Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Winter wildflowers

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Coral Honeysuckle Buds 1315

And now from December 23, which was officially winter already, here are the buds of a coral honeysuckle, Lonicera sempervirens, that I was happy to find ready to open along Great Northern Blvd. The Latin species name means ‘evergreen,’ and the lack of a freeze means I was evergrateful for the chance to keep on photographing wildflowers so late in December. How about such a rich red?

Great Northern Blvd., which runs for a mile parallel to the expressway called Mopac just a couple of hundred feet to its east, has only one car lane in each direction. In spite of its being a small road, it has indeed been a great place for me to photograph native plants over the past nine years. Now two toll lanes are getting added to Mopac, and when I took pictures on December 23rd I was sorry to see that clearing had begun on a part of the west side of Great Northern Blvd. in preparation for adding a sound-deflecting wall. I don’t know if any plants will survive the construction. This may turn out to be just the latest of the increasingly many places where I’ve worked that have gotten destroyed over the last 16 years.

© 2016 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 6, 2016 at 5:13 AM

26 Responses

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  1. very upsetting that the road widening project will most likely destroy such beauty. we had the same experience along the PA Turnpike which runs past my backyard. the road and retaining wall are now right where the deer run used to be. very sad indeed that I have no pictures to prove how it used to be.


    January 6, 2016 at 5:21 AM

    • Sorry to hear you’ve had a similar experience in Pennsylvania. One temporarily good thing here is that the project is running probably two years behind schedule, so I’ve been able to keep photographing native plants along Great Northern Blvd. longer than I thought I would. I’ll have plenty of pictures showing what used to be there.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 6, 2016 at 7:56 AM

  2. Oh how sad to lose more wildflower places.


    January 6, 2016 at 6:56 AM

  3. Beautiful composition!


    January 6, 2016 at 7:13 AM

  4. And I’m evergrateful (Lector sempergratus?) for such a lovely splash of color on another gray and gloomy morning. The first time I explored Armand Bayou by water, this honeysuckle was climbing everywhere, high into the bankside trees: a beautiful sight.

    Given the nature of Mopac, I’m sure the expansion was inevitable. I just took a look at Great Northern Blvd. With its proximity to the expressway, it’s a bit of a surprise that it’s been such fertile ground for your photography. Those sound barrier walls are an abomination visually, although they’re probably necessary for people in the neighborhoods. With luck, you’ll still have something left once the project is completed.

    I was a little startled to see that the heavy equipment I’ve seen parked around my local nature center had been employed to clear out a good bit of underbrush and trees along the primary walking path. Where I found the goldenrod galls is open ground now. On the other hand, they did get rid of a good bit of trifoliate orange and Chinese tallow, so there’s that. I didn’t get into the interior, and my hope is that they simply wanted to open things up along the concrete path, where a lot of elderly people and families with children in strollers like to walk.


    January 6, 2016 at 7:42 AM

    • We’re running parallel to you this morning after cloudiness yesterday afternoon moved in and put an end to the blue sky with which the day started. Great Northern Blvd. has been the place where I could most expect to find coral honeysuckle, which isn’t as common here as you say it is at Armand Bayou. Now I’ll most likely see less of it in Austin. I think what has made the mile-long strip so fruitful (literally and figuratively) is the fact that it’s wedged between Great Northern Blvd. and the railroad tracks, so it hasn’t gotten mowed regularly, and native plants have kept on doing what they’ve always done in that area (along with some invasives). I hope the benign explanation for what you saw at your local nature center is the correct one, but I’m cynical enough that I wouldn’t be surprised if things turned out differently.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 6, 2016 at 8:09 AM

  5. Heartbreaking news. When Steve Packard was learning how to restore savanna around here it was along railroad tracks that he found holdouts of native species from which to collect seed.

    Sometimes here the forest preserve brings in heavy equipment to reshape the land, or to remove great swathes of brush. Last year they even thinned the oaks, which was hard to accept even though I knew the science behind it was sound. This spring the area was rich with a profusion of wildflowers that had been suppressed by 50 years of fire suppression. It sounds likely that that is what is going on at the nature center down there. I hope so.


    January 6, 2016 at 8:40 AM

    • A notice posted on one of the trees along Great Northern Blvd. made me think there are plans to plant some native trees after the construction is finished, but I don’t expect the strip of land will ever be the same. Perhaps the wildflowers will spring back up, perhaps not. It’ll take years to find out.

