Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

What I didn’t see on pickerelweed flowers

with 27 comments

I hadn’t seen pickerelweed flowers (Pontederia cordata) since the spring of 2020, so at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center on September 11th I photographed some. Six days later, when processing this limited-focus portrait, I discovered a brown insect that I’d not noticed was on the flowers at the time I took the picture.

If you’d like a reminder of how glorious a whole colony of these flowers can look, you’re welcome to glance back at a post from May of last year.

◊       ◊       ◊

Why do problems that are easily fixed not get fixed?

As someone with a pretty long name, I’ve been repeatedly forced to deal with something problematic: I’m handed a form to fill out, and the blank where I’m supposed to write my name is too short. On the same form, an adjacent blank for the current date may be four inches long, much more than is needed. And speaking of which, there may be two or even three places on the form where I’m asked to put that same date. As the problem of poorly designed forms has persisted throughout my whole life, it will almost certainly continue long after I’m gone. The question is why. Is there a secret cabal of Unilluminati who control the world and rig it so that designers of forms must come from the bottom quartile of IQs? If you’ve got a better explanation, let’s hear it.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 24, 2021 at 4:21 AM

27 Responses

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  1. I’ve mostly shot pickerelweed in the landscape. This is a nice intimate portrait.

    I see you picked a topic few of us can argue with. One of life’s mysteries when it comes to understanding humans.

    Steve Gingold

    September 24, 2021 at 5:50 AM

    • I’d gladly have gone for another landscape view but this was all I found. A few months ago I went back to the pond shown in the linked photo from last year, hoping for another broad floral display, but the plants weren’t blooming then.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 24, 2021 at 7:30 AM

    • And yes, today’s commentary is uncontroversial. I never wanted to get into culture and politics. I wish I could stick to nature, but beginning last year I felt like events were compelling me to speak out.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 24, 2021 at 7:35 AM

  2. Pickerelweed is very pretty – and I see that it can be grown in ponds here….hmmm, interesting! 🙂

    Ann Mackay

    September 24, 2021 at 6:39 AM

    • Yes, pickerelweed is one of our great native wildflowers. From what you say, people have succeeded with it over there. Maybe you will, too.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 24, 2021 at 7:32 AM

  3. When you have to fill out forms, it must be nice to be famous, and just scrawl “Picasso” instead of Pablo Diego José Francisco de Paula Juan Nepomuceno María de los Remedios Cipriano de la Santísima Trinidad Ruiz y Picasso.

    Robert Parker

    September 24, 2021 at 6:49 AM

  4. I thought I’d found pickerelweed massed against a culvert in Dickinson recently, but when I stopped to look, it was our invasive water hyacinth; it often gets washed down the creeks during times of high water. I’m not sure I would have seen that little brown insect had you not mentioned it. I suppose that’s the point, at least for the insect.

    It’s not only names; those with long street addresses suffer the same indignity. I suppose an alternate explanation might be that the form designers are spacier than their forms.


    September 24, 2021 at 7:39 AM

    • I remember seeing a colony of water hyacinths after we crossed over to Anahuac on our circuitous route home from your area in 2019. What a pity such gorgeous flowers are alien and so highly invasive. I once saw a pond covered with them in southeast Austin.

      You said it well: “form designers are spacier than their forms”!

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 24, 2021 at 7:45 AM

  5. I am glad you pointed out the insect on this wildflower. Only after considerable enlargement of your photo on my laptop screen could I see it.

    Peter Klopp

    September 24, 2021 at 9:09 AM

  6. I would have to go back to photos from when we used to visit my husband’s family in Louisiana, but I think pickerelweed was common there. I do not see it here, which is a pity – it’s quite beautiful.

    I am sure to point out repetitive questions or dates on forms. Also, it’s so unprofessional to copy copies of forms – especially when they get to the point of being crooked on the page and faded, it just looks sloppy. Working administrative positions most of my life, I loved simplifying and creating forms that were organized and looked professional. When I worked for the State of Oklahoma, I often submitted forms to the state office (online spreadsheets) for employee use that did calculations and auto fills, where information could be saved from month to month, instead of a handwritten form that took longer to fill out. I never heard back from the powers that be, and of course the district office liked them but said it was just too much work for them to integrate online forms onto the system and teach everyone to use them. I think it boiled down to laziness.


    September 24, 2021 at 9:13 AM

    • I think you hit it: laziness. It may also be a case of bureaucrats not wanting to get shown up as incompetent for not having come up with something similar on their own much earlier.

      I know what you mean about crooked copies of copies of copies. Plenty of those have come my way over the years. Some have even included typos.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 24, 2021 at 10:34 AM

  7. Forms that request identification of my ethnicity really should just have a blank line there for me to write it in. Otherwise, my ethnicity is not listed within the available options, which is really strange if one considers how many Americans are of Italian descent or partially so. There are several categories of various Asian ethnicities. There are categories for ethnicities that are more obscure than Italian American, including Eskimo and Puerto Rican. I often check the ‘other’ category, and write in ‘Italiano’. I have been told that I should check the ‘white’ category, . . . but I am not white. I am of Italian descent . Why are those of Asian descent not labeled as ‘yellow’, or those of Hispanic descent labeled as ‘brown’. Am I ‘brown’? It is all so confusing. My colleague has no problem checking ‘black’, but I, as a ‘casual’ observer, find that to be a bit weird also. I suppose that Americans of African descent are commonly known as ‘black’, but does that category also describe those who are African? ‘Black’ and ‘white’ seem to be very big and very general categories, whereas the others are very specialized.


    September 24, 2021 at 11:56 PM

    • You got it. The racial bean counters don’t care about logic or even facts. Even asking the question is ideological. I always check “Other” or “Decline to say.” I wish everyone else did the same so we’d effectively get rid of the horrid question.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 25, 2021 at 5:44 AM

  8. The flower photograph is very pretty and I liked the colony too. My full name does not fit in any form! But there’s more space for names in Brazilian forms. The longest name I’m aware of, Princess Isabel’s (she’s famous for having signed the law that freed the slaves in Brazil) is composed of eight parts. I wonder how she dealt with forms.

    Alessandra Chaves

    September 25, 2021 at 8:56 AM

    • Somehow I don’t think Princess Isabel had to confront many fill-in-the-blanks forms. I’m glad to hear Brazil is more sensible about leaving enough space for names.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 25, 2021 at 4:05 PM

  9. What did the brown insects appear to be?
    We have best stretches of Pickleweed in our local marshes, and they are frequently visited by small bees of some sort. In fact, just this morning I tried taking a photo so that I could try to identify what type of bees they are.

    Birder's Journey

    September 26, 2021 at 2:05 PM

    • I wish I knew what the insect was. I haven’t a clue.
      I’m glad to hear you have good stretches of pickerelweed in your local marshes. I’d join the bees and be a frequent visitor to them, as it seems you are, too.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 26, 2021 at 2:22 PM

      • Yes, I am ☺️. I’m fairly sure ours are honeybees, and they are seen virtually all the time on the Pickleweed.

        Birder's Journey

        September 26, 2021 at 2:56 PM

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