Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Archive for April 2021

Two views of a pink evening primrose flower

with 54 comments

In the first view the pink evening primrose flower (Oenothera speciosa) serves as a backdrop for a Texas bindweed flower (Convolvulus equitans). For the second picture I lay on the ground and aimed upward so the pink of the flower would play off the blue of the sky as much as possible.

I made these portraits on April 20th at the same place in Austin where I photographed a cucumber beetle and greenthread flowers.

* * * * * * * * *

Two days ago I mentioned that if you run fast you move quickly but if you stand fast you don’t move at all. A word like fast that has opposite meanings is called a contronym or Janus word or auto-antonym. You’re welcome to read an article that gives other examples of such words. If you’re aware of contronyms in any other language, I’d be glad to hear them.

* * * * * * * * *

Now here’s a new English language challenge: can you come up with a sentence containing the words “adopted finished stirred”? The three words must appear exactly that way, with no punctuation marks or other words between them, and the full sentence must be grammatical. I’ll give a solution in a couple of days.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 30, 2021 at 4:35 AM

Vernal pools at Enchanted Rock

with 43 comments

Enchanted Rock is known for its vernal pools, shallow depressions in the stone where water accumulates and fosters plant life. In past years I’ve seen water in some of the vernal pools there, but on April 12th all the ones I noticed had no water standing in them. That didn’t mean there wasn’t residual moisture that plants were still taking advantage of. In the first picture you see a closeup of a vernal pool only a few inches across filled with stonecrop plants (Sedum nuttallianum).

The middle picture shows a much larger vernal pool with plenty of lush vegetation in it. The flowers are spiderworts (Tradescantia sp.) and the cacti are prickly pears (Opuntia engelmannii). Below, notice how a bunch of vernal pools had obligingly lined up.

Two days ago I posed a few questions. Robert Parker proved by his answers that he’d been holding out on us and that he’s really Mr. World Geography.

Which river touches the most countries? It’s the Danube, which borders or passes through 10 countries: Germany, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Bulgaria, Romania, Moldova, and Ukraine, in that order. The river that touches the next highest number of countries is the Nile, with 9.

Which country is the least densely populated? It’s Mongolia, with not quite 2 people per square kilometer. Greenland (whose name is misleading because it’s largely covered with ice) has a significantly lower population density but it’s not an independent country (Denmark owns it).

Which country borders the greatest number of other countries? Russia and China tie at 14 apiece.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 29, 2021 at 4:41 AM

Yellow on yellow

with 49 comments

Probably the wildflower I’ve seen the most in Austin over the past few weeks is Thelesperma filifolium, known as greenthread because of its thread-like leaves. Unless you get up close, though, what you’re most likely to notice is the yellow of the flowers. On April 20th I set out to photograph a nice little greenthread colony I’d spotted a day earlier that had sprung up at a road construction site. For some of my portraits I used a wide aperture and exposed for the dark center of a flower head, knowing that the flower heads in the background would come out with little detail and probably overexposed. It’s an aesthetic that questions whether there can ever be too much bright yellow.

On one flower head I found a cucumber beetle, Diabrotica undecimpunctata*, at the tip of a ray, giving a second sense to this post’s title of “Yellow on yellow.”

* Latin undecim means literally ‘one-ten,’ i.e. ‘one plus ten,’ or eleven. This species of beetle has 11 spots.

* * * * * * * * *

Did you know that Austin has recently been the fastest growing metropolitan statistical area in the United States? The second fastest is Raleigh (North Carolina), where my oldest friend in the world now lives; I think we met when we were two or three years old. We grew up in Nassau County (New York), which during some of our years there I seem to remember was the fastest growing county in the country. And I’ll hasten to add that fast is one of those strange English words that can mean opposite things. If you run fast you move quickly, but if you stand fast you don’t move at all. Can you think of any other self-contradictory words?

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 28, 2021 at 4:33 AM

More from Enchanted Rock

with 20 comments

In both of these April 12th views at Enchanted Rock you see intrusive seams in the rock.
For me the clouds in the top picture are anything but intrusive.

Here are three world geography questions for you.


Which river touches the greatest number of countries?

Which country is the least densely populated?

Which country touches the most other countries?


I’ll post the answers in a couple of days.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 27, 2021 at 6:15 AM

Radial arrangements

with 26 comments

It occurred to me that two of the plants I photographed on April 11th in Round Rock display radial arrangements. The picture above shows the top of a lace cactus, Echinocereus reichenbachii. In the other view the radial (and always five-fold) arrangement characterizes the flowers of the most common milkweed in my area, Asclepias asperula, called antelope horns. You also get to see a butterfly that I take to be Callophrys gryneus, known as the olive or juniper hairstreak, though this individual didn’t show much green.

