Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Archive for May 2019

More from South Dakota’s Badlands National Park

with 12 comments

On May 31, 2017, I took over 600 photographs at South Dakota’s Badlands National Park. I showed several of them that year and others on the one-year anniversary. Now here are six more pictures of that scenic place.

© 2019 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 31, 2019 at 4:53 AM

A colony of basket-flowers

with 16 comments

Along Pflugerville Parkway on May 26th I found a happy colony of basket-flowers, until recently known to botanists as Centaurea americana and now apparently as Plectocephalus americanus. But what’s in a (scientific) name? Flourishing today, withered and wind-wafted tomorrow.

© 2019 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 30, 2019 at 4:41 AM

Only in a floral fantasy

with 35 comments

Only in a floral fantasy could one of us, as large as we are, ride on something as small as the flower head of a Mexican hat (Ratibida columnifera). Not so for two tiny snails I found on Mexican hats at the intersection of Capital of Texas Highway and RM 2222 on May 21st. Below you see one of them.

The yellow-to-red glow in the background emanates from a firewheel (Gaillardia pulchella).
Horsemints (Monarda citriodora) account for the hints of purple.

© 2019 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 29, 2019 at 4:38 AM

More from Capital of Texas Highway

with 18 comments

The wildflowers were so yummy along Capital of Texas Highway on May 21st that I owe you another look. The purple flowers are horsemints, Monarda citriodora. Most of the others are Indian blankets, Gaillardia pulchella, many of which had already shed their red-and-yellow rays and become little seed-sowing globes.

On May 22nd, wanting to capitalize on the floral bounty, I again photographed along Capital of Texas Highway. The tall plant with the sinuous stalk of buds is downy gaura, Oenothera curtiflora. In contrast, notice that the stalk of the downy gaura plant behind the main one is pretty straight. And how could your eyes not be drawn down the stem of the foremost guara to the bright firewheel at its base?

© 2019 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 28, 2019 at 4:49 AM

May maxed out the wildflowers

with 31 comments

May this year maxed out the wildflowers along Austin’s Capital of Texas Highway, making it temporarily a floral capital in the western hills to balance the granite and limestone one downtown. On the 21st I spent two hours taking pictures in the southwest quadrant of the highway’s intersection with RM 2222. In the first photograph, the purple stacks are horsemints, Monarda citriodora. The flower heads with dark columns and mostly brownish-red rays are Mexican hats, Ratibida columnifera. The round and mostly red flower heads are Gaillardia pulchella, known as firewheels, Indian blankets, and blanketflowers.

The second picture provides a closer look, with Mexican hats coming to the fore. You’ll notice that the amount of yellow in their rays ranges from 100% down to a small fraction; that’s normal variation and doesn’t indicate different species, subspecies, or even varieties.

© 2019 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 26, 2019 at 4:37 PM

Wild onions along Bull Creek

with 41 comments

The last post brought you a picture of a long-jawed orbweaver spider on the stalk of a wild onion, Allium canadense var. canadense, along Bull Creek on April 26th. It occurred to me that I should show you one of the flowering wild onion plants in its own right. How about that looping greenery?

Wild onion leaves are even more elongated than long-jawed orbweaver spiders: hardly wider than a quarter of an inch (7mm) yet as long as 18 inches (46 cm). Below is an abstract take on one of those linear leaves that had yellowed and browned. I don’t remember, may never have known, what created the faint orb below the leaf’s tip. Whatever it was, we can see it as a planet floating in the deep blue and black of cosmic night.

 

And now Pascal, the thinker, the mathematician, comes to mind: “Le silence éternel des ces espaces infinis m’effraie.” “The eternal silence of those infinite spaces frightens me.” That famous line is at the end of this passage from his Pensées, his Thoughts:

 

“Quand je considère la petite durée de la vie, absorbée dans l’éternité précédente et suivante, le petit espace que je remplis, et même que je vois, abîmé dans l’infinie immensité des espaces que j’ignore et qui m’ignorent, je m’effraie et m’étonne de me voir ici plutôt que là, pourquoi à présent plutôt que lors. Qui m’y a mis? Par l’ordre et la conduite de qui ce lieu et ce temps a-t-il été destiné à moi? Memoria hospitis unius diei praetereuntis.

“Pourquoi ma connaissance est-elle bornée? Ma taille? Ma durée à cent ans plutôt qu’à mille ? Quelle raison a eue la nature de me la donner telle, et de choisir ce nombre plutôt qu’un autre, dans l’infinité desquels il n’y a pas plus de raison de choisir l’un que l’autre, rien ne tentant plus que l’autre?

