Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Archive for August 2015

Wild petunia colony along Shoal Creek

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Wild Petunias Flowering by Willows Along Shoal Creek 1442

Yesterday I wandered along Shoal Creek south of 34th St. and found this colony of wild petunias, Ruellia nudiflora, flowering along the edge of the creek.

¿Having trouble making out the flowers in the broad landscape photograph above? If so, fasten your seat belt and click the strip below.

Wild Petunias Flowering by Willows Along Shoal Creek 1442A

ADDITION: Many people are familiar with the hybridized garden petunias that are members of the nightshade family. In contrast, and in spite of the name, wild petunias are in the acanthus family and are therefore unrelated. Someone apparently saw a superficial resemblance, but of course not all that glitters is gold, and now we can add that not every plant called a petunia is one.

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 21, 2015 at 5:32 AM

Grasshopper on soft goldenaster

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Brown Grasshopper on Chrysopsis pilosa Flower Head 5792

On the flower head of another soft goldenaster, Chrysopsis pilosa, in Bastrop County on June 4th I found this grasshopper. There’s less of a contrast between it and its floral perch than between the pair you saw here the week before last.

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 20, 2015 at 3:44 AM

Chrysopsis pilosa

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Chrysopsis pilosa Flower Head and Bud 5694

Chrysopsis pilosa is one of those DYCs (darn yellow composites) that I don’t see in Austin, but on June 4th I went 30 miles east, to Bastrop County, and there I saw this flower head and opening bud of that species, which people call soft goldenaster. This is one of those lie-on-the-ground-and-aim-upward sorts of pictures.

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 19, 2015 at 5:32 AM

Periscope up!

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My friend Joe Smith recently told me about a new communications app for cell phones called Periscope. Using the Periscope app, people broadcast videos that other people can watch live and that then stay available for viewing for just 24 hours. (Can you spell ephemeral?) I’ve gone ahead and joined, which is free, and while I was out doing my usual thing this morning I also created a few brief test videos about the native plants I was seeing. These are very much on-the-fly productions without the controlled quality of the still images that appear on this blog, but if you’re curious you’re welcome to have a look. Videos have a couple of advantages over still images: [1] things move (plants in the breeze, for example, and me)  [2] there’s sound, so you get to hear my mellifluous narration (along with the noise of passing cars, etc.).

You can download the free Periscope app for iPhone at


and the free app for Android at


Once you have the app running on your phone, you can search for people by touching the icon at the bottom right of the screen, the one made up of three stylized people’s heads. I’m listed as Steve Schwartzman; you can also search for Portraits and the app will find my name. Once you find a person whose videos you want to see, you can press the circular icon with the plus sign to the right of the person’s name. From then on you’ll be notified of any new videos the person posts. And of course you may want to start posting videos of your own.


Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 18, 2015 at 2:35 PM

Posted in nature photography


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Narrowleaf Pinweed Flower 5993

Another russet plant I found on my June 4th visit to Bastrop County was Polypremum procumbens, known as rustweed and juniper leaf. The flowers in this species are tiny, I’d say no more than 3mm (an eighth of an inch) across.

As far as I know, I’d never seen any rustweed till my jaunt that day to Bastrop County. Nevertheless, the USDA map shows that the plant also grows not only in my county of Travis, which is adjacent, but also in many parts of the eastern United States. If you’ve ever seen this species, please raise your hand—which is to say leave a comment letting us know where you found it.

UPDATE: I originally confused this plant with another one that someone had identified for me in Bastrop, but in a comment on August 29th George Rogers suggested the plant is rustweed, Polypremum procumbens. The descriptions and photographs I’ve found online back that up, so thanks to George for the correction, which is now reflected in the revised text above.

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 18, 2015 at 4:55 AM

Brown-eyed susan by pinweed

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Brown-Eyed Susan Flower Head by Pinweed 5487

And now back to Bastrop County. When I visited on June 4th I found this flower head of Rudbeckia hirta, known as brown-eyed susan or black-eyed susan. (You may remember seeing a whole colony of these in a post on the Fourth of July.) This time the warm background color came not from the earth, as it did in the photograph of the lazy daisy, but from some drying narrowleaf pinweed, Lechea tenuifolia.


UPDATE. Entomologist Mike Quinn has finally tracked down the identity of the purple sawfly larvae you saw here a few days ago. If you go back to that post, near the end you’ll find the identity and a link to what an adult looks like (and see how different it is).

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 17, 2015 at 5:21 AM

New Zealand update

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On August 13th, the New Zealand Consulate in Los Angeles featured 11 of my photographs on its Facebook page.

Now that I’m talking about New Zealand again, how could I not add one more picture? And since this is a different sort of post from the usual one, why not let that picture be out of the norm as well? What’s different is the human element: you’re looking at one of the sculptures I saw on the beach at Hokitika, which is on the west coast of the South Island. It seems that every January there’s a Driftwood & Sand Sculpture Exhibition, so when when we walked on the beach there late on the afternoon of February 16th, many of the pieces were still intact. The one shown here had a sign on it saying “Photo Booth,” but I took its picture rather than having it take mine.

Hokitika Wood Scuplture at Sunset 4959

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 16, 2015 at 5:33 AM

Aphanostephus skirrhobasis

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Aphanostephus skirrhobasis Bud Opening 5734

When I visited Bastrop County on June 4th I photographed this opening Aphanostephus skirrhobasis bud rising above the typical reddish earth of that area. If Aphanostephus skirrhobasis is too much of a mouthful, you can go with the rhyming common name lazy daisy.

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 15, 2015 at 5:11 AM


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Sawfly Larvae 8773

I’d never seen a purple caterpillar,
I never thought I’d see one,
But now I’ll stand atop a theater pillar
And proclaim that there really can be one.*

Okay, sources say these sawfly larvae (of indeterminate genus) aren’t truly caterpillars, but let’s not quibble over the word. The critters were having a good time on an Indian mallow plant, Abutilon fruticosum, that I’d stopped to photograph on June 25th in the greenbelt off Taylor Draper Cove. The colors in the background came from a flowering Gaillardia pulchella, known as firewheel, blanketflower, and Indian blanket. In particular, notice how the most prominent red head of one of the sawfly larvae is color-coordinated with the center of the firewheel.

UPDATE: This sawfly has been identified as Neoptilia tora. If you follow that link you can see what an adult looks like. As entomologist Mike Quinn explained in an e-mail on August 17: “Long story short, Dan Hardy, of Austin, reared some purple larvae he collected back in 2007 and sent an adult to Texas A&M University. Some years later, David R. Smith, the sawfly expert from the Smithsonian, visited the TAMU Insect Collection and ID’ed Dan’s specimen. Yesterday, Ed Riley and I looked for and found Dan’s spmn.”


* You may recognize this as a parody of Gelett Burgess’s “Purple Cow.” If you’re not sure what a theater pillar is, neither am I.

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 14, 2015 at 5:14 AM

Grackle with head up

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Grackle with Head Up 9652

The Whole Foods parking lot is a good place to see great-tailed grackles, Quiscalus mexicanus, and on June 29th I found this one on the ground by the picnic tables just outside the Gateway store. Birds of this species seem to like sticking their heads up into the air to try to lord it over any would-be rival, which is what this grackle might have taken me for. Or maybe it mistook my camera, with its long lens, for the rival.

If you’d like to read a lighthearted and informative article about grackles, here’s one from Texas Monthly by John Nova Lomax entitled “Eight Reasons Grackles Are Awesome.”

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 13, 2015 at 4:56 AM

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