Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Drummond’s wild garlic

with 34 comments

A common spring wildflower in Austin is Allium drummondii, variously called Drummond’s wild garlic, wild garlic, or Drummond’s onion. I can’t tell you the name of the little critter that was ensconced in one of the flowers on April 6th in my part of town.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

Along the lines of my recent theme that some or even many commonly held notions are incorrect, I’m reading the 2020 book Apocalypse Never: Why Environmental Alarmism Hurts Us All. The author, Michael Shellenberger, is no “climate denier.” At 15 he started an Amnesty International chapter in his high school. At 16 he held a fundraiser in his back yard for Rainforest Action Network. In college he learned Portuguese and went to live in Brazil to work with the Landless Workers’ Movement and the Workers Party. By 1995 he “was interviewing the leading lights of Brazil’s progressive movement.” He was a Time magazine “Hero of the Environment.” In 2008 he won the Green Book Award. On and on it goes. And yet, the book’s cover blurb notes, “…in 2019, as some claimed ‘billions of people are going to die,’ contributing to rising anxiety, including among adolescents, Shellenberger decided that as a lifelong environmental activist, leading energy expert, and father of a teenage daughter, he needed to speak out to separate science from fiction.” And that’s what he does in this book, through 284 pages of text and an impressive 100+ pages of footnotes. Check it out (of your library) or buy it, as you prefer.

On the same day that I wrote the preceding paragraph I later became aware of a forthcoming book along similar lines, “Unsettled: What Climate Science Tells Us, What It Doesn’t, and Why It Matters,” by Steven Koonin. According to a review of the book in the Wall Street Journal by Holman W. Jenkins, Jr.: “Any reader would benefit from its deft, lucid tour of climate science, the best I’ve seen.”

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 20, 2021 at 4:34 AM

34 Responses

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  1. Those books look interesting. I’d like to have a conversation with a diprotodon, and find out what it thought about the changing climate that led to its demise.


    April 20, 2021 at 5:43 AM

    • I don’t know anything about the diprotodon’s demise (I had to look up the animal to see what it was), but in Shellenberger’s book he discusses the moas, large flightless birds (one species as tall as 3.6m!) that went extinct in New Zealand around the year 1400. That was centuries before industrialization anywhere in the world. Turns out the Maori were fond of eating moas and hunted the birds to extinction within a century or so of settling New Zealand.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 20, 2021 at 6:42 AM

      • The Australian megafauna lived in a tropical climate in today’s desert areas. Their bones were often preserved in deep mud that they got bogged in as the climate changed. But that really is a hypothesis…. similarly with what wiped out the dinosaurs around the world. Hence my wanting a chat with the diprotodon☺


        April 21, 2021 at 5:41 AM

        • I hope you’ve been studying the language of the Diprotodons so you can have that chat. They’ve been bogged down for a long time and haven’t been able to learn English.

          Steve Schwartzman

          April 21, 2021 at 6:41 AM

          • Years ago I was a visitor on a dig, it was fascinating. Language…..I prefer mental telepathy as it saves misunderstandings in translation😁


            April 21, 2021 at 7:31 AM

  2. Who knew that wild garlic could be so very beautiful?! Thank you for the excellent reviews of these two books, and the biographical note about the author that you mentioned first. Fascinating stuff!

    Birder's Journey

    April 20, 2021 at 7:50 AM

    • “Who knew that wild garlic could be so very beautiful?!” — I did! I’ve been portraying this spring-flowering species for a couple of decades and haven’t ever gotten tired of doing it.

      I included a few biographical details about the author of the first book to establish his bona fides, so readers wouldn’t immediately write him off as some kind of reactionary kook. Because so much that we hear in the media is alarmist and not based on facts, I welcome a reasonable and reality-based approach.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 20, 2021 at 8:12 AM

  3. Wild garlic and wild onions both inhabit our property, but in different locations. I was disappointed last year to find the wild onion area had dwindled, and I wish I knew why. Four or five years ago, it covered most of the south end of the orchard. Last year I found a much smaller area, so I didn’t harvest any of those delicious onions.

    Both of those books appeal to me. Wow… 100 pages of footnotes? That’s a lot of referencing!


    April 20, 2021 at 8:01 AM

    • That must have been quite a sight: wild onions covering most of one end of your orchard. I’ve observed that while some colonies in the wild replenish themselves every year, others fade away. I imagine botanists could supply some of the reasons why that happens. I’ve also noticed that some come back after an absence, so let’s hope that happens with your wild onions.

      Yes, a hundred pages of footnotes is impressive. I cited that figure to show how thoroughly the first author backs up the things he says. The other book isn’t quite out yet, so I don’t know what sort of documentation that book provides. Happy reading.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 20, 2021 at 8:18 AM

  4. I did not know until now that wild garlic could produce such beautiful flowers, Steve. Does the wild garlic have cloves as the garden variety?

