Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

On schedule

with 25 comments

Texas Mountain Laurel Flowers 5497

It’s not unusual in Austin to see Texas mountain laurel, Sophora secundiflora, flowering in February. Take as proof the one I stopped to photograph in the prairie restoration at Austin’s former Mueller Airport on February 17th. The patches of light in this image keep making me think of a stained glass window.

Texas mountain laurel is always a harbinger of spring, but if these flowers make you leap for joy a little more than usual, it may be because 2016 is a leap year and February 29th its leap day*. By the way, it’s an unwarranted leap of faith to believe that every fourth year is a leap year. That’s mostly true, but century years whose first part isn’t exactly divisible by 4 are not leap years: 1900 wasn’t a leap year and 2100 won’t be either, because 19 and 21 aren’t exactly divisible by 4. In contrast, 2000 was a leap year because 20 is divisible by 4. The next century leap year will be 2400, but somehow I don’t think any of us will be here to leap up and welcome it in.

Oh well, we can still welcome Wordsworth’s little poem:

My heart leaps up when I behold
A rainbow in the sky:
So was it when my life began;
So is it now I am a man;
So be it when I shall grow old,
Or let me die!
The Child is father of the Man;
I could wish my days to be
Bound each to each by natural piety.


* And notice how I leaped** over the second occurrence of is in “2016 is a leap year and February 29th is its leap day.” Is is understood to repeat in the shortened version, and it doesn’t even depend on what the meaning of is is.

** American English generally leaps over the form leapt and lands on leaped.

© 2016 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 29, 2016 at 5:03 AM

Posted in nature photography

Tagged with , , , , ,

25 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. Nice juxtaposition of images and ideas.


    February 29, 2016 at 7:19 AM

  2. I’m thinking this shrub must be in the pea family? Such a beauty, and yes, the patches of jewel-like light do remind me of a stained glass window. If I am correct then I shall leap for the lit-up legume.


    February 29, 2016 at 8:43 AM

    • Lest you leap too longingly for the lit-up legume’s lovely seeds, let me add that those bright red seeds are poisonous:


      Steve Schwartzman

      February 29, 2016 at 8:56 AM

      • Oh absolutely. I don’t snack when I’m in the field. My memory on this isn’t completely clear, but some years ago a noted botanist nibbled on something he was sure was safe and turns out it was the poisonous look-alike.


        March 1, 2016 at 8:18 AM

  3. […] I got close to some Texas mountain laurel flowers, Sophora secundiflora, at the Mueller prairie restoration on February 17th I spotted this spotted […]

  4. This is one of my favorite Texas flowers, because of its scent, its color, and its masses of blooms. I’m sure there are larger, but the biggest one I’ve seen is growing right in front of the Presidio. I filled a jar with the seeds while I was there — but, as you say, only to look at.

    You’re right about the stained glass effect in this photo. It’s lovely, and you’ve also given us a rare combination of blue, lavender, and purple in one photo.

    I thought it was interesting that you pointed out your is-less construction. I do that from time to time, myself. And now I see that Wordsworth’s little poem often is misquoted. The child is father of the man, not to the man.


    March 1, 2016 at 7:21 AM

    • I’m used to thinking of Texas mountain laurel as a shrub, but I’ve been surprised lately by how large a tree some of them can become. The hanging inflorescences make me think of purple tresses.

      Maybe you can find a good place not far from where you live to plant some of your seeds.

      I hadn’t thought about the combination of blue, lavender, and purple being rare, but I guess you’re right. I wonder why that should be so. I wonder about a lot of things.

      I have the impression that the omission of a repeated verb used to be more common than it is now. I almost never do that but I’ll try to remember to do it more. As for misquotations, well, you’ve already done your share of tracking them down. Why a non-original version of a quotation becomes the popular one seems a subject for psychologists as well as linguists. In addition to the Wordsworth, one that comes to mind is “Play it again, Sam.” The original lacks the “again.”

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 1, 2016 at 8:14 AM

  5. A beautiful deep image that almost leaps from the page.


    March 1, 2016 at 7:40 AM

  6. Gorgeous!


    March 1, 2016 at 9:15 PM

  7. My eyes leapt with delight on seeing the loveliness of the mountain laurel.


    March 2, 2016 at 1:48 AM

    • Ah, now if I could only send you the scent (although some find it so intense as to be cloying).

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 2, 2016 at 7:18 AM

  8. This is a lovely flowering shrub Very different from our mountain laurel shrub, Kalmia latifolia. Different family entirely.

    Steve Gingold

    March 2, 2016 at 4:04 AM

    • Notice the double remove from accuracy. Texas mountain laurel isn’t any kind of mountain laurel (Kalmia), and mountain laurel isn’t in the Lauraceae, or laurel family.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 2, 2016 at 7:22 AM

  9. I’m with Gallivanta .. Such a beautiful plant. And I adore purple


    March 3, 2016 at 12:22 PM

    • Ah, you New Zealanders stick together.

      Purple used to be considered the color of royalty.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 3, 2016 at 1:10 PM

      • Lol .. Royalty you say 😉


        March 3, 2016 at 3:39 PM

        • Yes, because purple was a difficult color to make from natural sources, so regular people couldn’t afford it. The advent of artificial dyes in the 1800s democratized color.

          Steve Schwartzman

          March 3, 2016 at 4:40 PM

  10. I love how open the shot that the Sophora secundifloras are! The way you shot these flowers are truly breath taking! It definitely sets the mood, has a story to tell, and composition. Photography is one of my main passions and flowers is one of my favorite objects to take pictures of. You did an amazing job!

    Casey Butler

    March 9, 2016 at 1:22 PM

    • I appreciate your enthusiasm, Casey. In my approach to making images of nature I try to show the species in ways that go beyond mere representations and that show the subjects in unique ways or from unique vantage points.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 9, 2016 at 8:19 PM

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: