Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

White against yellow

with 34 comments

Over the 10 years of this blog, it hasn’t been uncommon for me to spend time taking nature pictures at a place and yet not show you a single photograph from that outing. The other day I realized that was true of our May 26th visit to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, so here’s a portrait I made there showing American water willow flowers (Justicia americana) in front of a yellow waterlily (Nymphaea mexicana).

UPDATE: I should’ve mentioned that individual water willow flowers measure from one-quarter to five-eighths of an inch (6–15mm), so today’s photograph is quite a close-up.


And now here’s a poignant passage from Abigail Shrier’s Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters:

None of the parents I spoke to was naïve about the pressures or hardship of adolescence. They knew the rigmarole: one day the little girls they had attended through countless flus and rushed to the hospital for casts and stitches would transmogrify into teenagers and curse their love. Every one of the parents I met had been prepared to be hated for a while. They knew their daughters would mock their fashion sense, even reject their values for a time. What they were less prepared for was the macabre spectacle of their daughters’ sharp turn against themselves.

Dozens of dogmatic Amazon employees pushed to get the company to stop selling the book, but I’m happy to say Amazon didn’t cave in to the ideologues’ pressure. That hasn’t always been the case: Amazon did ban Ryan T. Anderson’s When Harry Became Sally: Responding to the Transgender Moment, even as Amazon has continued to sell The Communist Manifesto and Hitler’s Mein Kampf, whose followers murdered tens of millions of people in the 20th century. Target originally carried Abigail Shrier’s Damage, then banned it, then rescinded its ban, then banned it again. I’m against banning books, even those I think are terrible.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 18, 2021 at 4:34 AM

34 Responses

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  1. I’ve not only missed seeing this flower, I’ve never heard of it. A quick peek at the map suggests the reason. It’s not listed for any of the areas I most often visit: east Texas, our coastal counties, the Attwater refuge. It’s interesting that it’s shown in the hill country, and yet I haven’t seen it there, either. I suppose the answer lies in the fact that I spend relatively little time around water when I travel that direction.

    The petals look somewhat thick and waxy to me. Is that so, or are they more delicate. Either way, they’re quite attractive.


    July 18, 2021 at 6:23 AM

    • You spending little time around water: who’d have believed it? Maybe you want to avoid a busman’s holiday when you travel to the center of the state.

      You’ve prompted me to likewise check the distribution of this species, which I hadn’t done before posting. I never knew it grows as far northeast as Quebec, nor that Texas is at the southwest corner of its range (at least in the United States; I suspect it crosses the border into Mexico). Wikipedia notes that “it is the hardiest species in the genus Justicia, the other members of which being largely tropical and subtropical, and it is able to survive as far north as USDA zone 4.” In my northwest part of Austin it’s common in and at the edge of creeks, including Bull Creek.

      As for the petals being waxy, I don’t recall ever touching any, so I can’t say. I’m guessing it’s not, given that it’s in the acanthus family.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 18, 2021 at 6:51 AM

  2. The idea that the largest bookseller would ban any book should scare the crap out of everyone.

    Khürt Williams

    July 18, 2021 at 8:47 AM

  3. Many books are being banned by Amazon. For just one example go to openmindschange dot com .
    The book is Open Your Mind to Change by Martin Geddes. He now offers it at no cost on his own website.

    Carole Ramke

    July 18, 2021 at 9:15 AM

    • It’s a shame that Amazon feels the need to censor instead of letting people decide for themselves what to read.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 18, 2021 at 2:15 PM

  4. The yellow glow of a flower out of focus in the background adds extra punch to your photo of the water willow flower.

    Peter Klopp

    July 18, 2021 at 9:29 AM

    • You recognize that putting something of a different color out of focus behind my subject is one of my standard techniques.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 18, 2021 at 1:00 PM

  5. There, all caught up now, Steve. I have enjoyed all these beautiful compositions of form and color.

    The extreme heat here is gone, for now, and the mornings are down in the 40s, as they normally are in summer, and getting up into the low to mid 80s during the day. We will see what the rest of the season brings.

    Lavinia Ross

    July 18, 2021 at 12:04 PM

    • On television we heard about the extreme heat in Oregon. You must be relieved that it’s gone. In Austin we likely won’t see temperatures dipping down into the 40s till the end of October.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 18, 2021 at 2:04 PM

    • And I appreciate your “binge watching.”