    Peter Klopp

    April 20, 2021 at 8:24 AM

  5. I found a good bit of wild garlic this spring, but most of it was well past its prime. I kept a few photos for my files, but none was as publication-worthy as this one. I have a thought about your added note, but it will have to wait — time for work.


    April 20, 2021 at 8:34 AM

    • Too bad what you found was past its prime. As you see, I found some that was fresh, even if the species wasn’t as abundant this year as in some others. I’ll wait to hear your comment about the books.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 20, 2021 at 10:42 AM

      • I don’t know if this will make any sense, but…

        The blurb you quoted from the cover of Schellenberger’s book caught my attention: “…in 2019, as some claimed ‘billions of people are going to die,’ contributing to rising anxiety… Shellenberger decided that as a lifelong environmental activist… he needed to speak out to separate science from fiction.”

        Clearly, the anxiety is real, but I think it’s more complex and less amenable to easy solutions than I used to believe. It was my visit to Monument Rocks in western Kansas that changed my perspective. Walking through the remnants of the Western Interior (or Cretaceous) Seaway, it was impossible avoid the reality of geological and environmental change on a massive scale. In that long ago time, the North American continent was split into two parts by an enormous, shallow sea that stretched from the Gulf of Mexico to the Arctic Ocean. Eventually, that sea disappeared, and what we have today emerged. Obviously, human beings weren’t responsible for those slow, massive changes.

        So. Today’s environmentalists tell us the climate is changing, and we must ‘do something’ to slow the change. Underlying their arguments is the more or less explicit assumption that we’re the ones responsible for the changes. But what if we aren’t? What if we’re only witnesses to the beginnings of another cycle of change? I suspect that’s where some of our anxiety is rooted. What we’ve caused, we may be able to correct. But what we haven’t caused? That’s an entirely different matter.

        There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with retention and detention ponds, efforts to reduce industrial pollution and carbon emissions, or engaging people in all of the worthy projects that will be celebrated tomorrow.
        But far too many fear-mongers are nurturing and profiting from people’s free-floating anxieties about a changing world, rather than helping them to understand that when it comes to this planet, we’re not always the ones in charge.

        I’m looking forward to reading Shellenberger’s book.


        April 20, 2021 at 9:38 PM

        • I think you said it well. From books I’ve read and even more from science videos I’ve watched, I’ve been acquainted for some time with the Western Interior Seaway. And of course I’ve seen the seashells in rock quarried right here in central Texas. Heraclitus told us 2500 years ago that ““No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.” Thing inevitably change.

          Critics of Shellenberger’s anti-alarmist approach, i.e. alarmists, would object that what’s happening now is occurring much more rapidly than on a geological scale, hence the urgency to do something about it immediately. As you said, there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with engaging people in worthy projects. But basing calls for action on exaggerated or downright incorrect claims may have the opposite effect of turning people off once the exaggerations and outright falsities are publicized. Or maybe not, given the public’s gullibility to believe things that aren’t true, as we’ve seen so often in the past few years and especially through 2020 and into 2021. You can let us know what you think once you’ve read Shellenberger’s book.

          Steve Schwartzman

          April 21, 2021 at 6:25 AM

  6. Very pretty flower picture. I haven’t read any of those two books, maybe I should. Climate change is one of those issues that unfortunately will have people divided into two opposing teams and it has become so politicized that neither “team” can talk about it from reason. Same with COVID-19 “safeists “versus “I don’t carists” (I just invented two worlds ;-), reason flies wayyyyy over everyone’s heads.

    Alessandra Chaves

    April 20, 2021 at 2:34 PM

    • In light of what you say, it’s important for someone whom many would consider to be on one team (in this case Michael Shellenberger) to point out the excesses and false claims made by some or even many members of that team. That’s the way of reason, and it needn’t fly over everyone’s heads. On the other hand, I’m sorry to say there will be people on Shellenberger’s team who attack him in spite of the evidence he brings forward.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 20, 2021 at 4:46 PM

  7. Your photo of the allium is so elegant, Steve, and much appreciated. Also appreciated the book suggestions.

    Jet Eliot

    April 20, 2021 at 3:51 PM

    • You might say these flowers form a ring of elegance, with a second one echoed further back. I don’t yet know to what extent the second book, which isn’t out yet, echoes the first.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 20, 2021 at 4:49 PM

  8. The only wild garlic we have here is the garlic mustard- Alliaria petiolata that is highly invasive. It does taste good but at a cost.

    Steve Gingold

    April 20, 2021 at 6:33 PM

    • I wish the invasive wild mustard (Rapistrum rugosum) that’s so conspicuous along central Texas roads right now were as tasty as the other invasive you mentioned.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 21, 2021 at 6:30 AM

  9. Such a beautiful, intriguing composition! The smallest of flowers looks like a crown of jewels here.

    Lavinia Ross

    April 22, 2021 at 9:31 AM

  10. Lovely blog. I love flowers


    April 27, 2021 at 1:12 PM

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