Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Sunny poverty weed

with 32 comments

On October 14th I photographed some wet poverty weed (Baccharis neglecta) flowering along Bull Creek under overcast skies. As the month advanced, many of these bushes reached their peak of fluffiness, which I spent time recording in the town of Cedar Park on the morning of the 29th. Now the sun shone and the sky was clear blue, so the photographs came out quite different from those you saw earlier. Another factor this time was the presence of wind, which blew the bushes about. In the top picture you can pick out a couple of bits of fluff that had gone airborne. To deal with wind gusts I turned to shutter speeds as high as 1/640 of a second. That was fast enough to stop the motion in the following picture.


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Pronouns, pronouns, who’s got the pronouns?

According to the Gender Pronouns page on the website of Springfield College in Massachusetts,

  • The best thing to do if you use the wrong pronoun for someone is to say something right away, such as “Sorry, I meant they.” Fix it, but do not call special attention to the error in the moment. If you realize your mistake after the fact, apologize in private and move on.
  • It can be tempting to go on and on about how bad you feel that you messed up or how hard it is for you to get it right. But please, don’t. It is inappropriate and makes the person who was misgendered feel awkward and responsible for comforting you, which is not their job. It is your job to remember people’s pronouns.

My pronouns this week are mzekpitran for the subjective case and ervijmpt for the objective case. It is your job to remember them.

[Craziness and frivolity aside, you may be surprised that my subjective and objective pronouns don’t resemble each other. Actually English does the same thing with some of its pronouns—a fact that native speakers don’t normally think about. Consider the way English pairs the first-person I as a subject with the dissimilar me as an object, and likewise we with the dissimilar us. Corresponding to the I/me forms in the singular are the related French je/me, Russian я (ya)/меня (menyá), Portuguese eu/me, Italian io/me, Catalan jo/me, and Spanish yo/me].

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 17, 2021 at 4:40 AM

32 Responses

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  1. Nice post 💞


    November 17, 2021 at 5:06 AM

  2. In your photos, the Baccharis is lovely. In my life, it’s turned into the annual frustration that drives me crazy. All that high-flying fluff has been landing in my varnish for days. I’m hoping that tonight’s front has enough wind and rain to finally clear out some of it. There are days when I suspect the stuff heads for wet varnish as intentionally as the love bugs do.

    As for subjective and objective cases, it occurs to me that the current obsession with pronouns reveals a society marked by hyper-subjectivity and an inability to deal with objective fact. It’s a condition generally seen in teenagers.


    November 17, 2021 at 6:30 AM

    • As an outdoor varnisher at this time of year you wish you could neglect Baccharis neglecta; conscientiousness unfortunately won’t let you neglect the nuisance.

      Bravo for your clever segue from the subjective and objective cases in grammar to the wild subjectivity of so much being put forth as objective facts these days. Last year, at the height of the rioting, I read Charles Mackay’s 19th-century classic Memoirs of Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds. Now I’m eyeing William J. Bernstein’s 2021 take on the subject, The Delusions Of Crowds: Why People Go Mad in Groups.. From Batya Ungar-Sargon’s Bad News, which I’m much of the way through, I learned the term moral panic, which could well apply to the current gender hoopla.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 17, 2021 at 6:52 AM

    • By the way: on the websites I go to I’m often hit up with ads for Grammarly. Out of curiosity, I checked it out just now to see what it says about the subjective and objective cases. I found its statement poorly worded and incomplete: “The objective case is used when something is being done to (or given to, etc.) someone.” One problem is that the object could be a something as well as a someone. Another problem is that the explanation doesn’t distinguish among the direct object of a verb, the indirect object of a verb, and the object of a preposition. I could have written a better explanation than Grammarly when I was still in sixth grade.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 17, 2021 at 6:58 AM

      • There are reasons I don’t consult Grammarly, and this adds to the list.


