Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

More from Wells Branch on May 11th

with 18 comments

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

18 Responses

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  1. It’s funny how well I remember the locations where I’ve seen certain flowers. Mealy blue sage is one that sticks in my mind, and it surely is blooming in those same places now. I’ve seen it along roadsides mostly in the areas around Kerrville/Medina and around the painted churches north of Schulenburg. I’d love to see it again this year.

    We have a pair of Bidens species here: one native and one introduced. I’ve found both along the edges of ponds and creeks, and both are sometimes known as beggarticks. I must say, this species is more attractive, and the name ‘smooth beggartick’ seems apt.


    May 23, 2021 at 8:02 AM

    • A site less than three miles from home that was good for mealy blue sage in the spring of 2020 soon afterwards became (and still is) a construction site, so this fairly dense stand came as a welcome replacement for 2021. Smaller groups are also common around Austin, should I feel inclined to do closer portraits.

      I remember photographing a Bidens at the Wildflower Center years ago, where a little sign told me what it was. For this one in Wells Branch I looked at Bill Carr’s Travis County plant list to confirm that Bidens laevis is “occasional in wet soils along creek and river banks” here.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 23, 2021 at 2:25 PM

  2. This multi-petaled flower looks beautiful, Steve.

    Peter Klopp

    May 23, 2021 at 8:59 AM

    • In the sunflower family, which includes Bidens, each of those “petals” is actually an individual flower known as a ray floret because as a group they’re like rays shining out of a sunny center. Similarly, each little element in the center is an individual flower known as a disk floret because as a group they form a disk. The old name for the sunflower family, the composite family, alluded to the reality of many flowers making up a single “head.”

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 23, 2021 at 2:31 PM

  3. Asteraceae are a hell to identify. The photograph of B. laevis came out really well. Interesting read. The polarization of this society has really achieved new heights in the last 10 years or so. I recall the morning it was decided that Biden had won the election. A Republican photographer, friends on Facebook, posted in big letters, “if you voted communist we don’t have anything in common, delete me”. Next morning she had deleted me. I was puzzled because I never post or comment anything political on Facebook, I had never met her and our interactions had been purely technical about photography. But then I recalled that during the lockdown I used to post about sars-covid-2, and she was a denier of the virus. I was very interested in the literature concerning the pandemics and took upon myself trying to digest some of it for my fb friends. Big mistake and now I hide in WordPress 😅. I also lost a Democrat friend when I argued that there was no data supporting that wearing masks in the outdoors had an effective on the transmission of the virus. It is sad because some of those issues that could not be discussed rationally, such as having to mask up in the great outdoors of national parks, had profound effects on the wellbeing of citizens who were already stressed and worn out by circumstances out of their control. And since sars-covid 2 viruses don’t vote, we should be able to discuss their transmission based solely on the available data. But nope.

    Alessandra Chaves

    May 23, 2021 at 9:01 AM

    • Yes, the members of Asteraceae known as DYCs, or darned yellow composites, sometimes present identification problems. At times that’s been the case for me as a non-botanist.

      Things in America have been fairly polarized in recent years, but the events of 2020 made the chasm enormous. As you pointed out, the pandemic was almost immediately politicized. Although we couldn’t meet with people last year or go to cultural things like museums and musical performances, I had the great solace of going out into nature, where I felt safe from contamination without having to wear a mask the way I did when I bought groceries or went to a doctor’s appointment. In fact I ended up taking more nature pictures in 2020 than in any previous year, even though I couldn’t travel more than an hour or so from home.

      What you say about losing a friend when you pointed out the lack of any data supporting the utility of wearing masks outdoors is typical. For several years some observers, including me, have concluded that people like the one who refused to deal with your insistence on evidence are actually members of a secular religion. Adherents of a religion follow a sacred dogma that they won’t allow to be questioned. If you’d like to read more about that, John McWhorter has made public the first part of his book on the subject:


      Though this is a nature photography blog, I felt I had to start speaking out here when the country took a turn toward authoritarianism and censorship.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 23, 2021 at 2:56 PM

      • David Shor’s ordeal was known to me, but I wasn’t aware of the other stories. Thanks for the link. I would give up all my likes on the entirety of social media if I could get back the freedom of speech I used to have just ten years ago. I applaud you for taking a stand on an issue that is of importance to all the citizens of this country. Without the freedom to discuss issues we will never solve our problems as a society. When I was in grad school some 15 years ago, back in Maryland, there were signs all over the university campus that stated “it is possible to listen to someone else even if his or her opinion differs from yours.” I wonder if those signs are still there.

        Alessandra Chaves

        May 23, 2021 at 4:11 PM

        • Thanks for your applause. I was born on the Fourth of July and (whether for that reason of just by my personality) have always felt a kinship with the ideals on which this country was founded. If I don’t speak out against the increasing suppression of ideals like equality before the law and freedom of speech, who will? I suspect you’re right that the university signs you remember from Maryland 15 years ago are gone, as they’d fly in the face of the way so many students and administrators act on campuses now. I’m waiting to read McWhorter’s second installment, in which he describes “How these people wield so much influence and why we must not tolerate it (preview: it’s racism in a new guise).”

          Steve Schwartzman

          May 23, 2021 at 5:30 PM

  4. I’m especially struck by the clarity and color of the marigold variation image – what a beauty!

    Birder's Journey

    May 23, 2021 at 2:36 PM

    • You may have heard me quip that the clarity in my pictures comes from years of experience making mathematics clear to my students. Who knows—maybe there really is a carryover from one kind of clarity to the other. In this particular image, my use of the water in the creek as a neutral background emphasized the details in the flower head.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 23, 2021 at 3:03 PM

      • It worked beautifully!
        I do believe in that kind of carryover in our lives and our various endeavors over the years.

        Birder's Journey

        May 23, 2021 at 4:40 PM

        • Because so much of language already involves metaphors, it’s plausible that the kinds of carryover in question really do occur. Now, whether my background in math led to my choice of background in this picture–that’s probably pushing the analogy too far.

          Steve Schwartzman

          May 23, 2021 at 5:03 PM

  5. What a great find Steve ..


    May 27, 2021 at 2:32 PM

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