Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Nine years

with 90 comments

Click to enlarge.

Nine years ago today I put up this blog’s first post, which featured a basket-flower (Plectocephalus americanus) with a soft cloud beyond it. On May 10th of this year I drove to the site in Round Rock where I made that important portrait in 2000 and was relieved to find basket-flowers and others still flourishing there on the Blackland Prairie. Then I drove a quarter-mile east to a site that had later become my favorite for basket-flowers, given the expanse and density of the basket-flower colonies that I found there in most years. Alas, the entire site had been razed in preparation for development! Today’s picture shows how things looked there in the spring of 2014, and how I’ll always remember the place.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman


Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 4, 2020 at 4:24 AM

90 Responses

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  1. Congrats on the 9th anniversary! WP should stick their Stick-To-Itiveness Award on this blog. Impressive perseverance while maintaining the highest standards.

    Robert Parker

    June 4, 2020 at 7:14 AM

    • Thanks. If only this prairie site could have persevered. As for awards, maybe I should get one named “What Is This Crazy Obsession Over Native Plants?” In terms of photography, from the outset I showed some portraits that favored abstraction. Lately I’ve been feeling that pull all the more, not caring whether a photograph is realistic or representative, sometimes even preferring that it not be.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 4, 2020 at 7:24 AM

      • It has struck me, how often you’ve mentioned sites being developed. I hope more people there start thinking about preserving green space. So you can continue to think of abstractions and less concretely.

        Robert Parker

        June 4, 2020 at 7:41 AM

        • Good play on “less concretely”! From time to time I’ve done before~after pairs of photographs showing a site in the natural state in which I first experienced it, and then as it looked during or after development. You’ve reminded me of a picture I took in the Austin suburb of Round Rock maybe 20 years ago showing a native wildflower with the concrete of highway construction behind it.

          Steve Schwartzman

          June 4, 2020 at 7:52 AM

  2. I am glad I see your images to remember Steve. I have family in Illinois who tells me that where they live is actually prairie land and that accounts for the reason they have wild animals around their home. When I ask them who gave the land developers the permission to build homes around the area, nobody knows anything. One doesn’t need to be an expert to realize that many land developments continue to invade land that belongs to wilderness. ‘Human encroachment’ is a phrase that’s becoming all too familiar in our times (https://bit.ly/3cy2eQg) and that is leaving humans more vulnerable than ever.


    June 4, 2020 at 7:20 AM

    • Congrats on the 9th anniversary!


      June 4, 2020 at 7:22 AM

    • I’ve heard the conjecture that increasing contacts between wild animals and people in expanding developments may lead to increasing transfers of disease. As for permission to develop, landowners of formerly rural property have an incentive not to sell their land until expanding development reaches their area and prices rise. I know one family in a town about an hour from Austin who have been approached by developers willing to pay millions of dollars for their land; so far the family has preferred to keep their property.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 4, 2020 at 7:39 AM

  3. To learn more about your native plants I clicked on the link to view the magnificent details of the basket-flower. Today’s post shows another one of your characteristic flower carpets, Steve.

    Peter Klopp

    June 4, 2020 at 8:06 AM

    • Thanks for following the link to that first photo posted here. I’ve worked both ends of the scale, from floral carpets to individual flowers. I’ve also worked in between, showing small groups and how the plants within it interact. The subjects are inexhaustible.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 4, 2020 at 9:25 AM

  4. Happy 9!!!


    June 4, 2020 at 8:33 AM

  5. It occurs to me that you’ve chosen the perfect photo for the day: not only because you selected the basket-flower for your icon all those years ago, but also because each basket-flower in the image could stand for one of the other native wildflowers whose portraits you’ve shared. I’m not a Fibonacci spiral counter by nature, but I started counting these flowers and buds, and decided they could represent at least a few months of postings.

    Even more fun was imagining each basket-flower as one of the different species you’ve shown us, gathered together in one ever-enlarging bouquet. Keep showing and telling!


    June 4, 2020 at 8:50 AM

    • Ah, with show and tell you’re sending me back to grade school (elementary, my dear Leinen). I didn’t realize I could count on you to tally the number of basket-flowers in the panorama of this now-lost colony. As you said, the number could keep me going daily for several months; there are so many native species in the area that I could go on for over two years without repetition—assuming I had pictures of them all, which I don’t.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 4, 2020 at 9:36 AM

  6. Congratulations on nine years of blogging Steve. I enjoy your blog immensely, so hope you will continue for the next nine too! 😉


    June 4, 2020 at 8:59 AM

    • Thanks, Cathy, for your appreciation and good wishes. The thought of nine more years gives me pause and makes me say, as someone who grew up in New York, Oy vey!

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 4, 2020 at 9:41 AM

  7. Congratulations, Steve! 9 years of inspiring and educating the rest of us!


    June 4, 2020 at 9:16 AM

    • Thanks. I taught school for years, and the thought has often come to me: once a teacher, always a teacher. Parallel to that was the photography.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 4, 2020 at 9:46 AM

  8. Congrats on the 9th anniversary, and thanks for 9 years of showing us wonderful pictures.


    June 4, 2020 at 9:43 AM

  9. Congratulations on 9 years, Steve!

    Lavinia Ross

    June 4, 2020 at 9:53 AM

    • Thanks, Lavinia. I still hope to make it to Oregon one of these days. This would’ve been a good time but the virus intervened.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 4, 2020 at 10:57 AM

  10. Congratulations on nine years of education, beautiful photography, and exclamation point producing word play.

    Michael Scandling

    June 4, 2020 at 10:27 AM

  11. Congratulations on your blogaversary, Steve! I thoroughly enjoy seeing all the flowers you photograph and your artistic explorations.

    Ellen Jennings

    June 4, 2020 at 11:18 AM

  12. Congratulations, Steve. I enjoyed the symmetry in your choice of pictures. Sad to hear about the razing of one of your special places though.


    June 4, 2020 at 11:33 AM

    • Call it temporal symmetry. Unfortunately the latest razing of a place where I once photographed nature is something like the 30th loss I’m aware of over the past decade.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 4, 2020 at 12:09 PM

      • It doesn’t get any easier though.


        June 4, 2020 at 1:39 PM

        • No, it sure doesn’t, especially for a place that I visited so many times and that looked as good as this one usually did each spring.

          Steve Schwartzman

          June 4, 2020 at 1:46 PM

  13. Happy Blogiversary! Here’s to many more years! 🍷😀🎈🎉


    June 4, 2020 at 12:22 PM

  14. Congrats! I always enjoy your posts. It is always sad to see a favorite nature site that is no longer. Look forward to more of your work.


    June 4, 2020 at 12:55 PM

    • Thanks. You’re right that a sadness comes with the loss of treasured nature sites. Over the past decade, that’s unfortunately been the fate of many properties where I used to work.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 4, 2020 at 12:57 PM

      • Here in New Jersey it happens more than not, so many woodlands and wetlands have been paved over. We have to appreciate what is preserved.


        June 4, 2020 at 1:01 PM

        • Being from Long Island, I’m aware how much of nature got covered over by development in the New York metropolitan area, and even farther afield.

          Steve Schwartzman

          June 4, 2020 at 1:04 PM

          • It’s really sad – thankfully there are still many preserves out there to discover and enjoy that are protected!


            June 4, 2020 at 1:06 PM

  15. Congratulations !


    June 4, 2020 at 1:16 PM

  16. Congratulations on a wonderful milestone!!


    June 4, 2020 at 8:13 PM

  17. Nine years is quite a while. Congratulations. That is a lot of wildflowers.


    June 4, 2020 at 10:06 PM

  18. Late again, been out of town. Happy nine, Steve, and please keep up the good work!


    June 4, 2020 at 10:37 PM

  19. Wow, nine years … you’ve done really well to keep the blog going that long!

    Ms. Liz

    June 5, 2020 at 5:28 AM

    • Thanks. Several times I’ve tried to slow down, but as I keep on taking lots of pictures, and as the good ones persist in wanting to be shown, I seem to be trapped into continuing. At least it’s for a good purpose.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 5, 2020 at 5:41 AM

  20. Wow!



    June 5, 2020 at 7:34 AM

  21. I’m so sad to learn of yet another beautiful place being “developed”. This is a good way to remember it, though.


    June 5, 2020 at 8:50 AM

    • I took plenty of pictures there over the years, and they’ll be a memorial to the place as it once was. I’m still sad to have lost it.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 5, 2020 at 8:57 AM

      • It is too bad that the political leaders aren’t setting aside more of these gems.


        June 6, 2020 at 8:30 AM

        • It is a shame, alas. In the early 2000s some of us tried to get the city of Round Rock to buy a parcel not far from this one and preserve it. Out attempt failed.

          Steve Schwartzman

          June 6, 2020 at 1:30 PM

          • That is so disappointing. It frustrates me no end when the elected officials of a city refuse to embrace a larger vision than the dollar signs they see when developer wants to move in on a piece of land. If the town of Grayslake had anything to say about it, there would be no preserves here at all.


            June 7, 2020 at 8:07 AM

            • We do have some preserves and greenbelts in the Austin area. They tend to be on the west side, where the inhabitants are generally better off financially than those on the east side. The prairies are on the east side, where both development costs and an awareness of the value of nature are lower.

              Steve Schwartzman

              June 7, 2020 at 8:20 AM

              • There certainly has been plenty of that here, as well. It sickens me to come over a rise and suddenly there will be piles of scraped soil and heavy equipment where the previous week there were trees and native grasses.


                June 8, 2020 at 8:30 AM

                • I don’t think I’ve ever had the before~after as quickly as one week. I do remember a property that was razed about a month after I last took pictures there; in fact at the time of my last visit I noticed wooden stakes in place that presumably were there to tell the bulldozer drivers where to go.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  June 8, 2020 at 12:44 PM

                • I’d be tempted to pull up the stakes but that is just the subversive in me. Besides I know they would just put them back in.


                  June 9, 2020 at 8:43 AM

                • As you say, nothing would have been gained. I was grateful the property wasn’t fenced off, and I could wander at will. I took Eve to see it, too, before it vanished. The pond with the pickerelweed that you saw here recently is at the back of that property. Truck depots and parking lots now sit on the land once covered by dense colonies of horsemints and clasping-leaf coneflowers.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  June 9, 2020 at 8:52 AM

                • Ah, that is heartbreaking.


                  June 9, 2020 at 9:13 AM

                • It happened two decades ago, when I was just getting interested in native plants here, and it was the first significant loss of land where I’d taken pictures.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  June 9, 2020 at 10:46 AM

                • And still hurts! The subdivision of mcmansions I sometimes drive through to get to my house was built in a lovely woodland just 26 years ago. I think of that every time I go through.


                  June 10, 2020 at 8:27 AM

                • I remember your similar comments when we drove around the area with you in 2016.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  June 10, 2020 at 2:14 PM

                • I found myself wanting to ask a couple I saw unloading their groceries if they know a patch of trilliums once bloomed where there stupid house now stands. Of course, a lovely woodland probably grew where my house stands, too. Just a lot longer ago and my house is a heck of a lot smaller. I really do try to let go of these things!


                  June 11, 2020 at 8:26 AM

                • Every house any of us have ever lived in is on land that was once wild. I’m afraid there’s no way around that.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  June 11, 2020 at 12:58 PM

                • That is true. In a town to the north of us, Kmart and a few other stores came in and built enormous buildings, with acres of parking lot. Then they closed. The last one has just closed. The buildings and lots sit there empty and have for over a decade, yet the village does nothing about it. It would make sense to me to figure out who owns all that at this point, and either make them return it to a natural state or reclaim it for other uses so that virgin land doesn’t always have to be sacrificed for the next strip mall or housing division.


                  June 12, 2020 at 9:44 AM

                • K-Mart is owned by Sears, and Sears is bankrupt, so the company has no money to do anything with the property near you. At some point, probably not soon, one of Sears’s creditors will acquire the property, or it will be auctioned off.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  June 12, 2020 at 10:35 AM

                • As I said, it has been over a decade so I’m guessing they’ve written it off. I hope towns are more savvy going forward in terms of what they’ll allow a company to build. Not my town, of course. Grayslake is welcoming Medline to our former beautiful, historic fairgrounds. Medline of the cancer causing chemicals released into the air.


                  June 13, 2020 at 7:51 AM

  22. It is said that life is change which is true. There is good change and not so good. Eventually I suppose we will people every square foot of the developable Earth and all of this will be memories. It is a shame that the lovely basket flower meadow from 9 years ago is no more.
    I am surprised that I started my blog prior to yours (5/2010 which you discovered last year) although once you got started you left me in your dust.

    Steve Gingold

    June 6, 2020 at 6:57 PM

    • Happy 10th anniversary. A few months ago I was on a path to not posting so often. Then the spring brought so many photogenic things that I found myself doing daily posts again, even though I hadn’t wanted to. Oh well…

      I understand that people have to live somewhere. I just wish developers would set aside a portion of the land to stay in its natural state.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 6, 2020 at 7:53 PM

      • Yes, we all have to live somewhere and developers have to develop or find some other way of making a living. But set asides would be good or finding another way of living besides so many people wanting a distinct piece of the Earth to call their own…not that I am going to give up my house. For a few reasons, mainly her health, Mary Beth and I decided to not have children. So that’s one kid less on the planet. I guess the average family size in the U.S. is going down is no longer one boy and one girl.

        I remember your mentioning taking days off which you did a few times. A couple of days almost went by without a post rom me but then I saw something while working in the archives or more recent captures that I decided to share. Sometimes more than one. By mid-summer I should hit 1500.

        Steve Gingold

        June 7, 2020 at 1:53 AM

        • I found this online: “The average family [in the United States] consisted of 3.14 persons in 2019, down from 3.7 in the 1960s.”

          Early this year I was spacing posts 36 hours apart and thinking of stretching that to 48 hours. Then, as I said, spring came. Maybe the heat of the Texas summer will be an incentive to slow down.

          Steve Schwartzman

          June 7, 2020 at 6:43 AM

  23. 9 years of wonderful wildflowers! Thank you and congratulations 👏


    June 10, 2020 at 2:20 PM

    • You’re welcome. And it hasn’t been all wildflowers—there were all those contributions from two trips to New Zealand.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 10, 2020 at 2:55 PM

  24. I’m sorry I’m so late to the party, Steve, congratulations!


    June 13, 2020 at 9:05 PM

  25. […] already replaced a swath of prairie along Meister Lane on the east side of Schultz Lane. Last year I posted a commemorative picture about it. The construction site is still there, and yet when I drove by on the sunny morning of May 7th this […]

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