Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Archive for December 2018

Subtleties of fall

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Here are two subtle views of fall from the Riata Trace Pond on the overcast afternoon of November 21st.

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 17, 2018 at 4:48 PM

What hedge apple, horse apple, monkey ball, Osage orange, and mock orange refer to

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The previous post highlighted (and backlighted) the yellow leaves on a tree that botanists call Maclura pomifera. The vernacular names hedge apple, horse apple, monkey ball, Osage orange, and mock orange all refer to the tree’s large and rugged fruits. Today’s photograph shows some that still clung to branches at the Arbor Walk Pond on December 3rd. In case you’re wondering, these fruits aren’t edible, at least not to people. Pit in Fredericksburg reports having seen deer eating them and a squirrel struggling to haul one up a tree; you can read descriptions in his second set of comments on the last post.

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 16, 2018 at 4:37 AM

Osage orange excels at yellow

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On December 1st we inaugurated not only a new month but a new place in nature, the Brushy Creek Trail East in Round Rock. Based on what another walker told me, the first stretch of the trail running east from A.W. Grimes Blvd. has been open only a couple of years. I’ve been extensively photographing nature in my little part of the world for two decades, so I was happy to be taking pictures in a new location.

Probably the most striking fall find along the trail that day was some osage orange trees whose leaves had turned yellow. The fallen leaf shown below had even gotten impaled on a thorn from one of the trees, something you don’t see every day. (Look for the slender northeast-to-southwest shadow and you’ll be able to pick out the thorn.*) I assume the breeze that stayed with us during our walk had earlier done the impaling.

Maclura pomifera, as botanists call this species of tree in the mulberry family, has been known popularly not only as osage orange but also as bois d’arc, bodark, hedge apple, horse apple, monkey ball, bow-wood, yellow-wood, and mock orange. That’s a lot of names for one tree.

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* Just be careful that if you pick out the thorn you don’t dislodge the leaf.

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 14, 2018 at 4:40 PM

Tip-top tuna

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As you probably already knew and recently heard here, compared to the northern United States, Texas is too far south and therefore too warm for a lot of grand fall color. Most of the relatively little we get leans more to yellow and brown than to red. That said, one saturated red we count on seeing as autumn advances each year is that of a ripe tuna. In this case it’s obviously not the word for a fish: Spanish uses tuna to designate the fruit of a prickly pear cactus (Opuntia spp.), and English has increasingly followed suit.

When I made up the post’s title I planned to include only the view from above, above.
Later, for people not familiar with this kind of fruit, I added a view from the side, below.

These pictures come from my neighborhood on November 2nd. The sheen is natural; I didn’t use flash.

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 13, 2018 at 4:58 AM

Softer colors at Stillhouse Hollow

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After leaves have fallen, trees reveal summer-hidden branches and sometimes things within them, like the nest now disclosed here. This bare tree, while neither massive nor colorful like the still-clad oak you saw yesterday, nevertheless appeals in the intricacy of its many slender branches and twigs. Visible beyond it you can make out upper parts of a sycamore tree (Platanus occidentalis) tall enough to catch light from the late-afternoon sun. Though the tree with the nest in it had no leaves left to help with identification, it might have been a cedar elm (Ulmus crassifolia). I have no idea what kind of animal made the nest. Below is an unobstructed view of the sycamore’s browning crown in its own right.

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 11, 2018 at 4:38 AM

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Fall colors at Stillhouse Hollow

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Another source of colorful fall foliage down here is the Texas red oak tree (Quercus buckleyi). Well into the afternoon on November 26th at northwest-central Austin’s little-known Stillhouse Hollow Nature Preserve I aimed upward to record the colors in the leaves of one of those oaks contrasted with the blue of the sky. The network that the many darker branches created appealed to me as well.

While at the preserve I also recorded the shades of magenta in six clusters of American beautyberry fruits (Callicarpa americana) that were in varied stages of drying out.

Click to enlarge.

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 10, 2018 at 4:43 AM

Not many ladies’ tresses orchids this year

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On October 22nd I checked out a site a few miles from home where I look for ladies’ tresses orchids (Spiranthes magnicamporum) in the fall. I didn’t find any. On November 17th at Wild Basin I located exactly two and photographed exactly one. What an exacting fellow I am.

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 8, 2018 at 4:38 AM

Autumnal cedar elms

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Cedar elms (Ulmus crassifolia) produce the most widespread autumnal yellow among native trees in central Texas. Each leaf is small, but a mature tree has a whole lot of them, and in the aggregate the effect can be quite pleasing, as shown above in a picture from Bull Creek District Park on November 26th. Below, from the same outing, you see what I saw as I stood beneath a large cedar elm and aimed a wide-angle lens up and out toward the late-afternoon sun. Notice the many ball mosses (Tillandsia recurvata) at home in the tree.

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 6, 2018 at 4:41 AM

Ageratina havanensis does its thing

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A great floral attractor of insects in the fall is Ageratina havanensis, known as fragrant mist flower, shrubby boneset, and thoroughwort, and apparently in Spanish as the barba de viejo (old man’s beard) that corresponds to the fuzzier stage the inflorescence takes on after it goes to seed.

Click to enlarge.

The insect shown above working these flowers in my neighborhood on November 2nd is a syrphid fly, which you can see gains some protection by mimicking a bee. The stray seeds with silk attached came from the adjacent poverty weed bush that graciously put in an appearance here a couple of weeks ago. Below you’ll find a much larger and more colorful insect that was visiting the flowers, a queen butterfly, Danaus gilippus.

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 4, 2018 at 4:56 AM

Escarpment black cherry tree turned yellow

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Compared to places much further north, central Texas is too warm for a lot of colorful fall foliage. Still, we do get some, and its predominant color is yellow. That’s true for the escarpment black cherry treePrunus serotina var. eximia. We found this specimen at the Doeskin Ranch in Burnet County when we drove out there on November 24th hoping to find some bright autumn leaves. We weren’t disappointed.

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 2, 2018 at 4:24 PM

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