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 18, 2021 at 2:50 PM

  6. Breathless

    Yoli B

    July 18, 2021 at 12:37 PM

  7. That’s a lovely macro image of these little petals.


    July 18, 2021 at 6:03 PM

  8. Great shot and composition.
    Total agreement on book bans. I once wrote a book report on obscenity and censorship in high school. My position hasn’t changed, though now I am a bit more sensitive about what I say or write. I recall attending one of the first few Texas State Book Fairs at the Capitol when Kinky Friedman inadvertently let slip a four letter word beginning with the letter “F.” “Everybody here is over 18, right?” he asked. “Cause I certainly hate to say (that word) in front of a C.H.I.L.D.”


    July 18, 2021 at 8:17 PM

    • This portrait shows I know my métier (and my comment shows I know how to use a French word).

      As a previous commenter noted: “The idea that the largest bookseller would ban any book should scare the crap out of everyone.” And speaking of the Texas Book Festival, in 2019 their BookTV tent (which broadcasts the sessions live on C-SPAN) included 13 presentations over two days. Of the 13, not a single one featured a conservative book. I later wrote to the person in charge of the festival and pointed out that it’s not the Austin Book Festival or the Democrat Party Book Festival but the Texas Book Festival, in a state where at least as many people lean right as left politically.

      In my letter I did some simple arithmetic. For the sake of simplicity, I assumed that 1/3 of eligible books lean left, 1/3 lean right, and 1/3 aren’t political in any way. I then showed that if book assignments were made randomly, there’s a 99.5% chance that at least one conservative program would have gotten scheduled for the C-SPAN/Book TV tent—and yet that didn’t happen. The only reasonable conclusion is that assignments for the nationally broadcast C-SPAN tent were not made impartially.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 18, 2021 at 9:10 PM

      • 1. Did you take into account the number of viewers C-SPAN reaches and the number of viewers commercial broadcast stations (and PBS) reach? I would suspect that their influence and and choice of books to promote or acknowledge are far greater than the C-SPAN influence.
        2. As I recall, the “Fairness Doctrine” was done away with during the Reagan-Bush administration, allowing stations to become pushers of partial prose and ideas. I disagreed with that action then, and I would like the Biden administration and the FCC to revive it.


        July 25, 2021 at 1:23 PM

        • The principle of balanced representation would be the same regardless of how large an audience a public channel reaches. With respect to PBS, in a reply today to a comment on my current post I said: “Last month I wrote to the head of the PBS television station in Austin about the problem [of unbalanced political leanings in programs]. I listed a bunch of left-leaning programs the station carries and pointed out that it doesn’t carry a single program that leans right, even though the population in the station’s viewing area, which extends well outside Austin, has at least as many conservatives as leftists in it. I got no reply to my e-mail.”

          Steve Schwartzman

          July 25, 2021 at 2:03 PM

          • Yeah, I get similar non-responses when I write contrarian emails or letters to most organizations. Let’s bring back the Fairness Doctrine. And acknowledge that there are often more than two sides to every issue.


            July 30, 2021 at 9:05 PM

            • For convenience, people often represent political opinion on a left-right continuum, but you rightly point out that there are often more than two sides to an issue. Life isn’t linear.

              Steve Schwartzman

              July 31, 2021 at 6:02 AM

  9. The dark background, almost a vignette, makes the light on the flower glow.

    Steve Gingold

    July 19, 2021 at 2:53 PM

    • The background around the yellow water lily was obliging in darkening itself part-way and I helped it along.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 19, 2021 at 3:49 PM

  10. These tiny water willow flowers are delightful. I am marvelling over the detail you have captured. As for book banning, I am against it when it is carried out by public libraries and public officials. I would prefer booksellers to be open minded about what they sell but they are private businesses and are free to sell what suits their business policies/needs. If my local bookshop doesn’t, or won’t sell, a certain book, I can always find it somewhere else, or I could write to them and ask why they are not selling the book and recommend that they do. Your words on book banning made me examine book banning in the US a little more closely. I discovered that Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass 1881 edition was , in 1882, banned by Oliver Stevens, the district attorney of Boston, because the sexually charged poems violated “the Public Statutes concerning obscene literature”. This information jumped out at me because I am currently watching a Chinese spy drama set in 1936 Shanghai where a love of Leaves of Grass connects the two protagonists. This Leaves of Grass reference in the drama puzzled me until today when I went further into Walt Whitman and his banned book and discovered the enormous influence that Leaves of Grass had and still has in China. I find the story quite extraordinary. https://ir.uiowa.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1115&context=wwqr The point of this long winded comment is that I think official bans of books are pointless; bans or no bans, Amazon or no Amazon, China or America, books will find their market. Whitman was not discouraged by objections to his Leaves of Grass. Perhaps Shrier could take a leaf out of his book and stop being so concerned about who is stocking or not stocking her book. ( ps you may wonder at my prior ignorance over Walt Whitman’s work but, as I have said before, my upbringing and education were very un- American.)


