Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Archive for February 2016

Buttercup Creek landscape

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Butternut Creek Landscape 3774

Here’s a vertical winter landscape showing Buttercup Creek in the town of Cedar Park on a mild and clear February 4. The dry grass may have been switchgrass, Panicum virgatum, and it spoke to the previous season, but the black willow trees, Salix nigra, were already rising into spring with reddish new growth in their crowns. Not far away I found some unaccustomed little flowers, about which you’ll see and hear more next time.

© 2016 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 20, 2016 at 5:01 AM

More spring wildflowers

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Blue Curls Flower 5310

Blue curls (Phacelia congesta) along Great Northern Blvd. on February 16. Not blue, say I.

© 2016 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 19, 2016 at 5:09 AM

It’s full-tilt spring, say I

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Engelmann Daisy Flower Heads 5307

Two days ago I proclaimed that spring has come to Austin. I said it silently to myself because I didn’t want to startle any of the cyclists who kept passing close by in the bike lane on Great Northern Blvd., along which several suddenly flowering spring species included these Engelmann daisies, Engelmannia peristenia. I wonder if the brisk breeze accounted for the wrinkling in so many of the ray flowers.

© 2016 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 18, 2016 at 4:58 AM

Taut strings and other imaginings

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Algae Strands Dried Out 3036

The algae you saw beginning to dry out in the previous post’s first photograph appeared to consist of strings, but those strings were crumpled, presumably because there had been no strong flow in that part of the creek. The second photograph in that post showed somewhat straighter and drier but still mostly green algae.

Now contrast those patches of algae with the ones in today’s post, which are likewise from a tributary of Bull Creek. In today’s first photograph you see dried and stretched-out strings of algae that retained the imprint of a once-fast current. Note several sycamore seeds (Platanus occidentalis) tangled in the algae strands.

Here’s another picture from that same January 29th session in which the algae are so finely swept that you might think you’re looking at the grain in wood or the strata in rocks:

Finely Swept Algae 2950

And finally, in a third straight-down view, the picture below offers up curves and feathery structures in dried algae, as well as intricately delicate forms that could pass for cobwebs. This photograph kept reminding me of a fossil of Archaeopteryx, and then also of the Escher lithograph Drawing Hands.

Algae Drying Out 2985

So ends a three-part trip into pallor. Color comes crashing back in tomorrow.

© 2016 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 17, 2016 at 4:48 AM

Like stringy green brains

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Drying Green Algae Looking Like Brains 3305

Yep, stringy green brains, that’s what some types of algae look like when they begin to dry out. Perhaps no one else has seen algae quite that way because when I did a Google search for “stringy green brains” I got asked if I meant “stringy green beans” or “string green beans,” but there were no hits for my “stringy green brains” search string. Coincidentally, when I recently attended a talk by physicist Steven Weinberg, who lives in Austin, he said there is so far no good experimental evidence for string theory. And I’m not stringing you along when I say that the picture above is from a tributary of Bull Creek on January 29th, and that two years ago I referred to algae in this configuration as corrugated.

In the picture below, from a different tributary of Bull Creek on February 13th, you get to compare a somewhat drier patch of algae. If you want to keep on being cerebral, now you can think of these algae as neurons. Just don’t let the neuralgae give you neuralgia.

Algae Still Green But Drying Out 5131A

© 2016 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 16, 2016 at 5:11 AM

Another close look at a creek

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Brown Sycamore Leaves Fallen on Green Algae 3266

On the bright and clear morning of January 29th I spent more than an hour photographing at a tributary of Bull Creek. In contrast to the fast-flowing Bull Creek of a few weeks earlier, this tributary was drying up, so the water in it was mostly shallow and without a noticeable current. Here you see two sycamore leaves (Platanus occidentalis) that had fallen on some still-green algae. Look over my shoulder and the algae may strike you too as preternaturally green. All I can say is that was really their color. At the same time the submerged rocks in the shallows shone yellow in the sunlight, while onto this little tricolor scene a few trunks and branches of nearby trees contrarily cast their shadows.

© 2016 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 15, 2016 at 5:05 AM

Red for Valentine’s Day

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Dense Indian Paintbrushes on Slope 3

In honor of Valentine’s Day, here’s a classic picture that shows a dense colony of Indian paintbrushes, Castilleja indivisa, on an embankment of US 183 in east Austin on March 22, 2001. In the springtimes since then the paintbrushes on that slope have never been as dense and rich.

Did you know that some countries have taken to banning Valentine’s Day celebrations? So have some American schools.

© 2016 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 14, 2016 at 5:05 AM

Silverpuff gone to seed

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Silverpuff Puffball 3345

When I was photographing Chaptalia texana on February 2nd in the parking lot of my local Costco, I couldn’t help noticing that some of the plants had already aged into producing the seed heads that account for the common name silverpuff. You can see that this wildflower in its late stage is central Texas’s native answer to the invasive Eurasian dandelion.

On the technical side, I’ll add that I put myself in a position from which I could line up the puffball with an area of heavy shadows on the ground about 10–15 ft. away.

© 2016 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 13, 2016 at 5:02 AM

The best place I know for silverpuff

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Silverpuff Flower Head 3352

On the morning of February 2nd I went over to my local Costco because a few days earlier I’d noticed some silverpuff plants (Chaptalia texana) on a couple of the raised islands in the parking lot. (Presumably those islands were left to preserve trees when the land was leveled to build the store and make the parking lot.) As far as I can tell, nature does most of the tending of those raised plots, with the result that silverpuff has continued to prosper in its native haunt even if surrounded now by cars and commerce.

You may recall from reading posts here two or three years ago that this composite species produces long flower heads that tend not to open much, as you see here. You can also see from this latest picture that the specimens I photographed looked a little the worse for wear. That’s understandable if Marshall Enquist is correct about the typical bloom period being March through May. Ellen Schulz gives an earlier flowering period of late winter to early spring, but January, when these plants appeared, is still hardly late winter, and that month did bring us a few frosty mornings.

Because silverpuff plants are small and short, for many of the pictures I lay on a mat on the ground to do my work. (The store doesn’t open till 10:00 and I was there by 9:00, so although some cars drove past me in the parking lot there weren’t a lot of people to wonder what strange things I was doing.) The blue in the background is from patches of sky visible through the trees. The slightly cool cast of the picture as a whole comes from the fact that the silverpuff group was mostly in the shade of the trees.

On an unrelated matter, today marks the 207th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s birth.

© 2016 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 12, 2016 at 5:11 AM

A focused look at sundrops

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Square-Bud Primrose Flower 4124

The bright but formless yellow of the last post was sundrops, Calylophus berlandieri. Now it’s its turn to appear in its own right and its own focus, again from the unusually early date of February 7th along Interstate 35 in far north Austin.

© 2016 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 11, 2016 at 5:07 AM

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