Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Archive for March 2018

When red precedes white

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A few days ago Austin got some rain, which people here appreciated because until then we’d dropped to some five inches below average for the year so far. The rain got me thinking about rain-lilies, Cooperia pedunculata, and yesterday I found a few whose flower stalks had poked up about an inch above the ground. Thanks to the magic of a macro lens, what you’re seeing here is therefore much larger than life. Another discrepancy is that although rain-lilies are known for their graceful white flowers, this picture shows that the buds start out mostly reddish.

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman

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Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 31, 2018 at 4:47 AM

Pink and blue

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Did you know that as recently as the first part of the 20th century people in the United States took pink to be the appropriate color for boys and blue the appropriate color for girls?

For aeons before then, firm against all sociological winds, the pink flowers of the Mexican buckeye tree (Ungnadia speciosa) had been standing out against blue skies on sunny days. They’ve kept doing so since then, as they did on March 14th at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, and they’ll keep on doing so for aeons to come.

In contrast, or you might say un-contrast, here’s a picture of Mexican buckeye flowers on the same tree but with no blue showing at all:

UPDATE. When I did exact Google searches for “against all sociological winds” and “against sociological winds” I got no hits, but I did get 160 hits for “sociological winds.”

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 29, 2018 at 4:49 AM

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Now you don’t see it, now you do

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This sawtooth-edged plant is sotol (Dasylirion wheeleri). If you don’t see what else caught people’s attention at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center on March 14th, you’re welcome to take more time looking. If you still don’t see it, or if you want more information about it, click to enlarge the explanation on the blackboard below.

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 27, 2018 at 4:37 AM

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When purple is white

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Several times over the years that these posts have been appearing I’ve pointed out that purple flowers seem more disposed than those of other colors to produce naturally occurring white variants. That was clearly the case with some spiderworts (Tradescantia spp.) that caught my attention at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center on March 14th. You can see residual traces of purple in those flowers.

Two years ago you saw a largely white variant of a bluebonnet. (Most bluebonnets strike me as purple rather than blue.)

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 25, 2018 at 4:38 AM

Olive or juniper, take your pick

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Callophrys gryneus is known as an olive hairstreak or juniper hairstreak butterfly. I photographed this one at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center on March 14th. The plant is baby blue-eyes (Nemophila phacelioides). Notice the spiral at the tip of the opening bud near the right edge of the picture. If you’d like a much closer look at the butterfly and the flower it’s on, click the excerpt below to zoom in.

UPDATE on the previous post, which dealt with the strange events involving Josiah Wilbarger: On the website of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission I confirmed the surprising identity of the person who did the illustrations for Indian Depredations, including the woodcut of Wilbarger getting scalped. The artist was “T.J. Owen, better known as the author William Sydney Porter (O. Henry).”

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 23, 2018 at 4:46 AM

Bombs and blooms: strange connections

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Some of you have heard about the bombings in Austin over the last three weeks. This morning I turned on the local television news channel and learned that a little while earlier the bomber had blown himself up when police closed in on him in Round Rock, a large suburb bordering Austin on the north. Now investigators were apparently searching the house in the adjacent town of Pflugerville where the bomber lived. Police had thrown up a cordon to keep people from getting closer than a couple of blocks away, so the television station’s crew couldn’t approach the house. They did the best they could and showed a long shot, in which I made out a street sign at an intersection close to the bomber’s house: on the sign I read the name Wilbarger.

Wilbarger! In a 2012 post, which happened to appear during this very week in March, I presented the true and seemingly supernatural story of Josiah Wilbarger. After six years I see no harm in telling this marvelous story again, so I’ve copied it below with its original title. By further coincidence, I was already planning to go out today in quest of flowering huisache trees, which was the initial subject of the 2012 post.

UPDATE. On the website of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission I confirmed the surprising identity of the person who illustrated Indian Depredations: “T.J. Owen, better known as the author William Sydney Porter (O. Henry).”

“Survival”

Yesterday’s post told you about a venerable huisache tree, Acacia farnesiana, that I used to enjoy visiting and photographing, but that I found out on March 23 had recently been destroyed to make way for a new building. That tree was growing close to a creek in northeast Austin called Tannehill Branch, which continues under the adjacent street and forms the northern boundary of Bartholomew Park. The creek also nurtures half a dozen well-established huisaches growing along it. Those trees offered—and being in a park will continue to offer—some consolation for the destroyed huisache; I spent the better part of an hour taking photographs of them, including this one in which the nearest branches lean forward and in so doing create a ring of flowers surrounding the center of the tree:

This location on Tannehill Branch is close to the spot where one of the strangest events ever recorded in Texas history took place. It has nothing to do with plants or photography—the picture above has given you your daily dose of those things—but it’s such an unusual and compelling story that I’ll include it here for those of you who would like to keep reading; just be aware that you may find some of the details disturbing. The following account of what happened is from the 1890 edition of an 1888 book with a long title (as was common back then): Indian depredations in Texas : reliable accounts of battles, wars, adventures, forays, murders, massacres, etc., together with biographical sketches of many of the most noted Indian fighters and frontiersmen of Texas. The author was John Wesley Wilbarger, a brother of the Josiah Wilbarger described in the account. The Hornsby mentioned in the first sentence was Reuben Hornsby, one of the first Anglo settlers in what is now Austin; Hornsby Bend along the Colorado River near Austin’s airport was named after him.

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 21, 2018 at 2:00 PM

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The end of winter

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Today, March 20th, marks the official end of winter this year. Nature in Austin hadn’t waited that long. The photograph above, taken six days ago at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, shows a possumhaw tree (Ilex decidua) that had largely greened out while still densely laden with the bright red fruits it wore all winter. A clear blue sky pleasantly set off the other two colors. Aiming upward near midday let sunlight transluce the new leaves.

(Not long ago you saw a landscape view from Valentine’s Day showing a possumhaw in its winter form, which is to say totally leafless.)

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 20, 2018 at 4:45 AM

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