Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Another thing that looked to me like a headless animal

with 19 comments

Yucca Stump Remains 0507

This time I saw a headless porcupine but it’s actually the dried-out remains of the lower part of a yucca plant—a common sight in the Chihuahuan Desert. The depression at the left is the place from which the plant’s tall stalk once emerged.

I took this picture on the west side of US 385 inside Big Bend National Park on November 23rd.

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 14, 2015 at 5:20 AM

19 Responses

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  1. It is headless, is it not…although not an animal. Seems the top has indeed gone missing. The dried sap made me think of white pine tar.

    Steve Gingold

    December 14, 2015 at 5:42 AM

    • In most cases when I came across a dead yucca the stalk was still attached or, if separated, at least lying close at hand. I don’t know what happened to the stalk in this case.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 14, 2015 at 7:32 AM

  2. Word association is interesting. When I read your title, and came to “headless,” the first thing that came to mind was “horseman.”

    The yucca’s truly porcupine-like, isn’t it? I’ve never come across a live one of those critters, but I was up in Kerrville when a friend’s dog discovered his first one, and learned an important life lesson: Don’t nose around a porcupine. If I ever see one, I’m keeping my distance. Your plant’s much less dangerous.


    December 14, 2015 at 6:59 AM

    • I think that if someone said the word “headless” I’d also immediately think of Washington Irving’s Headless Horseman. Like you, I’ve never come across a porcupine, at least not in the wild; I believe I’ve seen some in zoos. From the relevant Wikipedia article I just learned that porcupines are rodents; that the Old World and New World porcupines aren’t closely related; and that some species spend their entire lives in trees.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 14, 2015 at 7:38 AM

      • Speaking of trees, here’s a stray thought that came to me this afternoon. If you’d come across a really big, plump, piñon while there, would it have been acceptable to call it a porky pine?


        December 14, 2015 at 8:39 PM

  3. It’s always amazing to me how the human brain works, like you seeing a headless animal here [which I agree with], or me seeing that face in your picture of the mountain lately, or generally people seeing something [animals, faces and the like] in cloud formations. I remember that there’s also a mountain in the Big Bend area that looks like Abe Lincoln’s face.


    December 14, 2015 at 8:42 AM

    • Our brains seem to have a desire to find familiar things, don’t they? I wonder whether a person who had never seen a camel or similar animal would see anything other than a mound here.

      I didn’t see Abe Lincoln’s face anywhere that I traveled in Big Bend, but I was there only for parts of two days, and it’s a big place.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 14, 2015 at 8:52 AM

      • I think you’re right: we need to have seen things before, and then kind of associate them with other visible objects. As to the face of Lincoln: I might put in on my blog, even if it’s very hazy. I should have used a polarizing filter when I was down there, but I didn’t [and still don’t] know how to – even if I’ve had one for quite a long time.


        December 14, 2015 at 10:03 AM

        • I searched a bit on the Internet but didn’t find a picture of that Lincoln, so I’ll look forward to seeing it on your site if you decide to post it.

          As for the polarizer, if you turn its front element slowly while looking through your camera’s viewfinder, you’ll see the possibilities and can settle on the one you like most. In addition, photographers often use an ultraviolet filter to cut through haze.

          Steve Schwartzman

          December 14, 2015 at 12:11 PM

          • Thanks, Steve, for the advice. Will try sometime (soon). Am still looking through my Big Bend pics trying to find “Lincoln”. 😉


            December 14, 2015 at 5:27 PM

  4. An interesting image.

    Raewyn's Photos

    December 14, 2015 at 11:27 AM

  5. Excuse me for saying that it looks for all the world like the ‘business end’ of one of the ciliate protozoans which goes by the name of Trichonympha. How are you Steve? Sorry to have been out-of-touch for so long. D

    Pairodox Farm

    December 14, 2015 at 6:15 PM

    • A happy welcome back. Sometimes I think I’m psychic: it was either this morning or yesterday that I thought about you and wondered how you’re doing. About half a year ago Steve Gingold told me that he believed you were selling your place in Pennsylvania and moving to New England, so I understood your long absence from blogdom. (I didn’t take a lot of pictures in 2004, the year when we bought our current house and sold our previous one. That was just from one side of Austin to the other, so a move to a different state would be daunting indeed.)

      I’ve heard of nymphs and have even photographed some, but Trichonympha’s a new one on me. Leave it to you to make the connection.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 14, 2015 at 9:13 PM

  6. wow, Steve–without even reading the caption I immediately thought I was looking at a porcupine yawning–well, sort of like a dead porcupine yawning. A very cool photograph.


    December 15, 2015 at 4:40 PM

    • I think you’re the person who most quickly and spontaneously saw this the way I did, as a porcupine, although I confess I didn’t think about a yawn.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 15, 2015 at 10:51 PM

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