Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Spiderwebbed Mexican hat seed head on a sinuous stalk

with 51 comments

After photographing a broomweed plant silhouetted by reflections of the rising sun in a pond along The Lakes Blvd. on August 19th, on the same property I made a portrait of this spiderwebbed Mexican hat (Ratibida columnifera) seed head on a sinuous stalk. The year of the Mexican hat, which is a name I conjured up for one focus of my photography earlier in 2020, had continued.

The fanciful name Mexican hat reminds me that German refers to a thimble as a Fingerhut, i.e. a finger hat. Another thing you might cover fingers with is a glove, which German calls a Handschuh, which is to say a hand shoe. The next time you’re in a department store, try asking a clerk where the handshoes are. I bet the reaction will be quite different from the answer you’d get if you asked where the handbags are.

As for the white webbing on the Mexican hat in today’s photograph, I recently mentioned that spider actually means ‘spinner,’ based on the webs that spiders spin. And that leads us to our quotation for today: “Oh, what a tangled web we weave,/ When first we practise to deceive!” — Marmion: A Tale of Flodden Field, an 1808 historical romance in verse by Sir Walter Scott (who really was a Scot).

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 17, 2020 at 3:55 AM

51 Responses

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  1. Great find and image, Steve. The dark background really allows us to appreciate the webbing and its structure.

    Steve Gingold

    September 17, 2020 at 4:23 AM

    • I’ve lately been making good use of shaded trees for dark backgrounds. In this case, as you pointed out, that dark background (plus pushing the Clarity slider way up) emphasized both the light-colored strands of spider silk and the sinuous shape of the stalk.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 17, 2020 at 4:33 AM

  2. Such an elegant photo to post on your Webnesday! Your German references prompt me to add a small aside: The German “Hut” meaning “hat,” when Pizza Hut expanded into Germany, most of the folks there intepreted the name as “Pizza Hat,” as the characteristic red polygon in the logo actually can be seen as a kind of abstract representation of a piece of headgear. It was hard not to laugh when we realized this.


    September 17, 2020 at 4:45 AM

    • I’m glad you chose to say elegant, which means literally ‘choosing from.’ My mind kept wanting to read “small aside” as “smile aside,” which is appropriate for your laughter at “Pizza Hat.” It made me wonder if anyone had made a hat in the likeness of a pizza; the answer is yes: https://tinyurl.com/y3gxjmjp

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 17, 2020 at 5:39 AM

      • Amazing Amazon. One can find pretty much anything, but I think I’ll pass on the hat. I do have a modest hat collection, mostly Australian, but I do not feel any urge to expand it to include this one.


        September 17, 2020 at 7:12 PM

  3. Beautiful! I am imagining this as a sculpture titled, The Art of Deception. I am curious that you use the word handbag. When I was in the US ( a long while ago now ) it took me some time to work out what women meant by the word pocketbook.


    September 17, 2020 at 7:33 AM

    • It seems that many people here in the U.S. use purse, pocketbook, and handbag interchangeably. Sometimes a clutch seems to be a small handbag, but without a shoulder strap, and sometimes it’s a wallet/credit card holder/change purse, that’s carried in the handbag. And then there’s “taxi wallets.” “Murse,” a sort of small messenger bag for men (the name is a contraction of “Men’s purse” and is usually said mockingly.

      Robert Parker

      September 17, 2020 at 8:07 AM

      • When I looked up pocketbook in The American Heritage Dictionary just now I found that the first definition is ‘a purse; a handbag.’ That supports your contention that the three are used interchangeably. I’ve never heard of taxi wallet or murse. Interestingly, I found the latter described in Wordnik as both ‘a man’s purse’ and, rhymingly, ‘a male nurse.’

        Steve Schwartzman

        September 17, 2020 at 8:31 AM

        • I’ve seen guys in Quebec with small leather shoulder bags, or small nylon cases, the size of a couple of paperbacks, on a wrist strap. I guess laptop shoulder bags or backpacks have become pretty pervasive, at least around here.

          Robert Parker

          September 17, 2020 at 8:52 AM

          • Speaking of paperbacks, when I was a kid they were commonly called pocket books because they were small enough to fit in a coat pocket. Pocket Books was also a specific brand of paperback books.

            Steve Schwartzman

            September 17, 2020 at 10:14 AM

            • Sure, I just picked up an old Pocket Book copy of Robert Frost poems, the last time I was at my parents’ house, and it even fits in the back pocket of my jeans. Now I’m thinking about that Beatles’ song “Paperback Writer,” a good one to sing along.

              Robert Parker

              September 17, 2020 at 11:08 AM

      • Thank you! I have now added taxi wallet and murse to my vocabulary.


        September 21, 2020 at 4:49 AM

        • Not having heard of a taxi wallet, I went looking and found this explanatory video:


          It’s still not clear to me what that kind of wallet has to do with a taxi.

