Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography


with 47 comments

When I got close to the intersection of Heatherwilde Blvd. and Wells Branch Parkway along the Pflugerville-Austin border on May 20, I was saddened to see that the inevitable had come to pass. The land on the northeast corner of that intersection, where I’d been photographing nature over the years since 1999, had become a construction zone. A visit to that site on May 13, 2013, produced the abstract Texas thistle photo you saw in these pages shortly afterwards. Here are four pictures of other things that were there on that day three years ago; all, and all their descendants, are gone from that place now. Requiescant in prato.

Annual Pennyroyal and Firewheels by Bluets 6139

Firewheels (Gaillardia pulchella), annual pennyroyal (Hedeoma acinoides), bluets (Hedyotis nigricans).


Texas Bindweed Flower by Firewheel 6110

Texas bindweed (Convolvulus equitans).


Metallic Beetle on Square-Bud Primrose Flower 6078

Metallic beetle on square-bud primrose (Calylophus berlandieri).


Firewheel Against Blue Sky 6164

A firewheel (Gallardia pulchella) as an emblem in its own right.

© 2016 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 22, 2016 at 5:15 AM

47 Responses

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  1. That’s sad; more land development, less space for nature.

    Nature on the Edge

    June 22, 2016 at 5:23 AM

    • And it was especially sad because I found two other nearby parcels under construction at the same time.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 22, 2016 at 7:22 AM

  2. A sad day. I’m sorry.

    Martha Goudey

    June 22, 2016 at 7:17 AM

  3. I’m sorry, too, Steve.


    June 22, 2016 at 7:39 AM

    • This has been the worst year ever in the Austin area for the loss of properties where I’ve worked, and we’re only half-way through 2016.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 22, 2016 at 4:21 PM

      • Pretty soon the stampede of people moving there will have completely destroyed what attracted them in the first place.


        June 23, 2016 at 7:58 AM

        • I’m afraid that’s already happened in some ways. There are some nature preserves, but not as many as I’d like, and nothing like the number I saw in Lake County.

          Steve Schwartzman

          June 23, 2016 at 10:24 AM

          • It’s true that we are blessed here. It can be tough to live here with the climate and taxes and so on, but when I consider leaving I must remember that.


            June 24, 2016 at 9:33 AM

            • One “and so on” that I couldn’t help noticing there is the price of gasoline, as I mentioned to you. At the Costco in Libertyville I paid $2.72 a gallon, while my neighborhood Costco is selling gas today for $1.99.

              Steve Schwartzman

              June 24, 2016 at 9:49 AM

              • Wow. That is quite a difference. Sometimes I feel like a frog in boiling water here. Costs keep squeezing us and, indeed, people are leaving Illinois in droves. It doesn’t feel that way when you are stuck in traffic here, though!


                June 26, 2016 at 8:33 AM

                • Yeah, in this case you’re paying over one-third more for the same product. Think how many hundreds of dollars that adds up to over a year. I’m sorry for your frog-in-boiling-water-dom up there.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  June 26, 2016 at 10:35 AM

  4. As I read nature-related blogs I notice more and more posts about the loss of wild areas, habitat, special places. I don’t know how to fight this loss (or if it’s even possible.) One way is what you are doing — posting your firsthand losses. Do you think there is a way for similar-minded bloggers to do something on a broader more interrelated scale?


    June 22, 2016 at 7:49 AM

    • Sometimes groups like the Native Prairies Association of Texas and the Nature Conservancy have managed to buy properties to keep them from being developed. As for posting about my own losses, that makes people aware of the problem, but I don’t know how much else it accomplishes.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 22, 2016 at 4:33 PM

      • Thanks, Steve. Not sure what any of us can do. Some people are so tone-deaf to the natural world and the interrelatedness of life on this little blue planet. I appreciate your efforts.


        June 22, 2016 at 5:20 PM

  5. How sad! 😦 Reminds me of “Where have all the flowers gone?” And, to change the lyrics but a little, “Oh, when will mankind ever learn?”
    Have a wonderful day,


    June 22, 2016 at 8:13 AM

    • Thanks for that appropriate musical connection. I wish I knew the answer to the question you’ve posed.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 22, 2016 at 4:35 PM

      • Same here!


        June 23, 2016 at 8:46 AM

        • I felt like asking that question yesterday when we drove back into Austin. After three weeks, the great colonies of wildflowers I saw here in May have dried out.

          Steve Schwartzman

          June 23, 2016 at 10:27 AM

  6. When will we learn? Perhaps only when it’s too late. Trying to explain the value of that ground, and those plants, to those who have now disturbed it … would be futile. Such a sad state of affairs. I am sorry. For all of us.

    Pairodox Farm

    June 22, 2016 at 9:20 AM

    • When I was up in Lake County, Illinois, last week and the week before, I saw quite a few signs designating properties that have been preserved. They’re not contiguous, but at least those parcels will remain.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 22, 2016 at 4:37 PM

      • Lake County, Illinois seems to have gotten its act together … at least in regard to its efforts to conserve what is important.

