Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Horsemint asterisk*

with 31 comments

By July 6th the season for horsemints (Monarda citriodora) was well past its peak. Nevertheless, on that day I still found several fresh plants near Yaupon Drive. One horsemint flower tower had a rather flat top, so I took advantage of the opportunity by leaning over it and aiming straight down. One virtue of that viewpoint is that it reveals the fine white hairs at the flowers’ tips.

* I can’t resist using an asterisk to point out the word asterisk as at risk of being mispronounced asterick. There’s nothing icky about an asterisk.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 21, 2020 at 4:33 AM

31 Responses

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  1. Also to consider is the character Asterix which is sometimes mispronounced asterisk.

    Khürt Williams

    July 21, 2020 at 6:42 AM

    • It’s good of you to point that out. The creator of that character, René Goscinny, was clever in switching the last two sounds in astérisque [asterisk] to create Astérix [asteriks], the ending of which accorded with the Latinized forms of real historical names like Vercingetorix.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 21, 2020 at 7:40 AM

  2. I clicked on the image to view the horsemint in its full glory. You captured the fine white hair so well I am impressed, Steve. Do you publish your photos in the original resolution? I’ll reduce mine to 1000 by 750 pixels before I publish them.

    Peter Klopp

    July 21, 2020 at 8:04 AM

    • No, the pictures I include in my posts are small, typically half a megapixel, which is two-thirds of the size you mentioned for yours. My originals, if I don’t crop them, are 50 megapixels; that’s a whopping 100 times as large in area as what you usually see here. I think that most serious photographers who post their pictures online keep the images small for two reasons: to avoid running out of allotted storage space, and to minimize the damage if people steal their images. (With the Internet making things so accessible, many people use other people’s pictures without permission and often without giving any credit to the artist.)

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 21, 2020 at 8:28 AM

      • Yes, one needs to be careful managing one’s storage space. 50 megapixel images can eat up your allotment in a no time.

        Peter Klopp

        July 22, 2020 at 8:26 AM

        • WordPress has a limit on how much storage space a blog can use up. I’ve known people who hit that limit—mainly because they showed lots of fairly large pictures in each post—and had to start a new blog to continue.

          Because my cameras over the years have gradually taken larger and larger photographs, I’ve had to keep up by increasing the sizes of my hard drives. I’m at the point where I wouldn’t think of getting a new one under 8TB. Fortunately the prices have kept coming down.

          Steve Schwartzman

          July 22, 2020 at 9:01 AM

  3. At least for me, these are among the hardest flowers to photograph. I have difficulty dealing with their inherent complexity and their tendency to grow in clusters. The seedheads are easier. I like this view; it shows so many of the details without feeling cluttered. Even the little spots show up nicely, and I like the impression of wiriness at the center.


    July 21, 2020 at 9:11 AM

    • Photographing colonies of horsemints is pretty easy; I’m with you that the three-dimensional complexity of the inflorescence makes getting good closeups difficult. I rarely shoot straight down on a horsemint because normally there’s a little thingy sticking up at top that’s hard to keep in focus from that angle. In this case no thingy had developed and the resulting flat top was my invitation to aim straight down. Like you, I’ve often found it easy to get good closeups of horsemint seed heads.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 21, 2020 at 11:00 AM

  4. I’m always at risk of stumbling over that word, Asterisk, so I just say, “the little star thing-y.”

    Robert Parker

    July 21, 2020 at 9:51 AM

  5. The speckling on the petals is interesting, too.

    Eliza Waters

    July 21, 2020 at 1:36 PM

  6. “asterisk as at risk”

    Johnny Crabcakes

    July 22, 2020 at 12:17 AM

    • I’m glad you got it. I’d although thought of using “as to risk” but didn’t find a great way of working it into the syntax of the sentence.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 22, 2020 at 6:11 AM

  7. Another different point of view, that makes your work stand out, Steve.
    Asterisk, according to the Oxford online dictionary, is often mispronounced “asterix,” the name of the comic book character mentioned above.

    *And I should mention that although the names of the photographers used were not specifically credited in the music video “The Native Plants of Texas, which won an award at the 2019 Native Plant Society of Texas (NPSOT) symposium last year, it included several of your award winning photographs. (I seem to recall that you won awards for a plurality, (if not a majority) of the photography awards last year). Other entries into previous NPSOT photo contests were included, as well as some of my own photos (some were entries, some won awards, others were not entered into the photo contests). If I ever get the time to redo the video in the future, I will add credits for all the photos somewhere. In the meantime, anyone who is curious can look up the photos in the npsot.smugmug photo galleries. I believe that the video’s use of the photos was within the fair use guidelines of the copyright laws, but feel that it “coulda shoulda woulda” given individually named credit to all the photographers. I think I’ve apologized to you in person for this omission, but feel that now is as good a time as ever to apologize for not naming all the photographers whose photo contest entries were used in the slide show to accompany the music.


    July 22, 2020 at 7:27 AM

    • I often try out various points of view to see what what works well. Even though discovering new ways to photograph familiar plants after two decades isn’t easy, I’ve managed some successes and I’m optimistic that things will keep coming to me as long as I put myself out there.

      The symposium is a lot of work for the organizers. You do what you can in the moment. Any afterwork is welcome if you have the time for amelioration.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 22, 2020 at 8:17 AM

  8. Lavenders and purple are becoming my new favorite colors for composition in my gardens. I grew many Monardas from seed this spring, but I don’t expect them to bloom until next year. It will be delightful when they do!

