Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

From Muhlenberg to Kulmbacher

with 36 comments

In far north Austin on November 19th I drove into a still-under-construction subdivision that already had fully paved streets with signposts showing their names. On Kulmbacher Drive I parked and walked over to check out a pond. A few dense stands of bare plants that I took to be slenderpod sesbania (Sesbania herbacea) caught my attention, and now they can catch yours. Do you see, as I do, a resemblance to the Muhlenbergia that I’d photographed the previous day? And in case you’re wondering about the many little white dots in the lower half of the picture, they’re asters that were happily flowering their heads off.

The last post told about the Muhlenberg that Muhlenbergia was named for. Kulmbacher in German means a person from Kulmbach. Who the Kulmbacher was or is that the Austin street refers to eludes me. Also eluding me was the egret you see below between two poverty weed bushes.

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 30, 2019 at 4:43 AM

36 Responses

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  1. With the key word “Kulmbacher” the German in me immediately thinks of the beer [and brewery] of that name. 😉


    December 30, 2019 at 8:27 AM

  2. The egret startled me, because it made me adjust my sense of scale. You’re right, it does look similar to the Muhly grass.


    December 30, 2019 at 9:07 AM

    • Happy sense-of-scale adjustment to you. Thanks for confirming the similarity to the gulf muhly.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 30, 2019 at 10:03 AM

      • Yeah and also “happy” sense of proportion to me…we got snowed on during the night. 😦 However we’re supposed to be going right back up to 40 today so I can get back to my delusions of a mild winter.


        December 31, 2019 at 8:21 AM

  3. I do see the similarity. I also see a beautiful abstract.

    Michael Scandling

    December 30, 2019 at 10:53 AM

  4. These images are beautiful, Steve. I love the patterns and textures. The shot with the egret peeking in the corner is terrific.

    Jane Lurie

    December 30, 2019 at 11:56 AM

    • Patterns and textures are a nature photographer’s stock in trade. Sometimes peeking in a corner qualifies, too.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 30, 2019 at 12:52 PM

  5. We could describe the egret as a regret photobomb. Or we could enjoy its inclusion to an already interesting image. All that detail is mesmerizing. I’d guess most any angle would be as interesting as any other. So much in there. The power of current local suggestion makes the water in the first image look like snow.

    Steve Gingold

    December 30, 2019 at 7:04 PM

    • Your egret~regret wordplay is commendable. Your vision of snow is understandable.

      I couldn’t get as close to these plants as I wanted because if I’d gotten any nearer I’d have been standing in mud, so I used my 100–400mm lens. That had the virtue of compressing all those details and making the images more abstract. I ended up taking some 50 pictures from various positions and with different compositions.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 30, 2019 at 8:28 PM

      • I can understand the quantity. A scene like this makes you want to find the best composition and sometimes that takes a lot of experimentation. The compression your 100-400 created is a nice effect. Although for a different reason, a big dip in the land, I used my 100-400 for the rusty rock image the other day. I would suggest packing a pair of knee high Muck boots in the car for times like that.

        Steve Gingold

        December 31, 2019 at 2:56 AM

        • I keep a pair of thigh-high rubber boots in the trunk of our 22-year-old old car, which is what I normally use for nature pictures and which I’m not no longer fastidious about not dirtying up. On the day when I took these pictures we happened to be in our 2-year-old car, and even if I’d had the boots with me I wouldn’t have wanted to risk getting mud inside the car.

          Steve Schwartzman

          December 31, 2019 at 5:57 AM

  6. I remembered the genus (bagpod and rattlebush came to mind), but I didn’t recall seeing this species. Sure enough, it’s not shown in Galveston or Brazoria counties on the BONAP map, so even if there are stands of it around, I could have missed them. I like the separate bands in the first photo: asters, then slenderpod, then green-of-some-sort.

    I’ve meant to tell you that I’ve seen “your” great egret several times at the Brazoria refuge. I’m sure it’s the same one: always in the same spot, and always exhibiting the same not-so-skittish behavior. Apparently they do select and defend certain territories. There’s a kingfisher who sits on precisely the same bit of telephone wire day in and day out — never one section to the right or the left. It’s interesting to see.


    January 1, 2020 at 9:48 AM

    • I see that Sesbania herbacea grows in your nearby counties of Harris and Chambers, so you might get to see the plant in one of those places, if not closer to home.

      Based on other pictures I took at the Kulmbacher site, I believe the green along the top edge of the first photograph came from bulrushes.

      I appreciate your letting me know about “my” egret. I’ve noticed that some animals have a preferred spot, like the rock squirrel that hung out on one portion of the deck railing in our back yard last year, and like the kingfisher you mentioned.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 1, 2020 at 12:54 PM

  7. I wonder if the former property owner was Kulmbacher? Lots of older farmlands, the subdivisions or road names will take over their name later on down the line.


    January 1, 2020 at 3:43 PM

    • That’s an excellent hypothesis. I’ve searched the internet but so far haven’t turned up evidence of anyone named Kulmbacher in Austin. Maybe I’ll find a way to contact the developer and ask.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 1, 2020 at 5:32 PM

  8. I saw Muhly grass for the first time in Florida – very pretty. Do you know if it would survive in our zone (7 I think)?


    January 1, 2020 at 8:11 PM

  9. Even if the egret eluded you in the moment, it obviously did not elude you. It’s a happy, unexpected apparition.


    January 1, 2020 at 9:45 PM

  10. Great texture in these. I love the fun, made by the composition in your egret image!


    January 2, 2020 at 1:39 PM

    • Texture is something I value highly, and sometimes putting a subject way off-center is a good thing, too.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 2, 2020 at 2:22 PM

  11. The egret is fun – for some reason it looks out of scale, but I like it. And I love the masses of fine detail in these.


    January 8, 2020 at 7:53 PM

    • Speaking of fine details: at about 500k, this blog version of the photo has less than 1.2% of the area of the original. Many finer details don’t show up at this small size.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 9, 2020 at 5:35 AM

  12. Well, I clicked on the link to see what you meant. Otherwise, I would not have noticed the resemblance.


    January 13, 2020 at 2:25 PM

    • I’d shown gulf muhly in the previous post, so it was on my mind. Otherwise I probably wouldn’t have thought of making that comparison.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 13, 2020 at 4:20 PM

  13. […] Here’s to expressing complexity explicitly: on the sunny but cool and breezy afternoon of December 3rd I made this fill-the-frame or more-is-more view showing a forest of bare stalks and dry cattails (Typha domingensis) at a pond along Kulmbacher Drive in far north Austin. The stalks might have been the remains of giant ragweed (Ambrosia trifida), or perhaps of the slenderpod sesbania (Sesbania herbacea) you saw in pictures from the same pond last year. […]

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