Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Given enough time

with 37 comments

Indiana Dunes with Vegetation 8498

Given enough time and enough freedom from human interaction, the Indiana Dunes gradually cover themselves with vegetation, including trees, as you can see in these views from West Beach at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore on June 18. The image below shows how a pond that had formed in a hollow between two dunes supports rich vegetation around its fringes.

Pond in Indiana Dunes 8489

© 2016 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 17, 2016 at 4:51 AM

37 Responses

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  1. It is marvelous the way life returns.

    Maria Gianna Iannucci

    August 17, 2016 at 5:44 AM

    • It is. To help it out, managers of the national seashore have fenced off various places where people had made improvised paths that killed off vegetation. In that way vegetation may slowly return to those places.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 17, 2016 at 7:08 AM

      • Yes, I saw that they had areas closed off. That is good. I hope to return next June and try to identify some plants. I could not believe my eyes when I saw the fields of cactus in bloom! What an amazing place.

        Maria Gianna Iannucci

        August 17, 2016 at 7:11 AM

        • I wish I could be back there right now. I managed to run around for parts of only two days, but 20 days would be more like it. Happy return to you next June.

          Steve Schwartzman

          August 17, 2016 at 7:34 AM

          • I only spent two hours there on the way to South Bend, Indiana. It was an agonizing tease!

            Maria Gianna Iannucci

            August 17, 2016 at 7:36 AM

            • “Agonizing tease” is a vivid description of how frustrated you must have been at not being able to see more of the dunes. A return is definitely warranted.

              Steve Schwartzman

              August 17, 2016 at 7:46 AM

  2. It is remarkable that nature can successfully put forth life where it seems so difficult for it to take root…whether dune, fire-ravaged forest and plain or human-affected and disturbed landscape.
    I love finding plants in such sandy and seemingly hostile environments.

    Steve Gingold

    August 17, 2016 at 6:11 AM

    • Living several hours from the nearest coast in Texas, on my Northwest trip I relished the chance to photograph beaches and the plants that grow on them. Mostly, as you’ve been seeing in photographs here on and off here for weeks now, that was at Illinois Beach State Park. At the Indiana Dunes, in contrast, some of the dunes were a lot higher and much more covered with vegetation. In some places the vegetation was so well established that from a distance you’d think you were seeing just a regular hill and not a sand dune.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 17, 2016 at 7:14 AM

  3. My favorite plant on the dunes is Arabis lyrata…tiny and tenacious!

    Maria Gianna Iannucci

    August 17, 2016 at 6:47 AM

    • I like your alliterative “tiny and tenacious.” I’m not familiar with the species you mentioned, so I looked it up (the genus has apparently been Arabidopsis as well as Arabis):


      In central Texas we have one species of Arabis that I occasionally encounter:


      Steve Schwartzman

      August 17, 2016 at 7:28 AM

      • Thank you!

        Maria Gianna Iannucci

        August 17, 2016 at 7:37 AM

        • You’re welcome. I just found out two things. 1) Arabis petiolaris is endemic to Texas. 2) The name Arabis, as I suspected, was based on Arabia, although I don’t know why. I wonder whether the first species of Arabis to receive a botanical name was found growing on dunes.

          Steve Schwartzman

          August 17, 2016 at 7:50 AM

          • Oh that is interesting! I am going to try to write a creative piece on it. If you find any information let me know. I also wanted to tell you that I appreciate your feedback on some of the quotes that I post. Finding quotes online, sometimes their authenticity is questionable. I have to always rely on the books, even if it takes time. Thank you!

            Maria Gianna Iannucci

            August 17, 2016 at 7:55 AM

            • For the source of the genus name Arabis I turned to my biggest and most reliable source, Shinners and Mahler’s Illustrated Flora of North Central Texas:


              I’ve had the original (and hefty) printed version for a long time, but usually now I use the digital version because I can look things up more quickly and do thorough searches.

              One of the bad sides of the Internet is that it’s a “monkey see, monkey do” world, with misinformation quickly copied from one site to another. Like you, I try to find a printed source for a quotation. Printed books have mistakes too, of course, but on average they’re more reliable than personal websites.

