Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Spiderworts were a star of the show

with 24 comments

At Enchanted Rock on April 12th spiderworts (Tradescantia sp.) were the most prominent wildflowers. You caught a glimpse of some in the recent post about vernal pools, and now you’re getting a few closer looks. In the top photo, spiderworts towered over dried ferns and some struggling prickly pears. The middle picture shows you a happy group flowering away in a vernal pool.

And below is an even closer view from an area that had granite in the background.

Back in September I ran an “editorial” in response to the widespread and intentional slanting of “news” stories. The jihad against fairness, factuality, objectivity, and due process in the United States has noticeably increased since September, so I feel I need to repeat what I wrote then.

Suppose you’re trying to determine how prevalent a certain thing is in a given population. The science of statistics requires that you get a sample that’s random and also large enough to greatly reduce the likelihood of being unrepresentative (which occasionally happens just by chance, like being dealt a straight flush in poker). Unfortunately, many in the news media violate those principles by choosing to present only occurrences that support a certain ideology, while purposely not reporting occurrences, often much greater in number, that contradict that ideology.

Let’s concoct an example. Suppose I’m a member of the Green Eyes Party, and I claim that adults with green eyes are rich. I go out searching until I eventually find four wealthy people who happen to have green eyes, and I produce a lavish documentary about them. At the end I say: “See, it’s clear that adults with green eyes are wealthy.” In so doing, I violated the axioms of statistics—and fairness!—because I included only green-eyed adults who are rich; I didn’t include many of them; and I didn’t take into account the much larger number of green-eyed adults who aren’t rich.

So when you hear on the news or elsewhere that X is a common occurrence, or that there’s an “epidemic” of X, do your best to find out whether large-scale, properly gathered statistics show that X really is common. In unfortunately many cases you’ll discover that X is actually rare but seems common only because certain interests are heavily promoting it.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 1, 2021 at 4:41 AM

24 Responses

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  1. Looking through my photos, it seems that the spiderworts I encounter down here tend to be a darker purple or blue-purple, while those from the hill country more often (although not always) tend toward a pinkish hue. Whatever the color, they’re a pleasing sight. I laughed at the second photo: it’s a herd of spiderwort, gathered at the waterhole.

    The cacti reminded me of something I was going to mention. When you posted the photo of the skeletonized prickly pear a while ago (I searched, but couldn’t find the post), you said you’d not been seeing as many post-freeze ‘mushy’ cacti as I have. It finally occurred to me that water probably made the difference. I had to learn not to water cacti in fall and winter, because any water in their tissues during a freeze would burst the cells in their tissue and turn them to mush. My hypothesis is that prickly pear in areas of drought probably fared better during the freeze than those growing in places that had received rain. Whether the water comes from a hose or a cloud, the effect on the plants would be the same.


    May 1, 2021 at 9:07 AM

    • Ever imaginative: “a herd of spiderwort, gathered at the water hole.” I drank my fill, too, pictorially. Here’s the skeletonized prickly pear pad:

      Textures of different kinds

      Your hypothesis about wetter versus drier cacti in a deep freeze is plausible. I wonder if botanists have researched that.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 1, 2021 at 2:01 PM

  2. Ah, those vernal pools again providing some essential moisture for the lovely spiderworts!

    Peter Klopp

    May 1, 2021 at 9:13 AM

  3. I’m fond of spiderwort, the colors are variable. Up close the anthers and filaments in the flower center are strikingly colorful.


    May 1, 2021 at 9:40 AM

    • Yes, the colors are variable, even to an occasional white spiderwort. The anthers and filaments have enamored me as much as they have you.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 1, 2021 at 2:04 PM

  4. As you know I am also fond of spiderworts and have plenty of them right here in our yard. It’s nice having something so attractive just outside the door although ordinarily I photograph them after returning home pursuing other subjects. Yours are a fair bit paler than ours which are Tradescantia virginiana-Virginia Spiderwort. Neither they nor Ohio Spiderwort-T. ohiensis are native to New England.

    Steve Gingold

    May 1, 2021 at 2:51 PM

    • And as an experiment, here is a link to ours.

      Steve Gingold

      May 1, 2021 at 2:53 PM

      • How do you insert your links? Do you use the formula?

        Steve Gingold

        May 1, 2021 at 2:54 PM

        • Well, it inserted a blank link. Anyway it should be <a href=" etc

          Steve Gingold

          May 1, 2021 at 2:55 PM

        • When I’m preparing a post in the WP editor, I drag through the text I want to have serve as link. Then I either click the link icon or type Command-K, either of which brings up a dialog box where I can paste the URL and also designate if I want a new window to open up when someone clicks on the link. I don’t try to type the <a href=… code myself since WP is willing to do it for me.

          Steve Schwartzman

          May 1, 2021 at 4:59 PM

          • I do that also when creating a post. But I don’t think you can do that within a comment…or can you? That is why I type in the code manually. In the first one I figured it did work. I had not placed anything within the quotes the second time so figured it would not go anywhere. Figured wrong.

            Steve Gingold

            May 1, 2021 at 5:03 PM

            • You’re right that we don’t seem able to do that within a comment on someone else’s blog. What I normally do then is go to my own WP dashboard and bring up the comments window, which does offer formatting controls, including links. I go through the motions of beginning to reply to any random comment, and I include whatever link I want to. Then a copy everything I’ve done and I paste it as a comment on the other person’s blog. It’s more complicated to describe it here now than it is to actually go through the steps.

              All that is if I want the link to be embedded in the text. The alternative is just to paste the URL as a separate line in my comment on the other person’s blog. As we’ve seen, sometimes WP turns that into a box, and other times it just leaves it alone.

              Steve Schwartzman

              May 1, 2021 at 5:38 PM

      • That link worked fine, taking me to a Go Botany page about the virginiana spiderwort species.

        Steve Schwartzman

        May 1, 2021 at 4:55 PM

    • We had a few spiderworts on the side of our house again this spring too, but nothing like the numbers I found at Enchanted Rock.

      The USDA map codes the two spiderwort species you mentioned as native in New England:


      I don’t know how to tell apart the several species we have in central Texas.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 1, 2021 at 5:29 PM

      • I guess it depends on whose definition of native we are talking about. GoBotany, aka The New England Wildflower Society and also aka Native Plant Trust, which I linked to, says it is non-native and I usually bow to them. They do however list the Ohio Spiderwort as native.

        Steve Gingold

        May 1, 2021 at 6:26 PM

  5. It’s been a good spring for spiderwort, but I think every spring is pretty good for spiderwort. Mine are nearly done. I prune them, otherwise they’ll take over. I always have plenty! Very nice set of shots!


    May 1, 2021 at 6:46 PM

    • Thanks. Having a multitude of spiderworts seems a welcome kind of “problem.”

      When I was most recently at the Wildflower Center a kid and mother passed by while I was photographing a spiderwort. I told them what the flower was and then had to explain that it was spiderwort, not spider wart.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 1, 2021 at 9:11 PM

  6. Gads! I used to write about that sometimes in my other blog at Felton League. The few homeless people here are portrayed by haters as criminals, as if ALL homeless people are criminals. In Felton, there are so few homeless people that if all of them were criminals and no one else was, there would be almost no crime here. Almost all crime is committed by people who live in homes. In fact, some people who can afford to live here can afford to live here precisely because they are criminals. All the haters here rely on such skewed data, and ignore real data. They hate the homeless because they are convenient targets only. It was no different for the Ku Klux Klan.


    May 1, 2021 at 10:44 PM

  7. Unbiased and large enough samples are hard to come by.

    Alessandra Chaves

    May 2, 2021 at 8:00 AM

    • They can be. On the other hand, we have pretty good official statistics about many things. Those government records show that certain commonly pushed “narratives” aren’t true.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 2, 2021 at 8:24 AM

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