Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Walking on feathery “ground”

with 18 comments

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

18 Responses

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  1. That was well-spotted!


    August 23, 2021 at 7:26 AM

  2. I’d much rather take a walk with a stick in the grass than have to put up with a stick in the mud.


    August 23, 2021 at 7:45 AM

  3. I would have never recognized this bizarre-looking insect. Its camouflage is absolutely perfect in this image.

    Peter Klopp

    August 23, 2021 at 9:08 AM

    • Yes, walking sticks have excellent camouflage as twigs. I imagine you have some in British Columbia, too.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 23, 2021 at 10:19 AM

  4. Excellent capture of the downed downy achenes of the Clematis and the well camouflaged walking stick. Brought a tear to my eye…almost. But the circumstances of the photo certainly made me both a little sad and a bit angry as well.
    And I guess the originator of “I’d rather have questions that can’t be answered…” is one of those questions that can’t be answered with certainty at this point.


    August 23, 2021 at 10:08 AM

    • I was sorry to see construction beginning already on the southern part of that property. I was hoping for one more chance in the spring of 2022.

      You did well in pointing out that the featured quotation is self-referential in terms of its own origin.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 23, 2021 at 10:22 AM

  5. I haven’t seen a walking stick, the insect, in years. Possibly I looked right at one and didn’t “see” it as this one would easily have been missed as well had it not moved. Too bad about the continued construction of some of your preferred exploration sites. There are just too many of us.

    Steve Gingold

    August 23, 2021 at 2:38 PM

    • It had also been a while since my last walking stick encounter, maybe even a few years, like yours. Chances are that, like you, I’ve seen and yet not seen others due to their good camouflage.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 23, 2021 at 3:54 PM

  6. Oh, I remember this one. I believe that I mentioned earlier that Clematis drumondii is available from nurseries here that specialize in native species. I believed that it really is native. I never asked if it is available just because it does well here, or if it is supposed to be native. I suspect that someone made the mistake a long time ago, and everyone else who sells it copied the mistake without question.


    August 23, 2021 at 5:39 PM

    • According to the USDA map at
      the closest Clematis drummondii gets to California is south-central Arizona.
      I suspect the last sentence in your comment is the truth.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 23, 2021 at 8:20 PM

      • It could have been the name used for Clematis ligusticifolia. Gee, now I am wondering. I have seen Clematis ligusticifolia in the wild, but not in a nursery like Clematis drummondii. Now that I think of it, I have not seen Clematis lasiantha in a nursery either.


        August 23, 2021 at 9:50 PM

  7. Great photo of the walking stick. I haven’t seen any this summer yet but I am always hopeful. They are easier to spot when they get bigger. Sad about the construction zone. Thanks for sharing!

    The Belmont Rooster

    August 24, 2021 at 12:32 AM

    • Thanks. Sharing’s what it’s all about. You’re right that this walking stick was on the smallish side. Its movement saved the day with respect to my noticing it.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 24, 2021 at 5:00 AM

  8. “ Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman! “

    Alessandra Chaves

    August 24, 2021 at 4:55 AM

    • The current situation seems like a big joke sometimes. Unfreakingbelievable .

      Alessandra Chaves

      August 24, 2021 at 4:56 AM

      • A big but very unfunny joke. So many people assert things that they claim can’t be questioned. I never thought things would get to this point—and certainly not so quickly.

        Steve Schwartzman

        August 24, 2021 at 5:06 AM

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