              Steve Schwartzman

              August 17, 2016 at 8:35 AM

  4. Steve’s lovely photographs remind me of a poem by Mary Oliver….

    The Pond: A Poem

    August of another summer, and once again
    I am drinking the sun
    and the lilies again are spread across the water.
    I know now what they want is to touch each other.
    I have not been here for many years
    during which time I kept living my life.
    Like the heron, who can only croak, who wishes he
    could sing,
    I wish I could sing.
    A little thanks from every throat would be appropriate.
    This is how it has been, and this is how it is:
    All my life I have been able to feel happiness,
    except whatever was not happiness,
    which I also remember.
    Each of us wears a shadow.
    But just now it is summer again
    and I am watching the lilies bow to each other,
    then slide on the wind and the tug of desire,
    close, close to one another,
    Soon now, I’ll turn and start for home.
    And who knows, maybe I’ll be singing.

    This poem is excerpted with permission from Mary Oliver’s latest collection of poetry, Felicity, published by Penguin Press in October, 2015.

    Ariana Vincent

    August 17, 2016 at 6:55 AM

  5. There’s so much good literature describing Texas dunes, and prescribing ways to preserve and rebuild them, It occurred to me that Michigan dunes surely have their own literature. I found an overview here that really was interesting.
    I wondered if the pond you show might be part of a dune and swale complex. From what I read, it seems that it could be. In one article, quite a point was made about the important role of those complexes in maintaining a high level of biodiversity. The fringes of the pond certainly seem to show that.

    As for your larger point about what time and freedom from human interaction can do, I’d only add that sometimes a little knowledgeable human interaction can be helpful, too. Galveston and Sea Rim State parks both have benefited from projects designed to mitigate storm damage and help the dunes regain a foothold. Down here, of course, another function of the dunes is to help protect the wetlands. Saltwater intrusion is a big problem.


    August 17, 2016 at 9:07 AM

    • You won’t be surprised that I’d never heard of Hoffmaster State Park. I see from a map that it’s at about the same latitude on the eastern shore of Lake Michigan as I got to in the northern fringes of Milwaukeee on the western shore. Why, I could’ve swum straight across. Maybe next time.

      And I’m not surprised that earth scientists have figured out a lot about the way dunes form, as shown in your first link. You’re fortunate to be near the coast, and I confirmed that you’ve mentioned dunes in several posts. Perhaps you’re contemplating another with dunes as the focus.

      Sea Rim State Park, dealt with in your other link, is another place I haven’t visited but would like to. I even have an annual state park permit just raring to go.

      And yes, thoughtful people can help preserve natural features.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 17, 2016 at 10:26 AM

  6. I’ve loved dunes for as long as I can remember. I know from personal experience how tempting it is to climb around on their fascinating and challenging slopes, but I also know how fragile their special ecology can be. I wish more places with exceptional dunescapes would post signs advocating sticking to worn paths!


    August 17, 2016 at 9:21 AM

    • The day I visited West Beach, a ranger walked along the trails and gave each hiker an individual reminder to stay on them. That’s ecologically sound, but there were photographs I wanted to take that I couldn’t because of where I’d have to stand.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 17, 2016 at 10:02 AM

      • You need to invent a long, articulated monopod, a combination of gooseneck probe, cherry-picker, and selfie stick. I bet you’d find quite a few folks, including me, who’d be interested!


        August 17, 2016 at 7:49 PM

        • And, of course, there are drones–now that’s a truly fascinating prospect!


          August 17, 2016 at 7:51 PM

          • Drones could work, but I’m afraid no stationary device would be long enough to reach some of the places where I needed to go for the pictures I conceived but couldn’t take.

            Steve Schwartzman

            August 17, 2016 at 10:08 PM

  7. Nature .. It never ceases to amaze me


    August 17, 2016 at 1:41 PM

  8. It’s been a long time since I’ve thought of or seen the Indiana Dunes, yet in high school, they were the cool place to go. They’re better off without a lot of high schooler interventions, I suspect. There was none of the growth you show where we used to visit. Too many visitors to allow for it, I’m sure.

    Susan Scheid

    August 26, 2016 at 8:50 PM

    • It was pretty obvious, in the form of many fences, that conservationists have been at work here for a good while. Your testimony confirms that they’ve made headway in restoring at least some parts of the dunes.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 26, 2016 at 9:01 PM

      • I’m glad to hear that. They’d never have lasted otherwise, I suspect.

        Susan Scheid

        August 26, 2016 at 9:02 PM

    • I’ll bet you’d enjoy going back for a visit after so many years.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 26, 2016 at 9:01 PM

  9. The contrasting layers of texture and colour in the second shot are appealing. It’s encouraging to see such regeneration occurring.


    September 17, 2016 at 2:20 AM

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