Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Not many people at Niagara Falls

with 38 comments

Okay, so this post’s title is misleading; in fact hordes of tourists were at Niagara Falls when we visited on July 25th. Nevertheless, not many people at Niagara Falls photograph the plants there, but you could count on me to get a few botanical pictures. The first one shows swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) and yarrow (Achillea millefolium). In the second photo you’re seeing fruit clusters on a staghorn sumac (Rhus typhina).

Thanks to horticulturalists at the New York State Parks Department for identifying the species of the milkweed and the sumac. I didn’t ask them to try to figure out the identity of the tree whose remains you see standing below; perhaps it was another sumac.

© 2019 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 12, 2019 at 4:36 AM

38 Responses

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  1. what a contrast


    October 12, 2019 at 5:07 AM

  2. It’s fun to see the plants in front of the water like that. Each of the plants you show are fairly robust, yet in front of the falls they look delicate.


    October 12, 2019 at 7:59 AM

    • I like your analysis. In several places near the falls I saw spikes of pretty magenta wildflowers, and my immediate thought was that they were probably too pretty to be native. Unfortunately my intuition turned out to be right.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 12, 2019 at 8:06 AM

      • Were they loosestrife? It is a very pretty plant. It nearly swallowed all of our wetlands and small lakes here in the early 90’s but, for once, a human intervention seems to have worked. They found a beetle from where it is native that will ONLY eat that plant, and released it in high numbers here in Lake County. I don’t know where else but, insects being as they are, I’m assuming they spread to wherever the dreaded loosestrife grows. I’m happy to report that while you will still see the occasional loosestrife plant, you will generally also see the beetle and we got our wetland back. Now we rejoice that we can say, “Oh , look at the pretty flowers!” and not cringe.


        October 12, 2019 at 8:14 AM

        • You guessed it: the flowers were Lythrum salicaria, purple loosestrife. Perhaps those killer beetles haven’t made it to Niagara Falls yet. I’m glad to hear they did the job in your area and you now have little strife with your invasive loosestrife. We have a species in Austin that’s fortunately native here:


          Steve Schwartzman

          October 12, 2019 at 8:26 AM

          • Beautiful. We do have 3 native species as well. One of the concerns was whether the beetle would eat those too, so scientists did intense studies to look at that. They found that the beetle would starve to death before it would eat other loosestrife species. Now, of course, things are always evolving so that could change. So far so good, and we are glad to be without strife 🙂


            October 12, 2019 at 8:55 AM

            • Native English speaker though I am, I made it through a big part of my life before I realized that strife and strive are different forms of the same word.

              Steve Schwartzman

              October 12, 2019 at 9:38 AM

              • Hm, I suppose that makes sense, now that you point it out, but I wouldn’t ever have made the connection. Their use is so completely different, in my mind. Although I can see that obsessive striving can lead to strife.


                October 14, 2019 at 8:29 AM

                • This is one more instance of something in our native language that isn’t apparent until it’s pointed out. Sometimes a foreigner can see one of these connections better than a native. You can compare the origins of strive and strife at:



                  Steve Schwartzman

                  October 14, 2019 at 1:44 PM

                • Our language is so rich from words that we’ve incorporated but it can be bewildering.


                  October 15, 2019 at 9:32 AM

                • Bewildering at times, but worth looking into. The occasional insights that come are welcome guests.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  October 15, 2019 at 11:30 AM

                • They are.


                  October 15, 2019 at 12:23 PM

                • We watch a show that takes place in Australia, and I’ve noticed they use “strife” quite often, while I almost never hear it used here.


                  October 15, 2019 at 9:34 AM

                • Word frequency does indeed vary from place to place. For example, I get the impression that shall gets used a lot more in Britain than here, where it’s becoming rare.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  October 15, 2019 at 11:33 AM

                • It’s true. It sounds a bit stuffy if used here.


                  October 15, 2019 at 12:23 PM

  3. That might be a tree in the last photo. On the other hand, it might be the finger of a visitor who waited almost too long to make the trip to the Falls. The first thought that crossed my mind when I saw it was “that’s a really bony finger,” and of course that led me to this. I’m still laughing.


