Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Powdery alligator flag leaves

with 20 comments

When I was out photographing powdery alligator flag flowers (Thalia dealbata) at the River Ranch pond on August 10th, I noticed bright red not only at the base of the inflorescence sheath but also on the stalk at the base of each leaf. You see that in the first picture, which also shows a purple bindweed (Ipomoea cordatotriloba) vine that had twined around the stalk.

I couldn’t help noticing that when the leaves in this species dry out they curl and fold in ways that have photographic appeal. I made several kinds of abstract portraits of them, two of which you see here.

And here’s a quotation for today: “On n’est jamais si heureux ni si malheureux qu’on s’imagine.” “We’re never as happy or as unhappy as we imagine.” — François de la Rochefoucauld, Maximes.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 4, 2020 at 4:40 AM

20 Responses

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  1. Lovely to see the transformation from fresh to dried. Dried arrangements seem very in vogue at the florists here; no doubt following international trends ( I have no idea about trends!). Are these alligator flags because they grow where alligators reside?


    September 4, 2020 at 6:34 AM

  2. Decaying plants at the end of their life cycle have their own special appeal which you captured so well, Steve.

    Peter Klopp

    September 4, 2020 at 8:43 AM

    • As you’ve seen a bunch of times here, I do photograph plants in their drying and decaying stages. They’re part of the cycle, too, and often stay around much longer than the fresh stages.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 4, 2020 at 9:31 AM

  3. A cool series. It’s really fun and interesting to see the transformation. Beautifully captured, Steve. And I love the quote…

    Otto von Münchow

    September 4, 2020 at 9:02 AM

    • I’ve noticed that certain plants decay in such distinctive ways that I can identify them from their remains. Some of those remains also happen to make excellent subjects for portraits. As for the quotation, La Rochefoucauld had both insight into the human condition and the verbal skills to express those insights in pithy ways.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 4, 2020 at 9:37 AM

  4. The first one makes a great abstract with the bindweed, and the leaf in your last shot reminds me of a canoe paddle.


    September 4, 2020 at 6:08 PM

    • It’s easy to see how your experience canoeing has influenced you. Maybe I should’ve tried paddling on the pond with the leaf in the last picture.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 4, 2020 at 7:16 PM

  5. Very nice, Steve – the second one appeals to me most, with those quiet colors and nice texture.


    September 4, 2020 at 7:37 PM

  6. Odd that I went to Brazos Bend to find alligator flags, and haven’t yet posted photos of them. Easily distracted, I am. On my second trip, although I went specifically to photograph lotus, I found another patch of alligator flags. Those flowers were in decline, but none of the leaves had begun to dry out. The ones you’ve shown here are especially attractive.

    I was surprised to see the red at the base of the leaf. It’s quite noticeable below the flower, but I’ve missed it on the leaf stems. Next time, I’ll take a closer look.


    September 5, 2020 at 9:54 AM

    • We’re learning from each other’s experiences. I know nothing about how often the plants keep blooming each season, so I may have to go back and check out the ones that I photographed for this post and the previous one. And you’ve already said that the next time you find any you’re determined to have a closer look at the leaves, both fresh and dried.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 5, 2020 at 10:37 AM

  7. Your quote reminds me of something we say to the kids a lot: it’s never quite as good or as bad as others make it to be. Just saw T. dealbata today at Brazos Bend. Good to be back out there!


    September 6, 2020 at 4:20 PM

    • Regarding the comment and what you say to your kids, the two ways of putting it remind me of the time when the notions of inner-directed and outer-directed were popular. I hope Brazos Bend was as happy to see you as you were to see it.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 6, 2020 at 7:33 PM

  8. The second looks like a feather. However we feel, it usually passes.

    Steve Gingold

    September 8, 2020 at 1:58 AM

    • Actually I did photograph some feathers recently.
      The only thing that’s constant is change.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 8, 2020 at 2:57 AM

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