Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Archive for May 2021

Mini-meadow Monday

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I’d call this little space covered with mixed wildflowers a mini-meadow. Photographed on May 21st just off Yaupon Dr. on the far side of my neighborhood, it offered up the white of a rain-lily, Zephyranthes drummondii; the red at the center of some firewheels, Gaillardia pulchella; yellow galore in a slew of four-nerve daisies, Tetraneuris linearifolia; and last but not least, as well as least in size while greatest in numbers, a starry sprinkling of least daisies, Chaetopappa bellidifolia.

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And here’s an unrelated quotation for today from Izabella Tabarovsky, who came to America from the Soviet Union at age 20:

Over the past year, as I have watched instances of American censorship multiply, and extend to speech, books, movies, opinions and plain facts, memories from those early years of my American life, when I first began to grapple with the consequences of living under censorship, have resurfaced. I have been flabbergasted to watch the staff of publishing houses become enraged over the publication of authors they disagree with, designate those works as harmful and demand that they be “cancelled.” I have been utterly perplexed to discover that some California schools have banned venerable classics such as Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men and Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, because of concerns about their use of racial slurs and stereotypes. Of course, we don’t want children to read racist literature. But believing that these particular works propagate racial hatred requires the same mental contortions that Soviet censors exercised when they laboured so hard to imagine all the ways a work of art might lead citizens astray.

You’re welcome to read the full essay, which is entitled
What My Soviet Life Has Taught Me About Censorship and Why It Makes Us Dumb.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 31, 2021 at 4:10 AM

Red: unexpected and expected

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The unexpected red* was on the stalk of the rain-lily (Zephyranthes drummondii) in the foreground that had already produced a seed capsule. The expected red was in the center of the firewheels (Gaillardia pulchella) beyond. I understand the latter but not the former. This picture is from Allen Park on May 15th. That session also yielded the darker and artsier take below that portrays the same two species.

* After this post appeared, Herschel Hobotz identified the red on the rain-lily as Stagonospora curtisii, a fungal disease sometimes called red blotch, red leaf spot or red fire.

© Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 30, 2021 at 4:30 AM

Pink yarrow

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I’d read that yarrow flowers (Achillea millefolium) could be pink.
Nevertheless, all of the ones I’d seen were white.
Finally in Great Hills Park on May 18th I came across a few pink ones.

The Old English word for this plant was gearwe, which has evolved into our modern yarrow.
Similarly, yet used to be gīet; year was gēar; and the geard that became yard still showed its link to garden.

And we can’t leave without mentioning that pink
was the name of a flower before it became the name of a color.

For an interesting and readable account of yarrow’s distribution and genetics,
you’re welcome to check out an article from A Wandering Botanist.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 29, 2021 at 5:37 AM

Hitched

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As a well-known and often misquoted statement by John Muir tells us: “When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.” Along those lines but nowhere near as cosmic was this aging four-nerve daisy (Tetraneuris linearifolia) I found in my part of town on May 21st that had somehow managed to get itself hitched up to a rain-lily (Zephyranthes drummondii).

And here’s an unrelated quotation for today: “Many may be shocked to discover that independent researchers are generally only able to replicate the results of about one third of all biomedical and psychological science studies. This means there is currently no reason to give particular credence to the claims or conclusions of any single published claim merely by virtue of peer-review publication. The difficulty of establishing the validity of new alleged discoveries in the social sciences is often not readily apparent to those lacking the disciplinary expertise necessary to critically evaluate them. This problem is exacerbated by recent findings that many public misunderstandings of psychological research stem less from bad reporting or science writing than from scientists themselves overstating and overselling their findings to reporters and to an unsuspecting public.” — Edward Cantu and Lee Jussim, “Microaggressions, Questionable Science, and Free Speech,” Texas Review of Law and Politics, 2021.

If you’d like a more-detailed account of the “irreproducibility crisis,” you’re welcome to read a report entitled “Shifting Sands.”

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 28, 2021 at 4:34 AM

Euphoria

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I often see Euphoria beetles in prickly pear cactus flowers (Opuntia engelmannii). On May 21st I noticed this pair apparently living up to their genus name. For a closer look, click the excerpt below.

For the origin and meanings of euphoria, the word, here’s a brief account.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 27, 2021 at 4:37 AM

A warty Mexican hat

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Occasionally the central column in a Mexican hat flower head (Ratibida columnifera) gets warty-looking. That was the case with this one I found in Great Hills Park on May 18th. Because the Mexican hat grew near some dead Ashe juniper branches (Juniperus ashei) on the ground, I was able to get their rich harmonizing brown around the flower head, while a broad aperture of f/3.5 kept the background completely free of details.