          Steve Schwartzman

          September 21, 2020 at 5:30 AM

          • The combination of the clean vertical outside lines of the webbing and the curve of the stalk is compelling. The image seems filled with potential energy, as though the stalk wants to spring free of the work done by the straight-lacing spider.


            September 21, 2020 at 10:38 AM

            • The comment about the photo was meant to be at the bottom. Here, I was going to note that taxi wallets were common when I traveled in Africa, although they didn’t have a specific name. Since taxis and ‘money buses’ were the only mode of travel, and since security wasn’t all that great, wisdom dictated secreting the bulk of your funds somewhere on your person, and carrying only a few bills in a small, separate wallet. Then, when the young soldier with the big gun pulled you out of a taxi, took your passport, and demanded a bribe to get it back, you could show him your wallet with only small bills, let him take what he wanted, and go on your way. And, yes: that’s the voice of experience speaking.

              Increasingly, the practice could be useful in American cities.


              September 21, 2020 at 10:43 AM

              • Oh, to think that your last line has become true in certain places! Some people have commented in recent years that we’re becoming more like a third-world country. And speaking of that ordinal number, I’m two-thirds of the way through Mike Gonzalez’s book The Plot to Change America.

                Steve Schwartzman

                September 21, 2020 at 10:59 AM

            • Your “compelling” accords with my feeling of being compelled—happily so—to take pictures of such an intriguing subject. in this case I think I fulfilled my and the subject’s potential.

              Steve Schwartzman

              September 21, 2020 at 11:01 AM

          • And do you need one if you don’t take taxis?


            September 28, 2020 at 3:25 AM

    • If you know a sculptor who’d like to turn this into a sculpture, that would be interesting. This one’s a follow-up to a differently webbed Mexican hat seed head I found in July:

      I believe pocketbook was the term my mother regularly used. I also seem to remember that in the New York City area the colloquial pronunciation dropped the t, giving pockabook.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 17, 2020 at 8:40 AM

  4. I like this shot, but think it’s a bit spooky-looking, like a Victorian widow’s veil!

    Robert Parker

    September 17, 2020 at 8:09 AM

  5. The master craftsman Mr. Spider did a real fine job designing and creating the web straightening the curvature of the Mexican hat.

    Peter Klopp

    September 17, 2020 at 8:59 AM

    • I’ve seen many examples, including as recently as yesterday, of plant parts that a spider had pulled together. I’m not sure that’s what happened to this Mexican hat, because I’ve seen stalks of this species that were curved in various ways yet showed no presence at all of spider silk.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 17, 2020 at 10:04 AM

  6. Interesting. I thought that quote was from the Bard.


    September 17, 2020 at 9:16 AM

    • Apparently that’s a common misattribution. A website that I looked at when I was checking the exact wording pointed it out.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 17, 2020 at 10:01 AM

  7. What a shot, my friend! 🙂

    marina kanavaki

    September 17, 2020 at 10:11 AM

  8. Man, that’s a great shot. So much to love about it; it’s intricate and simple all wrapped together. Yes, I meant that. Lovely!


    September 17, 2020 at 12:39 PM

    • What enthusiasm! I was pleased with the way this came out. Your notion of intricate and simple all wrapped together reminds me of what they say in the film industry: that’s a wrap.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 17, 2020 at 3:20 PM

  9. Perfect for Halloween!

    Eliza Waters

    September 17, 2020 at 7:30 PM

  10. Excellent!


    September 18, 2020 at 2:03 AM

  11. Great image! 🙂

    Ann Mackay

    September 18, 2020 at 6:09 AM

  12. I first thought it was a strange snake shedding its skin. Fascinating find and interesting bits of trivia.

    Todd Henson

    September 18, 2020 at 7:37 AM

    • I like how you turned sinuous into serpentine here.

      Speaking of trivia, that word goes back to Roman times, where it alluded to something as commonplace as three roads coming together (we’d describe it as one road T-ing into another).

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 18, 2020 at 8:01 AM

  13. Take a bow, Steve!!


    September 18, 2020 at 11:58 AM

  14. Astounding, Steve. If you were the kind of person who likes to enter contests, I’m sure this photo would win some. The scene is proof that nature always has surprises, the photo is proof that you’re up to the challenge of finding them and photographing them. And the wordplay is always fun. 🙂


    September 18, 2020 at 2:25 PM

    • Thanks for your appreciation of this picture, which I was quite happy with, too. I’ve been noticing a fair number of spiderwebs on dry plants recently, but this one had the big advantage of that wonderfully sinuous stalk.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 18, 2020 at 2:48 PM

      • As for contests, I’ve occasionally entered a few, without winning much outside of local competitions.

        Steve Schwartzman

        September 18, 2020 at 2:51 PM

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