Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Where else to find snow-on-the-prairie but on the prairie?

with 34 comments

On the morning of September 10th I headed east from Austin in search of snow-on-the-prairie, Euphorbia bicolor, whose flowering time was at hand. I found some good stands close to and in Elgin, a town about 25 miles east of Austin whose name is pronounced with a hard g, as in give. To take my first snow-on-the-prairie pictures, I leaned my upper body over a barbed wire fence along US 290 west of Elgin, looked through the camera’s viewfinder, and composed pictures of the field you see here. For a few of my photographs I held the camera as high over my head as possible and guess-aimed somewhat downward to get a better angle and increased depth of field. I don’t know if the picture above was one of those, but it might well have been. The snow in the plant’s common name refers to the white-margined bracts that become so prominent leading up to the plant’s flowering. The actual flowers are small and inconspicuous.

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I strive for accuracy. Even so, it’s human nature to make mistakes. If you’re aware of anything in my commentaries that’s not factually correct, please point it out, along with a link to legitimate evidence of the truth, and I’ll make corrections.

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The current American administration’s blatant dereliction of duty and collusion to flout the law

According to the official website whitehouse.gov, “The power of the Executive Branch is vested in the President of the United States, who also acts as head of state and Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces. The President is responsible for implementing and enforcing the laws written by Congress.” [I’ve italicized the second sentence for emphasis.]

Congress has passed immigration laws that set up the legal process by which people are allowed to immigrate to the United States. Nevertheless, for eight months now members of the Executive Branch, including the President of the United States, have worked strenuously to thwart the immigration laws Congress has put in place. Back on August 6th I reported that our government was letting some 40,000 people per week come across the southwestern border illegally. Customs and Border Protection reported approximately 210,000 encounters with illegal border crossers in July. (Some of those were people who had crossed illegally more than once that month.) The other day authorities released the figures for August: “208,887 encounters along the Southwest Border,” of which 156,641 were unique (the difference between those numbers being people encountered more than once that month). The July and August figures were 20-year highs. And remember that the official figures only include people who were apprehended; unknown tens of thousands each month managed to enter illegally and evade authorities.

So many people have walked unimpeded across the Rio Grande River into Del Rio, Texas, in the past few days that federal and local authorities are completely overwhelmed and can’t cope with it. The border there is wide open. Word has gone out around the world that anyone who can make it to Ciudad Acuña, the town on the Mexican side of the Rio Grande, is free to wade across the Rio Grande River into Del Rio, Texas. And people around the world have heard the news and have come.

On September 15th, an estimated 4000 illegal immigrants who had walked across the river were taking refuge under the International Bridge in Del Rio. By September 16th the number of people under or adjacent to the bridge was estimated to have doubled. You can read about it and see photographs in an article by Adam Shaw and Bill Melugin. Representative Tony Gonzales, whose House of Representatives district includes Del Rio, is quoted in the article: “When you see the amount of people and how chaotic it is and how there is literally no border, folks are coming to and from Mexico with ease, it’s gut wrenching and it’s dangerous.” If you want, you can read/watch other stories about the situation.

On September 17th I heard an estimate on television that the number of people under and close to the bridge had grown to 10,500. Later that day I read that the estimate had risen to 12,000. I watched live television showing a steady stream of people walking across a low dam from Ciudad Acuña into Del Rio. The television reporter said this has been going on non-stop for days, and that thousands more people were reported heading up to the border from nearby places in Mexico. According to Del Rio’s mayor, Bruno Lozano, “There’s people having babies down there [under the bridge], there’s people collapsing out of the heat. They’re pretty aggressive, rightly so — they’ve been in the heat day after day after day.”

The situation is dire. Remember that this is summer, and afternoon high temperatures in that part of southern Texas have been running around 100°F (38°–39°C). The video that I watched showed rows of portable toilets, the insides of which must be horrendous. Food and drinking water are in short supply. The sun beats down from dawn to dusk. Thousands more people keep coming every day.

And let’s not forget that we’re still in the Covid-19 pandemic. Last week the current administration issued an edict—most likely beyond its legal authority, but that’s nothing new—according to which many American citizens who aren’t willing to get vaccinated or be tested every week will lose their jobs. Of course the hundreds of thousands of non-citizens who have been illegally pouring across the border, including the thousands now crowded together in Del Rio, often without masks, are exempt from the edict—despite the fact that a majority come from countries where few people have been vaccinated. Unlike American citizens, these people that our government is letting enter illegally don’t have to get tested. They don’t have to get vaccinated. Many of them will be allowed to come into the country illegally anyway, and our government will even pay their way into the interior.

