Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Little bluestem in front of gayfeather flowers

with 21 comments

You’ve already had two posts from September 15th along FM 2769 in far northwest Austin showing Liatris punctata, known as gayfeather and blazing-star. In one you saw normal purple flowers, and in the other white flowers. In today’s photograph the gayfeather plays a supporting role (though colorfully a dominant one) behind a stalk of little bluestem grass, Schizachyrium scoparium, a part of which had turned brown in anticipation of approaching autumn.

And here’s an unrelated quotation for today: “When a theory really has got your brain in its grip, contradictory evidence—even evidence you already know—sometimes becomes invisible.” — Jordan Ellenberg, How Not to Be Wrong.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 7, 2020 at 4:44 AM

21 Responses

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  1. Extraordinary! Amazing photography, my friend!

    marina kanavaki

    October 7, 2020 at 5:17 AM

  2. Your photo made me realize I’ve not noticed any of my favorite little bluestem yet. It may be that it’s not begun its color change down here, since the bushy bluestem still is quite green. There may have been bluestem at the Attwater prairie, but in that instance I was too busy looking at the Gulf Muhly spread through the fields. Your creative cropping, with the stem shown half rusty and half green, is perfect.

    While Ellenberg’s improbabilities fit nicely with my Indian pipes, I laughed at this quotation — and at myself — as soon as I read it. Maximilian sunflowers come to mind for some reason.


    October 7, 2020 at 6:33 AM

    • Now, I’m laughing again. You’ve been holding out on us; I just read the second part of the book’s title. The review in Scientific American includes this tidbit: “[the ideas in the simple and profound quadrant] are not ‘mere facts,’ like a simple statement of arithmetic—they are principles, whose application extends far beyond the things you’re used to thinking of as mathematical. They are the go-to tools on the utility belt, and used properly they will help you not be wrong.”

      I suspect I’ll enjoy the book as much as I’ve enjoyed the quotations.


      October 7, 2020 at 6:41 AM

      • Yes, the subtitle reveals that the book focuses on mathematics as a means of not being wrong. I don’t remember when I bought the book but last month I saw it lying around and realized I’d never read it—hardly the only book about which I could say that!— so I plowed in.

        Steve Schwartzman

        October 7, 2020 at 7:17 AM

        • I got my copy yesterday. When I opened it, I landed on the section about significance, scientific and otherwise, and ended up reading the whole section: a good sign. Besides, any mathematician who includes rumspringa in his book’s introduction is going to catch my interest.


          October 9, 2020 at 8:31 AM

    • Like the bushy bluestem down there, the few of ours that I’ve seen here were all also still looking fresh. In contrast, at least some of the little bluestem has become a bit more colorful, as you see in this photograph.

      Your mention of gulf muhly at Attwater provides another reason for wanting to visit the place. At 128 miles from home, Google estimates 2 hours and 8 minutes to get there, which is pushing it for a day trip. The one and only time we visited, it was as a stop on the way back from the coast.

      What good timing: you could apply this second Ellenberg quotation to your recent quest for Maximilian sunflowers.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 7, 2020 at 6:48 AM

      • Apply that quotation I did, as soon as I read it.


        October 7, 2020 at 6:56 AM

        • And now I can’t resist applying etymology: to apply is etymologically ‘to fold onto,’ as also seen in appliqué.

          Steve Schwartzman

          October 7, 2020 at 7:23 AM

  3. The little bluestem has an almost metallic appearance in your photo. The blurry background provided by the gayfeather flowers really makes your subject stand out. Your quote is a warning to all the pseudoscientists in the world.

    Peter Klopp

    October 7, 2020 at 9:05 AM

    • In the best cases, making the subject stand out makes the picture outstanding.

      Worse than the situation described in the quotation is the one—all too common, alas!—in which a person clings to a claim even after the contrary evidence is brought to the person’s attention.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 7, 2020 at 11:35 AM

  4. Wow! This one’s a real standout. Great background and I love the symmetry of it, and for whatever reason I find the browns below and the greens above really appealing.

    Todd Henson

    October 7, 2020 at 10:01 AM

    • Yours is the second comment in a row to speak of standing out, which I’m happy to hear both times. The split between brown below the grass’s joint and green above is indeed part of this portrait’s appeal. Let’s hear it for minimalist abstraction.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 7, 2020 at 11:40 AM

  5. The junction of the lower and the upper stem reminds me of bamboo. Such a beautiful juxtaposition with the dramatic background.


    October 9, 2020 at 2:19 AM

    • That junction is a reminder that bamboo, as woody as it is, is in fact a grass. (Granted, some plants outside the grass family also have junctions in their stems.) And yes, the gayfeather made for a dramatic background.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 9, 2020 at 7:13 AM

  6. Very cool. I could see you doing an exhibit with this type of image … plant abstracts.


    October 14, 2020 at 2:30 PM

  7. I always enjoy the subtle colors that LBS sports in fall, and you’ve highlighted this here very nicely. And, of course, I love the rich purple background.


    November 8, 2020 at 9:30 AM

    • And now the little bluestem is turning more thoroughly russet, with bits of fluff toward the tips. I’m hoping to get some pleasant pictures of that phase. I might have this morning, but for the dull sky.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 8, 2020 at 9:39 AM

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