Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Archive for August 2021

Water primrose flowering

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Along Wells Branch Parkway at Strathaven Pass on August 13th I took pictures of narrowleaf water primrose, Ludwigia octovalvis. The top picture sets the scene and includes a couple of purple bindweed flowers, Ipomoea cordatotriloba, which starred in a recent post about the same site. The gialloscuro portrait below isolates one of the water primrose flowers.


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From the time I was in elementary school I was interested in population figures. Here are some observations from the Daily Wire about the 2020 census in the United States.

The Topline: New data from the most recent Census offers a glimpse into the changing demographics of the United States. 

Why Does The Census Matter?

Census data helps determine a state’s representation in Congress. The data also plays a role in allocating electoral votes and helps determine how much funding states can get from the federal government throughout the year. 

State Breakdown

Texas will be adding two members of Congress due to its population growth over the last decade. 

Florida, North Carolina, Oregon, Colorado and Montana will also gain one Congressional seat. 


Seven states — most notably New York and California — will be losing a member of Congress due to lower rates of population growth. 

Political Party Breakdown

It’s unclear if one party benefited more from the Census data. In the fall, states will finalize the process of redrawing congressional lines. 

States controlled by Democrats will attempt to capitalize on urban growth by redrawing lines to create as many districts as possible close to cities with the desire to maximize the impact of their voter base, which typically resides in urban areas. Republicans will take similar action, but in different regions, as their strongholds are in more rural areas.

Snapshot Of American Life In 2020

Experts had predicted a stark increase in the number of people moving to cities, but the Census data exceeded expectations. While the overall population increased, half of all U.S. counties — almost all of them rural — experienced a decrease in size. 

Almost all of the country’s population growth occurred in cities. As a result, for the first time ever, the U.S. has ten cities with populations over 1 million people.

Diversity In America 

One of the key takeaways from the data is the increasing diversity of America. 

White people are still the largest demographic, but their share of the population decreased by 8.6% over the last decade, which is the first time in census history that there was a decrease in the overall number of white Americans. 

According to the data, a large part of the increased diversity is due to immigration, but the data shows that it’s also due to the fact that white families are having fewer children on average than black and Hispanic families. 

Decrease In Population Growth

The U.S. population grew at a rate of 7.4% over the last decade, which is the slowest rate since the Great Depression.

According to the data, the average man is now over 30 years old when he first marries, and the average woman is 28 years old. In 2000, those numbers were 27 and 25. Experts also point to the student debt crisis and increased presence of women in the workplace as reasons for Americans waiting to have children. 


The Big Picture: A decline in the population growth rate may not be initially concerning, but experts say there could be a massive labor shortage if population growth doesn’t start to increase as Baby Boomers and Gen X’ers retire.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 31, 2021 at 4:31 AM

Queen butterfly on Gregg’s mistflower

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On August 20th we drove 60 miles north to the town of Lampasas. In the Hanna Springs Sculpture Garden there we couldn’t help noticing that a bunch of Gregg’s mistflowers (Conoclinium greggii) had attracted a slew of insects, especially queen butterflies (Danaus gilippus). I got to photograph this one while it was “underlit.”

The orange flowers at the far right are Texas lantana (Lantana urticoides). They were as plentiful as the mistflowers but the butterflies ignored the lantana and couldn’t seem to get enough of the mistflowers. For a better view of those lepidopteran-magnet flowers, you’re welcome to look back at a butterfly post from 2017.


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People have always known that there are two biological sexes: male and female. 20th-century geneticists discovered the mechanism that sustains the male-female distinction: DNA. I follow the science. A self-described “Blewish feminist mermaid”—and that tells you a lot right there—has delusionally rejected the science.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 30, 2021 at 4:39 AM

Pale umbrellawort

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Making its debut here today is Mirabilis albida, apparently known as pale umbrellawort, white four o’clock, and hairy four o’clock. I found this one on August 22nd—though six-and-a-half hours earlier than four o’clock—in the northeast quadrant of Mopac and US 183. The USDA map shows the species growing in places as far apart as Quebec and southern California.


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Did you hear the latest news about equity in mathematics? Because the word odd has negative connotations like ‘strange’ and ‘not usual,’ a group of college math students demanded that all whole numbers, whether previously considered odd or even, must now be designated even. Professors of mathematics immediately apologized to the students for the centuries of evenist domination they’d been complicit with, and they promised that no future syllabi or textbooks would perpetuate evenism.