        Pairodox Farm

        June 22, 2016 at 6:46 PM

  7. Very sad Steven, is this what we call “progress”?

    • I understand that people have to live and work somewhere. I just wish that a certain percent of all newly developed areas could be set aside as nature preserves.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 22, 2016 at 4:46 PM

  8. More and more often, construction and destruction walk the meadows hand in hand. To build a hospital, a home, a school, or a bike trail is one thing, but far too much of the construction I see is purely speculative: purposeless except for profit. The commercial building on spec here is out of control, and far too often the buildings stand empty after construction. The trend — and the realities — are grieved by many. You’re not alone in your response.


    June 22, 2016 at 10:40 AM

    • You raise a good point about speculative buildings. If enough of them sit idle, perhaps they’ll discourage other builders from doing the same thing, but I have the impression that most of the new buildings in Austin get occupied fairly quickly. There’s certainly a building boom now in and around Texas’s main cities, as we observed in Dallas yesterday and today. In any case, I appreciate your commiseration and that of other people.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 22, 2016 at 5:22 PM

  9. Such shame. Thank you for the beautiful photos.


    June 22, 2016 at 3:26 PM

  10. I share your sadness, Steve. For a while we were seeing some building with preservation of nature in mind, but that seems gone with only the desire for more homes to be built everywhere possible. I see more and more “builders” popping up all the time. Carpenters decide to go off on their own to escape working for someone else and before you know it homes built on spec are happening. Some remain empty for years. Slowly we are destroying natural habitats. At least some locations are deemed unbuildable, thank goodness.

    Steve Gingold

    June 22, 2016 at 5:09 PM

    • You and Linda both homed in on the practice of building on spec. I don’t know how much that happens in central Texas, but I do know that Austin and all the surrounding towns continue growing at among the highest rates in the country. Given that rapid growth, I doubt that buildings sit unoccupied for very long. That’s not good news for parcels of land here.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 22, 2016 at 8:39 PM

      • Amherst is a fairly desirable town, so most are sold before completion. But there are always some that are not. A while back the town placed a moratorium on approving new building lots which made a lot of realtors and builders unhappy although there were already quite a few approved that went undeveloped. That has gone by the board. There doesn’t even seem to be much concern for affordable homes any longer either which is unfortunate.

        Steve Gingold

        June 23, 2016 at 3:54 AM

        • In Austin the question of affordability is multi-fold. The price of homes keeps rising, which is an impediment in its own right, but also because taxes on homes keep going up accordingly. Entities here that insist on taxing us on the value of our homes are: the school district, the city, the county, the community college, and the county health district. When’s the last time you heard of a governmental entity reducing its budget?

          Steve Schwartzman

          June 23, 2016 at 1:25 PM

          • They never do…because-if they don’t spend their entire budget the next fiscal year will see a reduced amount. The idea for them is to be allotted a greater amount so they must use their entire budget for that to happen.

            Steve Gingold

            June 23, 2016 at 2:31 PM

            • It’s a vicious circle, isn’t it?

              By the way, I did the calculations a couple of months ago and found out that each American’s share of the national debt is approximately $60,000. I’m sure you and Mary Beth will have no trouble ponying up your $120,000.

              Steve Schwartzman

              June 23, 2016 at 2:39 PM

              • It is scary that the government runs up such deficits. And it has come down in recent years. It would be nice to get back to the surplus we once had and then the government could pay back what it “borrowed” from the Social Security trust fund. Don’t get me started on the issue of SS and entitlements.

                Steve Gingold

                June 23, 2016 at 2:59 PM

                • While it’s true that the annual deficit has been coming down, there is still a hefty deficit. Because of that (and interest), the debt continues to grow fairly rapidly. I’d better stop before we both launch into tirades.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  June 23, 2016 at 3:09 PM

                • Nothing good happens during a tirade. Two would be even worse.

                  Steve Gingold

                  June 23, 2016 at 4:12 PM

  11. Beautiful images Steve .. Stunning. I’m so sorry to hear that this has happened. Urban sprawl .. Comes at a price doesn’t it?


    June 23, 2016 at 2:28 PM

  12. Joni Mitchell had it right – Pave paradise and put up a parking lot. So sad – but pretty memories


    June 23, 2016 at 3:36 PM

    • I’ve often thought about that song in recent years.
      That piece of prairie will always be there in my mind, just as I remember all the others as they once were.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 23, 2016 at 4:12 PM

  13. The firewheel photo is so beautiful. Where do they normally grow? I have a poetry blog here on WordPress in case you have time to look? Have a good Thursday, Sam 🙂


    April 27, 2017 at 2:00 AM

    • Firewheels are quite common in central Texas at this time of year. They can be found almost anywhere. Two years in a row I’ve seen one or several that have sprung up in cracks in sidewalks.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 27, 2017 at 7:34 AM

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