Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Two riders on velvetleaf mallow

with 40 comments

On July 5th west of Morado Circle I photographed some velvetleaf mallow plants (Allowisadula holosericea) that were beginning to flower, as you see in the first picture. I didn’t notice the little dark insect until I looked at the picture on my computer screen days later. In contrast, I couldn’t help but notice the colorful critter that the second picture shows you on the underside of one of the mallow’s leaves. Don’t you think parts of its body look like they’re riveted together? Val Bugh tells me it’s an immature Niesthrea louisianica. That species is in the family Rhopalidae, whose members are known collectively as scentless plant bugs, though this one apparently lacks a common name (like the Calocoris barberi that you saw here not long ago).

An unrelated saying for today: “Worry is interest paid on trouble before it falls due.”
That thought appeared in William Meade Pegram’s 1909 book Past-Times,
which included a section that offered up various proverbs.
Where the quoted one originated isn’t clear, but I won’t worry about it.
Here’s another along similar lines:
“Anxiety and Ennui are the pencils that Time uses to draw wrinkles.”

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 23, 2020 at 4:42 AM

40 Responses

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  1. Wonderful picture of the mallow, the dark background and little bristles give it a nice glow. ¡No está malo, es muy bueno! I like the cute little bug, it does look like it’s bolted on some body armor, maybe venturing out to the store for some cologne.

    Robert Parker

    July 23, 2020 at 6:23 AM

    • This mallow species has leaves that are indeed soft and velvety and pleasant to touch, thanks to all those little hairs, which you can see in more detail in the second picture. In the first I used my standard procedure of aiming toward a bunch of shadowed trees to create a dark background. You’re funny about the bug venturing out to the store for cologne. How you decided on that as the goal of its shopping, we’ll never know—unless of course you tell us. It may just have popped into your head, so you might not know either.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 23, 2020 at 7:05 AM

  2. That is one spiffy little bug, right down to his unscented rivets.
    And the photo of the flower~yes, it does glow. Very joyful.


    July 23, 2020 at 7:56 AM

    • Now that’s a word that hasn’t often turned up here: spiffy. The last commenter who used it was Linda in 2015.
      It’s hard not to like those unscented rivets, isn’t it? And who’s not a fan of glowing?

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 23, 2020 at 8:02 AM

  3. That’s a new plant to me, and one I could fall in love with. Very tactile.


    July 23, 2020 at 7:58 AM

    • Very tactile indeed. I always enjoy touching the soft leaves of this species. In the United States it grows mostly in Texas and a little into New Mexico.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 23, 2020 at 8:04 AM

  4. To get this beautiful insect with such clarity must be the reward of owning a 50-megapixel camera, Steve.

    Peter Klopp

    July 23, 2020 at 8:18 AM

    • Having 50 megapixels certainly helps. I did have to crop in to about 10 megapixels to get the view of the bug I showed here. Sometimes I’ve used an extension tube to focus closer to a small subject but I haven’t done that in quite a while.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 23, 2020 at 8:36 AM

  5. I’ve not seen this one, and I don’t remember coming across the genus before. The only soft and fuzzy mallow I’ve encountered is Sphaeralcea lindheimeri, the woolly globemallow — and that one’s south and west of me, in places like the Rockport cemetery. When I saw that another common name is Chisos Mountain false globemallow, that explained why I’ve not seen it around here.

    Your colorful insect is riveting, indeed. Once upon a time I assumed insects were brown or green. That assumption went out the window a long time ago. As for Pegram’s words, they reminded me of my favorite re-phrasing of the thought:

    “In every life we have some trouble
    But when you worry you make it double.”


    July 23, 2020 at 8:34 AM

    • That’s a good play on riveting. And yes, insects other than butterflies can have some great colors, too, like that leafhopper I showed recently.

      The quotation book that led me to Pegram included “Don’t worry, be happy.”

      The USDA map shows Travis County as the farthest east in velvetleaf mallow’s range. Also included is Béxar County, which I assume you pass through on your occasional jaunts farther west, so you may yet see it. It’s pretty common in my hilly part of Austin.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 23, 2020 at 8:45 AM

  6. You sent me off reading through some of the proverbs online. For that I’ll pass you on a blessing I found there: May all your New Years become old ones.


    July 23, 2020 at 8:38 AM

    • I’m happy to hear you took a little trip through Past-Times. Thanks for passing on the New Year’s blessing you found there. Since childhood I’ve enjoyed reading old books, too.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 23, 2020 at 8:48 AM

  7. That blossom really pops with the dark background. The fine detail of hairs on the leaves is very interesting, especially on that second image. Normally, I view insects as an irritation in my daily work, but you bring out the attractive side of this little wonder. Though, in the back of my mind I wonder what kind of bite I’d suffer from this one! All of those stripes, blotches of color, spiky hairs, and plates of armor make me think I’d best stay away from this particular bug!


