Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Archive for December 2018

A different view along Bull Creek

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The morning of December 19th followed that of the 18th by also coming up misty and with barely any breeze, so out I went for the second morning in a row to take pictures. This time I wandered along trails a few miles from home in the part of the Lower Bull Creek Greenbelt accessed from Winding Ridge Boulevard (a short, straight, narrow road that doesn’t wind along a ridge and isn’t a boulevard). While Austin is hardly known as a scenic nature destination, some places here surprise visitors with their attractiveness, and this is one of them.

The creek itself looked greener that morning than I remembered it, perhaps a consequence of the overcast skies that also kept the bright white band of rock from blowing out the photograph’s highlights. The rock layers are limestone, as I presume is the boulder, a much closer view of which you’ll find below. The Ashe juniper (Juniperus ashei) tree to the left of the boulder in the top photo appears brownish due to myriad tiny cones that are about to release the airborne pollen that afflicts on many people something called cedar fever—cedar being the colloquial misnomer for this juniper, and fever being the colloquial misnomer for the strong allergic reaction that nevertheless doesn’t cause any fever.

Oh, did I mention that Bull Creek looked green?

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman

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Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 21, 2018 at 4:37 AM

A different kind of arc

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Unlike the low arcs of the little bluestem seed heads that appeared here last time, the arc in today’s photograph is tall and wooden and frames the bright red leaves of a young Texas red oak (Quercus buckleyi). Contrasting with the red leaves are those of a greenbrier vine (Smilax spp.) that had climbed up not only onto the young oak but also into the taller bare trees on both sides of it. I photographed this pleasant landscape along the Brushy Creek Trail East in Round Rock on December 2nd. Below is another oak I looked up to about 20 minutes earlier, when we’d just begun to follow that section of the trail.

Click to enlarge.

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 20, 2018 at 4:44 AM

Arc, the here-old grasses swing

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In addition to the bushy bluestem grass that’s a delight here in the fall, little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium) also has its autumn appeal. On the afternoon of December 1st I stopped at an undeveloped lot on the corner of Heatherwilde Blvd. and Yellow Sage St. in Pflugerville to photograph the backlit clump of little bluestem you see above. The wind kept blowing the normally upright stalks into arcs that I was able to record unblurred before they sprang back up by setting my camera’s shutter speed to 1/1000 of a second.

Five days earlier I’d gotten down in a ditch along Spicewood Springs Rd. so I could aim up into a clear blue sky while also portraying some little bluestem seed heads forming arcs in the breeze. That time 1/500 of a second sufficed. If you’re reminded of Hokusai’s Great Wave off Kanagawa, so am I.

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 19, 2018 at 4:45 AM

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

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