    July 22, 2021 at 12:54 AM

    • Let’s call your comment thoughtful and appreciated rather than long-winded. With respect to the water willow, after the post appeared I realized most viewers wouldn’t know how small the flowers are, so I added a sentence with the measurements.

      As for Leaves of Grass, I did know about the censorship the book faced. I doubt that many Americans know about it (or have even heard of the book, or of Walt Whitman, for that matter), so you shouldn’t feel bad for not having been familiar with the book’s history. What I didn’t know about was Whitman’s influence in China a century ago. The lines from Whitman’s Chinese translator Tian Han quoted in the article you linked to reminded me of the Chinese freedom movement of 1989, when people built a model of the Statue of Liberty in Tiananmen Square. Unfortunately the Communist dictatorship killed that freedom movement, just as it killed the one in Hong Kong last year, and in Tibet before that, and probably in Taiwan soon.

      You made a distinction, as have others (though not in the comments on this post) between governmental and private censorship. I’d argue that companies like Facebook, Google, and Amazon are now at the very least quasi-monopolies and also quasi-utilities. As such, they should no more be allowed to censor what users say than a telephone company can listen in on your phone call and stop the call if it doesn’t like the opinions you’re expressing to the person you’re talking to. Another objection is that the line between the government and the private sector has been getting breached. It was revealed a couple of days ago that people in the current American administration had given Facebook a list of posts it wanted Facebook to remove. As I understand it, the posts had to do with Covid-19 vaccines and treatments, about which some people have opinions the administration doesn’t want those people to be able to express.

      A legal principle holds that if you get someone to commit a crime for you, you’re just as guilty as the person who carried out the crime. By that reasoning, if the government gets a private company to censor things that the government itself isn’t allowed to censor, the government is still guilty of censorship.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 22, 2021 at 8:19 AM

      • That is an interesting point you make re Facebook, Google, and Amazon. Although I am happy to be among the Fb and Google ‘faithful’, I am not a fan of Amazon and avoid using it if I can. I am sure they feel the pinch of my lack of spending with them!


        July 23, 2021 at 10:25 PM

        • What an irony that Google started out with “Don’t be evil” as its motto. I buy things from Amazon for the convenience, but I’m not happy with their monopoly and their growing censorship.

          Steve Schwartzman

          July 24, 2021 at 1:11 AM

  11. I really miss simply being able to like your images for exactly what they are, placing the items underneath, while interesting and provoking can mean by liking, that I approve of what you wrote—when I do not. I’m a little sad. I mean, how DARE you, don’t you KNOW who I AM. PS I just randomly chose this one to do the comment, as this was the point restraint of tongue and pen (keys) failed me.


    July 22, 2021 at 6:35 AM

    • Hello, Elisa. For the first nine years of this blog I devoted it mostly to nature photography, with some added information about language and occasionally math, which are other interests of mine. Last year, when the country became so unsettled, I began adding quotations to some posts. As censorship, attacks on freedom of speech, and lying in the media intensified, I felt I had to use my own voice against the threats to things that are important to me and a free country. Your comment makes clear that you see things differently. Some other commenters do too. So be it. I’d have preferred staying with nature photography here, but broader events haven’t let me. At this point in my life, while there’s still time, I have to speak out.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 22, 2021 at 7:18 AM

      • Thanks for sharing. I viewed some posts as to me, narrow, and racist. I might seek to settle my disturbance and to read again, for clarity. I appreciate the discourse and space. 🙂


        July 22, 2021 at 7:21 AM

        • I do try for clarity in what I write, as well as accuracy of information. If you find anything that’s not factually correct, do let me know. Even with agreed-upon facts, people’s opinions may differ, of course. “Narrow” is a relative term. The narrowness of the waist in some wasps gives us pause, and yet the wasp has bodily integrity and functions perfectly well. The linguist in me has to point out that “racist” has taken on such a broad scope in some people’s vocabulary—not necessarily yours—that they use it to smear anyone they disagree with, even when nothing about race is involved. (See recent writings of John McWhorter, who happens to be black, for more on that.) And one other thing: I find an irony in the fact that I’m married to someone of a different race, when almost none of the people who would criticize me are.

          Steve Schwartzman

          July 22, 2021 at 7:39 AM

    • P.S. As you pointed out, I’ve put social commentary at the end of a post, usually with an overt marker before it, so that anyone who wants only nature photography can stop at that point.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 22, 2021 at 7:22 AM

      • OH hey! I can write you a note that I love an image and NOT read the writing bits, if i choose! LOOK, doesn’t have to be all or nothing! Food helps lol


        July 22, 2021 at 7:23 AM

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