    Who says asterick? Probably the same people who say eksedera. It’s *etcetera. I learned the word when I was young hearing Yul Brenner use it in triplets in The King and I. “… etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.” I know language is a living thing (my prof. in The History of English told me so 😉 ) But some words should not be lost to change and abbreviation. Etcetera is one. It has a powerful sound when enunciated. Or at least, so say I.

    *Here is a thing: Spell check on WP does not even recognize the word unless it is abbreviated.


    July 22, 2020 at 8:14 AM

    • Happy purple, and good luck with your purples.

      How well I remember Yul Brynner repeating et cetera. When I was growing up my family had a record of The King and I, so I was quite familiar with the songs from the show.

      You’re right that many people pronounce et cetera with ek as the first syllable. When enough people mispronounce a word long enough, that becomes the new standard pronunciation, and from then on children who learn the language don’t know the old pronunciation. For example, other than someone who delves into the history of a language, what English speaker would know that our familiar word bird used to be brid in OId English?

      It’s strange (or not!) that WordPress doesn’t recognize the full version of et cetera.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 22, 2020 at 8:26 AM

      • And once again I learn something new, which explains the name of the Australian actress Bridie Carter. I always thought her name was very close to birdie. And, if I am honest, I have further learned the first spelling of et cetera which for some (like apparently me) has become one word etcetera, and is now an accepted form (though apparently not in Canada).
        Old English. It is on my bucket list to learn, even if only middling well. But who will teach me? Now there is a thought… 😀


        July 22, 2020 at 9:20 PM

        • It seems Bridie isn’t what you thought. According to A Dictionary of First Names, by Hanks and Hodges, Bridie is a pet form of the Irish name Brid, which is the modern contracted form of Brighid, which is to say Bridget, who was an ancient Celtic goddess. That’s a long trail to follow, and not an obvious one.

          Et cetera is pure Latin. The first word means ‘and’ and the second word means ‘the others, the rest.’

          I found some introductory online Old English lessons from right here in Austin at the University of Texas:


          Happy delving.

          Steve Schwartzman

          July 22, 2020 at 10:18 PM

          • It certainly is not obvious, but good to know. You always amaze me. And thank you for the OE learning link, Steve. I have my work cut out for me there.


            July 23, 2020 at 10:41 AM

            • One of the two people listed near the top of that linked page, Winfred P. Lehmann, was a linguistics professor I took a course from in around 1985.

              Steve Schwartzman

              July 23, 2020 at 10:58 AM

              • I just looked him up. He was (still is) well known and wrote many books on the subject of linguistics. All probably too deep for the layperson and terribly expensive even on Kindle. I surmise that knowing him was why you could just put your finger right on the OE learning page so quickly.

                I come here for the flora and fauna and quite often leave with a deeper understanding of language(s) and occasionally a deeper understanding of math, when the topic arises.


                July 23, 2020 at 12:23 PM

                • Actually I didn’t know about the Old English site till I went searching. Finding Prof. Lehmann’s name on it was unexpected though not really surprising.

                  As you said, I have a bunch of other interests and sometimes incorporate them into my posts. Most often that means language. I insert the math—normally just arithmetic—only occasionally because it seems alien to most of the people who come to a nature photography blog. I do have a math comment attached to a forthcoming post.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  July 23, 2020 at 3:03 PM

  9. I can easily see why you zoomed in on the asterisk quality. And great discussion about the frequent mis-pronunciation of this–and a few other classics. I read the entire Asterix & Obelix series avidly when I was studying in Berlin (and still have them). I read them in German, of course, and they helped me to learn the language–especially many extremely useful idioms. And the comic art by Albert Uderzo is simply superb. A couple of other suspect words come immediately to mind, especially “nucular” (favored by R. Nixon) rather than “nuclear.” Another biggie for me, as my dad was an ear, nose, & throat specialist, is that the term for the internal workings of the throat is “pharynx,” pronounced “fair-inks,” not “far-nix.” And so many more…


    July 22, 2020 at 11:52 PM

    • I don’t recall hearing “farnix” but I have heard “larnix.” Yes, “nucular” is a golden oldie. Another for me is “mischevious.”

      You’re way ahead of me when it comes to Astérix and Obélix, which I’m aware of but never read. It seems strange—but not Gauling—to think of Astérix in German. Your mention of Uderzo, with whom I wasn’t familiar, sent me looking him up. I found the following in Wikipedia: “On 24 March 2020, Uderzo died in his sleep at his home in Neuilly-sur-Seine, after suffering a heart attack. His son-in-law Bernard de Choisy said the heart attack was not linked to COVID-19, and that Uderzo had felt very tired for several weeks prior to his death.”

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 23, 2020 at 4:49 AM

      • I remember that Goscinny died in 1977, and I think his son took up the torch to continue the series. If you’ve not read them, then I’ll just mention a few more of the characters for your enlightenment and delight. My favorites were Troubadix, the bard, and the dog, Idefix. The druid was Miraculix. And so on…


        July 23, 2020 at 4:40 PM

        • I see that Idefix is a take-off on idée fixe, and Miraculix on miraculeux.

          Steve Schwartzman

          July 23, 2020 at 4:52 PM

          • Indeed. As a dedicated wordsmith, I highly recommend that you dig into the wealth of their cleverness. There’s lots more to delight the imagination.


            July 24, 2020 at 5:43 AM

  10. *Being a Monarda, I see the resemblance to the Bee Balm we have growing in our yard. I imagine hummingbirds visit these just as they do ours.*

    Steve Gingold

    July 23, 2020 at 2:38 AM

    • Maybe they do, but I can’t say I’ve ever seen a hummingbird at a horsemint. That may be because I rarely see hummingbirds in the wild, period. People in Austin who put out bird feeders do attract them.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 23, 2020 at 5:03 AM

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