Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Meanwhile, back in Texas, spring has flowered

with 58 comments

On March 14th, five days after returning from a month in New Zealand and still jet-lagged, I felt I had to go out and take a look at spring in Austin. On the strip of land between Arboretum Dr. and Loop 360 I found a bunch of my old floral friends. Of the two shown here, Indian paintbrush (Castilleja indivisa) is in the foreground and a bluebonnet (Lupinus texensis) is behind it. I’ll get back to New Zealand in a few posts, after giving some deference to what’s happening at home.

© 2017 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 16, 2017 at 4:55 AM

58 Responses

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  1. Thank you :). I really needed that! It’s so bright and beautiful, and I can almost feel the sun on my face.


    March 16, 2017 at 5:07 AM

    • You’re welcome. I heard about the late winter storm in the Northeast (make that the Southeast in Canada). One reason I went out photographing two days ago and again yesterday is that the forecast for Austin beginning today predicted cloudy skies, and this morning is indeed overcast.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 16, 2017 at 8:11 AM

      • We were lucky – that storm stayed south of us. However, I am really sick of being cold all the time. I really need Spring!


        March 16, 2017 at 2:39 PM

        • It’s less than a week to the official beginning of spring, so take heart. On the other hand, I remember snow on Easter Sunday in New York in 1970. One reason I moved to Texas in 1976 is the warmer weather.

          Steve Schwartzman

          March 16, 2017 at 3:13 PM

  2. My sentiments exactly~I needed to “feel” the sun on my face as well!


    March 16, 2017 at 7:34 AM

    • Ah, another Northerner. I’ll commiserate with you.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 16, 2017 at 8:16 AM

      • There I was, blithely enjoying 60-degree days all through February, when down we came with a snowy thump.:(


        March 18, 2017 at 7:50 AM

        • 60° in February: that’s a change indeed for such a northern place. I’ll bet you knew it couldn’t last.

          Steve Schwartzman

          March 18, 2017 at 7:59 AM

          • I did, but then I’m an optimist and I thought perhaps global warming was handing Illinois a gift.


            March 19, 2017 at 8:59 AM

            • It was a gift. Perhaps it’ll become a regular one up there the way it is down here. There’s no month in Austin when the temperature doesn’t at least occasionally rise into the 70s. In fact for most months here you can replace 70s with 80s.

              Steve Schwartzman

              March 19, 2017 at 10:01 AM

  3. The strong red and those subtle blues make a lovely photo! looks like there’s been more cold weather up there — any new frostweed ops?!

    • Happy saturated colors to you down there. We spent a month in New Zealand so I’m not up on what the weather in Austin has been until this past week, but I don’t think the temperature got anywhere close to freezing while we were away. That’s another way of saying no frostweed ice. We did, however, see the ice of a glacier in NZ. I’ll add that a lot of the bananas for sale in supermarkets there come from Ecuador.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 16, 2017 at 12:26 PM

      • that’s great to know that the bananas find their way to NZ! there are many varieties here, usually five or ten cents each, depending on where one buys them…

        It’s also nice that New Zealand called you back… that’s what Ecuador kept doing to me until I finally planted my roots here! There’s still so much to see, but that’s a nice problem to have!

        • We probably wouldn’t have gone back so soon after our 2015 visit but Eve’s niece got married on February 11 and Eve and I, as her oldest close relatives, were asked to serve as sponsors.

          The other bananas we saw for sale in NZ were from the Philippines, which Eve was glad to see. Surprisingly, the “kiwi” fruit for sale at this time of year in NZ is all from Italy, apparently because of the different growing seasons.

          Steve Schwartzman

          March 16, 2017 at 3:51 PM

          • how great that you were able to support your niece, with a bonus of seeing more of the flora and fauna.

            ha, kiwi from italy – the world works in funny ways!

            friends here have a dragonfruit farm, and wow when those plants bloom in the night it’s so beautiful .. more like magical…

        • And yes, the Philippines has many varieties of bananas as well. Eve says that the better-tasting ones don’t generally make it to the United States.

          Steve Schwartzman

          March 16, 2017 at 3:53 PM

          • I bought some little bitty chunky bananas yesterday. They’re called ‘oritos’ here and are sweet, very yellow and very firm. Another kind referred to as ‘cuadrados’ I think, have four angular sides and are not very sweet and do well for cooking. I like to dice and simmer them with cinnamon and limon mandarinas, which has a texture and flavor that reminds me of peach cobbler! Pass the helado, por favor?!

            • You never have to ask me more than once to have some helado.
              I’m fond of plátanos baked with honey and sprinkled with cinnamon.

              Steve Schwartzman

              March 22, 2017 at 7:11 AM

              • This morning I’m just finishing guayusa tea brewed with dried stevia, and the platanos with honey and cinnamon sounds like a wonderful way to start the day. I don’t have any ripe ones, but those little orito bananas probably would make a great little orb of banana bread..hmmmm.

                one of the best ‘artisan’ helados on the coast is made from coconut water — so delicious and also good for the body

                • Buen provecho. (I haven’t had occasion to say that to anyone in a long time. It reminds me of my time in Honduras so long ago.)

                  I looked up guayusa and at


                  found that it is “one of three known caffeinated holly trees.” By coincidence, one of the two others is native right here in Texas, the yaupon:


                  Steve Schwartzman

                  March 22, 2017 at 8:01 AM

                • if one eats in a public setting in ecuador, ‘buen provecho’ is heard countless times. ecuadorians are very polite…

                  that surprised me about ‘ilex vomitoria’ as an old timer had told me about the indians’ rituals.. she said if the indian could drink the tea and not vomit, he would be considered a man… maybe they brewed it for long periods and the strong tannins made them feel sick? if i brew guayusa too long -ha forget about it – and drink it on an empty stomach, it makes my stomach a bit sick feeling…

                  guayusa has amazing health benefits, and if i drink too much, i start losing too much weight..

