Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Every school should have grounds that look this good

with 41 comments

When I showed you the grounds of Cedar Ridge High School in Round Rock last spring, the bluebonnets (Lupinus texensis) had done their thing but the huisache trees (Vachellia farnesiana) had not. When I returned on April 4th this year, both were in their flowering prime.

Unlike the huisache surrounded by bluebonnets that I found near Poteet two weeks earlier, which was far away in a pasture made inaccessible by barbed wire, here I could wander freely (while stepping carefully among the bluebonnets) to get close and try out varied compositions. Below is one such. Note the white bluebonnet at the bottom. Unfortunately I can’t show you the combined aromas of bluebonnets and huisache blossoms.

I called the school to ask how the property came to look so good. The person who answered the phone said that the bluebonnets on one side of the entry road had always been there, whereas people replanted the ones on the other side after construction of the auditorium messed up that part of the colony.

© 2019 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 11, 2019 at 4:48 AM

41 Responses

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  1. wonderful


    April 11, 2019 at 5:03 AM

  2. Another of Steve’s posts about Austin flowers. This time bluebonnets and huisache (pron. WHEE-saach). He ain’t kidding about the aroma!


    Jenny Meadows

    April 11, 2019 at 6:21 AM

    • I’m happy that this brought back memories (olfactory memories) for you. As many things as New Zealand has over Texas, wildflowers isn’t one of them.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 11, 2019 at 6:33 AM

  3. Looks fantastic!


    April 11, 2019 at 6:57 AM

  4. Good for them. If the students grow up seeing beauty maybe they’ll be inspired to create in the world later.


    April 11, 2019 at 9:46 AM

    • Yes, good for them, and of course good for photo-wandering me. Even if the kids aren’t inspired to create, I sure am. I’d already been further north that day and was on my way toward home when I suddenly remembered about the school and thought I’d zip by and see how things looked this year.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 11, 2019 at 10:57 AM

  5. Bluebonnets are, of course, always gorgeous, but it seems to me the huisache has been especially lovely this year. Am I imagining that?


    April 11, 2019 at 2:49 PM

    • No, you’re not imagining it; this has been a good year for huisache. On our trips below San Antonio we saw a slew of them flowering away. In contrast, there have been years when the huisaches I keep an eye on in northwest Austin haven’t flowered at all.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 11, 2019 at 2:56 PM

  6. I love the idea of them always having been there.


    April 11, 2019 at 4:45 PM

    • Me too. I was tempted to put quotation marks around “always” because there’s no way to know how far back the bluebonnets go at that site. Accounts from the 1800s make clear, though, that Texas was much more of a wildflower springtime paradise back then than now.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 11, 2019 at 4:48 PM

      • Now that’s hard to imagine, especially after seeing your crop of pictures this year.


        April 11, 2019 at 4:51 PM

        • The wildflowers may not have been denser than the best we see today, like some of the ones I’ve been showing, but they covered much larger tracts of land that have since been lost to agriculture, ranching, towns, roads, etc. I remember one 19th-century account by a guy who said he could ride his horse from morning till night and never be out of sight of wildflowers.

          Steve Schwartzman

          April 11, 2019 at 4:59 PM

  7. I don’t think any schools around here have landscapes like those except, and I’ll have to check, our UMass agricultural college. There are nice plantings there, but I doubt they have dedicated that kind of space.

    Steve Gingold

    April 11, 2019 at 5:00 PM

    • At an agricultural college it would be appropriate, but a public high school definitely surprises me.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 11, 2019 at 5:04 PM

  8. I am conjuring the associated fragrance.


    April 11, 2019 at 9:41 PM

    • I didn’t know you have magical sensory powers. Good for you.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 12, 2019 at 7:21 AM

      • One never knows until one tries. 🙂


        April 12, 2019 at 7:53 PM

        • Speaking of which, until one tries and finds the etymology of try, it’s not obvious that that verb is the root in triage:


          Steve Schwartzman

          April 12, 2019 at 9:57 PM

          • And unless one tries to find the etymology of etymology, one might wonder what in the world we are talking about.



