Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Archive for October 2021

Not exactly a pumpkin

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Okay, so buffalo gourds (Cucurbita foetidissima) aren’t pumpkins, but they are in the same botanical genus. Like pumpkins, buffalo gourds develop on the ground, a position where it’s hard to take photographs free from distracting stuff. To get around that difficulty, on October 8th at the Arbor Walk Pond I got down low and used my left hand to lift a buffalo gourd as high as the attached vine would let me, while my right hand wielded the camera. That was good enough to exclude the ground entirely, as I did in most of the pictures I took of this gourd, but I ended up liking the way the darker fringe across the bottom “grounds” this portrait. If you’d like to compare it to one of the “ungrounded” images, and also see a somewhat different portion of what you could fancifully call the planetary surface, click the thumbnail below.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 31, 2021 at 3:55 AM

Posted in nature photography

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First asters for 2021

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On our October 11th return to Bastrop State Park I photographed my first asters for 2021. The few I found were small and close to the ground, so I could easily have overlooked them on the forest floor. The one above was still opening; the one below had gotten farther along. Research points toward the species being either Symphyotrichum pratense or Symphyotrichum sericeum.


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I’ve been recommending The Coddling of the American Mind as a book that explains destructive and illiberal trends in America, especially among people of college age. So many drastic things have happened since publication in 2018 that the authors, Jonathan Haidt and Greg Lukianoff, wrote what was to have been an afterword to a new printing of the book. That addendum quickly grew so long that they decided to release it as a series of free articles. Part 4 has just appeared. It includes links to the first three parts.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 30, 2021 at 4:16 AM

No poverty of approaches

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As October advanced I noticed more and more poverty weed bushes (Baccharis neglecta) putting out their many little white flowers. The typical visual effect is shown above in a view from alongside Bull Creek on October 14th. Notice the characteristic herringbone pattern of the branches at the right. Overnight rain had left the bushes wet, and I took advantage of that to do closeups of sodden poverty weed flowers.

As different as the last two photographs look, I took both of them at f/22 using flash. In the bottom view I aimed upward toward the cloudy-bright sky; in the middle photograph I aimed sideways.



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“For the contemporary reader, much of English literature can induce a kind of moral peanut allergy.” That’s one zinger from Michael Lewis’s article in the November 2021 issue of Commentary, “Wokeness and the English Language,” which I recommend.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 29, 2021 at 4:37 AM

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Tenants of the forest floor

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During an October 11th return visit to Bastrop State Park I made some pictures of the forest floor, which in places was a carpet of dry pine needles. An even thicker carpet of them had contributed to the devastation wrought by the wildfire that raged there in 2011 and destroyed most of the pines and oaks in the park. Charred remains are still conspicuous in many places a decade later, as the first two photograph confirm.

In the tradition of Horton Hears a Who and Horton Hatches the Egg, I’ll add that Eve Found an Ovum, which is to say a bird’s egg. The inside was liquid except for an air pocket, which conveniently formed an oval within an oval in the picture below.


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In the 1920s my father came to New York City as a teenager, a poor immigrant speaking Russian but no English. Because of that, he was initially put in school with children years younger and much shorter. The humiliation proved a great incentive for him to learn English really fast, and before long he was with schoolkids his own age. Not only that, but he soon qualified to attend Townsend Harris High School, an elite school for the smartest students. Jonas Salk, who went on to create the first polio vaccine in the 1950s, was a classmate of my father.

Decades later, when I was now the teenager, my father would occasionally complain about how Fiorello La Guardia, a “populist” mayor of New York City, had shut down Townsend Harris High School in 1942, supposedly to save money. History repeats itself. In our own time it has become increasingly common for “woke” politicians pursuing “equity” [a horrid word that means ‘the forced sameness of outcomes for racial groups’] to shut down programs for the gifted and talented, as smart kids have come to be called. In the 1930s and ’40s the “problem” was “too many” Jews in those programs; today it’s that there are “too many” Asians. The fact that students are admitted to those programs based on objective tests is irrelevant to ideologues, who often hold that there’s no such thing as objectivity, or if there is, then it’s a tool of white supremacy. As part of their hegemony, white folks apparently made the mistake of lending too much of their whiteness to Asians, who now outperform them.

Zaid Jilani recently wrote a good article about this entitled “Culture — Not Racism — Explains Asian American Educational Success.” I recommend it to you. You may also want to read an essay by Jilani from earlier this year, “The Cult of Smart.”

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 28, 2021 at 4:33 AM

Kin to corn

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As “Plants of Texas Rangelands” notes, eastern gamagrass (Tripsacum dactyloides) “is kin to corn, but has both male and female parts in the same spike.” You see that in the top photograph, where the orange male flowers dangle from threads at the right, and the brownish pipe-cleaner-like female flowers are on the left. Each flower-bearing segment is called a spikelet. As the female spikelets age, they whiten and break into bony joints. You see one above, which must have come from a more mature spike and somehow gotten snagged on this fresher one. The middle picture shows some typical aged female spikelets. (The species name dactyloides is Greek for ‘resembling fingers’; you can decide if this looks like desiccated finger bones.)