“Combien de royaumes nous ignorent!

“Le silence éternel de ces espaces infinis m’effraie.”

 

“When I consider the shortness of a lifetime, absorbed as it is into the eternity that comes before it and the one that comes after it, the tiny space I take up, and yet that I can see, lost in the infinite immensity of those spaces I know nothing about and that know nothing about me, then I get frightened and bewildered at finding myself here rather than there, and I wonder why now and not some other time. Who put me here? By whose order and whose actions was this place and time destined for me? Memoria hospitis unius diei praetereuntis. (Pascal is quoting from The Book of Wisdom: “The remembrance of a guest of a single day that passes away.”)

“Why is my consciousness limited? My size? The length of my life a hundred years rather than a thousand? What was nature’s reason for making my life like this, and for choosing this number instead of another one, in the infinity of numbers for which there’s no reason to pick one over another, given that none has any more appeal than any other?

“How many realms know nothing about us!”

“The eternal silence of those infinite spaces frightens me.”

 

© 2019 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 25, 2019 at 4:40 AM

Elongated

with 29 comments

Click to enlarge.

While wandering the banks and bed of upper Bull Creek on April 26th I photographed a colony of wild onions (Allium canadense var. canadense), on one stalk of which I found this svelte spider. I later turned to Joe Lapp for an identification and he said it’s an adult male in the genus Tetragnatha, which belongs to the family of long-jawed orbweavers. I hope you’re slack-jawed enough over how stretched out this spider is that you’ll long remember its similarly elongated pastel portrait. (And I hope you will despite the fact that arachnophobia ranks among the most common of all human fears, presumably because various spiders around the world are venomous, even lethally so).

© 2019 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 23, 2019 at 4:13 PM

But it wasn’t just the prairie

with 35 comments

My jaunts to northeast Austin on May 9th and May 12th were making me tie the profusion of Bifora americana to the Blackland Prairie, and the common names prairie bishop and prairie bishop’s weed* reinforced that. Then on May 13th I found myself in the second suburb north-northwest of Austin, Leander, where prairie bishop once again became a hero**, this time on the west side of US 183 in a large field that’s prairie-ish but likely lies too far west to be considered part of the Blackland Prairie.

The Engelmann daisy colony (Engelmannia peristenia) there was probably the best I’ve ever seen. Notice the many firewheels (Gaillardia pulchella) mixed in as well.

Except for a utility crew that had pulled over on the shoulder of the highway a bit ahead of me to do whatever work they’d been sent to do, not one person in the hundreds of other cars that passed by while I was there stopped to enjoy the view. Here’s how the prairie bishop looked in the swale by the side of the highway.

* Don’t confuse our native prairie bishop’s weed with bishop’s weed, Aegopodium podagraria, a species from Eurasia that has become an invasive nuisance in parts of the United States. As Joel E. Holloway notes sarcastically in A Dictionary of Common Wildflowers of Texas & the Southern Great Plains, the name bishop’s weed was “first applied in Scotland because it was almost impossible to get rid of, as it would be to remove a bishop from the church.”

**The Leander in Texas takes its name from Leander “Catfish” Brown, an official of the Austin and Northwestern Railroad Co. in the 1880s. That down-to-earth origin hasn’t deterred the town from playing up the ancient Greek myth of Hero and Leander, even to the point of renaming a road Hero Way. (Public information officer Mike Neu told me that the road’s new name was also intended as a tribute to public service men and women.) Additionally the town of Leander has inspired the clever and alliterative paleontological name Leanderthal Lady.

© 2019 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 22, 2019 at 4:40 AM

Two takes on Texas thistles

with 24 comments

Cirsium texanum; Waters Park Rd. on May 5th.

© 2019 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 20, 2019 at 4:50 PM

Like a drawing

with 18 comments

Unlike some of you, I know nothing about drawing. Even so, when I look at this image I get the impression that it’s a pastel drawing and I seem to see the individual strokes that went into it. That’s what photographing a waterfall at 1/6 of a second can do. The dark protrusion was probably a small root or branch of the sycamore tree (Platanus occidentalis) over whose large roots the creek dropped to form this little waterfall.

I took this picture and plenty of others on April 21st during the same hike along a tributary of Bull Creek that produced the realistic creekscapes you saw last month. If you’d like a more-conventional, still somewhat abstract, and rather busy view of the small waterfall, click the image below.

© 2019 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 19, 2019 at 4:41 AM

%d bloggers like this: