Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Two more views of pickerelweed

with 33 comments

Pontederia cordata; August 13th at a pond near E. Howard Lane
on the Blackland Prairie in northeast Austin.

And here’s an unrelated thought for today: “We can finish nothing in this life; but we may make a beginning, and bequeath a noble example. Thus Character is the true antiseptic of society. The good deed leaves an indelible stamp. It lives on and on; and while the frame moulders and disappears, the great worker lives for ever in the memory of his race. ‘Death,’ says the Philosopher, ‘is a co-mingling of Eternity with Time. In the death of a good man, Eternity is seen looking through Time.'” — Samuel L. Smiles; George Moore, Merchant and Philanthropist.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 10, 2020 at 4:39 AM

33 Responses

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  1. You’ve done an excellent alignment of the stem’s branch with its shadow. It’s almost like x-ray vision. And the fascinating structure of the leaf–it all comes together.


    October 10, 2020 at 4:48 AM

    • The flowers in this species are so luscious that the leaves get short shrift, photographically for sure and probably in general. That’s all the more reason I was happy with the second picture. This plant doesn’t have suckers (at least I don’t think it does) but I’ve always been a sucker for shadows.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 10, 2020 at 6:56 AM

    • Can you believe I hadn’t paid attention to the alignment till you mentioned it? I’m glad you did.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 10, 2020 at 7:19 AM

  2. Love the lighting on the pontederia – gives it drama. 🙂

    Ann Mackay

    October 10, 2020 at 5:35 AM

    • Photographically speaking, I’ve often found that shadows create drama. It would be fun to do a book of shadow pictures—or maybe shadows and reflections, to represent both light and dark.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 10, 2020 at 7:15 AM

  3. Beautiful.
    And I really like how well you captured the structure of the leaf.


    October 10, 2020 at 6:50 AM

  4. The leaf of the pickerelweed impresses me with their curved lines creating a 3D effect on the flat surface of the photograph.

    Peter Klopp

    October 10, 2020 at 8:29 AM

  5. I love this plant right down to its wet feet, and you have portrayed it very well here.


    October 10, 2020 at 8:30 AM

    • Thanks. I don’t think I’ve ever photographed the lowest visible portion of pickerelweed plants. Next time I see some I’ll have to check that out and see if anything looks pictorially interesting.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 10, 2020 at 12:04 PM

      • Even if it isn’t it is a good habit to cultivate. In my field botany class the professor always insisted we get basal leaves of our specimens. They can be diagnostic.


        October 11, 2020 at 8:10 AM

  6. A beautiful, artistic shot of the leaf, Steve. I enjoyed the blossom, too.

    Lavinia Ross

    October 10, 2020 at 10:14 AM

  7. Both of these shots are great, both really make an impact on the viewer. I think this idea of an album of shadow pictures sounds really intriguing.
    Interesting quotation, too – – my first reaction to character = antiseptic was puzzlement and almost that it invites ridicule, but a couple of seconds later, the message clicked into place and I think it’s a good analogy.

    Robert Parker

    October 10, 2020 at 10:35 AM

    • I got myself stirred up this morning when I thought about a book of shadow pictures, or of shadows and reflections. It still seems like a good idea.

      In the year of the pandemic our first reaction to antiseptic is a very literal one. I’m not surprised it took a little bit for the metaphorical sense to click. The Victorians were big on duty and character. The overdoing of those played a role in many Gilbert and Sullivan satires.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 10, 2020 at 12:12 PM

  8. Aha, Samuel Smiles!

    • Sounds like the name brings smiles of recognition to your face. He and I share the same initials.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 10, 2020 at 5:19 PM

  9. Your leaf photo beautifully captured the wave action of pickerel foliage. I like the light behind the leaf; in summer, my only time of enjoying that in my own pickerel rush is early morning, but it’s a treat.


    October 10, 2020 at 1:46 PM

    • I like the way you speak of “wave action” in the foliage. How nice that summer mornings backlight the leaves for you, and you don’t even have to leave your yard. We agree on season and time—I took this picture around 10 o’clock on an August morning—but I had to travel to the other side of town.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 10, 2020 at 5:32 PM

  10. I’ve not seen pickerelweed this year, mostly because I’ve been hanging out in places where it isn’t. Your photo of the flower is much more interesting than most, but it’s the leaves I find most compelling. My first thought was of grosgrain ribbon or fabric. The Wiki page has a bit of etymology for grosgrain (which you’ve no doubt figured out already). It also mentions the nautical tie-in. The rum drink known as ‘grog’ was introduced by British Admiral Edward Vernon, who was known as ‘Old Grog’ because he preferred a grosgam (grosgrain) cloak.

    I read Smiles’s book Thrift two or three years ago; he had a few things to say about character there, too. For about two or three minutes I fantasized sending a copy to every legislator and politician in the country. Since it’s free at Project Gutenberg, it would be easy enough to do, and a thrifty gesture at that.
    Some portions certainly continue to be relevant. For example: “When typhus or cholera breaks out, they tell us that Nobody is to blame. That terrible Nobody! How much he has to answer for. More mischief is done by Nobody than by all the world besides.”


    October 10, 2020 at 2:25 PM

    • Then here’s to your getting pickereled next year. I was happy with the first picture because of the way the flower spike in front, with its long fuzzy tip, lined up with the flower spike behind it. The second picture was new territory for me with this species, so I was especially happy with it.

      Yes, I was familiar with the etymology of grosgrain and grogram and grog. The Wikipedia article has things backward in one place. It says grosgrain is “a folk corruption of the French word grogram,” when it’s the other way around. Gros grain is French for ‘coarse grain [i.e. texture].’ Grogram was an English approximation of how the French sounded.

      I’d never heard of Smiles till last week. I’m impressed that you’d read one of his books. Good luck—which is to say fat chance—getting politicians to take character to heart. Smiles got it right: “More mischief is done by Nobody than by all the world besides.”

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 10, 2020 at 7:09 PM

  11. The quote is certainly thought-provoking. I love the leaf!! The backlight is lovely and seeing all those details of the leaf is wonderful.


    October 10, 2020 at 2:53 PM

    • Hooray for backlighting, especially when the backlit object is translucent and has lots of texture. This leaf certainly fit the bill.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 10, 2020 at 7:14 PM

  12. That leaf is amazing!

    Eliza Waters

    October 10, 2020 at 6:15 PM

  13. The leaf photo is fantastic, Steve – the warm light, the venation, and that shadow, not to mention the graceful curves, are all shown to their best advantage.


    October 13, 2020 at 11:54 AM

    • I knew I was onto something with that pickerelweed leaf. Commenters have concurred. Shadows were a big factor.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 13, 2020 at 3:14 PM

  14. Great detail and nice capture of the sun filtering through that interesting leaf.


    October 14, 2020 at 2:25 PM

    • I was really happy with the way that pickerelweed leaf came out. It was a welcome counterpart to the many pictures I’ve taken of the flowers in this species.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 14, 2020 at 6:33 PM

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