If this isn’t lawlessness, then nothing is.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman


Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 18, 2021 at 4:38 AM

34 Responses

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  1. The plant gives such a delicate snowy effect when seen en masse like that that it really deserves its name. It’s horrifying to think of the conditions those immigrants must be living in, especially in the heat and with Covid around. Makes me realise how much I take for granted in my life.

    Ann Mackay

    September 18, 2021 at 4:47 AM

    • Austin is doubly blessed with botanical snow: on the hilly west side of town we also have snow-on-the-mountain, Euphorbia marginata: https://portraitsofwildflowers.wordpress.com/2012/09/09/snow-on-the-mountain.

      Despite never-ending leftist propaganda that America is thoroughly and horribly and irredeemably racist, people from Haiti, the largest group currently in Del Rio, know better. The problem is that if all the people from poor countries who want to come here do come here, then here turns into there, and America as an exemplar and redeemer ceases to exist.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 18, 2021 at 4:59 AM

  2. There is plenty of snow in our Prairie Provinces. But that kind of snow is probably not what you meant when you posted this lovely flower composition, Steve.

    Peter Klopp

    September 18, 2021 at 8:54 AM

    • This past February we were amazed (and appalled) to have the Canadian kind of snow, too, but for now we’re squarely in botanical snow territory.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 18, 2021 at 10:15 AM

  3. Bractaliciousness. I’ve grown a few Euphorbia plants as succulents and if this is like any of them the bracts might be called variegated.

    Steve Gingold

    September 18, 2021 at 12:15 PM

  4. How do you propose that vaccination is enforced on undocumented, illegal immigrants? First, since they are undocumented, there’s no way to get a hold of them. Second, since they are not allowed to work, there’s no way to enforce their vaccination through employment. Just trying to understand how you think the federal government could aim to enforce vaccination on illegal immigrants.

    Alessandra Chaves

    September 18, 2021 at 1:04 PM

    • Actually I’m not proposing that authorities vaccinate people illegally crossing the border. The last part of my commentary was meant to point out the current administration’s latest hypocrisy of imposing more and more restrictions on the behavior of citizens while not caring a whit about the same behavior from people entering the country illegally (or for that matter wealthy Democrats repeatedly violating mask mandates that everyone else is being asked to abide by).

      My proposal to deal with situations like the one in Del Rio is to use the National Guard or the military to turn people back who attempt to come into the country illegally. After videos go out showing people being turned back, I imagine that the hordes coming here illegally will diminish.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 18, 2021 at 2:00 PM

      • Sounds simple as a solution but why hasn’t it been done yet? Quite frankly, after being here for a good part of 25 years, I think Americans have a dual relationship with illegal immigration. On the one side, there’s the perception that it takes something away from American citizens and legal residents. On the other hand, there’s a need for cheap labor to perform jobs Americans don’t want to. Here in CA, for example, during the Trump administration, there were lots of complaints from farmers, that there weren’t enough people to pick produce. This need for cheap labor somehow gets hypocritically dressed as a humanitarian concern. Let me know if I missed something here. The day Americans make up their minds about how they actually perceive illegal immigration is the day when solutions will start being implemented, whichever way it goes.

        Alessandra Chaves

        September 18, 2021 at 3:30 PM

        • The reason the huge influx of illegal immigrants hasn’t been stopped is that the current administration doesn’t want it stopped. If anything, the far left, which controls the current administration, wants even more illegal immigration that what we’re seeing.

          As for farmers needing workers, at least two solutions have been proposed. One is to re-establish guest worker programs. People from other countries could come here legally to work for a time but then would have to go home; they wouldn’t be immigrants. Another measure is for our government to stop paying able-bodied Americans not to work. After “free” money stops flowing to people, those people will have to find jobs.

          Steve Schwartzman

          September 18, 2021 at 4:43 PM

          • I don’t doubt that there is a problem. I doubt there is a concerted willingness to deal with it. It’s not possible to pay American citizens slave wages that are paid to undocumented immigrants. I do suspect that there is a “market” ready to absorb the problem of illegal immigration and the problem is not going to go away. Bush, Clinton, Trump and Obama all failed to solve it. Where is Trump’s “beautiful wall” that was going to take care of it? The way I see it, this is is not just a “current administration problem”. But, I could well be wrong.

            Alessandra Chaves

            September 18, 2021 at 7:56 PM

            • Yes, the problem has persisted under all the administrations you mentioned. Various commenters have conjectured that both of the main political parties benefit from the status quo: Democrats in getting future voters from the citizen children born here to illegal immigrants, Republicans in offering large corporations a supply of cheap workers. I don’t know how to determine to what extent those plausible hypotheses are true.

