Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Archive for March 2016

Bejeweled

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When I went to Great Hills Park on the morning of March 17th I found many little patches of ground blanketed with drizzle-bejeweled spiderwebs like the ones you saw last time surrounding a straggler daisy. Some of the webs had a noticeably dark funnel, and in one of those I glimpsed a spider waiting deep inside. After I knelt and got close with my camera to take pictures, the vibration from one of my movements prompted the spider to rush out toward what it incorrectly took to be prey, startling me in the process (things are magnified when you look through a macro lens). Fortunately the spider stayed outside the funnel long enough for me to make several portraits of it. I later learned from the BugGuide.net folks that this funnel weaver spider is in the genus Agelenopsis, whose members are called grass spiders.

Two days before my outing in Great Hills Park, Dale and Pat Bulla had alerted me to the National Wildlife Week Photo Contest being held by Austin Parks and Wildlife. I entered this photograph and it ended up winning first place. The picture will appear in the April issue of the Austin Treebune.

Funnel Web Spider in Spiderweb with Drizzle Drops 8222

If you’d like a closer view of this Agelenopsis spider, click the excerpt below.

Funnel Web Spider in Spiderweb with Drizzle Drops 8222 Detail

© 2016 Steven Schwartzman

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Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 31, 2016 at 4:54 AM

A drizzle-drazzled droplet-dazzled view of a straggler daisy

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Straggler Daisy Flower Head with Drizzle-Dropped Funnel Web 8179

Click for larger size and therefore more detail.

The diminutive plant known as the straggler daisy, Calyptocarpus vialis, forms a natural ground cover in some parts of Austin. Here from the morning of March 17th in Great Hills Park is the little flower head of a straggler daisy with drizzle on it, along with much more sparkling drizzle on the spiderweb around it. To give you a sense of scale, I’ll add that a flower head in this species typically runs about a quarter of an inch (6mm) in diameter.

© 2016 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 30, 2016 at 5:01 AM

Agarita flowers and buds

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Agarita Flowers and Buds 6734

I’m a bit late in showing you these flowers and buds of an agarita bush, Mahonia trifoliolata, that I photographed off Yaupon Dr. on February 26. Taking too many pictures to show in these pages isn’t a bad “problem” to have.

For a closer look at some of the agarita flowers, click the following excerpt.

Agarita Flowers and Buds 6720A

© 2016 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 29, 2016 at 4:57 AM

That combination of wildflowers

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Indian Paintbrushes and Bluebonnets by Pond 9203

Here’s a popular combination of Texas wildflowers: bluebonnets, Lupinus texensis, and Indian paintbrushes, Castilleja indivisa. That’s what I saw by a pond along TX 29 between Llano and Burnet on March 21.

© 2016 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 28, 2016 at 5:05 AM

Backlit purple-fringed white anemone seen from below

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Anemone Flower from Below 7085

Anemone decapetala north of Old Lampasas trail on March 3.

© 2016 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 27, 2016 at 5:08 AM

Corn salad

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Corn Salad Colony with Prickly Pear Cactus 8530

Why anyone would call this plant corn salad, I don’t know. I do know that a colony of Valerianella amarella can cover a good expanse of ground in meadows and on prairies, yet individual flowers are tiny, only 1/16 to 1/8 of an inch across (1.5–3 mm). They often grow in a loosely rectangular array comprising two pairs of clusters: call it white geometry and you’ll get no argument from me. The second picture looks straight down at one pair of clusters. I noticed that the ant burrowed into the center of several of the flowers, and I conjectured, rightly or wrongly, that it was going after nectar. There’s no need to conjecture about what I was going after—photographs—nor about their provenance—an area along Yaupon Dr. on March 20.

Ant on Corn Salad Flowers 8478

© 2016 Steven Schwartzman

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 26, 2016 at 5:09 AM

The tales that rocks can tell

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rudistid/caprinid fossil. This is an extinct fossil group that was a prolific reef-builder in the Cretaceous, when our local formations were deposited.

Speaking of rocks (as I did yesterday), on February 2nd a couple of miles from home I found a rock with a fossil in it. I assumed the piece of fluted column, which was 2 inches (5cm) in diameter, had come from the stalk of a tree or plant, but as I know nothing about such things I turned to geologist Eric Potter at the University of Texas. He referred my question to paleontologists and the answer came back that this was a “rudistid/caprinid fossil.” That “extinct fossil group… was a prolific reef-builder in the Cretaceous, when our local formations were deposited.” The Cretaceous ended some 65.5 million years ago, so this might be the oldest thing I’ve ever found. For more on this kind of creature, you can read about rudists and caprinids.

On February 26th I came across a different sort of fossil on the opposite side of my neighborhood. This time I could tell that I was looking at shells. Eric Potter confirmed that these were “oysters stacked together in an ‘oyster bank’, very similar to what we have today in our coastal bays. This is a cross-sectional view.”

oysters stacked together in an “oyster bank”, very similar to what we have today in our coastal bays. This is a cross-sectional view.

© 2016 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 25, 2016 at 5:00 AM

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