Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Olive hairstreak butterfly

with 45 comments


During the same September 12th outing along the upper reaches of Bull Creek that brought you the previous picture of prairie agalinis I noticed that some frostweed plants (Verbesina virginica) had begun flowering. My focus in this picture, however, was on the Callophrys gryneus butterfly that was busy on many of those frostweed flowers. The generally docile little butterflies in this species are known as olive hairstreaks or juniper hairstreaks due to the green on their wings.

© 2016 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 24, 2016 at 4:57 AM

45 Responses

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  1. Wow! I’ve got the Nikon 105 for macro work … but images like this make me think that maybe the 200 should be in my wishlist? Wonderfully crisp.

    Pairodox Farm

    September 24, 2016 at 5:21 AM

    • I took this picture with Canon’s 100mm f/2.8 L-series macro. That’s the macro lens I’ve used for the last six years or so. Canon makes a 180mm macro lens, but at 38 ounces I wouldn’t want to wield it because it’s so much heavier than the 22 ounces of the 100mm macro.

      I see online that the 200mm Nikon f/4 macro lens weighs 42 ounces, noticeably more than the 26 ounces of the 105mm lens.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 24, 2016 at 5:42 AM

      • Well … I’ll be darned. Just goes to show that it’s not the lens but rather the photographer behind it that makes for good photography.

        Pairodox Farm

        September 24, 2016 at 5:50 AM

        • Aye, ’tis true. It sure helps, though, to have good equipment. In looking back recently at photographs I took in 2001 and for the next few years, I really wished I’d had then the digital equipment I have now.

          Steve Schwartzman

          September 24, 2016 at 6:05 AM

  2. It’s astonishing how closely the green on the butterfly’s wings mimics the green of the frostweed buds. The bit of green behind the butterfly helps to keep that nice diagonal going, too, along with the parallel between the slope of the flowers and the top edge of the wings. So many details have conspired to make this an exceptionally pleasing image. It’s nice to see the butterfly and its flower so perfectly balanced.


    September 24, 2016 at 5:45 AM

    • Hey, the photographer managed to stay balanced, too, even if he fell for this little butterfly. I can’t recognize many butterfly species at sight, but the olive hairstreak was one of the first I learned. Fortunately nothing else in Austin comes close to resembling it.

      As usual, you’re good at details. I hadn’t paid attention to the green on the frostweed buds, maybe because I’m so used to thinking of them as white.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 24, 2016 at 6:14 AM

  3. Wonderful photograph!


    September 24, 2016 at 6:20 AM

  4. I’ve really enjoyed your photos for several years, including the wit and wisdom of your wordplay. But I don’t understand the description of a generally docile little butterfly. Are there sometimes generally aggressive butterflies? Or does that mean they are usually bold and not quick to flit away from humans?

    Thanks for all the beauty and amazement you’ve shown us all!

    Paul McCormack

    September 24, 2016 at 6:23 AM

    • You’re welcome.

      From my limited experience, I haven’t seen butterflies be aggressive with people, though I’ve seen one butterfly drive away another. What I meant by “docile” was your second suggestion, that olive hairstreaks tend to stay on flowers as they go about their business and not flit away while I get close enough for pictures.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 24, 2016 at 6:33 AM

  5. Wonderful, Steve! I really like the colours and patterns.

    Pete Hillman

    September 24, 2016 at 6:46 AM

  6. Great spotting, too. I’ve never seen a live hairstreak of any ilk. Just beautiful.


    September 24, 2016 at 7:03 AM

  7. Looks like I really must use my macro lens more!
    Have a great weekend,


    September 24, 2016 at 7:08 AM

  8. Gorgeous photo. Well done. 🙂

    Sherry Felix

    September 24, 2016 at 8:33 AM

  9. Wonderful Steve .. 😀


    September 25, 2016 at 1:19 AM

  10. Lovely textures and detail. The olive hairstreak colours/texture remind me of some of the upholstery on my grandmother’s chairs. Yes, really! But the only hair on those chairs was the horsehair stuffing (and it was in, not on.)