            April 13, 2019 at 10:19 AM

            • I’ve occasionally seen people confuse etymology with entomology.

              Steve Schwartzman

              April 13, 2019 at 11:15 AM

              • I have actually confused those terms myself, Steve. I have to briefly pause and think before I utter one of those words to make sure I picked the right one. They sound very similar.


                April 13, 2019 at 8:58 PM

                • They do sound similar, no question. The Greeks coined the term entomon from the words for ‘in’ and ‘cut’ because the creatures in question have a body that’s cut into distinct parts. The Romans then translated the Greek term into insectum, using Latin roots to convey the same semantics.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  April 13, 2019 at 10:33 PM

                • I learned something new again today, Steve, thanks to you. I recognize the roots of the words. Tomograpy, for example, is derived from the Greek noun tomos (cut/slice), and section is derived from the Latin verb secare (to cut). It’s amazing how that works.


                  April 15, 2019 at 8:51 PM

                • The technical term for that process is a loan translation, also known as a calque:


                  My fantasy is to have etymology play a role in elementary and secondary education. I was tempted to say “a bigger role,” except it currently plays none at all. It would make sense to little children for a teacher to explain that we call a certain kind of little creature an insect because its body is in sect-ions.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  April 15, 2019 at 9:01 PM

                • The word insect offers the perfect opportunity to explain etymology and entomology in one fell swoop! 🐜


                  April 15, 2019 at 10:29 PM

                • Well said.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  April 16, 2019 at 5:22 AM

  9. In both photos, it looks as though the huisache are putting on leaves from the bottom rather than from the top, and that the upper branches still have only the flowers. The gradations in color are pleasing. In spring, we ought to change the old cautionary verse to “Blue and yellow, please a fellow.” Or a girl, too, for that matter.

    This has been the best year for huisache I’ve ever experienced. When I took Alternate 90 and an assortment of back roads over to Gonzalez, and then dropped down to Yoakum, Edna, and such on my way home, there was no end to the golden haze.

    That lone little white bluebonnet tickled me. I found a few in Rockport, which delighted me no end.


    April 12, 2019 at 5:39 PM

    • That’s an interesting observation about the huisache foliage seemingly beginning to develop at the bottom in these two trees. I wonder how general that is. And yes, this has been an excellent year for huisache blossoms. In our four trips south of Austin this season, we also saw tons of them in full bloom. Finding one free and clear of human artifacts is another story, photographically speaking. To take the first picture, I had to stand in just the right place to block out poles, wires, and other junk. The second picture was easier because of its limited scope.

      I’ve not found white bluebonnets to be all that rare. As you say, you saw some in Rockport. There was another white one on the high school grounds that I could’ve stopped to take a closeup of but I was much more eager to combine the bluebonnet colony with the densely flowering huisaches, a combination I see much less often.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 12, 2019 at 10:08 PM

  10. Bluebonnets are fragrant?!


    April 16, 2019 at 1:35 AM

    • Indeed they are, though not so much individually as en masse. Fortunately, places remain where large colonies form, like the one shown here.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 16, 2019 at 5:24 AM

      • Seriously, I never noticed that before. I don’t see them in big fields either. Sky lupine sometimes covers large areas, but not densely.


        April 18, 2019 at 12:39 AM

        • The density, expanse, and fragrance of the best colonies make Texas bluebonnets such a big deal here. I hope you’ll get to experience them one of these springs.

          Steve Schwartzman

          April 18, 2019 at 5:54 AM

          • I do intend to experience more of what is out there, even if I never get to see the bluebonnets. I am intent on finding one of the species of Indian paintbrush however.


            April 19, 2019 at 10:15 PM

            • I remember you mentioning never having seen any of the paintbrushes. Given how many species there are and how they range over so much of the country, I’m pretty sure you’ll see one if you do some springtime traveling.

              Steve Schwartzman

              April 20, 2019 at 5:48 AM

              • I will need to look for it instead of just ignoring the wildflowers. For all I know, it could have been one of those many wildflowers that grow locally that I ignore.


                April 21, 2019 at 7:59 PM

  11. You are right … every school should! 🙂


    April 17, 2019 at 2:32 PM

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