insect on Frostweed Leaf 5871

I don’t know what insect this is, though it appears to be an Ichneumonoid wasp of some kind, and a female one at that, given the long ovipositor trailing behind it. What I do know is that the leaf is from a frostweed plant, Verbesina virginica, and that I took this picture on October 30, 2013, in an undeveloped lot on Jollyville Rd. in my northwest Austin neighborhood.

© 2014 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 26, 2014 at 6:07 AM

Frostweed flowers

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Frostweed Flowers 9033

You’ve recently seen a couple of pictures of frostweed ice in Great Hills Park, but I haven’t showed you any pictures of frostweed flowers in a long time. Here, then, from September 29th of last year, also in Great Hills Park, are some flower heads of Verbesina virginica, a species that is pleasingly white in two quite different ways and temperatures.

© 2014 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 25, 2014 at 6:02 AM

No mist, but ice on a mistflower

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Ice on Dry Ageratina havanensis Stalk 0692

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On the cold morning of February 6th I found some ice on a dry stalk of the small mistflower plant, Ageratina havanensis, growing in my front yard.

The bubbles and patterns in the ice are intriguing, so if you’d like to look at them a little more closely, click the picture above. For a much closer look at the formation farthest to the right, click the icon below.

Ice on Dry Ageratina havanensis Stalk 0692A

And if you’d like a reminder of what one of these plants looks like when it’s fresh and flowering, you can click here.

It seems that French ice bubbles speak the same language as the ones in Texas, something you can confirm in the second photograph from a recent post at L’ancolie bleue (The blue columbine).

© 2014 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 24, 2014 at 6:03 AM

Old rattan vines in winter

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Old Rattan Vines 0558

On the cold morning of January 24th, where you’ve already heard that a shallow carpet of ice pellets lay on the ground in some places, I went to Great Hills Park, where I photographed some thick rattan vines, Berchemia scandens. The sweet-potato color you see here is one typical hue of this woody species, the other being a dull green. Speaking of colors, this vine’s leaves can turn a pretty yellow-orange at the end of fall; I didn’t see any of that this past season, but you’re welcome to (re)visit a post from two years ago. And if you look carefully at today’s picture, in several places you can make out some strands of a different and slenderer vine, the aptly named greenbrier.

© 2014 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 23, 2014 at 6:03 AM

A more diffuse possumhaw

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Possumhaw with Fruit by Boulder in Woods 0537A

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On the cold morning of January 24th, with a shallow carpet of ice pellets on the ground in some places, I went to Great Hills Park, where I photographed this possumhaw, Ilex decidua. Its fruit is less dense than the one you saw last time, but on the other hand that possumhaw was part of the landscaping along the edge of a shopping center, while this one sprang up naturally in the woods. Either way, the numerous tiny fruits of the possumhaw provide welcome brightness in the bleakest and coldest part of the year.

© 2014 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 22, 2014 at 6:05 AM

Winterberry: yes and no

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Possumhaw with Fruit and Nest 0104

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Ilex decidua is a small tree that I’ve usually called possumhaw, but another vernacular name is winterberry. The winter part is true enough, as the tree’s many small but bright fruits typically hang on through January and February and brighten those bleak months. Technically speaking, however, the fruits are drupes, not berries.

This photograph is from January 20th in the parking lot of the H.E.B. supermarket on Wells Branch Parkway near the Austin-Pflugerville border. Notice the loose nest at the lower right.

© 2014 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 21, 2014 at 6:04 AM

Reeds

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Reeds in Pond 0159

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When I was working along Wells Branch Parkway near Drusilla’s Drive in Pflugerville on January 20th, I found these rushes in a retention pond. What intrigued me was the horizontal band of white that was on average about a foot above water level. I don’t recall seeing anything like that before, nor do I know what caused it.

© 2014 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 20, 2014 at 6:00 AM

More cattail fluff

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Cattail Fluff on Hackberry with Mustang Grape Vine 0220

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Not only did fluff from a colony of cattails, Typha domingensis, coat the dry goldenrod plants you saw two pictures back, but some also landed on these curled leaves of what I believe was a hackberry tree, Celtis spp. As a bonus, notice the mustang grape vine, Vitis mustangensis, that had come up and coiled a tendril twice around one of the hackberry’s leaf stalks.

Like the last two photographs, this one comes from marshy land along Wells Branch Parkway near Drusilla’s Drive in Pflugerville on January 20th.

© 2014 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 19, 2014 at 6:03 AM

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