For something different, check out how photographic illustrator Josh Dykgraaf combines many small photographs of plants and landscapes to create pictures of animals.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 26, 2021 at 4:35 AM

Eupithecia miserulata

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The scientific name in this post’s title is a mouthful, and the common name “common eupithecia” is hardly common outside of lepidopteran groups and entomological websites. The good folks at bugguide.net identified this moth larva for me. At least I knew that the flower head it was on at the entrance to Great Hills Park on May 18th was a firewheel, Gaillardia pulchella, also called Indian blanket and blanketflower. For a closer look at the little green eating machine, click the thumbnail below to zoom in.

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Here’s an item for the Fiction Rivals Reality department. On March 30, 1981, when recently inaugurated President Ronald Reagan was shot in an assassination attempt, he seemed initially unharmed. Secret Service agent Jerry Parr then noticed a little foamy blood on Reagan’s mouth, realized he’d been hit after all, and saw to it that he was rushed to a hospital. According to an editorial in the Wall Street Journal that refers to the book Zero Fail, by reporter Carol Leonnig: “When Parr was a kid he saw a 1939 movie, ‘Code of the Secret Service,’ which made him want to be an agent. The central character, fearless agent Brass Bancroft, was played by Ronald Reagan, whose life Parr saved some four decades later. Life is full of strange, unseen circularities.”

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 25, 2021 at 4:38 AM

Making inroads

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Here are two more pictures from May 9th showing the great wildpflower pfield in Pflugerville that you saw in a previous post. Most of the flowers are firewheels (Gaillardia pulchella) and greenthreads (Thelesperma filifolium). In the top picture there had been real motion, namely of a vehicle whose tracks became no-grow zones for the wildflowers. In the second view there’s an implied motion radiating up and out from the bottom center of the frame, a floral big bang. I think what accounts for that sense of movement was my vantage point as I stood on a stepladder. Having the camera up so high let me aim down at a greater angle, which in turn made it easier to keep all the plants in focus; that’s why I’d brought the stepladder with me.

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For an editorial about the value of free speech in a free society, and especially on college campuses, I recommend “Beliefs Aren’t Facts,” by Gary Saul Morson and Morton Schapiro, both of Northwestern University. Here’s one of the editorial’s seventeen paragraphs:

But if we discount the practice of learning through meaningful exchange, we not only default on our obligations as citizens, we place democracy itself in peril. Democracy demands we recognize our beliefs as opinions, and opinions sometimes prove false. If we could be certain they wouldn’t, there would be no reason to embrace democracy over a dictatorship of the virtuous.

And here’s another excerpt:

Those who acquiesce to violence and intimidation because it is invoked in the name of justice in fact invite it. Actions inconceivable one year become fringe the next, and soon they’re mainstream. Once the intelligentsia condones such excesses, the slide begins. The cancellers are soon canceled.  There is no limit to how far that process can go.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 24, 2021 at 5:36 AM

More from Wells Branch on May 11th

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Above, look at these colorful colonies of mealy blue sage (Salvia farinacea) and Engelmann daisies (Engelmannia peristenia). The light-colored curving vine tendril in the lower right is probably Texas bindweed (Convolvulus equitans). In the upper right some greenthreads (Thelesperma filifolium) and firewheels (Gaillardia pulchella) put in an appearance.

Below, I think I photographed a native wildflower I rarely come across, Bidens laevis, apparently known as bur-marigold and smooth beggarticks. The neutral background came from a creek, which I had to make an effort to keep from sliding into as I sat on its rather steep bank. That difficulty aside, the location makes me think I really did find Bidens laevis, which is known to favor wet soil along the banks of creeks and rivers.

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For a cautionary tale about the dangers of tribalism, you can read an editorial by Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 23, 2021 at 4:37 AM

Field of white, May delight

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From along US 183 in Burnet County’s tiny town of Briggs on May 12th, get a load of this dense prairie bishop colony, Bifora americana, with some firewheels, Gaillardia pulchella, as accessorizing bits of eye-catching red. Three days earlier I’d gone to a prairie parcel in Pflugerville where prairie bishop looked this good in 2020, only to find it paltry there this year. It’s another example showing the vagaries of nature.

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Imagine a couple born one day apart celebrating their 100th birthdays and 76th wedding anniversary.
You needn’t just imagine it.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 22, 2021 at 4:36 AM

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