Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography


with 43 comments

Only once every so many years does Austin get a little snow. The night from December 7th into December 8th was one of those onces. Yesterday morning I headed down to Great Hills Park, thinking the frostweed plants (Verbesina virginica) at the edge of the woods on the south side of Floral Park Dr. might have done their ice trick. They hadn’t. Nevertheless, their large leaves were appealingly covered with snow, and so were the narrower leaves of the inland sea oats (Chasmanthium latifolium) that formed a colony around the frostweed.

Clematis drummondi, a vine that has no qualms about covering other plants, found itself covered for a change.

Not everything appeared so subdued in color. The fruits of the yaupon tree (Ilex vomitoria) were hard to miss.

I made my first picture at 7:25. By around 9:00, the sun had gotten high enough in a clear sky that warming patches of light increasingly reached the snow.

Within a few hours, all but the most recondite snow had melted.

© 2017 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 9, 2017 at 4:42 AM

43 Responses

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  1. i love austin and the snow looks beautiful there –


    December 9, 2017 at 4:46 AM

  2. Very picturesque, especially the snow covered yaupon tree.


    December 9, 2017 at 6:51 AM

    • Not much more than a meter outside the window of my computer room are the closest branches of a slender yaupon tree. At this time of year I occasionally see a squirrel pull off and eat some of the little red fruits.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 9, 2017 at 7:39 AM

  3. interesting use of the word “recondite” — almost always used as “esoteric” not “hidden”
    I like that picture, too, with the grasses coated so carefully

    Robert Parker

    December 9, 2017 at 7:04 AM

    • I’ll grant you that’s the least common sense of recondite, which is one reason I was glad I could slip it in. I may have been influenced by an aria in the opera Tosca, “Recondita Armonia.”

      All things considered, grasses proved the most interesting subjects yesterday, given the ways they formed patterns of ice.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 9, 2017 at 8:02 AM

      • I don’t know Italian or opera, but I like the line “Concealed harmony of contrasting beauties”
        My Spanish is getting very very rusty, so the first thought when I saw “recondita armonia” was “reconditioned harmonica” 🙂

        Robert Parker

        December 9, 2017 at 8:08 AM

      • Armonía recóndita, almost identical to Italian

        Robert Parker

        December 9, 2017 at 8:10 AM

        • Right you are. Sometimes the two languages are close enough as to be mutually understandable. I remember overhearing a conversation at a travel agency on Mallorca where the agent spoke in Spanish and the customer in Italian.

          Steve Schwartzman

          December 9, 2017 at 8:32 AM

          • I can see that working, sometimes I can make it out. Where I grew up, you’d sometimes hear Sicilian, and that, I couldn’t make head nor tails out of it.

            Robert Parker

            December 9, 2017 at 8:34 AM

            • Linguistically speaking, Sicilian is distinct enough from Italian to be considered a different Romance language:


              Steve Schwartzman

              December 9, 2017 at 8:58 AM

              • Years ago, one of my grandmothers, who knitted but didn’t really embroider, spent a long time stitching a decorative cushion, with a motto in Italian, something like il tempo è d’oro, but longer. This was a gift for an Italian-American neighbor, but her friend finally had to tell her, she didn’t understand a word of it, coming from Sicily.

                Robert Parker

                December 9, 2017 at 9:23 AM

                • I’m surprised she didn’t understand any of it. I’d have expected enough overlap to have gotten at least some of it.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  December 9, 2017 at 1:59 PM

                • I wonder if she was simply illiterate in both Italian and Sicilian. She was perfectly literate in English, because she worked in a pharmacy.

                  Robert Parker

                  December 9, 2017 at 5:53 PM

                • Seems like we’ll never know.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  December 9, 2017 at 7:50 PM

  4. What lovely images. We were only a couple of degrees warmer than Houston, but it was enough to reduce our snowfall and bring a quicker melt. I don’t think there’s anything prettier than snow covering the landscape. I’m especially fond of the last photo, not only because of the patterns, but also because of the play of light on the snow.


    December 9, 2017 at 8:18 AM

    • I hope the quicker melting didn’t keep you from getting at least a few of the snow pictures you’d hoped for yesterday morning.

      Normally I wouldn’t take, or at least wouldn’t show, a photograph with “hot spots” in it. Here I made an exception because the hot spots told a story about the beginning of the melting of the snow. Almost all of the many other grass pictures I took were in even light and played up the patterns of the sideways-drifting grasses.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 9, 2017 at 8:39 AM

  5. The world looks much the same here this morning 😦 Hopefully it will melt off as soon as yours did. It snowed a bit in all of the places I dream of being besides here, so I guess there was no escaping it. I do like your pictures very much though, especially since I have no intention of going out there!