    October 12, 2019 at 9:09 AM

    • That would have to be a very long and bony finger indeed. No digital likeness had crossed my mind, and not until I followed your link had I ever heard the Hoyt Axton song. In contrast, I remember when Hoyt Wilhelm pitched for the New York Giants.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 12, 2019 at 9:46 AM

    • Love that song.

      Steve Gingold

      October 14, 2019 at 3:29 AM

  4. Humble and delicate wildflowers against the backdrop of the mighty Niagara Falls, that leaves me with a powerful impression, Steve.

    Peter Klopp

    October 12, 2019 at 9:15 AM

    • I’m glad to hear it, Peter. The grandeur of the falls monopolizes most people’s attention, but looking at some other parts of nature there is also worthwhile.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 12, 2019 at 9:49 AM

  5. This is a great idea, showcasing the often-overlooked plants, on the overlooks!
    Loosestrife is pretty, but the invasive type was getting out of hand, I’m glad they seem to have checked it. Montezuma, the huge swamp refuge near my hometown, was being engulfed a few years ago, but looks much more balanced, the last time I was there.

    Robert Parker

    October 12, 2019 at 10:55 AM

    • I only wish I’d seen more native plants there. Perhaps if I’d spent more time looking for them I would have found others, but like everyone else I devoted most of my attention to the falls (and, as you’ve seen, tried to portray them in unique ways). It’s good to hear that authorities got the invasive loosestrife under control at Montezuma. Although we drove through it on US 20 we didn’t stop, as we were headed toward friends near Moravia. The one and only time I went into the Montezuma refuge was in 1971.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 12, 2019 at 11:25 AM

  6. Beautiful with the falls in the background. And I do indeed remember the Hoyt Axton song.

    Michael Scandling

    October 12, 2019 at 11:07 AM

  7. Those trees have beautiful fall foliage now, Steve. But if you come back to get more photos, bring a jacket. A warm jacket!


    October 12, 2019 at 1:04 PM

    • It would be ideal to revisit some of the places from our trip now that fall foliage is out. Unfortunately we won’t be able to do that this year.

      Even down here the temperature dropped yesterday to 45°—after hitting the mid-90s the previous afternoon. The forecast says we’ll go back up to 90° in a few days.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 12, 2019 at 1:08 PM

  8. The fact that you are still posting tells me that you were not one of those stupid tourists willing to risk his life for a great photo, Steve. I am glad!


    October 12, 2019 at 3:32 PM

    • I’m glad to still be here, too. It seems like increasingly many people die while trying to take selfies in dangerous places. In the process of taking a picture I get only so close to the edge and no further.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 12, 2019 at 3:41 PM

  9. I’m sure you’d have provoked a few smiles if you had asked them to identify the tree. The British would think Branchy McBranchFace might be appropriate.


    October 12, 2019 at 10:11 PM

  10. As you might imagine, I was immediately attracted by your title. I haven’t been to Niagara Falls but I am sure all the people drawn there would be a hindrance to good nature photography.

    Steve Gingold

    October 14, 2019 at 3:30 AM

    • Good, I’m glad the misleading title drew you in. You’re right that the hordes of people sometimes made it hard for me to do what I wanted, photographically speaking. You’ve also seen in recent posts that I was able to get past that and make some effective abstractions of the falls.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 14, 2019 at 7:39 AM

  11. 🙂 Good for you, I love the repeating rhythms in the Asclepias and waterfall image – terrific! (I used to see that milkweed in fields sometimes when I lived in the northeast – it’s a nice one.)


    October 14, 2019 at 6:24 PM

    • Thanks. You’ve made me realize there are three sets of curves: the falls, the milkweed, and the yarrow.

      I remember we had milkweed in “vacant” lots on Long Island when I was a kid but I don’t know what species it was.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 14, 2019 at 6:55 PM

  12. The falls created a perfect backdrop for the flowers!


    October 15, 2019 at 8:09 PM

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