Then an ideologically purer subset of students took issue with the first group, asking why they’d stopped at the whole numbers, which comprise only a tiny oppressive elite of all numbers. The second student group began chanting “Hey hey, ho ho, fraction-phobes have got to go.” The original student group found that chant, especially the “hey hey, ho ho” part, so profound they immediately recognized the disparate impact that their “all whole numbers are even” decree would have on fractions. They agreed that the sacred value of inclusion requires that fractions be included as whole numbers from now on. The mathematics professors promptly issued an apology for not having recognized their unconscious bias against fractions.

It didn’t take long before a third group of math students more woke than the second group started agitating because of the harm that would still befall the irrational numbers, which can never be expressed as fractions no matter how much affirmanumerative action colleges and government agencies give them. Imagine those numbers going through life saddled with the name irrational, as if they’re not in their right mind! The second student group soon confessed their lack of inclusiveness and agreed, for the sake of belonging, that all numbers will now belong to the set of whole numbers. The mathematics professors quickly issued an abject apology for othering the numbers they hadn’t previously accepted as whole numbers.

Barely had things settled down when a fourth group of math students complained that all the previous groups were still oppressors because categorizing numbers in any way at all is racist. For the sake of equity, the fourth group insisted that the only allowable view is that all numbers are equal. From now on, no matter what number a student comes up with as an answer to a question on a math test, that answer has to be correct because all numbers are equal. Similarly, students must now be allowed to pay whatever amount they want for tuition because any number of dollars is equal to any other number of dollars. The mathematics professors immediately acceded to the new demands and issued a deep apology for the violence caused by their previous silence about all numbers actually being equal.

But then a fifth group of students pointed out that all those changes were meaningless because, let’s face it, mathematics is based on objectivity and rigor, which are tools of the cisheteronormative white supremacist patriarchy. The mathematics professors, without even waiting to hear the fifth student group’s demands for change, realized that the only proper course of action was to stop studying and teaching the horrid subject of mathematics altogether, so they shut down the mathematics department. In its place they created a new department to offer Doctorates in Diversity Training (DDT).

Okay, so all those things didn’t really happen—at least not yet. Give it a few months.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 29, 2021 at 4:35 AM

Little metallic sweat bee on a partridge pea flower

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As you’ve heard in a couple of recent posts, I photographed a bunch of partridge pea plants (Chamaecrista fasciculata) along Wells Branch Parkway on August 13th. At one point I got intrigued by the way a compound leaf cast its shadow on one petal of a partridge pea flower. Not long after I started taking pictures of that, a metallic sweat bee came by to visit the flower. The bee kept moving around and more often than not stayed fully or partly hidden behind petals. Oh well, we photographers do what we can, testing our reflexes to grab quick shots when our subjects briefly come out in the open.


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FOLLOW THE SCIENCE!

Ever since Covid-19 vaccines became more and more available in early 2021, reasonable folks began to wonder about people who’d gotten Covid-19, recovered from it, and therefore had what’s called natural immunity. One question was whether those who’ve acquired natural immunity still need to get vaccinated. Related to that was the question of whether vaccines might cause any harm to people with natural immunity.

For the past several months, the United States government has been saying with increasing vehemence that people with natural immunity must still get vaccinated, all the while declining to offer scientific evidence for the need and safety of that position. Jurisdictions and institutions that have begun calling for proof of vaccination to do various things (for example attend sporting events, eat in restaurants, or even come to work) have refused to exempt Covid-recovered people, even though their immunity has been generally believed to be at least as strong as the one provided by vaccines.

Such stances are political, not scientific. Look at the opening sentence from an August 26th online article published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science: “The natural immune protection that develops after a SARS-CoV-2 infection offers considerably more of a shield against the Delta variant of the pandemic coronavirus than two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, according to a large Israeli study….” The article goes on to give advice to people who have neither had the virus not gotten vaccinated against it: people in that group should get vaccinated. They should not toy with the idea of acquiring immunity by subjecting themselves to the virus, because some people who contract the virus get seriously ill and even die.

I encourage you to read the full article. You may also want to read a similar August 27th article on the ZME Science website. It points out that people who recovered from Covid-19 and then also had a single shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine ended up with even stronger protection than those with naturally acquired immunity alone.

Now that there’s solid scientific confirmation that naturally acquired Covid immunity “offers considerably more of a shield against the Delta variant of the pandemic coronavirus than two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine,” will American government jurisdictions stop saying that naturally immune people still need to get two shots of the Pfizer (or Moderna) vaccine? Will institutions that call for proof of vaccination now accept proof of naturally acquired immunity in lieu of vaccination? Don’t hold your breath.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 28, 2021 at 4:34 AM

Basket-flower seed head remains with clouds

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From August 13th on the Blackland Prairie along Pflugerville’s southern border
come these seed head remains of a basket-flower, Plectocephalus americanus.


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Ayaan Hirsi Ali is one of the world’s great crusaders for women’s rights, a cause that’s especially dear to her because she grew up in a culture that didn’t afford women many rights. I recommend her August 18th article about the human rights catastrophe in Afghanistan.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 27, 2021 at 4:25 AM

But soft, what light on yonder flower falls?

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The date was August 13th, and the place was a property along Wells Branch Parkway at Strathaven Pass on the Blackland Prairie in far north Austin. You’ve already seen a flowering colony of partridge pea plants there, so now here’s a closeup of a single Chamaecrista fasciculata flower as it opened. Notice how the reddish blush shades through orange to yellow as your eyes follow it away from the flower’s base.


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Our word coincidence comes from Latin, where co meant ‘together with,’ in meant ‘into,’ and cid came from a root that meant ‘to fall.’ A coincidence is ‘things falling into each other.’ The night before last a 1929 movie shown on Turner Classic Movies ‘fell into’ tragic current events. The film, mostly a romantic comedy, was The Love Parade, directed by Ernst Lubitch. The movie marked the screen debut of Jeanette MacDonald, who played Queen Louise in the imaginary country of Sylvania. Opposite her was Maurice Chevalier as the hitherto womanizing military officer Count Alfred Renard (which happens to mean ‘fox’ in French). A synopsis of the film says this: “Queen Louise’s cabinet are worried that she will become an old maid, and are delighted when she marries the roguish Count Renard. Unfortunately, he finds his position as Queen’s Consort unsatisfying and without purpose, and the marriage soon runs into difficulties.”

In a scene that shows the wedding between the royal Louise and the commoner Alfred, the dignitaries include the ambassador from Afghanistan (there’s the coincidence with this week’s tragic events). After the priest follows royal protocol and pronounces the newly married couple “wife and man,” the ambassador comments in a fake language: “A singi. A na hu. A na hu. Prostu, pass harr. Fo malu a yu.” The Sylvanian Prime Minister asks what that means, and the Afghan ambassador’s translator tells him: “He says, man is man and woman is woman. And if you change that, causes trouble. He does not see how any man could stand being a wife. And therefore, he hopes this will be a most unhappy marriage.” The Prime Minister replies: “For heaven’s sake, if he reports this to Afghanistan. Tell him, this is a love match. It will be the happiest marriage in the world.”

Unfortunately, the two-decade involvement of the United States and Afghanistan didn’t end up being the happiest marriage in the world. Things fell apart.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 26, 2021 at 4:22 AM

Portraits from our yard: episode 12

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A zillion years ago, give or take a few years, Eve bought a sage at a Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center plant sale. Here’s a descendant of that plant as it looked in our back yard on August 19th. I figure it’s scarlet sage, Salvia coccinea.


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Here’s a telling four-minute video revealing a division of opinion on the policy of requiring voters to show a government-issued ID. If you watch the video, make sure to keep on through the second half. It may well make you wonder who the racists really are. The video’s interviews with real people also remind me of a recent post in The Babylon Bee, which is a satirical publication along the lines of The Onion.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 24, 2021 at 4:35 AM

Another colony

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It wasn’t only a colony of partridge pea plants I found along Wells Branch Parkway at Strathaven Pass on August 13th. The first colony I found there that morning was purple bindweed, Ipomoea cordatotriloba. In today’s pictures you see them happily flowering away in the summer heat as they twined and vined themselves over other plants, including some common sunflowers, Helianthus annuus. In the first shot, which is an overview looking somewhat downward, it’s hard to appreciate the rings and arcs that the vines formed on the sunflowers. The closer picture that follows, which I took from near the ground looking upward, reveals those rings and arcs.


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Hypocrisy of the Day

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) maintains an online map showing the current status of Covid-19 infections for every county in the United States. Almost all counties are currently colored red, indicating the highest rate of infection. The CDC recommends that in those counties even fully vaccinated people should wear masks in indoor gatherings, as well as outdoors in crowds where social distancing can’t be maintained. For the past year and a half, Democrats have strongly urged Americans to follow the CDC’s guidelines and have villanized people who question those guidelines.

This past weekend in California’s Napa Valley, which is marked red on the CDC map, Nancy Pelosi hosted a fundraiser for the Democratic Party. The event was held outdoors, but a video taken there has revealed that the attendees were packed together side by side down both sides of several long tables. Not one attendee was seen to be wearing a mask. The only masks in evidence were on the faces of the waitstaff. It’s also true that Democrats have touted their advocacy for “diversity,” yet most of the attendees appear to have been old white folks. There were more non-whites among the small group of servers than among the large group of attendees.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 24, 2021 at 4:31 AM

Walking on feathery “ground”

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This spring I reported that the great piece of prairie on the west side of Heatherwilde Blvd. slightly north of Wells Branch Parkway in Pflugerville had become a construction zone. I held out hope that the southern end of that site, separated from the main part by some woods, might survive for another spring. Alas, when I visited on August 13th I found early signs of construction on that parcel, too, though most of it was still intact. At one point I took some pictures of a Clematis drummondii vine that had reached its fluffy stage. I was about to leave when a bit of movement on the feathery strands caught my attention. It was the walking stick you see in today’s portrait. A couple of days later on the Internet I saw a similar-looking walking stick in Austin identified as Pseudosermyle strigata, so maybe that’s what this one was.


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Here’s a good quotation for the censorious times we’re living through (and hopefully will come out the other side of): “I would rather have questions that can’t be answered than answers that can’t be questioned.” It’s not clear who first said that. Many websites attribute it to physicist Richard Feynman, but always without any further details, like when or where he supposedly said it. That lack of specificity usually means a quotation has been misattributed. I found comments about the origin of this quotation in a discussion group on the history of science and math. One related thing Feynman did say—and you can watch a video of him saying it—is: “I think it’s much more interesting to live not knowing than to have answers which might be wrong.”

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 23, 2021 at 4:53 AM

A partridge pea colony and a new place

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At this time of year I often come across individual partridge pea plants (Chamaecrista fasciculata) and small groups of them. Less often do I see the colonies that the species can also form. On August 13th I found one of those at the base of a slope around the pond along Wells Branch Parkway at Strathaven Pass on the Blackland Prairie. Until a few years ago that land was fenced off, so I’d never been able to take pictures there. Now that the property has been developed into apartments and houses, I’ve been able to get access and take pictures along the margins, where native plants still grow. The photograph below gives a closer look at one portion of the colony shown panoramically above (which enlarges a good deal when clicked).


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So many hypocritical things have been going on that I could most likely sustain a “Hypocrisy of the Day” series. That would be too depressing, though, so I’ll just do an occasional post on that theme, as I did on August 10th. Here’s a new one, from the Daily Wire on August 17th.

Hard-left Massachusetts Democrat congresswoman Ayanna Presley, a member of the progressive “Squad” that includes Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), Ilhan Omar (D-MN), Jamaal Bowman (D-NY) and Cori Bush (D-MO), has been revealed to have made thousands of dollars in rental income last year with her husband despite the fact that she has been calling for cancellation of rent since at least December 2020.

“Pressley’s 2020 financial disclosure, filed on Friday, disclosed between $5,000 and $15,000 in rental income from a Boston property in her husband’s name. The property was converted into a multi-family apartment after it was purchased, according to Pressley’s disclosure,” Fox News reported, adding, “Pressley’s office did not immediately return Fox News’ request for comment on whether she and her husband canceled rent for their tenants at any point in 2020. She disclosed the same range of rental income – between $5,000 and $15,000 – in 2020 as she did in 2019, before the pandemic began.

In December 2020, Pressley tweeted, “Keeping families housed is a matter of public health. We must cancel rent, extend eviction and foreclosure moratoriums, provide rental assistance, and offer legal representation for those at risk of eviction. This is a public health emergency.”

The Boston Herald also covered the story.

It’s unclear whether Pressley is still renting out the unit and collected income during the pandemic because she won’t respond to questions.

The Herald has repeatedly tried to get a response from her spokesman but has been unsuccessful.

So it’s hard to tell whether Pressley is being hypocritical or just arrogant.

It’s the typical non-response from Pressley, who simply won’t answer questions she doesn’t want to or that don’t promote her agenda. She communicates to her constituents primarily through pre-prepared statements, press releases and social media videos. She has demanded transparency from police and other agencies but isn’t willing to follow the same rules herself.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 22, 2021 at 4:34 AM

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