    July 23, 2020 at 9:27 AM

    • You know me with dark backgrounds; aiming toward shaded trees in the background is a pretty familiar technique of mine. The group that the insect belongs to is called plant bugs, so I’m guessing this critter lives on plant juices and wouldn’t be interested in attacking people. Of course a sharp poke might convince me otherwise.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 23, 2020 at 10:48 AM

  8. What a find and pic–the bloom atop the mallow leaves, with the bonus of the bug (Niesthrea louisianica)! Especially appreciate the bug closeup! It made me think of playing card face cards. See at
    https://i.pinimg.com/originals/34/5b/07/345b0777a585724544efbbbf973e448e.jpg or https://i.pinimg.com/originals/95/93/2f/95932f56d7c2d3e7a9b8ca6024675703.jpg.


    July 23, 2020 at 9:55 AM

    • I looked at the playing cards side by side with the bug and I see the similarity you picked up on. Good perception. The bug started out on the upper surface of a leaf but moved to the bottom, where I was able to get the picture you see here.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 23, 2020 at 10:54 AM

  9. The mallow photo is a perfect portrait against black. But I have to say the bug takes the cake — or whatever it is that this particular critter takes. Somewhere between a knight in armor and the court jester. Makes me wonder what would happen if faced with a knight seriously intending to do battle and all you could do is bust out laughing at the ridiculousness of his get up.

    Michael Scandling

    July 23, 2020 at 10:55 AM

    • Whether cake or something else gets taken, you’re right that this is one strange dude of a bug. I’ve never seen another like it. Your would-be joust between it and a knight is funny. Maybe you could induce an artist to picture a scene like that. It could even become part of a children’s book.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 23, 2020 at 11:04 AM

  10. That is a very beautiful little insect, and the quotes well chosen!

    Lavinia Ross

    July 23, 2020 at 11:01 AM

    • You’re right when you say “little.” The bug is smaller than the closeup might lead viewers to think. As for the quotations, I’m always happy to pass along people’s insights and cleverness.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 23, 2020 at 11:07 AM

  11. Interesting little critter. Love the markings, esp. the leg stripes – and I see an alien face on the thorax. 😉

    Eliza Waters

    July 23, 2020 at 12:24 PM

    • I see what you mean about the alien face, which I hadn’t really noticed before. I think the back of the bug would make a good Halloween costume for someone.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 23, 2020 at 2:55 PM

      • Yes it would!

        Eliza Waters

        July 23, 2020 at 3:30 PM

      • I saw the face as that of a hornet or wasp, but the alien resemblance is pretty clear too. It’s much more noticeable when rotated 90°ccw. I read through all the comments (as usual) to see if I was the only one to notice it, but I see that Eliza just barely beat me to it.


        July 23, 2020 at 6:31 PM

        • After her comment I went through the photos I took of this bug and looked at one in which its body was more vertically aligned (which amounts to the rotation you mentioned). Sure enough, the alien face became more prominent.

          Steve Schwartzman

          July 23, 2020 at 6:35 PM

  12. It has beautiful markings! I like that quote. 😀


    July 23, 2020 at 6:09 PM

    • Unique markings, in my experience. When I came across that quote I felt it was worth passing along to other people.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 23, 2020 at 6:29 PM

  13. wow.


    July 23, 2020 at 10:33 PM

  14. The plant’s name made me think of “The Velveteen Rabbit”. That plant bug is a gorgeous creature. I photographed a plant bug recently, a mirid, but haven’t shared it yet as I don’t have an answer to my ID request at BG.N yet. The flower looks like a squash blossom.

    Steve Gingold

    July 25, 2020 at 3:12 PM

    • “Velveteen Rabbit” has the same rhythm and many of the same sounds as “velvetleaf mallow.” Maybe I can get Meryl Streep to narrate my wildflower.

      Agreed on the gorgeousness of the bug; I’d never seen the likes of it before.

      I posted two pictures to bugguide a week or so ago that I never did get identifications for. That’s not my usual experience; sometimes I’ve gotten answers within minutes.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 25, 2020 at 3:20 PM

      • Most often I have also. But…sometimes I am shocked to get an ID years later when I don’t even remember having asked. I think a lot of the experts, and others, are so busy with their own work at this time plus doing their volunteer identifications that some of our requests oft times sit on the back burner until winter.

        Steve Gingold

        July 25, 2020 at 3:30 PM

        • And let’s hope that after winter we’re all back to a semblance of our normal lives.

          Steve Schwartzman

          July 25, 2020 at 3:38 PM

          • Hope is eternal. We need a reliable vaccination and then we need people to have it or else this thing will go on forever. And…no more dining on diseased bats.

            Steve Gingold

            July 25, 2020 at 3:41 PM

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