Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Archive for May 2015

What I found in Great Hills Park

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Young Male Deer Staring 1567

On May 19th I parked along the aptly named Floral Park Dr. to take some pictures of the white prickly poppies and Mexican hats growing in the southern section of Great Hills Park, but as soon as I got out of my car I noticed a white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) at the edge of the woods on the far side of the Mexican hat colony. I switched to my longest lens and walked over to the railing by the sidewalk, whereupon the deer noticed me and began staring and listening, as shown here. From the velvet-covered antlers forming on the deer’s head I take this to be a young male, but occasionally female deer grow antlers too.

The large green leaves and the tall dry stalks flanking the deer represent two stages in the life of frostweed (Verbesina virginica), the plant that you’ve seen do its magic ice trick when the weather gets cold enough here in the fall.

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 31, 2015 at 5:31 AM

Austin had a sunny day yesterday!

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Basket-Flower Colony Flowering 3171

That’s right, after some 24 days of primarily overcast skies, drizzle, and rain, on May 29th the clouds dissipated and we had a clear and sunny day. The pent-up landscape photographer in me went out onto the Blackland Prairie along the Pflugerville-Round Rock border—wearing rubber boots, I should add, because of the water and mud in many places. I hoped the recent heavy rains hadn’t damaged the colonies of basket-flowers, Centaurea americana, that had been so good in that area in recent years. Some stands turned out not to be as dense as before, but others were, as you see here. The greenery in the upper left is Maximilian sunflower plants, which won’t flower for a few months yet.

UPDATE: This morning it’s back to an overcast sky with a 50% chance of rain.

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 30, 2015 at 5:23 AM

Euphoria in a prickly pear cactus flower

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Euphoria kernii Beetles in Prickly Pear Flower 9008

No sooner do the flowers of the prickly pear cactus (Opuntia engelmannii var. lindheimeri) appear here each spring than the Euphoria kernii beetles get into a state of euphoria inside them, as you see in this photograph taken along Bluegrass Dr. on May 1st. Notice that some much smaller insects were also profiting from the pollen and nectar in the cactus flower.

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 29, 2015 at 5:29 AM

Waterfall abstraction

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Base of Waterfall Abstraction 3975

In contrast to yesterday’s colorful wildflowers in a cemetery, here’s a mostly monochrome view from April 20th, when I spent some time by a little waterfall that’s part of the prairie reconstruction along Tom Miller St.

For the photographic cognoscenti among you, I’ll add that I used a shutter speed of 1/25 of a second. For the artistically minded, I’ll add that the somewhat blue cast in this abstract photograph is due to the shade that still covered the falls at the time in the morning when I visited.

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 28, 2015 at 5:30 AM

A cemetery that welcomes wildflowers

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On May 23rd Eve and I were in Dickinson, Texas, to attend the wedding of a former student of mine. The reception was held about 30 miles away in the Hotel Galvez that evening, and as we drove down Broadway in Galveston on our way there, we passed the Old City Cemetery, which to our delighted amazement was covered with wildflowers. Short on light and time (and long on prohibitive clothing), I conceived a plan to return the following day to take pictures, but it rained on and off the next morning back on the mainland where we were staying and things weren’t looking good. At noon we had lunch with Linda of shoreacres, whom we were meeting for the first time (long overdue). When we’d finished our meal, the weather, though still heavily overcast, looked like it might be okay, so the three of us drove to Galveston and spent the better part of an hour exploring the wildflower-bedecked cemetery.

Old City Cemetery in Galveston 1806

You’re looking at a part of it here. Most of the flower heads are a species of Coreopsis, but the ones with prominent red in the center are Gaillardia pulchella, known as firewheels or Indian blankets. Why can’t all cemeteries look this colorful?

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 27, 2015 at 5:21 AM

Indian paintbrush inflorescence against clear blue sky

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Indian Paintbrush Inflorescence 3409

The Indian paintbrushes, Castilleja indivisa, were their usual bright selves this spring. Here’s a close look at one along Loop 360 near U.S. 183 on April 13th. All the rich red elements that hold your gaze are bracts, which is to say modified leaves; the flowers are the unadorned pale green thingies poking out here and there. Surprise.

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 26, 2015 at 5:19 AM

Texas dandelion backlit

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Texas Dandelion Flower Head Backlit 4172

Forget the European dandelion, at least in America, and instead cast your eyes on the native Texas dandelion, Pyrrhopappus pauciflorus. I photographed this one on April 21st at the intersection of Blackjack and Rio Vista Cove east of Lockhart, a town about an hour south of Austin. The backlighting let the rays of the flower head show their translucence, but having the sun in front of me also created polygonal artifacts of light.

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 25, 2015 at 5:07 AM

Lush maidenhair ferns

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Maidenhair Ferns 2889

Because of the ample rain this spring, some of the maidenhair ferns in Great Hills Park have been thriving. It was April 13th when I saw this group of Adiantum capillus-veneris* on a steep embankment of the main creek that flows through the park.

The dark curve making its way across the lower part of the picture marks the water line, so the little patches of green below the line are reflections on the water’s surface of some of the fern leaves above.


* The Latin species name capillus-veneris means ‘hair of Venus’ (think capillary).

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 24, 2015 at 5:35 AM

Greenthread bud

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Greenthread Bud by Flower Head 2959

Last time you heard that the yellow flower head a checkered white butterfly was on is called greenthread because of the plant’s green, thread-like leaves. You still can’t see the leaves of Thelesperma filifolium here, but you can get a good look at the way the buds of this species typically nod. You can also see the characteristic “prongs” at the base of the bud, which persist behind the flower head after it opens.

Today’s photograph once again comes from the edge of U.S. 183 near Loop 360 on April 13th.

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 23, 2015 at 5:27 AM

Checkered white butterfly

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Checkered White Butterfly on Greenthread Flower Head 3272

Some people are said to have a checkered past, and the butterfly that entomologists call Pontia protodice is said to be a checkered white. The yellow flower head that this one is on is called greenthread because of its green and thread-like leaves (which aren’t visible in this photograph). Over a year ago I showed a picture of the butterfly known as the common checkered skipper, but this is the first appearance here for the checkered white.

Today’s photograph is from April 13th on the edge of U.S. 183 near Loop 360.

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 22, 2015 at 5:39 AM

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