Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Wispy paloverde tree

with 15 comments

Paloverde Tree Flowering 1221

This post’s title is redundant because paloverde trees, Parkinsonia aculeata, are wispy by nature. I took this picture of one near BMC Drive in Cedar Park* last year on August 5th. Now it’s the final day in August this year and I’m still seeing paloverde flowers here and there around town.

Fresh petals and old coexist in this cheery closeup from June 3rd near Seton Center Drive:

Paloverde Flowers Close 4767


* Cedar Park is a large suburb on the north side of Austin. When I moved to Austin in 1976, Cedar Park had about 2,000 inhabitants. The estimated population now is 65,000 and the town is still growing at a good clip.

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman


Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 31, 2015 at 5:38 AM

Posted in nature photography

Tagged with , , , ,

15 Responses

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  1. I wondered what may have been growing on the land in the early days of Cedar Park. http://www.cedarparkhistory.com/photo-album/ Not a lot judging by these photos, although I am sure the intrepid Schwartzman would have found a wildflower to photograph if he had been around back then.


    August 31, 2015 at 6:00 AM

    • Isn’t it great the way you can be in New Zealand but easily pull up old-time photographs of Cedar Park, Texas? Your imagining of the intrepid Schwartzman finding a wildflower there is accurate if you’ll allow the past to be the late 1970s. I used to go out to a temporarily abandoned quarry in Cedar Park to take pictures, and although it would be another twenty years before I got interested in native plants, I remember that one day when I got out of my car to walk into the quarry I noticed a strange globe of wildflowers unlike anything I’d seen before. I bent down and found the little globe quite fragrant. I know now that I’d come across antelope-horns milkweed.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 31, 2015 at 6:10 AM

      • A very fine weed to find.


        September 3, 2015 at 8:28 AM

        • It occurs to me that with the dozens of names like milkweed, doveweed, bindweed, broomweed, etc., that we have for native species in central Texas, I’ve never run across one anywhere with the vernacular name fineweed. I guess the first part of that name would be too much of a contradiction because the second part is a pejorative that tells how little people liked (and often still don’t like) these plants.

          In any case, antelope-horns milkweed is a fine weed and I’m fine with finding and photographing it as often as possible.

          Steve Schwartzman

          September 3, 2015 at 8:36 AM

  2. That somewhat scraggly distant appearance belies the loveliness of the flower which often is the case. People need to follow your example and give things a closer look.

    Steve Gingold

    August 31, 2015 at 12:27 PM

    • The close approach is yours as well, as we’ve seen in the many wildflower and insect photographs you’ve shown.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 31, 2015 at 1:07 PM

  3. There are a few paloverdes along Highway 146 between Kemah and Seabrook, and I’ve been noticing new flowers on them. It’s not anything like the trees’ spring bloom, but it’s been noticeable. The tangle of branches in the first photo reminds me of dodder. They’re quite different plants, of course, but show some similarities in appearance from a distance.

    Now, it’s confession time. I have to have known this — or at least I should have known it. I was thinking about the name today when I passed our paloverdes, and suddenly I thought, “Wait a minute. Verde is green, but what’s palo? And what’s the connection with Palo Duro Canyon?”

    I got it sorted out. Green wood and hard wood. I’ve always thought of Palo Duro in terms of its rock formations, and simply never gave a thought to the connection between the place and its name. “Palo Duro” was like oruga — just a word (or a pair of words) to be used. Now that I’ve read up on it a bit and learned that the canyons are filled with Ashe juniper and mesquite, it all makes sense.


    August 31, 2015 at 7:48 PM

    • I expect all of us have occasional sudden realizations about things we’ve been hearing or saying for a long time, perhaps our whole lives. As you’ve come to realize, Spanish palo has lots of English translations, depending on the context: ‘stick, post, pole, branch, tree, wood’ (compare English impale). Palo also appears in a Spanish proverb: De tal palo, tal astilla, literally “From a stick like that, a splinter like that,” which corresponds to English “[So and so is] a chip off the old block.”

