Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Leaping into spring

with 39 comments

Today is this year’s quadrennial* Leap Day, and sure enough, wildflowers have been leaping up in ever greater numbers. One of the first native species to flower in Austin each year, sometimes as early as January, is the ten-petal anemone, Anemone berlandieri. I photographed this purple one along Balcones Woods Drive on February 22. Of the nearby anemone flowers, most were white.

*Technically speaking, we add a day to the calendar not quite once every four years. To do so every four years would be an overcorrection of the discrepancy between the sun-earth cycle and our calendar. We normally add the extra day to years that are divisible by 4, as we are doing now in 2020. However, when it comes to century years we add a February 29th only if the number represented by the first two digits of the year is divisible by 4. As a result, 1800 and 1900 were not leap years (because 18 and 19 are not divisible by 4); 2000 was a leap year; 2100, 2200, and 2300 will not be leap years (because 21, 22, and 23 are not divisible by 4); the next century leap year will be 2400. Somehow I don’t think I’ll be around to take advantage of that extra day.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 29, 2020 at 4:45 AM

39 Responses

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  1. I finally began seeing anemones about a week or two ago; a friend in Wharton’s been seeing them for nearly two months. This is a beauty. I’ve never seen such a deeply colored one, although I’ll occasionally see a lavender blush on the petals. I’m suspecting that the backlighting adds to the drama of the color. I especially like the dark band at the top, and the bright leaves at the bottom.


    February 29, 2020 at 5:39 AM

    • Some or even many people would see the black band as superfluous, yet it’s what prompted me to show this picture rather than many of the others I took of anemones that day. Following my familiar approach, I got down low so I could line up the sunlit flower with a shaded area in the distance. Usually in that approach I get low enough for my subject to stand out against a completely dark background. In this case the flower didn’t rise far above the ground; short of digging a whole and getting the camera into it, all I could manage was a dark band across the top of the picture, but I like it.

      As for color, this anemone looked even more purple when seen from above.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 29, 2020 at 6:12 AM

  2. What a stunning image! I guess I’ll have to keep enjoying your flower images because all I am seeing here are dandelions and daffodils. But, I can tell spring is just about to reveal her spectacular color! My quince should bloom any day.


    February 29, 2020 at 7:39 AM

    • There’s that difference of 400 north-south miles again. Even here we’re on the late side, probably due to the unseasonable cold weather we’ve been having. I suspect we’ll both warm up soon.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 29, 2020 at 8:36 AM

  3. Oh, how lucky you are to have such gorgeous spring flowers so early in the spring when we have to be content with ice flowers. Thank you also for the explanation of the curious facts surrounding the functioning of the leap year, Steve!

    Peter Klopp

    February 29, 2020 at 7:46 AM

    • I’d love a few ice flowers here, just for a change, and as long as they didn’t last long.

      I brought up the leap year exception for three out of every four century years because so few people are aware of that.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 29, 2020 at 8:40 AM

  4. What a glorious flower! 5 petaled! Even your flowers get into the act of being bigger down there, don’t they? I really like how you photographed it, including the interesting band of darker color across the top. Happy leap day to you.


    February 29, 2020 at 9:12 AM

    • On Leap Day I leapt at the chance to show a picture with a dark band across the top. The flower here may look large, but in this species the flowers range from 3/4 of an inch to a little over an inch across. Having the sun in front of me allowed light to transluce the sepals (which is actually what they are, in spite of the common name).

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 29, 2020 at 9:46 AM

      • I didn’t mean the flower was large, only the number of petals.


        February 29, 2020 at 10:08 PM

        • Ah, I misconstrued. I just learned from Wikipedia that “The Metamorphoses of Ovid tells that the plant was created by the goddess Venus when she sprinkled nectar on the blood of her dead lover Adonis.”

          Steve Schwartzman

          March 1, 2020 at 6:20 AM

          • Yes. Very sad. You can still feel a bit of tristesse around these flowers, I’ve often felt.


            March 1, 2020 at 7:50 AM

            • Anemones have never made me feel any tristesse in their presence. Usually the opposite, as they give me opportunities for portraits.

              Steve Schwartzman

              March 1, 2020 at 8:32 AM

  5. I’m joining in the chorus, wow that is just very pretty. I heard from my folks back in New York, it was 18°, but they have started doing the chicken barbecues on the village green. They are probably cooking up all the chickens who died of hypothermia.

    Robert Parker

    February 29, 2020 at 9:35 AM

    • Welcome to the chorus: no audition needed for this one. Barbecues at 18°? Sounds daft to me, especially if the village green isn’t yet green and the weather is still raw; that first barbecue would be the beginning of a raw new deal.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 29, 2020 at 9:55 AM

  6. Nothing here yet. Looking forward to March.


    February 29, 2020 at 10:16 AM

  7. I am entirely in favor of the dark band, and the translucency of the petals is just flat out gorgeous.

    Michael Scandling

    February 29, 2020 at 10:22 AM

  8. Wildflowers. If only. We have three feet of snow on the ground. Lovely purples and blues!

    jane tims

    February 29, 2020 at 6:48 PM

    • Three feet of snow: I haven’t seen that since my childhood in New York.
      Wildflowers are running a bit late here this year, probably at least in part due to cooler-that-average weather the last few weeks.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 29, 2020 at 8:30 PM

  9. Beautifully isolated. I love the creamy background and color combo of purple and green.


    February 29, 2020 at 7:09 PM

    • Isolation is good when you can get it, which I could in this case. I agree with you that purple and green go well together.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 29, 2020 at 8:33 PM

  10. That’s a lovely shot. Even with the miracles of modern health science I think it is safe to say neither of us and possibly no one visiting either of our blogs will see the next missed year.

    Steve Gingold

    March 1, 2020 at 2:50 PM

    • I thought about that, too. If any children happen to read our blogs, a few of them could make it another 80 years to 2100.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 1, 2020 at 4:01 PM

  11. It’s nice to know that spring is making a leap somewhere, Steve. While I’m writing these lines, it is snowing at the rate of about 1 inch/hour. Our outlook tomorrow will be very different.


    March 1, 2020 at 10:06 PM

  12. Delightful …


    March 6, 2020 at 12:45 PM

  13. This flower is always the first to ‘pop’ in my yard, along with slender vetch, white clover, and wild onion and garlic. Spring is really springing over here!


    March 7, 2020 at 4:36 PM

    • Yay, spring! Anemones here normally precede wild onions and garlic, whose flowers I have’t yet found in Austin this year.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 7, 2020 at 7:47 PM

  14. Thanks for the Leap Year lesson….I like peeping through those petals at the sunlight, it’s happiness.


    March 9, 2020 at 1:37 PM

    • Putting myself in a position to photograph sunlight translucing petals, leaves, and such is a strategy I’ve resorted to many times.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 9, 2020 at 2:20 PM

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