Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

When red precedes white

with 45 comments

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

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 31, 2018 at 4:47 AM

45 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. New life emerging!! Great macro, Steve!


    March 31, 2018 at 5:38 AM

  2. I feel that if I look at this long enough it will burst open in front of me; it’s full of life.


    March 31, 2018 at 6:55 AM

    • I hope you kept a safe distance from your laptop’s screen.

      As rapidly as each rain-lily stalk comes up and opens its one flower, that’s how quickly the flower then fades. It all happens in a week.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 31, 2018 at 10:31 AM

  3. Apparently subtext is quite the thing in literary criticism these days, but your description of this bud suggests the possibility of subimages, too. As soon as I read that the bud “had poked up about an inch above the ground,” I knew what would have been required to get the photo, and grinned.

    It’s lovely, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen one at that stage. By the time I notice them, they’re at least inches taller, and the red is less pronounced. I did find another example of red preceding white in the hill country, which I’ll include in a little post about my trip around the Willow City loop.


    March 31, 2018 at 8:25 AM

    • I’m not sure I’d ever seen a rain-lily flower stalk at such an early stage, either, and that’s why I’m glad I went out wandering on the far side of my neighborhood yesterday. I think I saw four of these little columns. I planned to go back today but the weather is murky.

      As for the technique needed to photograph something that’s only an inch above ground, I always carry a foam mat so I can sit or lie down with some (but not complete) protection.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 31, 2018 at 10:39 AM

    • And yeah, subtext is a common trope in academic circles. So, alas, is the Holy Trinity of Race, Class, and Gender.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 31, 2018 at 11:18 AM

  4. I like this macro shot, I would never have guessed just how small. We need a wordsmith to coin something nicer-sounding than “worm’s-eye view.” You could invent it, and get in on the ground floor for the next Webster’s update.

    Robert Parker

    March 31, 2018 at 8:35 AM

    • My botanist friend says we’re belly-botanizing when we get down at eye-level with a plant. I quite like that 🙂


      March 31, 2018 at 8:44 AM

    • Hmm. I’ll have to see what phrase might come to mind. If a good one does, I’ll let you know.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 31, 2018 at 11:04 AM

    • It just occurred to me that “getting in on the ground floor” might itself be put to work in a new sense.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 31, 2018 at 4:17 PM

      • Pretty good! A well-grounded proposal.
        It’s funny that we just have a “bird’s eye view”and a “worm’s eye view,” and nothing in-between

        Robert Parker

        March 31, 2018 at 5:55 PM

        • That’s a good observation. You can start referring to “a person’s eye view,” though you may have to distinguish among toddlers, children, and adults.

          Steve Schwartzman

          March 31, 2018 at 9:56 PM

          • There’s a “thousand-yard stare,” but that’s indicative of a mental state, not height

            Robert Parker

            April 1, 2018 at 10:01 AM

            • I hadn’t heard of that expression. I see now that it dates back to World War II:


              Steve Schwartzman

              April 1, 2018 at 10:57 AM

              • I originally heard it used by one of my grandfathers, who was in the Army, and I’ve almost always seen it in reference to veterans and PTSD
                I’m still thinking about the term for our viewpoint, not being worms or birds, I guess it can just be included in the broad grouping of “human scale”

                Robert Parker

                April 1, 2018 at 11:08 AM

                • And with that, the scales have fallen from my eyes.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  April 1, 2018 at 12:59 PM

                • 🙂 Glad I weighed in with that comment, then.
                  And please remember to always wear safety goggles when you clean fish!

                  Robert Parker

                  April 1, 2018 at 1:23 PM

                • It’s trendy for people to talk about a business being scalable. Maybe they should just buy a bunch of fish.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  April 1, 2018 at 7:26 PM

  5. Nice Macro shot! I would not have guessed it was that small! Is this think Big on Small or think Small for Big results?

    Reed Andariese

    March 31, 2018 at 3:49 PM

    • I’m not sure how to classify it. Close-ups are what I’ve done the most of in my nature photography over the past two decades. One reason is that I can do close-ups even in the middle of the day, when landscape photographers avoid the harshness of the light. That’s a big advantage.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 31, 2018 at 4:07 PM

  6. The ‘Akebono’ cherry blooms with pink buds that open very pale pink that fades almost to white. I think I would prefer them to be straight white, but I can not argue. As you know, they are spectacular.