I’ll add that in a region not known for fall foliage, we get some warm colors in our aging native grasses, as you see from the way red has begun to appear in the eastern gamagrass below.

These photographs are from the Arbor Walk Pond on October 8th.


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Nobody alerted me that October 19 this year would be International Pronouns Day!
Let me retroactively declare my preferred pronouns for last week:
Wondrous one and His majesty.
And just in case you think the failure to notify me is something I take lying down,
I’ll add that my prone nouns are recumbency and prostration.

© 2021 Wondrous one and His majesty

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 27, 2021 at 3:47 AM

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Driftwood sunset

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On October 17th we drove about 45 minutes southwest to Driftwood, in Hays County, to see for the first time the home and property our friends David and Jolyn bought and moved to last year.

Because their new home is up in the hills, it offers some scenic views of the nearby countryside. We took advantage of that by all sitting outside and watching day give way to night, as the sunset pictures in this post confirm. Metadata says I took the photographs at 6:58, 7:00, and 7:09, respectively.

If you compare the top two pictures, you’ll notice that the clouds in the first photograph are a small subset of those in the second. That’s because in the first picture I zoomed the lens to its maximum 105mm (and later cropped off strips across the top and bottom to make more of a panorama). For the middle photograph, I zoomed out to the lens’s widest setting, 24mm, to pull in a lot of higher clouds. Call me upwardly mobile for the final view: I aimed the camera mostly overhead, rather than outward as I had for the first two shots.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 26, 2021 at 4:27 AM

Two takes on goldeneye

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From close to Bull Creek on October 14th come two takes on goldeneye bushes (Viguiera dentata), which were busy doing their expected autumnal flowering. The top view is pretty straightforward, while the bottom one goes for a limited-focus approach. Either way, yellow rules the day.


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The dialogue that appeared at the end of yesterday’s post was one I created in response to a much-repeated claim that a proposed bill in Congress, despite its $3.5 trillion price tag (which some analysts say is actually more like $5 trillion), would cost “zero, zero, zero.” I have news for the people pushing that bill: government programs don’t cost zero. They may cost some beneficiaries of the bill zero, but many other people are left paying the very high costs of those programs. After I wrote my little dialog to illustrate the abuse of the word cost and the craziness of the notion that the biggest grab-bag of government give-aways in the country’s history would cost zero, I came across an article by Ryan Bourne that made the same points and even mentioned the analogy of buying groceries.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman.

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 25, 2021 at 4:47 AM

Clammyweed

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Clammyweed (Polanisia dodecandra ssp. trachysperma) has appeared in several posts here. Because the most recent was in 2015, it’s high time to let you have another look at the helter-skelter inflorescence of this species. Notice the tiny bee in the lower part of the top picture. In the image below, you’re looking at a caterpillar on a clammyweed pod. Presumably the chomped-out part of the pod was inside the caterpillar at the time I made the portrait. Both of today’s photographs are from my neighborhood on October 6th.


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As someone who spent years studying linguistics, I often notice when someone uses a word in an unusual way. Take a look at this interchange:

Person A: This morning I went shopping for food and filled up a whole grocery cart.
Person B: How much did you spend?
Person A: The cash register rang up $217.65.
Person B: Wow, that cart of groceries cost you a lot!
Person A: Oh no, it cost me zero.
Person B: How do you figure that? I thought you said it cost you $217.65.
Person A: No, I said the register rang up $217.65. But then I paid the $217.65, so the groceries cost me zero.

Readers, what do you say? Is it true that the groceries cost Person A zero?

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 24, 2021 at 4:37 AM

Driving up to the Kolob Reservoir

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Five years ago today we drove north on Kolob Terrace Road to the Kolob Reservoir just outside Utah’s Zion National Park. The placid scene shown above of pallid aspen trunks (Populus tremuloides) awaited us at the top. On the way up to the reservoir we’d stopped at the grove of trees shown below, where fire-darkened trunks and branches contrasted with colorful fall foliage.


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You may find it hard to believe that now, so many decades after the Civil Rights Movement led to the end of segregation in the United States, some public schools in this country have gone back to segregating students by race. Concerned Americans have justifiably been fighting back against this neoracism in our schools. As one example, you can read about illegal racial segregation in the public schools of Wellesley, Massachusetts, and the lawsuit that Parents Defending Education has brought against the offending school district. Notice in the article that this public school district has also been guilty of suppressing the free speech guaranteed in the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 23, 2021 at 4:33 AM

Maximilian sunflower plants subdued

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As much as we love to see the bright yellow of Maximilian sunflowers (Helianthus maximiliani) in the fall, something else loves those plants, too, although not in a benign way. That something is dodder (Cuscuta sp.), a parasitic vine whose densely twining yellow-orange strands people have often likened to a tangle of angel hair pasta (also known as capellini), which is the slenderest type. The second photograph shows you that this vine’s tiny white flowers sometimes rival the strands’ density.

I took these pictures and hundreds more at the Wildhorse Ranch subdivision in Manor on October 4th.


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I recommend Bari Weiss’s latest essay, “Some Thoughts About Courage.”
It includes links to plenty of other worthy articles.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 22, 2021 at 4:35 AM

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