Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Return to the cliff: orange and green

with 26 comments

On January 16th, two weeks after my first foray this year to the cliff on the west side of Capital of Texas Highway south of FM 2222, I returned. I did so because when driving past there the previous day I’d noticed that the recent snow/sleet had invigorated the water’s seeping on the face of the cliff. Some of my new photographs highlighted orange areas among the rocks. In the first picture, notice in the upper left how the dead roots or stems of plants were slowly become mineralized. And a little right of center near the bottom it was good of a pillbug to appear as a token representative of the animal kingdom.

In the middle photograph, some of the drying southern maidenhair fern leaves (Adiantum capillus-veneris) at the upper right were taking on a paler version of the orange in or on the rocks. What the green stuff in the final picture was, I don’t know.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 20, 2021 at 4:37 AM

26 Responses

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  1. The pillbug is so emblematic of how life feels sometimes. Nice pics!

    Kim of Glover Gardens

    January 20, 2021 at 6:04 AM

  2. The more I look at the green goo in the last photo, the more it resembles algae that I sometimes see around streams and such. I wonder if it’s a vertical version of what so often forms horizontally: that is, the seeping rock is so wet that it encourages the kind of growth that usually is seen around ground waters.


    January 20, 2021 at 7:29 AM

    • My guess about the green goo was that it’s some sort of algae, but affected by minerals leaching out of the dripping water. In particular there’s the verticality you mentioned, which predominates in the last picture’s primary green blob.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 20, 2021 at 7:51 AM

  3. Great abstracts. We have a lot of orange lichens here. The green slime looks gross 😝


    January 20, 2021 at 7:41 AM

    • What I haven’t been able to determine is how much of the orange is in the rock itself, versus what comes from lichens growing on the rocks. As for the green slime, its appearance may look gross but when I touched it I found it soft and not unpleasant.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 20, 2021 at 7:55 AM

    • By the way, the article I linked to in my reply to the next commenter says that in Cornwall pillbugs are called gramersows or gramfers. Have you heard either of those names?

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 20, 2021 at 8:05 AM

      • I haven’t even heard of the name pillbug! I just know them as woodlice and have thousands of them in my garden!


        January 20, 2021 at 8:14 AM

        • And for me it’s the opposite: I grew up with the name pillbug and never heard of woodlice till recently. I wonder if gramersows and gramfers are old folk names that have fallen out of use. Here’s an article with even more colloquial names, most of them from the U.K.:


          Steve Schwartzman

          January 20, 2021 at 8:21 AM

  4. Beautiful photos, Steve, and I am curious about the globular rock forms in the last photo.

    I spotted the pillbug. I knew a woman from the U.K. who told me she knew them as “the grandfathers” or “little grey men” over there.

    Lavinia Ross

    January 20, 2021 at 7:52 AM

    • Those globular rock forms certainly add visual texture, don’t they? The cliff was created by cutting a roadbed through a high bluff, so I don’t know if those rounded forms could occur naturally as well.

      It’s interesting that someone from the U.K. personifies pillbugs as grandfathers and little grey men. You prompted me to search, and I found this article that lists other English-language folk names for these critters:


      Growing up in New York, the only name for them I ever heard was pillbugs.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 20, 2021 at 8:03 AM

  5. The green stuff looks to me like some of the algae I have seen on stagnant waters/ If so, it would be an unusual place for it to grow on a cliff that normally lacks moisture.

    Peter Klopp

    January 20, 2021 at 9:07 AM

    • “Normally” is the operative word in your comment. Because this cliff seeps water a lot of the time, plants can grow on or at the base of this cliff that normally wouldn’t survive in a similar place that didn’t seep.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 20, 2021 at 9:19 AM

  6. I’ve seen orange fungus like that although I’ve yet to identify it. The green blob does look like algae of some variety.

    Steve Gingold

    January 20, 2021 at 6:06 PM

    • There seems to be consensus that the green is some sort of algae. As for the orange, is there something that makes you think fungus per se, rather than lichen (which necessarily include a fungus)?

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 20, 2021 at 6:58 PM

  7. The green goo is clearly alien slime. No other explanation! But seriously, these photos are very cool 🙂

    M.B. Henry

    January 20, 2021 at 6:07 PM

  8. Green slime! 😀

    Eliza Waters

    January 20, 2021 at 8:57 PM

  9. […] orange and green things, I mostly focused on geological textures duringmy January 16th return to the cliff along the […]

  10. Love the pillbug. 🙂 Could the green stuff be a slime mold? But no, probably algae, like you said above.


    January 29, 2021 at 12:46 PM

    • Yeah, the pillbug was a welcome and unexpected little addition. I think you’re right that the green was algae of some sort.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 29, 2021 at 9:31 PM

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