Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Compare and contrast

with 23 comments

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

23 Responses

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  1. Both yellow. One open. One closed.

    Do I get extra credit for being well below 1000?

    Is this going to be on the final exam?

    Jim Ruebush

    April 30, 2016 at 6:27 AM

    • Whenever students used to ask whether something I’d just covered in class with them would be on the next test, I’d answer: “It will now.” I certainly wasn’t going to tell them not to pay attention to something. Sometimes I even explained why that question forced me into replying the way I did.

      Brevity is often a virtue but I can’t offer extra credit for it.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 30, 2016 at 7:05 AM

      • Darn

        Jim Ruebush

        April 30, 2016 at 7:20 AM

        • On almost every math test I ever gave I included an extra-credit question at the end; unlike the regular questions, there was no penalty if someone tried an extra-credit question and got it wrong. I also often posted an extra-credit challenge on the wall of the classroom, along with a deadline by which students had to submit their replies. Here’s an example of one from the fall of 2005:

          Steve Schwartzman

          April 30, 2016 at 7:56 AM

          • That’s a good one. I found some students worked harder on XC than on regular things.

            Jim Ruebush

            April 30, 2016 at 9:11 AM

            • I found that too. The time some students put in was out of proportion to the 3 points that would get added to a test grade. In some cases it would have been far more beneficial to learn the required material and earn points by answering the test questions correctly. On the other hand, a math teacher shouldn’t complain if students spend time playing with math, whatever their purpose.

              Steve Schwartzman

              April 30, 2016 at 9:18 AM

          • On another topic…the Nature Blog Network link at the far right has a missing image icon.

            Jim Ruebush

            April 30, 2016 at 9:12 AM

            • Thanks. I hadn’t noticed. In fact I hadn’t clicked there in years. At least the link still works. I’ve sometimes thought of updating that sidebar but inertia (yay, physics) has led me to leave it alone.

              Steve Schwartzman

              April 30, 2016 at 9:21 AM

  2. The similarity in backgrounds really does tie together the two images: likewise, the muted yellow that they share. They’re so different from the eye-popping yellows and bright blue skies you often show, but they’re just as attractive.


    April 30, 2016 at 6:59 AM

    • Maybe I temporarily entered a Rembrandt phase, what with those dark brown backgrounds that make up most of the both photographs. I expect I haven’t forsworn brighter things for very long.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 30, 2016 at 7:14 AM

  3. Beautiful compositions. Loved the yellow sweethearts.


    April 30, 2016 at 10:30 AM

    • That’s a unique way of putting it. The flowers are of different species, so while they can’t be sweethearts in a botanical sense, it’s fair to say they can be in a visual or imaginative one.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 30, 2016 at 10:42 AM

  4. Little Yellow Flower 1 (LYF1): No scale is provided within the photograph for this or for Little Yellow Flower 2 (LYF2). Have to take the photographer’s word as to the size of the flowers.
    LYF1: Appears to have 5 petals. LYF2 appears to have 8 or 9 petals – difficult to count accurately from the angle used.
    LYF1 is zygomorphic – example of bilateral symmetry. LYF2 could be radially symmetric – difficult to say positively from this angle.
    LYF1: stems appear to be devoid of any leaves – likewise LYF2,
    LYF1 has several lines going across the rectangular field, but is mostly from a top left to right bottom motion. LYF2 has a single line of division or movement, from, bottom left to top right.
    LYF1 picture could probably be used to identify the species, most easily by matching photo with an exemplary photo and additional descriptive information. LYF2 would be somewhat difficult to use to identify the species without additional information. Neither photo would be optimal for identification of the species.
    LYF2 overall seems to be the better photo, as it is simpler, has a a forward moving motion, and is less tightly identifiable as a specific species example.


    May 1, 2016 at 10:42 AM

    • You’ll get an A for by far the most detailed compare-and-contrast essay.

      One little thing I’d quibble at. I looked up a definition of zygomorphic: “(of a flower) having only one plane of symmetry, as in a pea or snapdragon; bilaterally symmetrical.” By that definition the flax flower isn’t zygomorphic. Taking the petals as idealized forms (which such definitions do), all the same size and shape and spaced equally apart, there are five axes of symmetry, each splitting a petal down the middle.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 1, 2016 at 11:01 AM

      • You got me on zygomorphic; Thanks for helping clarify the definition for me.I forgot all about the one plane and only one plane of symmetry. “LYF1 has five axes of symmetry; hard to say how many LYF2 has, but appears to be radially symmetric.”
        Not sure why I considered “less tightly identifiable as a specific species example” to contribute towards making LYF2 as the better photo.
        Nice photos; I prefer the second for its simplicity of form.


        May 1, 2016 at 9:30 PM

        • Etymology offers help in understanding why zygomorphic means what it does. The first part of the word comes from Greek zugōtos, which means the same as its native English cognate yoked. With a pair of yoked oxen, for example, there’s a vertical plane of symmetry halfway between the oxen, and no other plane of symmetry is possible. Similarly, in genetics a zygote is the stage in cell development in which two gametes are “yoked”:


          As for simplicity, I also find it can be a virtue.

          Steve Schwartzman

          May 2, 2016 at 7:15 AM

  5. “I’m free” “I’m cold and very grumpy”


    May 2, 2016 at 5:33 AM

    • That’s a succinct anthropomorphic comparison.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 2, 2016 at 7:17 AM

      • Does it get any marks 😕


        May 2, 2016 at 8:06 AM

        • Mark my word, Jude, it does indeed make the grade. (Cultural note: in New York, where I grew up, and apparently in England too, a teacher marks tests. Here in Texas a teacher grades tests.)

          Steve Schwartzman

          May 2, 2016 at 8:24 AM

  6. I was never a very good student. I do like yellow and brown as a combination…yellow ochre? I like the sense of motion in the background of the Navajo Tea.

    Steve Gingold

    May 2, 2016 at 6:43 PM

    • I’m glad to hear you picked up on the sense of motion. Those subtly wavy stalks in the background paralleling the Navajo tea were important to me as visual echoes of my subject.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 2, 2016 at 6:53 PM

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