Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography


with 20 comments

Whatever created the white enclosure on this Mexican hat seed head, the undeniable fact is that the structure is svelte. I asked local expert Val Bugh if she could tell what made it. “This webbing looks most like a spider. The egg sacs of some corinnids are covered with a very smooth layer that, once it ages just a little, looks sort of metallic to me. Also, the way the silk is so well attached to the substrate looks more the work of a spider than a moth. However, I’ve sometimes found some very odd moth cocoons that look simply like a bulge on a stem. Whatever it is, the silk is probably shiny because of weathering but it can’t be very old as the stem is still green.” Thanks, Val.

This portrait from west of Morado Circle in my neighborhood on July 5th continues celebrating what I’ve dubbed the Year of the Mexican Hat. More images of that species will appear in the weeks ahead.

Unrelated thought for today: “Reality is what refuses to go away when you do not believe in it….” — Steven Pinker in “Groups and Genes.”

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 22, 2020 at 4:29 AM

20 Responses

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  1. good word


    July 22, 2020 at 8:00 AM

    • It is. I have the impression that most of the time the word gets applied to people. I figured I’d extend it to this adorned seed head, which is svelter than most people.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 22, 2020 at 8:35 AM

  2. The mystery of seedhead covering is indeed a challenging one to solve.

    Peter Klopp

    July 22, 2020 at 8:09 AM

    • A challenge indeed. I often see little things that insects and spiders have left on plants. Rarely do I recognize what one is. As you read, even a local expert wasn’t sure in this case.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 22, 2020 at 8:40 AM

  3. Svelte on the veldt. Well, ok, not Africa but I wanted to do it anyway.


    July 22, 2020 at 8:20 AM

    • I’ll take veldt any time. Did you know it’s the Afrikaans cognate of native English field (which in Old English was feld)?

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 22, 2020 at 8:32 AM

      • I did not know that. It is fun to follow the path of words, isn’t it?


        July 23, 2020 at 7:52 AM

  4. Unusual looking plant, Steve. Nicely captured.

    Jane Lurie

    July 22, 2020 at 12:58 PM

  5. Nobody could object to a shiny, svelte silk sheath, even if it was spun by a spider.


    July 22, 2020 at 4:28 PM

  6. Helter-skelter in the summer svelter…I agree that it looks more like the work of a spider than a moth but, in my experience, when a spider builds a shield like this, it’s usually to protect an egg sac, and there’s often a tunnel that lets her in to check on them from time to time. Also, I’m curious about the little thingy stretching out at mid-lower right. It looks very much like a small inchworm-like critter. Did you get a closer look at it? Might it be the weaver?


    July 23, 2020 at 3:26 AM

    • That’s a good change from w to v. It’s also an opportunity to point out that the letter we call “double u” actually gets printed as a double v. On the other hand, we do write it as a double u in cursive, or at least those of us who still know how to write in cursive.

      So you come down in favor of a spider, too. The little thingy at the right was part of the seed head. Coincidentally, I did happen to photograph an inchworm on a Mexican hat seed head the other day.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 23, 2020 at 6:13 AM

  7. I’d bet that an egg sac is tucked into the space between the stem and the seed head; the smooth silk pulled over that space is both protective and aesthetically pleasing. ‘Svelte’ is exactly the right word; it’s odd to see the shape of a Mexican hat so closely resembling that of a rain lily bud.

    The quotation from Pinker made me laugh. Isn’t that just the truth?


    July 23, 2020 at 8:15 AM

    • A lot of reality-denying’s been going on in recent years; that’s why I included the quotation. And how could I resist the chance to get in the word svelte, which people working with plants don’t normally get to apply to their subjects?

      You may well be right about an egg sac inside. It didn’t occur to me to get down low with the sun in front of me to see if the enclosure was at all translucent and the light might outline what was inside.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 23, 2020 at 8:31 AM

  8. I thought webbing too but better that it comes from an expert. Buncha happy little spiderlings should bedeck this handsome seedhead before long.

    Steve Gingold

    July 24, 2020 at 2:49 AM

    • Bedeck is a good and now seldom-heard word. Bedeck the hat with bunch of spiders, fa la la la la, la la la la.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 24, 2020 at 6:29 AM

  9. There are so many photographs that I really like, but I’m so far behind on visiting blogs that I can’t comment on all of them, so please know that I do enjoy myself when I finally get over here. 😉


    August 17, 2020 at 12:21 PM

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