    September 25, 2016 at 5:45 AM

    • How pleasant it must be to remember your grandmother’s chairs, and through them your grandmother. I don’t believe I’ve ever (knowingly) sat on a chair stuffed with horsehair.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 25, 2016 at 7:41 AM

      • I don’t know how aware I was of the horsehair in my very young days but I do remember the strange sensation of sitting on the chaise longue ” You have probably encountered a piece of Victorian furniture stuffed this way – it has a telltale ‘crunch’ when you sit down” http://anthonylawrence.com/blog/2015/08/25/why-should-i-choose-horsehair-upholstery/


        September 26, 2016 at 12:12 AM

        • That crunch seems vaguely familiar, so perhaps I have sat on horsehair without realizing it.

          I’d never thought about all the things the article mentions that have served as upholstery.

          Steve Schwartzman

          September 26, 2016 at 6:52 AM

          • Upholsterers certainly made use of many different materials. In my Fiji childhood our mattresses were stuffed with coir fibre, and some furniture was too. The coir mattresses were very comfortable.


            September 26, 2016 at 11:04 PM

            • I asked Eve and wasn’t surprised to find that you and she share a childhood familiarity with coir mattresses.

              Steve Schwartzman

              September 27, 2016 at 8:39 AM

              • Yay! By the way did you ever get the photo of me wearing the shawl which Eve ordered for me?


                September 28, 2016 at 7:46 AM

                • Yes, we did get that picture. Thanks.
                  Eve says that every part of the coconut gets put to use in the Philippines.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  September 28, 2016 at 7:49 AM

                • As it should be. It is an amazing tree.


                  September 28, 2016 at 8:21 AM

  11. This is just so beautiful Steve. It looks like a fresh specimen, too. I wonder whether this is the same species I was asked to find in the Peoria area. The idea was to go up to junipers and give them a little kick to see if these hairstreaks would fly up. The thought was that they were probably gone from the area and indeed, I never did find one.
    On the note of docility, there are some butterflies that will challenge humans or anything else that flies into their territory. Called hill-topping, the males will perch at the top of a hill and wait. They are waiting for females to flutter by, of course, but are quite willing to defend their territory from all comers. We’d see this a lot on the hill prairies around Peoria but not so much around here where it is flatter.


    September 25, 2016 at 8:37 AM

    • It’s always nice when we get to observe (and photograph) a fresh specimen. This species could well be the one you were asked to look for. The map at the bottom of the article I linked to in my text shows the olive hairstreak in your area (as well as much of the rest of the country), but I guess the point of your survey was to see if the butterfly was currently in that place.

      Thanks for your explanation of hill-topping, which I’d never read about.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 25, 2016 at 9:47 AM

      • You’re welcome. It is a delight to be able to share something like that~there aren’t a lot of people in my circle who would find that interesting!


        September 25, 2016 at 10:05 PM

  12. Beautiful butterly! We call members of this family “Zipfelfalter”. “Zipfel” means a leftover, a small tail, as you can see at the border of this butterfly. “Falter” stands for both, butterflies and moths.


    September 26, 2016 at 10:31 AM

    • Thanks for that information. From what I’ve read, those Zipfel serve as false antennae to mislead a predator into thinking the rear is the head, The butterfly can survive a chomp out of its tail but obviously can’t survive the biting off of its head. And with a little cross-language wordplay, we can say that with the loss of just a piece of its tail, the Falter doesn’t falter.

      I see that German Zipf(el) is cognate with English tip. A Zipf by its nature would be small, but German speakers apparently felt the need to add the -el as a diminutive, which then became a permanent part of the word. That then allowed for Zipfelchen, which is etymologically a double diminutive. English also has double and triple diminutives, but more often in the form of separate words, as when someone speaks of “a tiny little bit.”

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 26, 2016 at 10:51 AM

  13. This is the very first shot I’ve seen of one where the Olive was so clearly visible. Beautiful! Thanks for catching it, Steve.


    September 26, 2016 at 12:07 PM

    • Buon pomeriggio, Catalina. Maybe in a past life I was an Italian who had a lot to do with olives.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 26, 2016 at 1:27 PM

  14. Gorgeous capture, Steven.

    Jane Lurie

    September 29, 2016 at 10:49 PM

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