Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Archive for May 2021

Lindheimer’s morning glory

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Let’s welcome a new native wildflower to these pages: Lindheimer’s morning glory, Ipomoea lindheimeri. I found a bunch of these at Inks Lake State Park on May 6th. (In contrast, a different species, Ipomoea cordatotriloba, is common in Austin and has appeared here from time to time.)

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The other day you heard about some farmers who are suing the American government for violating their rights by refusing to let them apply for debt relief that farmers of any skin color other than white are eligible to apply for. Yesterday I learned about a similar case involving a federal program called the Restaurant Revitalization Fund, which is administered by the Small Business Association (SBA). “The SBA, which is deciding among applicants, announced that it would accept applications from all eligible applicants but only process those from a ‘priority group’ in the first 21 days.” The term “priority group” is a euphemism for ‘anyone but a white male.’ A U.S. District Court judge has ruled that the plaintiffs are “experiencing race and sex discrimination at the hand of government officials” and has imposed a temporary restraining order on the SBA. The judge wrote that “[t]he evidence submitted by plaintiffs indicates that the entire $28.6 billion in the Restaurant Revitalization Fund may be depleted before plaintiffs’ application can be considered for relief under the program….”

It appalls me—and I hope you—that the American government would flout the law by treating people differently based on their race or ethnicity or sex. This is 2021, after all, not 1821.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 21, 2021 at 4:37 AM

Two surviving colonies

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In my April 22nd post I sadly reported this year’s loss to development of a great piece of Blackland Prairie in Pflugerville. I still held out hope of seeing good wildflowers, as I had in the spring of 2020, on the adjacent piece of land that hasn’t yet become a construction site. When I did check out that remnant on May 9th it disappointed me, as the wildflowers there were much less expansive than last spring. Oh well, such are the vagaries of nature. Even so, I found one happy group of clasping-leaf coneflowers, Dracopis amplexicaulis, as you see above, near the larger red-and-yellowful stand of firewheels, Gaillardia pulchella, shown below.

Here’s an entry for the “Why can’t they get this figured out once and for all?” category. So you call a company to pay a bill, as I did yesterday. (I’d tried to pay online, had entered all my information, and then the company’s website generated a system error, as it had on other occasions.) The person on the phone asked for the account number and the name on that account. Fine. Then the person asked for the birthday and last four digits of the account holder’s Social Security card. Fine. Then the person asked me for my name and my relationship to the account holder. Okay. Then the person asked for the address, and I gave our house number and street and said it’s in Austin, Texas. This was getting tedious. Then the person wouldn’t go further unless I also gave my ZIP code. I explained that anyone who knows a street address can easily look up the ZIP code online, so the ZIP code provides no additional confirmatory information. The person on the phone was nice and understood what I was saying but explained that management makes her ask for the ZIP code every time anyhow. I told her my opinion of a management that can’t get a website to work properly and that asks customers for unnecessary information, and she and I had some laughs together. At least for her and me this wasn’t one of those wasted days mentioned yesterday in a quotation by Chamfort.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 20, 2021 at 4:31 AM

Little white snail on an opening firewheel

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Where 2020 proved an out-and-out snailfest on the prairie, the prolonged freeze in February of 2021 may explain the dearth of snails I’ve seen this spring. On May 9th I did finally see one on the Blackland Prairie in Pflugerville. That little white snail had found its way onto the developing flower head of a firewheel, Gaillardia pulchella, which insisted on opening despite its extra load.

And here’s an unrelated quotation for today: “La plus perdue de toutes les journées est celle où l’on n’a pas ri.” “The most wasted of all our days is the one when we haven’t laughed.” — Sébastien-Roch Nicolas de Chamfort (1741–1794). Plenty of Internet sites attribute the wording “The most wasted of all days is one without laughter” to e.e. cummings, who liked to write his name in lower case and who wasn’t even born till a hundred years after Chamfort died. Perhaps cummings quoted Chamfort and somebody then mistakenly believed the saying was cummings’s own. Or else someone attributed it to cummings for no good reason at all, and others then copied that without verifying it. Cummings is worth quoting—as long as it’s done correctly. For example, take this assertion: “So far as I am concerned, poetry and every other art was, is, and forever will be strictly and distinctly a question of individuality.” No groupthink for him.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 19, 2021 at 4:31 AM

Mexican hats, firewheels, Engelmann daisies

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Anyone walking along the north side of Wells Branch Parkway just east of Wells Port Drive on May 11th, as we did, would have enjoyed seeing these mixed colonies of Mexican hats (Ratibida columnifera) and firewheels (Gaillardia pulchella). In some places Engelmann daisies (Engelmannia peristenia) asserted themselves too, as shown below. All three species seem to be at or near their flowering peak in the Austin area now.

And here’s a quotation for today: “Mathematics knows no races or geographic boundaries; for mathematics, the cultural world is one country.” — David Hilbert. I became aware of that quotation from the current article “America is Flunking Math,” published on Persuasion.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 18, 2021 at 4:30 AM

Yucca high, yucca low

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Inks Lake State Park; May 6; Yucca sp. How about those lines and shadows?

