Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Archive for March 2014

Anole at home

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Anole's Head 3573

After returning home from the productive Stonelake Blvd. and Riata Trace Pond photo outings on the afternoon of March 11th, I walked toward the side gate in my yard to put the garbage and recycling containers away. As I got close to the wooden fence, I saw on it an anole lizard, Anolis carolinensis, down low and partly hidden by a plant. My camera was still in the car, so I walked into the garage to get it, hoping the lizard would stay put till I got back. Not only did it, but it let me get pretty close. The light wasn’t as obliging as the anole, though, so I ended up taking pictures at f/2.8, a wider aperture than I would normally use (in fact the widest one my macro lens has), and that’s the story behind this impressiony portrait.

A couple of years ago I showed a very different photograph of an anole, and one of the most commented-on pictures ever to appear here, which you’re welcome to look (back) at. If you’re interested in photography as a craft, you’ll find that points 1, 19, and especially 20 in About My Techniques are relevant to today’s portrait.

© 2014 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 31, 2014 at 8:01 AM

A backlit four-nerve daisy flower head

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Tetraneuris linearifolia Flower Head Backlit 3202

The last two posts have shown a prairie fleabane, but a colony of a different kind of small daisy, Tetraneuris linearifolia, the four-nerve daisy, originally attracted me to the margin of Stonelake Blvd. on March 11th. This backlit view lets you look halfway out along some of the rays and do a visual cross-section revealing the four “nerves” that give this species its common name and its genus name. Four-nerve daisies are among the most common wildflowers in Austin and can be found here for much of the year.

© 2014 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 30, 2014 at 5:57 AM

Prairie fleabane daisy open and attractive

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Tiny Bee on Prairie Fleabane Daisy 3270

And here, from the same group of prairie fleabane daisies, Erigeron modestus, that I found on March 11th along Stonelake Blvd. is an open flower head that had attracted a tiny bee. From the saturated tips of the opening rays that you saw last time, would you have predicted that most of the color would soon disappear? Speaking of disappearing, I’ve sometimes wondered if flowers like this inspired the now-long-gone European fad of wearing a ruff. And speaking of wondering, if you’d like to know how big this flower head was, the answer is about an inch in diameter.

© 2014 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 29, 2014 at 6:01 AM

Prairie fleabane daisy bud opening

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Prairie Fleabane Bud Opening 3281

Another thing that caught my attention on March 11th along Stonelake Blvd. was a group of prairie fleabane daisies, Erigeron modestus. In this close look at an opening bud you get an abstract view that’s minimalist in composition but colorful in tonality.

If you’d like to see the places from Texas to Kansas to Arizona where Erigeron modestus brightens the lives of native-plant cognoscenti, you can check the USDA’s state-clickable map. Travis County (which includes Austin) is along the southeastern fringe of that range, but thankfully within it, and this species is common here.

© 2014 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 28, 2014 at 6:00 AM

Do the homeless appreciate wildflowers?

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Blue-Eyed Grass Flowers 3238

The title question wanders a bit off the beaten track for this blog, but then so do the homeless. Let me explain. On opposite sides of Stonelake Blvd. in northwest Austin are two largely wooded properties owned by the University of Texas. Every hundred feet or so a prominent No Trespassing sign makes clear the university’s position, and just as often the glimpse of an improvised path or some human detritus makes it clear that homeless people have been camping in those woods. Last spring I wandered in once to take a look, and although the “residents” were out during the day, the place felt creepy and I didn’t stay longer than I had to to photograph the wildflowers I discovered in a clearing inside the woods. Now you understand the question in this post’s title and you can answer it as you will.

On March 11th of this year I wandered along Stonelake Blvd. because while driving by the day before I’d observed that some small wildflowers were already coming up close to the road—no need to venture into the creepy woods. Today and for the next several days you’ll see a few of the spring beauties I found. To begin with, here’s a portrait of blue-eyed grass (Sisyrinchium spp.) that I was fortunate to notice partly hidden beneath some Ashe juniper trees. The flowers of blue-eyed grass, which isn’t a grass and whose tepals are more violet than blue, typically range from 0.5 to 0.75 inches across (13 to 18 mm), small no matter how you measure them.

© 2014 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 27, 2014 at 6:02 AM

A bent for dry seed heads

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Dry Goldenrod Seed Head by Pond 3551

If the last blue you saw was clearly clear sky, the ripples on this more-subdued blue tell you you’re looking down toward water, and what I’ll further tell you is that it’s the Riata Trace Pond on March 11th. The remains of this tall goldenrod plant, Solidago altissima, caught my attention because of the prominent bend in its long, bare stalk.

© 2014 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 26, 2014 at 6:03 AM

Anemone shedding seeds

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Anemone Seeds Coming Undone 3493

Yesterday’s post showed a mostly white anemone at the Riata Trace Pond on March 11th. Within a few feet of that flower I found another one that had matured to the point that its sepals had fallen away and its central column was coming apart. The seeds were blowing in the breeze, so I used a shutter speed of 1/800 of a second to stop most of the movement. Although I’ve showed anemones here several times, this is the first view of its seeds to appear in these pages. What I have showed here more than once that’s similar, if you overlook the pod, is the release of milkweed seeds.

© 2014 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 25, 2014 at 6:06 AM

Purple can be white

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Anemone Flower with Column Forming 3459

Not long ago you saw a purple anemone. I’ve observed that a fair number of purple flowers have white variants, and that’s certainly the case with our local anemones (in fact the white is more common than the purple). Here, from the margin of Riata Trace Pond on March 11th, you see some traces of purple, but white predominates. Notice how the central seed column in this specimen is longer, which is to say more mature, than in the previous one.

© 2014 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 24, 2014 at 5:59 AM

Milkweed vine pod split open

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Milkweed Vine Pod Opening 3185

Another thing I noticed when I walked in the right-of-way west of Morado Circle on March 6th was this dry milkweed vine pod, presumably Matelea reticulata, that had split open to reveal the seed-bearing fluff inside.

© 2014 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 23, 2014 at 7:00 AM

Orange sulphur butterfly on agarita

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Orange Sulphur Butterfly on Agarita Flower 3180

About five weeks ago I showed you some agarita flowers as a hallmark of spring. Today’s picture from west of Morado Circle on March 6th adds two things you didn’t see well or at all in the previous photograph: the red buds at the top, and the orange sulphur butterfly, Colias eurytheme, hanging from one of the flowers.

© 2014 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 22, 2014 at 4:50 AM

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