              Trump wanted to build a physical barrier, a wall, to reduce illegal crossings of the southern border. Democrats in Congress mostly succeeded in thwarting that project, so that only relatively short stretches of wall got built.

              What’s harder to understand is why the two main parties haven’t been able to set up a system of increased legal immigration, which could vet people properly but efficiently. Such a system would also keep the pool of immigrants internationally balanced, unlike what has been going on in the past few decades, when the huge majority have come from Latin America due to illegal crossings from Mexico.

              Steve Schwartzman

              September 19, 2021 at 6:07 AM

              • It is a very enigmatic situation and also a humanitarian crisis. I really wish both parties would come together to solve the problems of this country rather than play theater to us and continue to ruin the nation for whatever purpose. I wish we could stop arguing as “republicans” or “democrats” and start speaking as Americans. Not everything is a bipartisan issue. Public health and immigration, for example.

                Alessandra Chaves

                September 19, 2021 at 7:33 AM

                • Unfortunately, it seems to be the nature of politics to quickly become theatrics. That’s apparently the human condition.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  September 19, 2021 at 8:20 AM

  5. It like so beauty full


    September 18, 2021 at 1:20 PM

  6. Horrible scene. What’s the solution? Obviously, implement the existing laws. But the laws themselves, in many cases, are impractical. So…? Of course we could always build a wall, like they did in Berlin. That last remark was, I admit, snarky. But there has to be a solution and benefits as many as possible while harming as few as possible. Taking everyone into account. By that I mean everyone.

    Michael Scandling

    September 18, 2021 at 9:02 PM

    • What did you have in mind when you said “taking everyone into account”?

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 19, 2021 at 6:09 AM

      • Obviously the United States cannot accommodate everyone. And should not because some could deserve to be here and some not. I have to do a lot of research on my own to see how many United States jobs are taken by people coming over the border. My observation has been that they are pretty menial jobs that a lot of Americans wouldn’t want anyway. On the other hand there are people trying to get over the border who are trying to escape atrocious and sometimes life-threatening conditions. There has to be a happy medium in there somewhere. I’ve been on both extreme ends of the political spectrum in my life. Neither of them make sense. Neither of them are practical. I tend to be in the middle. There are no perfect solution but there might be some that could be actually doable.

        Michael Scandling

        September 19, 2021 at 9:00 AM

        • It’s interesting that you’ve been on both ends of the main political continuum in the United States.

          Regarding your opening comment that “obviously the United States cannot accommodate everyone,” I and other people have for years been asking people who want increased immigration to state what yearly number of immigrants they want. I’ve yet to hear an answer to that question. As a cynic, I suspect I know why. If an advocate of increased immigration says, for example, that the number should be 2 million a year rather than the current 1 million, then my follow-up question to that advocate will be: what happens when would-be immigrant 2,000,001 shows up at the border. No advocate is willing to agree that that extra wants-to-be-an-immigrant would have to be turned back. In other words, many advocates don’t really want any limit.

          I’ll readily grant that there are people in many countries facing atrocious situations, now including almost the entire population of Afghanistan, and especially the country’s female half. If we survey the world’s almost 8 billion people, those facing bad situations certainly total at least several hundred million, and possibly over a billion. What to do? As you said, they can’t all be brought here. Not all such problems are solvable.

          Steve Schwartzman

          September 19, 2021 at 6:16 PM

          • Thank you. I do not pretend I have an answer. But I suspect that a workable answer lies somewhere between the extremes. Not perfect for either side. Just workable.

            Michael Scandling

            September 19, 2021 at 6:29 PM

            • You’re welcome. I think a majority of Americans would agree to an increased quota for legal immigration (like the 2 million I mentioned earlier) in return for strictly enforcing the border and not allowing any illegal immigration.

              Steve Schwartzman

              September 19, 2021 at 8:07 PM

              • I don’t know what kind of quota is realistic. The political situation is such that reaching across the aisle seems like a distant memory. Everything is so partisan. No one wants to parlay. Each side wants what it wants and screw the other side. The problem is, either way, the other side is a lot of people. That just is not going to work over the long haul. We have to figure out a way to work together. Divided we fall.

                Michael Scandling

                September 19, 2021 at 8:42 PM

                • Yesterday we watched several interviews with the economist Thomas Sowell, one of the country’s rare conservative black intellectuals (who in his youth was a Marxist!). Toward the end of one of the interviews he commented that he never thought he’d live long enough to see the country disintegrating the way it has been—and that was in 2015. I bookmarked but haven’t yet watched an interview with him from July 2 of last year, soon after he turned 90. I’m eager to see what he said about the state of the country then, when nationwide rioting had already been going on for a month. My own moments of “I can’t believe I’ve lived long enough to see this in my own country” came at around that same time, which is why I started adding relevant quotations to my nature posts last year, followed by more-detailed commentaries and links to articles this year.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  September 20, 2021 at 2:28 AM

                • There are so many areas of disagreement. I try to find areas of agreement.

