Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography


with 27 comments

A year ago today we stopped along U.S. 1 near Whiting, Maine, so I could photograph the pleasant scene shown here. Margaret Scheid of the National Park Service told me she’s 85% confident the plants are Rhododendron canadense, known as rhodora.

Years before I’d ever seen this kind of plant, I knew the great poem to which Ralph Waldo Emerson gave that title, and which I’ve copied below.

© 2019 Steven Schwartzman


The Rhodora

On Being Asked, Whence Is the Flower?

In May, when sea-winds pierced our solitudes,
I found the fresh Rhodora in the woods,
Spreading its leafless blooms in a damp nook,
To please the desert and the sluggish brook.
The purple petals, fallen in the pool
Made the black water with their beauty gay;
Here might the red-bird come his plumes to cool,
And court the flower that cheapens his array.
Rhodora! if the sages ask thee why
This charm is wasted on the earth and sky,
Tell them, dear, that if eyes were made for seeing,
Then Beauty is its own excuse for being:
Why thou wert there, O rival of the rose!
I never thought to ask, I never knew:
But, in my simple ignorance, suppose
The self-same Power that brought me there brought you.


If you’d like, you can have more information about the poem.


Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 8, 2019 at 4:44 AM

27 Responses

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  1. To court the flower…….beautiful humility


    June 8, 2019 at 5:21 AM

    • The word court has lots of meanings. The verb comes from the noun, and you can see the sense development in these two consecutive definitions from the 1828 edition of Webster’s Dictionary:

      1. In a general sense, to flatter; to endeavor to please by civilities and address; a use of the word derived from the manners of a court.

      2. To woo; to solicit for marriage.

      “A thousand court you, though they court in vain.”

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 8, 2019 at 7:06 AM

  2. Beauty as its own excuse for being is a wonderful insight, and this is the sort of view that could bring such thoughts to mind. I’ll not see rhodora this morning, but I’ll surely see water lilies, and a few other hidden treasures; I’m off for a return trip to the Watson preserve, where Joe Liggio’s leading a wildflower walk this morning — it ought to be a real treat.


    June 8, 2019 at 6:27 AM

    • You’re right: it ought to be a real treat, because of the plants you’ll see and who’ll be leading the wildflower walk. I met Joe Liggio only once, briefly, when he was at the Wildflower Center in conjunction with his then-new book about the orchids of Texas. I expect we’ll see a post or two from you as a result of today’s encounter.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 8, 2019 at 7:17 AM

  3. A soft carpet leading to the pond. The muted colors make it look painterly. The poem is a perfect match.

    Michael Scandling

    June 8, 2019 at 7:15 AM

  4. Wonderful scene!!

    Isabel F. Bernaldo de Quirós

    June 8, 2019 at 8:38 AM

  5. Superb landscape composition, Steve!

    Peter Klopp

    June 8, 2019 at 9:07 AM

    • I appreciate your enthusiasm, Peter. You’ll be seeing more retrospective pictures from Maine in the days ahead.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 8, 2019 at 9:35 AM

  6. Great. My first encounter with Rhodora was in Great Meadow at Acadia. I saw it from the boardwalk along Hemlock Trail and took off through the woods to see it. Eventually I got close and was knee deep in water. Guess it likes wet feet.

    Steve Gingold

    June 9, 2019 at 2:37 AM

    • It likes wet feet more than we photographers do. I didn’t take my rubber boots along on that trip, so I didn’t intentionally walk into any wet places. Unfortunately on a Nova Scotia beach I accidentally stepped into some mud that was yucky enough and deep enough that I had to leave a pair of shoes behind. At least they were old and already pretty worn out.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 9, 2019 at 5:31 AM

      • Obviously you did have a backup pair. When we go to Acadia we most often stop at LL Bean and occasionally purchase shoes or boots. Won’t need to do that any longer (although we may for the travel break) as one is being constructed nearby as I type. Shouldn’t be too much longer.

        Steve Gingold

        June 9, 2019 at 2:43 PM

        • Yes, I did have a backup pair, which I’m still occasionally wearing. Happy impending LL Bean to you.

          Steve Schwartzman

          June 9, 2019 at 5:41 PM

  7. Is that also the name of the journal of the New England Botanical Club?


    June 9, 2019 at 4:15 PM

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