Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

A different take on smartweed

with 29 comments

Curved Smartweed Inflorescence by Pickerelweed 4202

The raceme on which smartweed (Polygonum spp.) flowers grow is normally straight, as you saw yesterday, but on June 2nd I found this strongly curved one at a pond behind a truck depot along E. Howard Ln. on the Blackland Prairie in far northeast Austin.


Update: Three people have given solutions to the math problem posed in the recent post about the Aztec dancer: you can check out the comments there by Aggie, kabeiser, and shoreacres (in that order).

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman


Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 31, 2015 at 5:38 AM

29 Responses

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  1. Gorgeous shot, Steven!


    July 31, 2015 at 6:25 AM

  2. That something so beautiful should get tagged with “weed” in its name is a little sad. I especially like the way you captured this one curving around the patch of purple.

    I found a page that includes a variety of inflorescences, including racemes. The line drawings are helpful, and I recognized other forms you’ve shown, such as the umbel.


    July 31, 2015 at 7:02 AM

    • One of the e-books I’ve been slowly planning has the tentative title Some Gorgeous “Weeds” of Texas. It would consist entirely of native plants with “weed” in their common name. I have photographs of at least three dozen such species.

      Including the purple was intentional, but in seeing the results now I wish I’d managed to align things so that the purple was slightly farther to the left. I was struggling to keep all the parts of the smartweed arc in focus and didn’t quite get the optimal placement, but it’s still good. More on the purple haze tomorrow.

      Be it ever so humble, there’s no inflorescence like the umbel.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 31, 2015 at 7:48 AM

      • A good idea for a project, Steve. Folks need to realize all plants, well most anyway, have a value in the ecosystem and we just haven’t figured out their value to us…not that we are that important to the ecosystem, we’re just the ones most capable of changing it-most often not for the better.

        Steve Gingold

        July 31, 2015 at 12:04 PM

        • I can’t remember when the idea for a photo book about “weeds” first occurred to me, but I’ve been thinking about it for years. When I was out photographing this morning I saw some rosinweed; people often mistake its flower heads for sunflowers, so I don’t know why it would ever have been called a weed. Maybe it grew in farmers’ fields and got in the way of crops. I suspect that’s why many native species ended up with “weed” in their names.

          Steve Schwartzman

          July 31, 2015 at 2:16 PM

  3. Well done! The curving raceme provides a very nice composition.


    July 31, 2015 at 7:26 AM

  4. Very pretty


    July 31, 2015 at 9:09 AM

  5. Beautifully graceful and delicate arc.

    Birder's Journey

    July 31, 2015 at 10:42 AM

  6. It’s always a treat to come across some rebellious individuals in a meadow. Marching to the beat of a different summer.

    Steve Gingold

    July 31, 2015 at 12:02 PM

  7. Wild and beautiful flower


    July 31, 2015 at 12:11 PM

  8. Lovely shot

    Raewyn's Photos

    July 31, 2015 at 2:52 PM

  9. I read the answers to the math problem without much comprehension but I would like to say you have some smart r/weeders on your blog.


    August 1, 2015 at 5:50 AM

    • You’ve reminded me of the so-called three Rs: reading, writing, and ‘rithmetic. The latter part of your comment makes clear that that’s the order in which you prefer them. (The arithmetic comes in a distant third; I’m assuming your preference for reading over writing, but I could be wrong).

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 1, 2015 at 6:58 AM

      • You could be right!


        August 1, 2015 at 7:11 AM

        • And now you’ve reminded me of a passage from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland that plays off the three Rs:

          `Once,’ said the Mock Turtle at last, with a deep sigh, `I was a real Turtle.’

          These words were followed by a very long silence, broken only by an occasional exclamation of `Hjckrrh!’ from the Gryphon, and the constant heavy sobbing of the Mock Turtle. Alice was very nearly getting up and saying, `Thank you, sir, for your interesting story,’ but she could not help thinking there must be more to come, so she sat still and said nothing.

          `When we were little,’ the Mock Turtle went on at last, more calmly, though still sobbing a little now and then, `we went to school in the sea. The master was an old Turtle–we used to call him Tortoise–‘

          `Why did you call him Tortoise, if he wasn’t one?’ Alice asked.

          `We called him Tortoise because he taught us,’ said the Mock Turtle angrily: `really you are very dull!’

          `You ought to be ashamed of yourself for asking such a simple question,’ added the Gryphon; and then they both sat silent and looked at poor Alice, who felt ready to sink into the earth. At last the Gryphon said to the Mock Turtle, `Drive on, old fellow! Don’t be all day about it!’ and he went on in these words:

          `Yes, we went to school in the sea, though you mayn’t believe it–‘

          `I never said I didn’t!’ interrupted Alice.

          `You did,’ said the Mock Turtle.

          `Hold your tongue!’ added the Gryphon, before Alice could speak again. The Mock Turtle went on.

          `We had the best of educations–in fact, we went to school every day–‘

          `I’ve been to a day-school, too,’ said Alice; `you needn’t be so proud as all that.’

          `With extras?’ asked the Mock Turtle a little anxiously.

          `Yes,’ said Alice, `we learned French and music.’

          `And washing?’ said the Mock Turtle.

          `Certainly not!’ said Alice indignantly.

          `Ah! then yours wasn’t a really good school,’ said the Mock Turtle in a tone of great relief. `Now at ours they had at the end of the bill, “French, music, and washing–extra.”‘

          `You couldn’t have wanted it much,’ said Alice; `living at the bottom of the sea.’

          `I couldn’t afford to learn it.’ said the Mock Turtle with a sigh. `I only took the regular course.’

          `What was that?’ inquired Alice.

          `Reeling and Writhing, of course, to begin with,’ the Mock Turtle replied; `and then the different branches of Arithmetic– Ambition, Distraction, Uglification, and Derision.’

          `I never heard of “Uglification,”‘ Alice ventured to say. `What is it?’

          The Gryphon lifted up both its paws in surprise. `What! Never heard of uglifying!’ it exclaimed. `You know what to beautify is, I suppose?’

          `Yes,’ said Alice doubtfully: `it means–to–make–anything–prettier.’

          `Well, then,’ the Gryphon went on, `if you don’t know what to uglify is, you are a simpleton.’

          Alice did not feel encouraged to ask any more questions about it, so she turned to the Mock Turtle, and said `What else had you to learn?’

          `Well, there was Mystery,’ the Mock Turtle replied, counting off the subjects on his flappers, `–Mystery, ancient and modern, with Seaography: then Drawling–the Drawling-master was an old conger-eel, that used to come once a week: He taught us Drawling, Stretching, and Fainting in Coils.’

          `What was that like?’ said Alice.

          `Well, I can’t show it you myself,’ the Mock Turtle said: `I’m too stiff. And the Gryphon never learnt it.’

          `Hadn’t time,’ said the Gryphon: `I went to the Classics master, though. He was an old crab, he was.’

          `I never went to him,’ the Mock Turtle said with a sigh: `he taught Laughing and Grief, they used to say.’

          `So he did, so he did,’ said the Gryphon, sighing in his turn; and both creatures hid their faces in their paws.

          `And how many hours a day did you do lessons?’ said Alice, in a hurry to change the subject.

          `Ten hours the first day,’ said the Mock Turtle: `nine the next, and so on.’

          `What a curious plan!’ exclaimed Alice.

          `That’s the reason they’re called lessons,’ the Gryphon remarked: `because they lessen from day to day.’

          This was quite a new idea to Alice, and she thought it over a little before she made her next remark. `Then the eleventh day must have been a holiday?’

          `Of course it was,’ said the Mock Turtle.

          `And how did you manage on the twelfth?’ Alice went on eagerly.

          `That’s enough about lessons,’ the Gryphon interrupted in a very decided tone: `tell her something about the games now.’

          Steve Schwartzman

          August 1, 2015 at 7:21 AM

          • Oh, I had forgotten how funny Alice in Wonderland is. I tried to find some witty reference to weeds but all Google gave me were theories on what the caterpillar may have been smoking.


            August 2, 2015 at 6:05 AM

            • Charles Dodgson, alias Lewis Carroll, was a mathematician, as you can see from some of this material (e.g. the decreasing sequence of hours per day that the Mock Turtle did lessons).

              On the subject of unwanted plants, I wracked my brain (and English syntax) and finally came up with this:

              Poison ivy is a pernicious weed:
              Better not touch it is something that we’d.

              Steve Schwartzman

              August 2, 2015 at 6:56 AM

  10. I enjoyed your smartweed series, perhaps this one most of all, even though WordPress foiled my attempt to “like.” Such delicate coloring.

    Susan Scheid

    August 7, 2015 at 11:12 AM

    • This one was unique in my experience because of the curve, so that made it special. The fact that smartweed formed a miniseries made me think of you because I remembered that you’re fond of series.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 7, 2015 at 2:15 PM

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