Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Stark versus soft

with 16 comments

From the new Lakewood Park in Leander on November 10th come contrasting views. Above, sunrays broke through dramatic clouds over the park’s lake. Below is a portrait of poverty weed (Baccharis neglecta) as its fluff came loose. The soft chaos is similar to that of a thistle at the same stage of development; both plants are members of the sunflower family, after all.

Also softly chaotic and a member of Asteraceae is the seed head of this aster (Symphyotricum sp.) on a stalk conjoined to that of an opening bud; note the tight curling of the emerging rays.

You’ll find pertinent quotations illustrating some of the many meanings of the word soft in the 1913 Webster’s Dictionary.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 4, 2020 at 4:32 AM

16 Responses

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  1. The fluff of the poverty weed is also similar to that of the cattails that grow here in swampy places. Just now they are releasing their seeds. The drama of the sunrays breaking through the clouds is very impressive, Steve.

    Peter Klopp

    December 4, 2020 at 8:36 AM

    • It’s good that you mentioned cattail fluff, which really does look like the poverty weed fluff in the middle picture. I’m glad you appreciate the dramatic treatment in the first photo.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 4, 2020 at 8:52 AM

  2. Great shot of the clouds and sun – lots of drama indeed.

    Eliza Waters

    December 4, 2020 at 9:02 AM

    • The processing brought out that drama that was inherently there. How our eyes see things is sometimes quite different from the way a camera does.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 4, 2020 at 9:09 AM

  3. Sunrays and dramatic clouds sure made for a stunning image! It’s interesting how the cloud formation at the center of the photo looks like a circular blanket. The dark clouds hanging in the distance are interesting too – it’s as if they’re traveling in a line. I see a lot of fluff in the orchard and slough area of our property. The thistles have cast their fluff long ago, but the cattails are still getting after it. If it wasn’t for the fact that both can be invasive species and so much work to control somewhat, I might be able to enjoy their beauty more!


    December 4, 2020 at 9:10 AM

    • Let’s clearly call you a cloud climber, at least in your imagination. Now I see what you mean by a circular blanket, which I wouldn’t otherwise have imagined. You’re the second person to point out the similarity to cattail fluff, which I’ve also enjoyed photographing in various stages. At first it stays mostly together and preserves traces of how it was packed into the seed head. Then it gets all crazy, like the middle picture here. As we’ve discussed on other occasions, I enjoy my freedom to photograph such things without worrying about the consequences a landowner has to deal with.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 4, 2020 at 9:22 AM

  4. I wasn’t sure of Leander’s location, and when I looked, I found another Travis County spot that intrigued me: the unincorporated area named Nameless. That’s almost as much fun as Nada, Texas.

    Your poverty weed reminded me of bushy bluestem. It’s nearly fluffless now around here because of our strong winds, but there’s still some to please the eye. My favorite of the three is the aster, because of the different stages shown in one image. It is interesting to see those curled rays. I’ve always associated them with a flower’s ending, rather than its beginning.


    December 5, 2020 at 6:16 AM

    • The name Leander, taken from Greek mythology (which is why the town has a Hero Way running across it), caught your attention once before, to the point that you checked out the route that would take you there; no doubt you’ll remember the reason, if not the name of the town itself:


      Not long after I moved to Austin a million years ago, while driving around exploring I discovered Nameless and was intrigued by its self-belying name. In a state with so many Spanish speakers, I’d have joined you in taking Nada to mean ‘nothing.’ However, when I checked the online Handbook of Texas just now, I found this: “The original name of the town was Vox Populi (from Latin vox populi vox dei, ‘the voice of the people is the voice of God’); the present name is an American version of the Czechoslovakian word najda (hope). There is a small town near Nada, which is now known as Vox Populi.”

      In spite of some recent windy days here, too, I’ve happily noticed we still have a bunch of fluffy seed heads from goldenrod and bushy bluestem.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 5, 2020 at 6:55 AM

  5. Poverty weed gone to seed is a fluffy delight.

    Steve Gingold

    December 6, 2020 at 6:39 PM

  6. Hey Steve … that shot of the skies over the lake is a stunner! Nice to see the close up of the seed head …


    December 8, 2020 at 12:14 PM

    • The initial picture was a good way to commemorate our first visit to that new park. Seed heads have been a subject for a long time, as you’ve seen here over the years.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 8, 2020 at 4:10 PM

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