Speaking of radial arrangements, the word that that adjective comes from is Latin radius, which originally meant ‘a staff, a rod.’ The Romans later put the word to work metaphorically to designate ‘a beam or ray of any shining object.’ In a less radiant way, geometers came to use the word abstractly for ‘any line segment connecting a circle’s center to the circle itself.’ We also find that notion of ‘going out from a central point’ in Old-French-derived ray and the Latin-based verb radiate. And then there’s rayon, which appears to have been borrowed unchanged (except for pronunciation) from the modern French word for ‘ray’; the connection is that rayon has a somewhat radiant surface.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 26, 2021 at 4:41 AM

Lichens at Enchanted Rock

with 43 comments

Yesterday you heard that on April 12th we visited Enchanted Rock State Natural Area.
How about the red-orange color of the lichens in the abstract view above?
Below, see the way pale gray lichens almost completely covered the rock in the foreground.

And here’s little lichen ring you can slip on your rough imagination’s finger:

For a concise and colorful primer on lichens, check out “Why Lichens Matter.” As for what makes matter matter, the answer is existence. An English-language etymologist would add that matter, which traces back to mater, the Latin word for ‘mother,’ is the universe’s ‘mother stuff.’

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 25, 2021 at 4:46 AM

Enchanted Rock a year and a half later

with 34 comments

Not having been to Enchanted Rock since November 2019, and not having gone anywhere that far from home in all of 2020 due to the pandemic, on April 12th we drove the two hours it takes to get to the largest pink granite monadnock in the United States. We ended up spending four sometimes strenuous hours there. The top view looks off to the side from part-way up the main dome. Below is a hoodoo that we got to after climbing all the way to the top of that dome and then descending part-way down the far side.

The first and third pictures show that “boulder-strewn” describes some parts of the site well.

And from the Philippine island of Cebu, here’s an account of a barking dog and an abandoned baby in Sibonga, which happens to be the home town of the Lady Eve.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 24, 2021 at 4:24 AM

Prairie celestials

with 38 comments

Tipped off by native plant aficionado Bob Kamper about a goodly number of prairie celestials (Nemastylis geminiflora) in the greenbelt beyond his back fence in Round Rock, a suburb that borders Austin on the north, I went there on April 11th and took pictures of those flowers—many pictures, in fact, because I rarely come across that species. Most of the celestials were in the shade, and so the majority of my portraits were soft, like the one above. Occasionally I found a celestial with at least some direct sunlight on it, and then I was able to make a more contrasty portrait like the one below.

Anything but celestial are the ways in which increasingly many American schools are indoctrinating their students. You’re welcome to read a parent’s testimonial that classical liberal Bari Weiss recently disseminated.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 23, 2021 at 4:37 AM

My great land loss for 2021

with 73 comments

Today is Earth Day. That notwithstanding, not a single year in the past decade has gone by that development hasn’t claimed one or more properties where I used to photograph native plants. In the last few years the loss has been running four, five, or even six annually as the Austin area has kept up its rapid growth. Two days ago I drove out to a field in Pflugerville on the west side of Heatherwilde Blvd. immediately south of Spring Hill Elementary School. From 2016 onward I’d been photographing great colonies of wildflowers there in early May, and I went to see how things were coming along in 2021 after the delay or even total suppression of blooming that our frozen week in February had caused to some species.

Alas, I discovered that my flowerful field of yesteryear has become a construction site of today. As I did once before with another recently lost prairie site, today’s post commemorates the way the Heatherwilde Blvd. parcel of Blackland Prairie looked in the first half of May 2019 but will look no more.

The white flowers are prairie bishop (Bifora americana); the yellow are square-bud primrose (Oenothera berlandieri) and Engelmann daisy (Engelmannia peristenia); the yellow-green are prairie parsley (Polytaenia sp.); the red are firewheels (Gaillardia pulchella); the blowing grass is purple three-awn (Aristida purpurea).

I should add that the southernmost end of the property, separated from the construction site by trees and perhaps under different ownership, has so far survived. I got good pictures in that area last spring and will go back in the weeks ahead to see how the flowers are doing there. It may be my last chance.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 22, 2021 at 4:40 AM

White prickly poppy colonies

with 30 comments

On April 9th we drove an hour and a quarter west to the Willow City Loop, which people throng to in the spring to see vast colonies of bluebonnets. This turned out not to be an expansive year for them there (we found broad stands at Turkey Bend on the way home), but the white prickly poppies (Argemone albiflora) along the Willow City Loop were going gangbusters. Modest groups of bluebonnets (Lupinus texensis) accompanied the prickly poppies in some places, as you see below.

* * * * * * * *

If you’re interested in learning about the ways in which increasingly many American schools are indoctrinating their students, you can read math teacher Paul Rossi’s recent testimonial that classical liberal Bari Weiss disseminated in her “Common Sense” column. As a longtime math teacher myself, I know “how rewarding it is to help young people explore the truth and beauty of mathematics.” That’s one reason I’m especially sensitive to untruths foisted off on students as being realities.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 21, 2021 at 4:33 AM

%d bloggers like this: