Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Portraits from our yard: episode 3

with 13 comments

In our yard we have three stands of Turk’s cap bushes, Malvaviscus arboreus var. drummondii. I don’t know if someone planted them before we moved in 17 years ago or if they sprang up on their own. I’ve found Turk’s cap growing wild in the woods in our neighborhood, so both possibilities are plausible.

The top portrait reveals the interesting “architecture” surrounding a bud. The second photograph shows the characteristic rich red of a Turk’s cap flower beginning to emerge from a bud.

◊     ◊

I recently came across the April 19th article “America’s Smug Elite Is Harming Our Kids,” by Rutgers professors Jacob Hale Russell and Dennis Patterson. Here are two paragraphs that will give you a feel for the tenor and contents of the article. (Links within the quoted passages were in the original.)

This disdain for healthy skepticism, a normal part of functioning science and democracy, is corrosive to public trust and impedes the accumulation of knowledge. A climate of overconfidence makes it both more likely that we will adopt bad policy and harder to fix our missteps. Reversals of conventional wisdom are, for better or worse, inevitable in science. We have had many reversals of official positions on COVID-19—from the usefulness of masks to which medications work to guidance about school openings—and will likely see more as evidence continues to come in. The problem is that our current climate locks us into polarized mindsets, which makes it harder to recategorize “misinformation” that winds up being correct….

While it is tempting—especially in the wake of a presidency that showed a keen disregard for facts—to suggest that elite culture is simply tamping down misinformation, this is a self-serving myth. Most who study scientific communication have found that admitting uncertainty doesn’t harm public trust. When we and others express alarm at the overlabeling of misinformation, we are not defending those who do things like deny the existence of COVID-19 or spread falsehoods about vaccine side effects. Over the course of the pandemic, we have also seen the misinformation label regularly applied to mainstream scientists speaking in their field of expertise. The suppression of doubt can be subtle, such as the kind of bandwagoning and overconfidence that drown out debate, or it can be obvious—from outright censorship to misuse of the phrase “fact check” when applied to disagreeable opinions. This approach not only hampers discourse, but ultimately undermines public trust in science and the credibility of the very elites who claim its mantle.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 1, 2021 at 4:37 AM

Posted in nature photography

Tagged with , , , ,

13 Responses

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  1. I’m still laughing at the first thought that came to mind when I glanced at your first photo: “One Grecian Urn…” An interesting side note is that Meredith Wilson based Eulalie MacKecknie Shinn and her less-than-graceful “Grecian Urn” ladies on real Iowa women.

    I’ve seen enormous stands of Turk’s Cap at the yacht club where I most often work, and at the Luther Hotel in Palacios. Obviously, those were planted and cared for; they’re several feet wide, about four feet tall, and covered in blooms. On the other hand, I’ve found them hidden away in woods at the San Bernard Refuge, creekside near Nacogdoches, and in the Big Thicket. It’s my totally unscientific impression that the natives have smaller blooms than those purchased from nurseries, but they’re all beautiful, in all stages — as your photos show.


    August 1, 2021 at 8:46 AM

    • A mention of a Grecian urn will always send me back to Keats. I’m not sure I knew about the less-than-graceful “Grecian Urn” ladies based on real Iowa women:


      (The following comment thanks you for bringing it up.)

      The Turk’s cap stands in our front yard do seem a bit lusher than what I’ve typically found in the woods. That may be due to the fact that our front yard gets irrigated twice a week. They’re still putting forth lots of flowers.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 1, 2021 at 11:35 AM

  2. Can’t say that I’ve ever noticed the bud of the Texas Red Mallow (an alternative common name that hasn’t caught on). Thanks for seeing it and to shoreacres for thinking of The Music Man. In the second portrait, I have an anthropomorphic response, originally of Kermit the Frog in supplication for something. On second glance, perhaps it’s Audrey II saying “Feed Me.” (I am assuming ring flash and macro lens on both portraits).

    Interesting article. I read it through a few paragraphs and with a few “Yes, but…s” with an eye on when the article was first published and the current date, in which the Delta variant has made its appearance and changed the “science.” Which I think was part of the argument the authors of the article were making: Science is always a’ changin’ just like the times – the wheel’s still in spin… and I’ll stop there or the Universal Music Group will get on to me about copyright violations.


    August 1, 2021 at 9:48 AM

    • I’ve never heard of the alternate name “Texas red mallow,” which is confirmation of what you said: the name hasn’t caught on. Yes, I used a ring flash with my 100mm macro lens for both portraits. That accounts for the conveniently dark backgrounds that isolate my subjects. Have these Turk’s caps growing in our yard has let me observe them at leisure. Maybe that’s why I’ve noticed the buds and documented them. I’ve also observed that a fair number of flowers lose the prominent stamen column and end up looking like pinwheels.

      Science does indeed change. How could it not, when the situations that science deals with keep changing? What has deeply concerned me is that companies like Facebook and Google are now reflexively censoring anything they don’t like and labeling it “misinformation.” Even posts that have done nothing more that quote official government records or Pfizer’s own reports have gotten banned. Science advances by letting people investigate and make hypotheses based on what they find, always subject, of course, to further verification. Forbidding discussion of hypotheses by reputable researchers is anti-science.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 1, 2021 at 11:48 AM

  3. This flower is unknown to me. Based on the photographs’ different angles, the top one appears two-dimensional, and the second one three-dimensional. The first one also reminds me of a multi-pronged fork.


    August 1, 2021 at 6:02 PM

    • Then maybe I should have included a third photograph that might have seemed four-dimensional to you. Okay, maybe not, but I will have pictures of Turk’s cap flowers later in this series from our yard.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 1, 2021 at 6:59 PM

      • I wish I had a more-than-three dimensional perception. If you manage to capture a fourth dimension, I would love to see it. 🙂


        August 1, 2021 at 8:18 PM

  4. How lovely to have this one growing in your yard, too. I love the colour of the Turk’s cap flower.


    August 1, 2021 at 8:01 PM

    • Later posts in the “Portraits from our yard” series will provide views of fully developed Turk’s cap flowers, so you’ll get to see much greater displays of red.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 1, 2021 at 8:37 PM

  5. The first image resembles a fancy candle holder. Often the hint of color from an opening bud is misleading but not in this case. Nice and rich.

    Steve Gingold

    August 2, 2021 at 5:29 PM

    • A candle holder’s a good metaphor for this. I’ll have a post in this series showing the glorification of that hint of red emerging from the bud.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 2, 2021 at 7:57 PM

  6. […] identifies this flower as a member of the mallow family. Today’s picture, like those of Turk’s cap buds you recently saw, is from July […]

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