Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Snow-on-the-prairie and friends

with 12 comments

On October 4th I drove east to Manor and spent a couple of hours in the Wildhorse Ranch subdivision, new parts of which have kept springing up for several years now. As was true in October last year, I found no shortage of native species doing their autumnal thing this year. Some of those plants will likely survive development; others won’t. The picturesque group that you see above, because of its location, probably won’t last. The prominent red-stalked plants are snow-on-the-prairie, Euphorbia bicolor. Across the bottom of the picture is a carpet of doveweed, Croton monanthogynus (a genus-mate of the woolly croton you saw here a week ago and again yesterday. The erect plant a quarter of the way in from the left is annual sumpweed, Iva annua, whose pollen, like that of the related ragweed, triggers many people’s allergic reactions in the fall.

Aesthetically speaking, the top picture exemplifies a more-is-more, fill-up-the-frame approach to photography. In contrast, take the minimalist view below that gives a much closer look at snow-on-the-prairie.

And while we’re offering more-detailed views, the portrait below gives you a better look at doveweed, garnished with a dameselfly that might be a female Kiowa dancer, Argia immunda.

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Austin, where I’ve lived since 1976, is the Berkeley of Texas, with leftist ideologues controlling the city’s government. In 2020, the Austin City Council’s response to months of daily rioting in cities around the country was to cut $21.5 million outright from the Austin Police Department budget and to shift another $128 million to other city departments. Predictably, crimes in Austin have increased. As local television station KXAN reported on September 13, 2021, two murders that weekend were the 59th and 60th homicides for the year so far, “the highest number of homicides Austin has recorded in one year in modern history” — and the year still had three-and-a-half months to go.

Apologists argue that crime has also gone up in many other American cities in the past year. True, but that’s hardly a justification for Austin to cut its police budget. According to that “logic,” because Covid-19 was increasing in other parts of the country last year, Austin should have reduced funding to deal with the pandemic.

On July 5 this year, KXAN quoted Interim Police Chief Joseph Chacon: “When it comes to the most critical calls… — shootings, stabbings, rape and domestic violence in progress — the current response time average is nine minutes and two seconds…. That is a minute-and-a-half slower than the department’s three-year average of seven minutes and 30 seconds.”

In response to the increased dangers caused by such a large reduction in the police budget, a group called Save Austin Now got enough signatures (close to 30,000) on a petition to place a proposition on the ballot for November 2nd, just two weeks from now. Among the things that Proposition A [as it’s designated] would do are:

  • establish minimum police staffing and require there to be at least two police officers for every 1,000 residents of Austin;
  • add an additional 40 hours of training each year on “critical thinking, defensive tactics, intermediate weapons proficiency, active shooter scenarios, and hasty react team reactions”;
  • pay police officers a bonus for being proficient in any of the five most frequently spoken foreign languages in Austin; for enrolling in cadet mentoring programs; for being recognized for honorable conduct;
  • require police officers to spend at least 35% of their time on community engagement;
  • require full enrollment for at least three full-term cadet classes until staffing levels return to the levels prescribed in Austin’s 2019-2020 budget [in 2020 the City Council had canceled two cadet classes as part of its “defund the police” hysteria];
  • require the mayor, council members, staff and assistants of council members, as well as the director of the Office of Police Oversight, to complete the curriculum of the Citizen Police Academy and participate in Austin’s Ride-Along Program [in other words, the people in charge of the police should know what the police actually do in their job!];
  • encourage the police chief to seek demographic representation, as reflected in “racial, ethnic and gender diversity of the city,” in hiring police officers.

Do you find anything objectionable there? All of those things sound worthy to me. Nevertheless, leftist activists who want to keep the police underfunded are fighting fiercely against this proposition. Money to campaign against it has been coming in from many places outside Austin and outside Texas. As Austin’s NPR radio station KUT reported on October 4: “Billionaire and left-wing activist George Soros gave $500,000 to Equity PAC, a political action committee lobbying against Prop A. The group also received $200,000 from The Fairness Project, a Washington, D.C.-based organization founded in 2016 that backs progressive ballot measures.”

So there you have it: the people pushing “equity” and “fairness” are working to undermine civil order and public safety. What a sorry state of affairs for my country.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 17, 2021 at 4:33 AM

12 Responses

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  1. I’d never thought about sumpweed pollen as an allergen. Poor goldenrod gets the bad reputation, while sumpweed, ragweed, et. al. do the damage.

    The view of snow-on-the-prairie you’ve presented reminded me of bird-of-paradise flowers. The color difference is striking and obvious, but in your photo the structure of the fanned-out bracts evoked the comparison.


    October 17, 2021 at 5:51 AM

    • I more often sneeze from than think about sumpweed, whose inflorescence is similar to that of ragweed. I see what you mean about the fanned-out bracts of the snow-on-the-prairie having a configuration like an opening bird-of-paradise flower, despite the color differences.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 17, 2021 at 6:08 AM

  2. The photos you took of the snow-on-the-prairie are beautiful but the title gives me shudders.

    Peter Klopp

    October 17, 2021 at 9:51 AM

    • When I wrote “friends” in the title, I had in mind the other native plants accompanying the snow-on-the-prairie. I’m assuming your shudders arise from the thought of real snow on the prairie; is that it?

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 17, 2021 at 9:55 AM

  3. I love the drama of the ‘minimalist view’. It would seem logical to me to make sure that the police are properly funded and have every bit of training that can help them do their work…but logic isn’t always appreciated!

    Ann Mackay

    October 17, 2021 at 10:48 AM

    • I like the way you find drama in minimalism.
      Logic certainly isn’t always appreciated, alas!

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 17, 2021 at 9:18 PM

  4. I love the Damselfly. Excellent image!!

    I really like bullet point 6! It is a sorry state of affairs for the whole country actually. I hope you get more cops and funding.


    October 18, 2021 at 11:27 AM

    • You’re the first person to comment on the tiny damselfly. I was fortunate to get perpendicular to it for good depth of field.

      Amen about bullet point 6. The equivalent should apply to all other branches of our government, too.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 18, 2021 at 12:04 PM

  5. The damselfly is the star for me of these images. Nice and sharp with all the features easily observed.

    While I do believe the issues in policing need reforms, and much better training in some cases, “defunding” was a poor choice for going about that.

    Steve Gingold

    October 19, 2021 at 2:48 AM

    • As a photographer, you’re in a good position to appreciate the end-to-en sharpness in the damselfly. I only wish the doveweed in the background hadn’t been there, but the angle I needed for the sharpness in the damselfly wouldn’t let me avoid that doveweed.

      I’ve often felt that if we discussed issues individually, we—and a majority of people—would find a fair amount of agreement.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 19, 2021 at 5:56 AM

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