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 17, 2021 at 5:24 AM

A temporary strip of prairie resurgence

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By the spring of 2020 a construction site in southern Round Rock had already replaced a swath of prairie along Meister Lane on the east side of Schultz Lane. Last year I posted a commemorative picture about it. The construction site is still there, and yet when I drove by on the sunny morning of May 7th this year I found to my delight that many prairie plants at the edge of the road, away from where the work is taking place, had come back up. Hooray for them! By next year the strip will probably be paved over or planted with a closely mowed lawn of non-native grass, but at least for now I had another chance to portray some wildflowers there in the way I used to. The picture above shows a developing basket-flower (Plectocephalus americanus) in front of some clasping-leaf coneflowers (Dracopis amplexicaulis). Below, you have a gaura inflorescence (Oenothera sp.) in front of some firewheels (Gaillardia pulchella).

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In yesterday’s post I provided information about an American government plan to spend large amounts of money implementing critical race theory in the schools. While that is still a proposal, the current administration has already begun discriminating against some people based on their race. A recently set-up program to provide debt relief to farmers is not open to farmers who happen to be white. Not surprisingly, some of those discriminated-against farmers are suing the government for violating their equal-treatment rights under the 14th Amendment to the Constitution.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 16, 2021 at 4:37 AM

Valley Spring Creek Waterfall

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Another water feature we visited for the first time at Inks Lake State Park on our May 6th visit was the Valley Spring Creek Waterfall. The view below, which looks about 90° left from the angle of the view above, shows some of the rock formations and pools adjacent to and downstream from the waterfall.

The other day I became aware of a horrible proposal being put forth by the current government of my country. The proposal calls for spending large amounts of public money to impose racism in America’s schools. You read that right: racism, which is the treating of people differently depending on their ethnic heritage and the color of their skin. You can read about the proposal in a brief summary prepared by the Foundation Against Intolerance and Racism.

I encourage those of you who are American citizens to go to the U.S. government website that is accepting comments on the proposal and to speak out forcefully against it. The May 17th deadline for comments is almost here, so you’ll need to act quickly.

Here’s what I wrote in my dissent:

“I am against this proposal with all my heart, mind, and soul. The 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution requires equal treatment of all citizens. Yet the government’s proposal calls for treating different categories of citizens differently. That violates the 14th Amendment and is therefore illegal. Officials in our government have sworn an oath to protect and defend the Constitution, not to fly in the face of it. If the government insists on flouting the United States Constitution, the Supreme Court will rule the move unconstitutional and will strike it down. This racist and unconstitutional proposal should be immediately withdrawn.”

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 15, 2021 at 2:32 AM

Pale green crab spider

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On May 1st, about half an hour before I encountered the fawn you recently saw here, I stopped to photograph a rain-lily flower (Zephyranthes drummondii) that was turning pink as it shriveled away at the end of its inevitably brief life. Once I got close to the flower I found a pale green crab spider on it. A somewhat orange prickly pear cactus flower (Opuntia engelmannii) provided a great backdrop. I don’t recall ever previously photographing this combination of colors.

If you’re interested in the art and craft of photography, points 1, 5, 6 and 7 in About My Techniques apply to this picture.

And here’s a quotation for today: “I find that sometimes when I go into a community that’s not my own, or a community that has a lot of issues attached to it, I have to resist wanting to say something about how I think they could be better, or how I think the government has wronged them.” — Chloé Zhao, 2021 Academy Award winner for best director.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 14, 2021 at 4:35 AM

Devil’s Waterhole

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There’s nothing diabolical about the Devil’s Waterhole at Inks Lake State Park. Though we’d been to the park several times in recent years, we’d never wandered all the way down to this end until we visited on May 6th. The first picture is a closer and more abstract take (you know me with abstractions), while the second photograph retroactively sets the scene.

Among things diabolical I include the alarming rise in my country of freedom-hating zealots on the rampage to “cancel” and “deplatform” anyone who has different ideas from them. I’d remind those historyphobes—but of course they’d refuse to listen—how quickly things devolved in the French Revolution, the Russian Revolution, the Fascist regimes in Germany and Italy, China’s [anti-]Cultural Revolution, the insanity of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, the dictatorship of the Kim dynasty in North Korea, and other disastrous ideological regimes. As George Santayana warned in the first decade of the 20th century, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Good people have to speak and act now, before it’s too late.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 13, 2021 at 4:40 AM

Dense wildpflowers

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Now that it’s already the middle of May, if you thought I was done showing vast colonies of wildflowers this spring, think again. Above from May 9th in Pflugerville (hence the spelling of wildpflowers in the title) is a densely flowering colony of Gaillardia pulchella, called firewheels, Indian blankets, and blanketflowers. The yellow flowers mixed in are greenthread (Thelesperma filifolium), and the leaves forming a green mound belong to compass plants (Silphium albiflora).

In the picture below, the cream-colored flower at the bottom is a kind of foxglove (Penstemon cobaea). A few of the bright yellow spots further right are square-bud primroses (Oenothera berlandieri). The trees are Ashe junipers (Juniperus ashei). The clouds are clouds. I’m me.

And speaking of me, be aware that my pronouns are the exalted one and Mr. Wonderful.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 12, 2021 at 4:38 AM

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