    March 31, 2018 at 4:55 PM

    • Actually, I didn’t know, because almost all my botanical knowledge is about native plants in central Texas. I looked it up and found this:


      We do have a native cherry species here:


      Steve Schwartzman

      March 31, 2018 at 9:50 PM

      • Oh yes, there might be a few obscure species of native cherry there as well. Some were used as understock for fruiting cherry. While in Oklahoma, I was flipping out over the native flora there. The persimmons were rad. I read about another one that makes small inedible fruits, but would not have been as interested in that one. So much of the native flora that Texans take for granted is fascinating to those of us who have never seen it growing wild before. Even the Eastern red cedar was rad!


        March 31, 2018 at 9:52 PM

        • You’re right that Texas has a great number of native species. Travis county alone, where Austin is, may have 800. That includes the eastern red cedar (which is a juniper), along with the much more common Ashe juniper. There’s also a native persimmon here:


          Steve Schwartzman

          March 31, 2018 at 10:17 PM

          • Yes, that is the one that . . . I was not so interested in. (Okay, maybe I should have found a more polite way of saying that.) I met the common American persimmon when I was there, and could not get enough of it! The Okies thought I was crazy, but I don’t care. We have nothing like it here. Japanese persimmon is excellent too, but it is a completely different animal . . . or fruit.


            March 31, 2018 at 10:23 PM

            • I don’t think I’ve ever had any of our native persimmon fruit, but I find the peeling bark visually interesting, as you saw in that link.

              Steve Schwartzman

              March 31, 2018 at 10:29 PM

              • Oh, I do not think that the small fruit of that specie is even edible. It is just grown as an ornamental. Those who are familiar with it really liked it. It certainly is prettier than the common American persimmon. The fruit was great, but the trees are not much to look at.


                March 31, 2018 at 10:38 PM

      • Prunus serotina is the black cherry that is used for flavoring! In some regions, the wood is used for furniture. Related species grow in New England and Oregon, and probably all over the place (except for California).


        March 31, 2018 at 9:54 PM

        • It’s interesting that the genus Prunus includes almonds, peaches, plums, apricots, and cherries.

          Steve Schwartzman

          March 31, 2018 at 10:20 PM

          • Oh my! I am a native of the Santa Clara Valley. I grew up with fruits and nuts. (There is no need for you to comment on that.) Apples and pears grew on the perimeter and up into the mountains, and walnuts were mixed in a bit; but almost everything else here was in the Prunus genus! Almonds sort of stood out because people do not understand how a nut can be related to fruit. Apricots were the main crop in our region, Prunes were the main crop in Campbell. Cherries were common in Sunnyvale. There were quite a few canning peaches in Los Gatos, but they did not last into modern history like the others.


            March 31, 2018 at 10:27 PM

            • Then you’re indeed steeped in Prunus. You may or may not know that peaches are a big crop in the area near Fredericksburg, Texas, beginning about an hour and a quarter west of Austin:


              Steve Schwartzman

              March 31, 2018 at 10:35 PM

              • I would expect more peaches in that area than in this area. Peaches did not last long here. I do not know why they were grown at all. So much of the fruit that was grown here was for drying because it was so remote from consumers in the rest of the country. Peache orchards were planted about the same time the canneries were developed, but the peach orchards were some of the first to be displaced by urban sprawl back before even old people can remember. My grandparents can remember them, but my Pa’s generation remembers only the remnants of peach orchards. Two of the buildings downtown were originally old cannery buildings, and one, where my favorite restaurant is, canned peaches.


                March 31, 2018 at 10:44 PM

  7. Very impressive!!


    March 31, 2018 at 8:13 PM

  8. […] The previous post showed a close view from two days ago of a reddish rain-lily stalk (Cooperia pedunculata) barely poking above the ground. This morning I went back to the same place in my neighborhood and found some of the rain-lilies had progressed to the stage shown here: this flower stalk had risen to its full height, in the process pushing through and casting aside its maroon sheath in the way that a rocket launched into space releases its moorings upon takeoff. The flower had yet to open fully, perhaps held back by the overcast sky. […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: