Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Archive for July 2016

Make that three junipers in a row

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Ashe Juniper Hanging Upside Down from Cliff 2860

It has been said, accurately or not, that when the British surrendered to the Americans at the Battle of Yorktown in 1781, the British musicians played the song “The World Turned Upside Down.” Send some of those notes out now for this poor Ashe juniper tree (Juniperus ashei), which had gotten largely uprooted but still clung to life as it hung upside down over a cliff along Bull Creek in northwest Austin. The photograph shows how things looked on July 21, two weeks after I’d first caught sight of the inverted tree. Notice how much of the juniper’s foliage remained green.

This was not my first take on upside-down-ness over Bull Creek.

© 2016 Steven Schwartzman

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Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 31, 2016 at 4:53 AM

A tale of two junipers

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Lady Bird Johnson website: "Although commonly a tree in Eurasia, Common Juniper is only rarely a small tree in New England and other northeastern States. In the West, it is a low shrub, often at timberline. Including geographic varieties, this species is the most widely distributed native conifer in both North America and the world. Juniper berries are food for wildlife, especially grouse, pheasants, and bobwhites. They are an ingredient in gin, producing the distinctive aroma and tang.”

The other juniper that Melissa pointed out to us at Illinois Beach State Park on June 6th was a species that forms broad, low mounds, Juniperus communis. Here’s a picture from the overcast morning of June 9th showing a prominent common juniper mound in the foreground and several others farther back. The yellow-orange wildflowers are the hoary puccoon that you saw closer views of a few weeks ago.

Whenever I come across the species name communis I’m accustomed to finding out that the plant in question is native to Europe, where Linnaeus and other early botanists considered it “common.” I was surprised, then, to learn that Juniperus communis is native on several continents. Here’s what the website of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center says: “Although commonly a tree in Eurasia, Common Juniper is only rarely a small tree in New England and other northeastern States.  In the West, it is a low shrub, often at timberline. Including geographic varieties, this species is the most widely distributed native conifer in both North America and the world. Juniper berries are food for wildlife, especially grouse, pheasants, and bobwhites. They are an ingredient in gin, producing the distinctive aroma and tang.”

© 2016 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 30, 2016 at 5:07 AM

Creeping juniper

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Creeping Juniper on Dunes 7635

Melissa told us on June 6th at Illinois Beach State Park that two kinds of juniper grow on the dunes there. The one shown here from a photo outing three days later is Juniperus horizontalis, which lives up to its species name by staying close to the ground as it creeps along the beach. Note the mostly immature fruit in the second picture. (Both photographs look predominantly downward.)

In Undaunted Courage, Stephen Ambrose quoted from Meriwether Lewis’s journal entry of April 12, 1805, written in what I think is now North Dakota: “This plant would make very handsome edgings to the borders and walks of a garden…. [and it is] easily propegated*.” Lewis had called the plant “dwarf juniper,” which Ambrose interpreted as creeping juniper.

Creeping Juniper with Fruit 7693

* Neither Lewis nor Clark used standardized or even consistent spelling. The quoted sentence, with just one mistake, is an example of Lewis’s best spelling.

© 2016 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 29, 2016 at 5:11 AM

Sandbur

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Sandbur Seed Head 0621

Yesterday’s photograph of strangely spiky galls at Illinois Beach State Park suddenly reminded me this morning of something spiky that’s common in Austin but that I’ve somehow never shown you in these pages. It’s Cenchrus spinifex, a native grass known as sandbur and bur grass. What’s common to those two common names is the bur, and in this June 30th photograph from Great Hills Park you can see how sharp the burs on the seed heads of this grass are. Ouch.

© 2016 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 28, 2016 at 5:31 AM

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Strangeness

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This is likely Rosa carolina but the fruit are distorted because of the Spiny rose gall wasp (Diplolepis bicolor).

At Illinois Beach State Park on June 9th I came across the unusual red things shown in today’s photograph. After I submitted the picture to the Illinois Native Plant Society, Rachel, who is the organization’s secretary, e-mailed me back to say that the plant is likely Rosa carolina and that the spiky red things are galls created by the spiny rose gall wasp, Diplolepis bicolor. Pretty strange, huh?

© 2016 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 27, 2016 at 4:33 AM

Rosa carolina

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Rosa carolina Flower 6730

No rose grows natively in Austin, so when I visited the Diamond Grove Prairie outside Joplin, Missouri, on June 4th I was glad to see some flowers of Rosa carolina, which is native there and in plenty of other states. The second photograph shows that the colors of these roses vary.

Two Rosa carolina Flowers 6775

© 2016 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 26, 2016 at 4:55 AM

Horace’s Duskywing on Drummond’s Clematis

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Horace's Duskywing Butterfly on Clematis drummondii Flowers 0558

In a comment on yesterday’s post about white wild indigo in Illinois, Sherry Felix pointed out the connection to the wild indigo duskywing butterfly. That species is found in Austin, so I’ve probably seen it without recognizing it (what I know about butterflies weighs only as little as one). Still, the mention of duskywings sent me looking back at some photographs I took on June 30 in Great Hills Park, where I’d stopped to check out the flowers on a mound of Clematis drummondii. Also checking them out, though of course for a different purpose, was a dark butterfly that I now take, thanks to a butterfly field guide, to be a Horace’s duskwing, Erynnis horatius.

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 25, 2016 at 4:49 AM

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