                  Michael Scandling

                  September 20, 2021 at 11:38 AM

                • Oh, that’s easy: everyone can agree with me. (See, I can be snarky, too.) Actually, as I mentioned in my commentary this morning, the people I’ve stopped at random on the street and asked about the state of the country all felt it’s in trouble, but all of them sounded reasonable and appeared to me capable of coming to some accommodations. Maybe the next time I ask a stranger my question I should follow up and ask what accommodations the person would be willing to make with people who have different beliefs.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  September 20, 2021 at 11:51 AM

    • And now for the wall, which you brought up in your self-admitted snarky comment about Berlin. (I don’t mind snark; I can be pretty snarky, too.) As I recall, opponents of a border wall made two main arguments. One glib reply was that anyone who wanted to get past a 14-ft. wall would bring a 15-ft. ladder. At the time, and ever since, I longed to see a television reporter approach one of the people who made that argument and issue a challenge: “Let’s bring a 15-ft. ladder to a 14-ft. wall, and I’ll make a video of you going over the wall.” Of course no one who valued his life would climb all the way up a 15-ft. ladder, given how rickety the perch at the top would be. In addition, what do you do once you’re at the top? Do you actually come with two 15-ft. ladders and put the second one alongside the first one, so that once you’re at the top of the first ladder you lift the second ladder over the wall (assuming you were strong enough to lift all that weight while keeping your balance) and set it down on the other side so that you can then climb down? Can you imagine stepping from the top of one rickety ladder to the top of the other rickety ladder, and turning your body 180° as you step over the top? And what if the wall has curved shields along the top to make getting over it even more difficult? I’m still waiting for a video of Jerry Nadler or Maxine Waters demonstrating how easy it is to get over a 14-ft. wall and down the other side.

      The other critique of the wall was that it’s medieval technology, so we’re much better off using modern surveillance technology like cameras and drones to stop people crossing the border illegally. My immediate response was that even if the technology were installed along the border, there’s no guarantee a future administration would use it. And guess what? For eight months now we’ve had an administration that has essentially refused to enforce the border, culminating in the chaos we’ve been seeing in Del Rio this week. In contrast to that, short of tearing down an already built wall, no administration can prevent that wall from remaining a formidable physical obstacle by its very presence.

      I’ll admit that a wall may not be attractive, but it would cut way down on illegal immigration. And we could have artists cover the wall with fantastic murals.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 19, 2021 at 8:04 PM

  7. […] post showed you a happy colony of snow-on-the-mountain, Euphorbia bicolor. Now here’s one of its genus-mates, Euphorbia cyathophora, known as […]

  8. This is another reminder that your prairies are rich in every season, and not only when spring wildflowers are blooming. Snow-on-the-prairie has exploded down here, too — although I’ve yet to find a field so filled with the plant. The colors here caught my eye, and I wondered whether yours have been in bloom longer, and are beginning to turn. What I’ve seen so far has tended toward green and white, without those pretty red stems.


    September 19, 2021 at 6:19 AM

    • And not only the prairies, as we also have snow-on-the-mountain on the west side of Austin. In my September 10th search for snow-on-the-prairie, I initially checked out a few of the fields along US 290 that were good for it last year. Finding them mediocre this year, I continued further east, till finally I came across this one on the outskirts of Elgin. Once in the town, I discovered another piece of the prairie where I’d never worked before—and may not again next year, as it’s part of a rapidly growing subdivision.

      At the time I took this picture the snow-on-the-prairie seemed in its prime. By now, nine days later, it may be pushing past its peak.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 19, 2021 at 8:09 AM

  9. […] Government officials lie so routinely and so blatantly that I can’t claim I need to do diligent research to uncover their lies, any more than I’d deserve credit for noticing that the sky is blue and the sun yellow. Even so, I figured I’d post this lie of the day because it’s a follow-up to my September 18th commentary about the chaos, degradation, and lawlessness at the Texas border in De…. […]

  10. […] but also to search for some good snow-on-the-mountain plants (Euphorbia marginata) to balance the snow-on-the-prairie I’d already documented for this year. I succeeded in both quests. While snow-on-the-mountain […]

  11. […] already seen Euphorbia bicolor, Euphorbia marginata, and Euphorbia cyathophora here this season. Now comes Euphorbia corollata, […]

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