Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Archive for July 2014

Rock flax

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Rock Flax Flower by Mountain Pink Flowers 3702

Click for greater clarity and larger size.

Let’s carry over the yellow and pink color scheme from the last post. Quite close to one of the flowering mountain pinks, Centaurium beyrichii, was this rock flax flower, Linum rupestre. You can’t judge scale from this photograph, so let me add that a rock flax flower is small, typically little more than a third of an inch (8 mm) across.

This June 15th picture of rock flax, a species making its debut here today, comes from a property at FM 1431 and Brahma Ln. on the west side of Lago Vista.

© 2014 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 31, 2014 at 5:54 AM

An even closer look at mountain pink flowers

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Tiny Dark Bee on Mountain Pink Anther 3741A

I can’t stop, so let’s make it four in a row for mountain pink, Centaurium beyrichii, with this even closer look showing you these flowers’ corkscrew-style anthers (anyone for saffron fusilli?).

It’s time for a periodic reminder that honeybees came to the New World with European colonists. Before then, American plants relied on native insects and other animals for pollination. They still do, as you can see from this tiny dark bee—and tiny it was, probably no more than a quarter of an inch (6mm) long.

Because of the bee’s rapid movements and small size, I used flash with a shutter speed of 1/1000 of a second and an aperture of f/29. At such a close distance even that tiny aperture couldn’t produce much depth of field, so I did my best to focus on the bee (much of which came out sharp) and had to settle for the fact that many other things in the picture would go out of focus to varying degrees.

Today’s June 15th photograph comes from a property at FM 1431 and Brahma Ln. on the west side of Lago Vista.

© 2014 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 30, 2014 at 6:00 AM

A close look at mountain pink flowers and buds

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Mountain Pink Flowers and Buds 3710

So let’s make it three in a row for mountain pink, Zeltnera beyrichii, with a closeup showing its dense flowers and buds. Everything you see here makes up just a portion of the dome of a single plant. Now that’s what I call prolific.

This June 15th photograph comes from a property at FM 1431 and Brahma Ln. on the west side of the town of Lago Vista (which was someone’s misguided attempt to say Lake View in Spanish).

© 2014 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 29, 2014 at 5:56 AM

Mountain pinks growing in caliche

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Mountain Pinks Flowering in Caliche 4730

In the previous post you saw a buckeye butterfly in what I call the “scaffolding” beneath a bunch of mountain pink flowers—only you didn’t get to see any of those flowers. Here from June 20th along the Capital of Texas Highway is a typical view showing the way Centaurium beyrichii thrives in seemingly barren places. The kind of ground these plants are growing in is known in Texas as caliche.

Today’s photograph looks largely downward at the margin of land along the highway, but last year I aimed upward to show how these plants live up to the name mountain pink by seeming to grow right out of lofty rock.

© 2014 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 28, 2014 at 6:00 AM

Buckeye butterfly

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Buckeye Butterfly on Mountain Pink Scaffolding 3994

Out at Warbler Vista on June 15th I found this buckeye butterfly, Junonia coenia, on the “scaffolding” of some mountain pinks, Centaurium beyrichii.

© 2014 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 27, 2014 at 7:04 AM

Spittlebug spittle

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Spittlebug Spittle at Base of Firewheel 4289

In the background of yesterday’s June 16th photograph from Great Hills Park you saw some Gaillardia pulchella, known as firewheel and Indian blanket. On at least a dozen of those flower stalks, including this one that was bent over, I found spittlebug spittle. If you’d like to see a seemingly crystalline goblet of spittle, check out the second photograph in Steve Gingold’s post from two days ago. The dense bubbles in both pictures remind me of the similarly dense but larger ones from Great Hills Park’s main creek that you recently saw.

© 2014 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 26, 2014 at 5:49 AM

Western horse-nettle

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Western Horse-Nettle Flowering by Firewheels 4197

The last post brought you a bud of Solanum elaeagnifolium, called silverleaf nightshade. Now you’re seeing a close relative, Solanum dimidiatum, known as western horse-nettle. The flowers of the two species are quite similar, but their leaves are different. If you think these buds look like little eggplants (aubergines, for you of the British persuasion), you’re on to something, because eggplant is Solanum melongena. Still, don’t try eating western horse-nettle or silverleaf nightshade, because they’re poisonous.

The red and orange in the background come from our old friend Gaillardia pulchella, known as firewheel and Indian blanket. The location of this June 16th photograph was another old friend, Great Hills Park.

© 2014 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 25, 2014 at 5:55 AM

Silverleaf nightshade bud

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Silverleaf Nightshade Bud by Mexican Hat Flowers 9924

From the same May 30th visit to a “vacant” lot on Grapevine Dr. that brought you yesterday’s picture of yellow eggs comes this photograph a budding silverleaf nightshade, Solanum elaeagnifolium, a common Austin species that can be found flowering for much of the year. The yellow, orange and brown in the background are from some of the Mexican hats that had largely taken over the property.

For more information about Solanum elaeagnifolium, including a state-clickable map showing the many places in the United States where this species grows, you can visit the USDA websiste.

© 2014 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 24, 2014 at 5:48 AM

An unexpected yellow

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Yellow Insect Eggs Under Developing Mexican Hat Flower Head 9850

Near the end of May, Wanda Hill alerted me to a colony of Mexican hats, Ratibida columnifera, along Grapevine Dr. in the part of our neighborhood closer to where she lives. On May 30th I went there and spent time photographing some of the individual Mexican hats (and talking to fellow photographer Alex Suárez, who also lives in the neighborhood and happened to drive by shortly after I got there). Beneath one developing flower head I discovered the clutch of tiny eggs you see here. I don’t know what kind of insect they’re from, but on that already sunshiny morning I was happy to get an extra dose of yellow, even one this small. How small, you ask: perhaps 1/3 of an inch, or 8mm, across the whole group. Add to the yellow the blue of the sky and the rich brownish red of the ray flowers on the fully open Mexican hat behind this still green and flowerless one, and you’ve got quite a colorful combination.

© 2014 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 23, 2014 at 5:59 AM

Exuviae

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Exuviae on Leaf 6422

Entomologists (biologists who study insects) use the Latin plural exuviae to designate the cast-off exoskeleton of an insect that has molted. While I was photographing in a shaded area along Bull Creek on July 7th I came across the exuviae of what I take to be a cicada (genus Tibicen). Sloughed-off “skins” can be as dirty as the one you see here, but then if you hung out on a leaf for weeks on end you might get pretty dirty too (or should I say ugly dirty rather than pretty dirty?).

© 2014 Steven Schwartzman

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 22, 2014 at 5:56 AM

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