Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Archive for December 2016

Winging our way out of 2016

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As we go winging our way out of 2016, here’s a symbol of that from November 3rd at the Piedras Blancas Elephant Seal Rookery in San Simeon, California. I take the bird to be a western gull, Larus occidentalis.

© 2016 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 31, 2016 at 4:45 AM

Manybristle cinchweed flowers

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Neil Frakes:

We’d barely driven inside the boundary of Joshua Tree National Park on November 5th when I stopped and got out to walk around a bit. Almost immediately I began to see little low-growing plants scattered about. Their bright yellow flowers made them stand out against the dull desert floor more than their diminutive size would otherwise have done. Some formed small clusters:

Neil Frakes:

Neil Frakes, Vegetation Branch Chief at the park, later identified (thanks) the flowers as Pectis papposa, known as manybristle cinchweed (or chinchweed). Of this species he wrote: “It doesn’t get any larger than this. One of our more common summer/fall bloomers. When we get a good monsoon, we get yellow carpets of this plant.” No monsoon for me this time, no yellow magic carpet.

© 2016 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 30, 2016 at 4:58 AM

There’s more than Joshua trees in Joshua Tree National Park

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I expected to see Joshua trees in Joshua Tree National Park when we spent much of the day there on November 5. I wasn’t expecting so many conspicuous piles of boulders, which impressed me more than the Joshua trees did.


© 2016 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 29, 2016 at 5:04 AM

A different kind of fluff

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In contrast to the fluff of the snake-cotton from Arizona that appeared in the previous post, behold the fluff I saw yesterday along Misting Falls Trail in my Austin neighborhood. I was driving to the store when I caught sight of a pearl milkweed vine (Matelea reticulata) hanging in some denuded tree branches. Several pods had opened, and as I watched them the breeze occasionally scattered bits of their seed-bearing fluff.

© 2016 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 28, 2016 at 4:53 AM


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Soon after we drove into Arizona from New Mexico along Interstate 10 on October 17, we pulled over at the Texas Canyon rest area, where I was pleased to come across some snake-cotton. When I searched online later I found that two species are native in that area, Froelichia arizonica and Froelichia gracilis. I can’t tell which one this is.

If you want, you can have a look back at the Texas Canyon rest area from our 2014 trip to the Southwest.

You can also review the only other post in which a species of snake-cotton has appeared here.

© 2016 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 27, 2016 at 4:52 AM

Desert mistletoe

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The custom of kissing under mistletoe on Christmas, which some of you may have enjoyed yesterday, became popular in England in the 1700s and has spread to other English-speaking countries. While most Christmas traditions come from countries with cold winters, genera of mistletoe grow in warm climates, too. On our recent trip through the American Southwest, I was surprised at how common desert mistletoe (Phoradendron californicum) is there and how conspicuous its hanging clusters of red fruits are in those dry surroundings. I saw this desert mistletoe in a paloverde tree (Parkinsonia spp.) at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum on November 7th.

And from earlier that morning in Tucson Mountain Park, here’s a closer look at some dense desert mistletoe branches and fruit.


Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 26, 2016 at 5:00 AM

A certain star

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Speaking of a certain star over a certain place on a certain day, here was our own star, the sun, late in the afternoon on October 29th as seen from Grizzly Peak Blvd. looking west out over Berkeley toward San Francisco Bay and the Pacific Ocean.

© 2016 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 25, 2016 at 4:30 AM

Forest green

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Oh, look at the lush green of the forest—the ferns, the mosses, the trees—at Muir Woods National Monument as I experienced it on October 29th. This place is just 12 miles north of San Francisco in a metropolitan area of millions and is therefore one of the most popular nature sites in the country. Unfortunately we ended up having to visit on a Saturday, when the multiple parking lots had filled up early and parked cars lined the country road for half a mile. None of that need trouble you in this tranquil picture.

© 2016 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 24, 2016 at 5:01 AM

A contrast in strata

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Above: Geological strata in Sedona (Arizona) on October 20.

Below: Frostweed ice strata in Austin (Texas) on December 19.


© 2016 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 23, 2016 at 4:49 AM

Saguaro slant

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In today’s picture it’s not the saguaro cacti (Carnegiea gigantea) themselves that slant, but the land on which they grow in Tucson Mountain Park. After yesterday’s close-up of a giant saguaro, I felt you should have an overview showing a dense colony of these giant plants. Back on November 7th I thought this was a good way to begin my photo-taking day.

If you’re interested in the craft of photography, you’ll find that point 18 in About My Techniques applies to this image.

© 2016 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 22, 2016 at 5:09 AM

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