                • Have people marketed guayusa as a way to lose weight? Or maybe the weight loss is particular to you and doesn’t occur with most other people who drink the tea.

                  At an Austin meeting of the Native Plant Society a few years ago I drank some yaupon tea, but not enough for it to live up to the species name vomitoria.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  March 22, 2017 at 8:43 AM

                • i don’t see it marketed for weight loss.. usually just an alternative to coffee and for ‘clarity’ when awakening and remembering dreams… it’s respected as a ritualistic first drink of the day…

                  when i was drinking a lot of guayusa each day – my metabolism was revved and i kept getting leaner to the point of concern; i did a search, and yes, guayusa is connected with weight loss…


                  i prefer guayusa over coffee.. it’s not acidic and one gets the energy without the shakes, so it doesn’t affect a steady hand when painting scientific details…


                • Ah, so dried leaves of more than one sort are getting processed in Colorado. Guayusa yields a different sort of Rocky Mountain high.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  March 22, 2017 at 3:30 PM

                • If demand for guayusa keeps increasing, it can’t be long before people try growing it in other countries, just as the cultivation of tea and coffee have spread to countries far from the original habitats. Experiments may already be well under way.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  March 22, 2017 at 3:39 PM

                • Someone in MIndo pointed out two of my ‘friends’ growing in their gardens… The guayusa trees were about four feet tall and very healty…

                • Good to hear. Are you aware of any successes growing it outside of Ecuador?

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  March 22, 2017 at 8:37 PM

                • a few searches came up with little, but i found an out-of-stock ‘plants for sale’ ….

                  surely there are people cultivating this in other areas….

                • I see that that nursery is in Santa Monica. I wonder what the demand for guayusa plants is there. The fact that they’re out of stock implies that the demand exceeds the supply, but whether there’s too much demand or too little supply, or some combination, isn’t clear.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  March 23, 2017 at 12:20 PM

                • i think that anyone who drinks guayusa would want to try to grow at least one, just for trivia! at the property on the coast are two moringa trees.. one is pruned back every so oftn to easiy get the leaves… the other grows naturally, near a royal poinciana tree, and it’s nice to see it in flower – pale yellow – and then it goes to seed.

                  the seeds did well in the cloud forest during the dry season, but the little seedlings vanished during the rainy sesason!

                • I’ve never heard of a morninga tree, but from the article at


                  I see that it’s native to the Himalayas. I also see sites that are promoting the tree as a miracle plant.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  March 23, 2017 at 4:13 PM

                • sí; its benefits are amazing, though aside from people who are ultra attentive to a super-food diet, the moringa seems to be snubbed by many cultures. someone said they worked in Africa, where moringa grew well, but even though people were hungry, they didn’t like the moringa. it has a strong flavor….

                  many people tell me, ‘i buy powdered moringa that comes from ecuador,’ and they put it in green smoothies….

                  in the yard, it’s very attractive tree…

                • I found a promotional video from a company that sells moringa products to people in the United States. The video is self-serving, but you can see what you think.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  March 24, 2017 at 5:19 AM

                • that’s good that you tried it and had no side effects!

                • It was just a small amount so I could see what it tastes like. I seem to remember it had a smoky taste, most likely from how the leaves were prepared.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  March 22, 2017 at 3:27 PM

  4. That’s a wonderful photo of you and Eve and your niece. Eve’s dress certainly brought back some memories. I had a friend who made homemade notecards by tatting tiny flowers from thread, and then putting them on the cards. She preferred pretty pastel colors, and her flowers looked just like Eve’s.

    The Indian paintbrush is beautiful. I was happy this year to capture a couple of non-traditional images of the flower, which really profits from a view like this. it’s great that you got those crinkle-edged leaves in, too.


    March 16, 2017 at 8:59 PM

    • It’s good to be able to walk in nature here before the chiggers arrive (although a dewberry cane still wanted at me). I went to a place where I’d seen Indian paintbrushes in other years (even once in the winter), and I wasn’t disappointed. We’d also seen some along US 290 coming home from IAH in Houston a week ago but the weather didn’t cooperate and besides, we were too exhausted to stop.

      We took Eve’s dress to a dry cleaner today. He recognized immediately that it’s made of pineapple fibers and said he’d succeeded with similar garments. Later he called us and said he hadn’t noticed the flowers, and that it could be risky to dry clean the dress. Eve will get it back and try to clean it by hand. The barong I was wearing in the photograph was a borrowed one that stayed in New Zealand. And yes, we all look happy.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 16, 2017 at 10:33 PM

  5. […] with the previous image, I had to lie down to take this photograph, given that the small buds were little more than a foot […]

  6. It sure is a wonderful image Steve .. the red just pops against the blue and green 😀


    March 18, 2017 at 7:57 PM

    • That becomes a familiar color combination here at this time of year. I’m looking forward to more.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 18, 2017 at 9:07 PM

  7. Lovely to see the bright spring flowers but the star photo is the one of you and Eve with your niece. As for bananas, I would agree that the best of the bananas grown in the Philippines and Ecuador don’t reach us in NZ. But the kiwifruit grown in Italy are actually very good, and sometimes better tasting than the NZ ones!


    March 22, 2017 at 4:06 AM

  8. Sigh…no blooming anything here… but daffodils are coming soon.

    Steve Gingold

    March 22, 2017 at 4:00 PM

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