      I’m happy for you that the work on your forest preserve, which you were apprehensive about, turned out wildflowerfully well.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 6, 2016 at 12:09 PM

  6. Una foto bonita y perfecta.
    Saludos dominicales.

  7. That honeysuckle certainly fits the season.

    I often despair that we will eventually lose much of what is wild in the United States and possibly the world. Currently we have folks who hate the government trying to somehow convince the Feds to give up their lands so they can be used for free for grazing and other private business pursuits. While I understand that at one time all public lands were available for any use, times have changed as we better understand ecology and the needs of nature for survival…as well as for humans need for wild places and recreation. I know I have referred to “Silent Running” in the past and, while probably not in our lifetime, it may not be too far away from becoming reality…assuming our species survives long enough for that to happen.

    Now, back to our regular and more pleasant broadcast. Lovely image, Steve.

    Steve Gingold

    January 6, 2016 at 2:07 PM

    • I’d thought of showing this red/green plant on December 25th but I didn’t want to interrupt the flow of my Trans-Pecos pictures.

      I seem to remember that you’ve mentioned “Silent Running,” which I’ve never seen (but a couple of years ago I watched a science fiction movie from four years later, “Logan’s Run”). A couple of months ago I read the (long) book Paradise found: nature in America at the time of discovery, by Steve Nicholls. With many examples he makes the point that our baselines for quantities and diversity in nature are very far below what Europeans found when they first came here. A familiar example is the number of bison: a large herd now may be a couple of hundred, but just 200 years ago there were herds in the hundreds of thousands.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 6, 2016 at 3:54 PM

      • Two Words…Passenger Pigeon.

        Steve Gingold

        January 6, 2016 at 4:01 PM

        • Yes, I’d thought of mentioning the passenger pigeon but I settled on the bison because we still have some of those.

          Steve Schwartzman

          January 6, 2016 at 4:07 PM

          • Fortunately, yes. There is always a chance, albeit extremely remote, that there could be a resurgence in bison numbers. Extinct is forever…although, maybe, just maybe, someday a little genetic material could recreate a Jurassic Pigeon.

            Steve Gingold

            January 6, 2016 at 4:11 PM

            • My understanding is that scientists currently don’t believe there’s a way to resuscitate an extinct species, but judging from all the technical things we can do now that would have seemed impossible a century ago, who knows what will eventually be possible?

              Steve Schwartzman

              January 6, 2016 at 4:22 PM

              • Yup. Here’s a chuckle. When I had my refinishing/restoration business, I fantasized that in the future someone would again be restoring a piece I had done, find one of my hairs in the finish and bring me back to life from that so we could discuss refinishing technique. Wild imagination, huh? 🙂

                Steve Gingold

                January 6, 2016 at 4:30 PM

                • I like it. If you could be brought back, however, I suspect discussing refinishing techniques would be way down on the list of things you’d want to do.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  January 6, 2016 at 4:37 PM

                • Oh, at the time I was living the dream, so to speak. Now it would be photography and where the hell did all our nature go.

                  Steve Gingold

                  January 6, 2016 at 4:43 PM

      • Pardon the comment hijack, but I’m really enjoying the book. I bought it on your recommend a while ago and started reading it in West Texas. Now my husband is reading it too, which means I have the added bonus of having to go look for it whenever I have time to read.

        I found the descriptions of the passenger pigeons to be incredulous. When Audubon estimated a single flock to be over a BILLION birds — with a B — I knew we had lost something extraordinary. I get giddy when I watch a few hundred ibis erupting from their mast in the early morning hours. What I would give to see a sideways tornado of millions of passenger pigeons working a field…


        February 5, 2016 at 7:32 PM

        • I’d known about the billions of passenger pigeons well before reading this book, but I hadn’t realized how many other animal species were also present in huge numbers compared to their quantities now. The same thing is true botanically. There are accounts from Texas in the 1800s of people riding across the prairie and being surrounded all day by huge fields of wildflowers. What I see now when I go out photographing is a puny echo of that.

          Steve Schwartzman

          February 5, 2016 at 8:40 PM

  8. Beautiful photo, composition, colors and dof is very fine.


    January 10, 2016 at 6:23 PM

    • The shallow depth of field accounted for the way-out-of-focus background, which was certainly an asset here.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 10, 2016 at 6:50 PM

  9. […] the beginning of January I showed you some buds of coral honeysuckle, Lonicera sempervirens, that I’d seen out of season a couple of weeks earlier. When I was at […]

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