      As for the paloverde trees, you’re right that they aren’t blooming now with anything like the floral density they can have in the spring:


      Steve Schwartzman

      August 31, 2015 at 9:05 PM

      • And here I thought you used to teach maths…now you are revealed as an etymologist as well..Bravo!
        I have a Parkinsonia aculeata, just inside the greenbelt behind my house, transplanted from a spot along the Old Chisholm Trail right of way from which I rescued it many years (less than 20 though) ago, and it is doing fine without any watering. The blossoms on it now are similar to those that you posted, although I didn’t get that close up or as well focused with my camera. I have always called it a Retama or a Jerusalem Thorn, although I have heard the Palo Verde name as well. I have Parkinson’s disease, which makes the scientific Genus-species appellation particularly memorable. And though the Parkinson’s symptoms have affected my ability to focus at slower speeds, I set my camera at 1/500 second shutter speed for most shots. This year I am coordinating the Native Plant Society of Texas photo contest, with winners to be announced Saturday night at the Awards banquet, with new rules that open the competition up quite a bit. All folks need to do is have a picture of a native Texas plant, scenic landscape, or a photo showing the plant in context with its habitat or its wildlife friends and neighbors. The information is on the NPSOT site at http://npsot.org. There is a direct link to the symposium site, which is being held in Austin this year from Thursday October 15 to Sunday October 18.

        I am looking forward to Steven’s entries, sooner rather than later, because we are now entering the last 30 days of the contest. Go to http://npsot.org/wp/symposium2015/?page_id=25 for the photo contest rules. You will find that anyone in the known universe may enter, as long as they enter images of plants Native to Texas, and identify the plants in their photos. Hey, Laurence Parent could enter if he wants to,

        We have several judges with experience in professional and botanical photography, and a scoring and evaluation form has been created based on scientific value, art and design principles, and technical photographic skills, The scoring of these domains will be empirical and objective, and may lead to surprising results. Anyone might win in one of the categories during the judged part of the contest. During the symposium, attendees will have the opportunity to cast their ballots for their favorites under each category, as we have traditionally done. I encourage Steve Schwartzman, and all the readers of his blog to enter early and enter three pictures (often enough). at http://npsot.org/wp/symposium2015/?p=430

        Thank you for your time and the use of your pulpit.


        August 31, 2015 at 11:37 PM

        • Hi, Robert. I’m glad to lend the pulpit, so thanks for letting people know about the Native Plant Society photo contest and thanks for arranging it. I’m sorry about your Parkinson’s, which of course the botanical name of the paloverde reminds you of. Two doctors that I’ve had in the last few decades have had to retire from their profession because of it. It might interest you to know that even though that’s not something I have to deal with myself, I normally use a shutter speed at least as fast as 1/400 second with my macro lens, which magnifies motion and therefore benefits from a high shutter speed.

          I did teach math but also have a strong background in language, both of which things surface in this nature photography blog from time to time.

          Steve Schwartzman

          September 1, 2015 at 6:22 AM

  4. Gorgeous!


    September 1, 2015 at 12:52 AM

    • Yes, these flowers are of such a saturated, vibrant yellow that I always look forward to seeing them.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 1, 2015 at 6:10 AM

  5. Love the flowers, such a beautiful color…It is sad to see the world crowd around and displace so much of our wild plant life.

    Charlie@Seattle Trekker

    September 1, 2015 at 12:53 AM

    • At least this is one species I don’t find lacking around here. I have the impression that plenty of people in Austin plant paloverdes because of their bright and numerous flowers.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 1, 2015 at 6:13 AM

  6. […] 1. Eastern Yellow Robin – Twitter 2. Hornet Moth – Twitter 3. Potato flowers – Twitter 4. Peacock butterfly on Inula – Twitter 5. Yellow is Yellow – Twitter 6. Own photo, see my blogpost Welcome Everybody 7. Stay Close To God – Twitter 8. Autumn Star flower – Twitter 9. Upturned by Kay McKenzie Cooke (publisher web page) 10. Yellow fungi – Twitter 11. Three-lined hoverfly – Twitter 12. Eastern Stony Creek frogs – Twitter 13. Snowy Egret – Twitter 14. Cinnabar moth caterpillars on ragwort – Twitter 15. Flowering paloverde tree and clouds – blogpost 16. Paloverde tree in full flower – blogpost 17. Wispy paloverde tree – blogpost […]

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