Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Archive for April 2016

Compare and contrast

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Rock Flax Flower 0634

Compare and contrast, as English teachers are fond of saying, the two little yellows that you see here from the Doeskin Ranch on April 8. The first is rock flax, Linum rupestre, whose flowers are intrinsically small, from about a quarter to a half of an inch across (6–13mm). The second is an opening bud of Navajo tea, Thelesperma simplicifolium, which was in the process of opening out to a larger size. A few days ago you saw a developed flower head of this species serving as a platform for a big-eyed fly.

Just remember to keep your compare-and-contrast essays under a thousand words.

Navajo Tea Flower Head Beginning to Open 0672

© 2016 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 30, 2016 at 5:06 AM

Scarlet leatherflower

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Scarlet Leatherflower Flower and Leaves 0552

Feast your eyes on the rich red of a scarlet leatherflower, Clematis texensis, at the Doeskin Ranch in Burnet County on April 8. This species is endemic to the southeastern portion of the Edwards Plateau in central Texas; in other words, it’s native nowhere else in the world. On other occasions I’ve found this species in my northwestern part of Austin and even along Onion Creek in southeast Austin, which must be the extreme eastern edge of the plant’s range.

How different in color and form the flowers of this Clematis species are from those of the much more common C. drummondii. Looking at the flowers and leaves of the two species, you’d never guess that botanists put them in the same genus.

© 2016 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 29, 2016 at 5:05 AM

Intrepid me

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Rattlesnake 0477A

Intrepid me, following a rattlesnake (Crotalus spp.) at the Doeskin Ranch in Burnet County on April 8. After I lived up to my reputation as a photographer by starting to take pictures, the snake lived up to its name by starting to rattle. Soon it moved off into the brush where I couldn’t take any more photographs of it, so the brief encounter ended in a draw: the rattlesnake didn’t bite me and I didn’t bite it.

© 2016 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 28, 2016 at 5:01 AM

Old plainsman buds

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Old Plainsman Buds 0569

Above are some buds of old plainsman, Hymenopappus scabiosaeus, that I found at the Doeskin Ranch in Burnet County on April 8.

As a reminder of what old plainsman looks like when a colony of it flowers, here’s a picture from April 28, 2013, on the west side of Interstate 35 in far north Austin. The yellow-orange flowers are greenthread, Thelesperma filifolium, and the purple ones prairie verbena, Glandualaria bipinnatifida.

Old Plainsman, Greenthread, Verbena 1519A

I visited that field a few weeks ago but found it much less spectacular this year. Not to worry: variations in floral intensity from year to year are normal. To worry: buildings have now covered parts of this field, and eventually all the land here is bound to get developed.

© 2016 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 27, 2016 at 5:03 AM

Two fringed puccoon flowers

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Fringed Puccoon Flowers 0527

Look at the crinkly yellow flowers of fringed puccoon, Lithospermum incisum, that I found at the Doeskin Ranch in Burnet County on April 8.

© 2016 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 26, 2016 at 5:03 AM

A different sort of paintbrush

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Castilleja purpurea var. lindheimeri 0618

By far the best-known paintbrush in Texas is Castilleja indivisa, know as Indian paintbrush, which you saw last month mixed in with bluebonnets. Another species that grows in central Texas is Castilleja purpurea, which in spite of its species name comes not only in purple (var. purpurea) but also in yellow (var. citrina) and a shade that ranges from orange to red (var. lindheimeri). It’s obviously the last of those varieties that you’re seeing here from my visit to the Doeskin Ranch in Burnet County on April 8.

© 2016 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 25, 2016 at 5:01 AM

Brown on yellow, what a fellow

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Fly on Navajo Tea Flower Head 0470

On a Navajo tea flower head (Thelesperma simplicifolium) I found this fly, which didn’t mind the close presence of my macro lens and stayed put while I took pictures. From the people at BugGuide.net I learned that this is a kind of syrphid fly, Copestylum avidum, and that the way the eyes touch at the top of the head signals that this one is a male. For a closeup of the insect’s compound eye, click the excerpt below.

Fly on Navajo Tea Flower Head 0470A

The date was April 8 and the place was the Doeskin Ranch section of the National Wildlife Refuge in Burnet County.

Update: BugGuide has also identified the nymph you saw three days ago as being a katydid in the subfamily Phaneropterinae:

© 2016 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 24, 2016 at 5:19 AM

White larkspur flowers

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White Larkspur Flowers 0521

Shakespeare had his take on Hotspur, and on April 8 the Doeskin Ranch in Burnet County had its shot at larkspur, Delphinium carolinianum ssp. virescens. Marshall Enquist explains that there are four small petals in the center of each flower, with the lower two bearing the conspicuous hairs that you see here. The other five segments, including the purple-tinged spur, are sepals.

Wanna go back to what one of these flowers would have looked like in an earlier stage? Here’s your visual time machine:

White Larkspur Bud Opening 0502

Afterthought: you’ve had two hairy flowers in a row.

© 2016 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 23, 2016 at 5:03 AM

False nightshade, truly

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Chamaesaracha sordida 0606A

Making its debut here today is a smallish flower in the genus Chamaesaracha, whose members are known as false nightshade even though they are indeed in the nightshade family, Solanaceae. From what I can tell, this seems to be the species C. sordida.

I took this photograph at the Doeskin Ranch section of the Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge in Burnet County on April 8. For the next week you’ll be seeing pictures from my visit there.

© 2016 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 22, 2016 at 5:11 AM

Katydid nymph on prairie fleabane daisy

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Katydid nymph on Prairie Fleabane Daisy 0279

Prairie fleabane daisy = Erigeron modestus.

Place: Bluegrass Dr.

Date: April 4.

Update: BugGuide.net has identified this as a katydid in the subfamily Phaneropterinae

© Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 21, 2016 at 6:51 AM

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