    December 9, 2017 at 8:21 AM

    • Down here snow is such a luxury that people want it to last longer than the short while it usually does. Up north people are used to snow and get tired of its inconveniences, including the accompanying cold that you had no intention of going out into. As much as I also dislike the cold, I always make an exception here for the rare ice and snow that open the world for photographs.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 9, 2017 at 8:54 AM

  6. We didn’t get much here either, and it was soon gone. But nevertheless it looked fantastic,
    Have a wonderful weekend,


    December 9, 2017 at 10:19 AM

    • I was hoping it would last longer for you out there in your usually slightly cooler area. I’m glad to hear it looked fantastic, even if only for a short time.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 9, 2017 at 1:57 PM

      • We can still hope for more this winter.


        December 9, 2017 at 2:13 PM

        • Let’s hope so, even if the historic odds of a second snow in the same winter are against it. In contrast, more freezes are likely, and that’s all it should take for frostweed to extrude its ice ribbons.

          Steve Schwartzman

          December 9, 2017 at 3:19 PM

  7. Sorry that the frostweed had stagefright, but that image of the yaupon is so nice, especially for a holiday image! i remember well an old friend from louisiana; at age 90 she shared her memories via three little books that i helped her with illustrations.. one was about nature, one about flowers and one about archaeology… she said that the indians of catahoula parish used the yaupon/ilex vomitoria in rituals.. if a young man could drink it without vomiting, he was considered a man, worthy of moving forward!

    Playamart - Zeebra Designs

    December 10, 2017 at 2:33 PM

    • I hope this man, no longer young, is worthy of moving forward even without vomiting. I’ve drunk yaupon tea, which must be milder than ingesting the leaves. People are surprised to learn this species contains caffeine:


      I didn’t mind not finding frostweed ice because that gave me more time to concentrate on the snow that’s so rare here. Every winter for the past four or five years I’ve gotten to photograph frostweed ice, and usually on more than one occasion. All it’ll likely take is a freeze, of which we haven’t yet had any this season.

      After posting the yaupon picture I realized it would have been good for December 25th. Oh well, maybe I’ll post a different snow-covered yaupon picture then.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 10, 2017 at 2:46 PM

      • On a hunch, I searched for ‘guayusa and yaupon’ and found several interesting links.. I thought that the two were branches of the same family tree….


        unless traveling, i drink guayusa daily – when in the ‘oriente’/amazon, i gave the cook in the kitchen five dollars and asked if she’d buy some fresh leaves for me.. ‘are you sure you want five dollars’ worth?’ she asked.. a few days later when she returned from the visit to ‘archidona’ where her father-in-law/shama lived, she brought a huge sack of just picked leaves.. that was in february, and i’ve just run out!!!!!

        Playamart - Zeebra Designs

        December 10, 2017 at 6:35 PM

        • Thanks for that excellent article. I think I’d learned a little about guayusa from your blog but I didn’t remember that it’s an Ilex. I’ve known for years about yerba mate, which is available in Austin, though I don’t believe I ever knew that it’s also an Ilex. One big happy family. We have a couple of yaupons in our yard, so I really should try making a little fresh home-brew tea.

          Steve Schwartzman

          December 10, 2017 at 8:05 PM

  8. I was out of town for the snow. Thanks for capturing it. The yaupon is quite festive🎅

    Mark Walton

    December 11, 2017 at 1:33 PM

    • I wish I could welcome you back to a still-white Austin. Yes, the yaupon is especially festive. Maybe I should’ve held that picture for December 25th.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 11, 2017 at 3:38 PM

  9. Beautiful shots! I especially like the third image.

    Isabel F. Bernaldo de Quirós

    December 11, 2017 at 3:29 PM

    • Thanks, Isabel. You’ve got company in preferring the third image, thanks to the yaupon’s red fruits.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 11, 2017 at 3:40 PM

  10. […] through November. Just two days ago I found a few in the northern suburb of Cedar Park; while the bit of snow we’d had left their ray flowers bedraggled, the plants still stood […]

  11. Hi Steve, would it be ok for me to include the photo of the fruits of the yaupon tree in a Christmas snow post that I’m hoping to do soon, with the usual credit and links back? Pls let me know – thanks!


    December 13, 2017 at 4:00 AM

  12. […] White   |   Blog:   Portraits of […]

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