        November 18, 2021 at 6:53 AM

        • I scanned some reviews of Grammarly just now and found them all rather positive. I assume at least some of the reviewers have a vested interest in the program.

          Steve Schwartzman

          November 18, 2021 at 7:06 AM

  3. The poverty looks great against the blue sky, not poverty-stricken at all.

    Peter Klopp

    November 17, 2021 at 8:41 AM

  4. I love those big fluffy flower heads lifting their smiles to the sunny sky.
    As to pronouns, you are right and those differences seem to create no end of confusion to “native” speakers as well as those trying to learn our complex language. What the heck are teachers doing these days, to turn out so many illiterate Americans?! In my former community the emphasis seemed to be entirely on whether the little idiots could produce a plastic whatsit from a 3-D printer. The local HS got rid of ALL of their books!


    November 17, 2021 at 9:13 AM

    • Poverty weed in its flowering stage seems like it would be a good subject for you to paint. You could even anthropomorphize it to suggest smiles.

      As far as pronouns, English has it relatively easy compared to some other languages. For example, look how many forms you have to learn in Russian:

      Or look at Eve’s language:

      Alas, many of our schools are now teaching precious little of the knowledge that used to be considered basic. You’ve probably seen videos in which young American adults don’t know the answers to basic questions like who the United States declared its independence from, or who won World War 2, or what the three branches of our government are. I agree, of course, that getting rid of all books is not the way to go (even as I value the accessibility of information online).

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 17, 2021 at 12:06 PM

      • I am shocked at the examples you give for American ignorance. Even worse than I thought! No wonder so many people are proving to be easy to manipulate. That is scary.
        I knew things were complicated for Russian speakers, but they are also quite complex for Cebuanans (did I get that right?) With complexity they can have greater nuance than we have.


        November 18, 2021 at 3:58 PM

        • Sometimes there is indeed greater nuance in a certain feature of a language. For example, many languages have two versions of “we.” One of them includes the person(s) being spoken to and the other form excludes the person(s) being spoken to. There’s a well-known anecdote, perhaps true or perhaps not, of some Christian missionaries who went to Africa, did their best to learn the local language, and preached to the natives that “we are all sinners.” Unfortunately for them, they used the wrong “we,” the one that excluded the Africans that the missionaries were talking to.

          Steve Schwartzman

          November 18, 2021 at 4:27 PM

        • Eve’s people are usually called Cebuanos.

          Steve Schwartzman

          November 18, 2021 at 4:28 PM

        • To see what college students don’t know (and what they do), check out this article and watch the 3-minute video in it:


          Steve Schwartzman

          November 18, 2021 at 6:36 PM

          • I watched it. Now I feel sick.


            November 27, 2021 at 8:38 AM

            • I complained about that kind of ignorance throughout my teaching career. The current lack of what used to be considered common knowledge among American students is a strong indictment of our education system.

              Steve Schwartzman

              November 27, 2021 at 11:20 AM

              • I agree. At the same time, I remember the clods I went to school with. So many took it as a matter of pride to not learn. We actually had excellent teachers, but most of my class graduated with utter ignorance. That was back in 1981…it appears to have gotten much worse. Did you have students like that?


                December 1, 2021 at 8:46 AM

                • Of course. I once had a student who asked what kind of airplanes we used in the Civil War. There’s always been and always will be a lot of ignorance, but from what I’ve read in recent years things have gotten worse.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  December 1, 2021 at 10:38 AM

                • Yes, it does seem that way. Yesterday I saw a bumper sticker saying that a war on education has no winners. I thought, I’d love to meet that person!


                  December 2, 2021 at 7:31 AM

  5. I agree with Peter it looks pretty against the sky and very lush!


    November 17, 2021 at 11:10 AM

    • Yes, flowering poverty weed against a blue sky is one of the lovely things we look forward to in nature here every fall.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 17, 2021 at 12:07 PM

  6. Delightfully fluffy flowers! I’ve never seen anything quite like them before, though perhaps they do look a bit like giant astilbe flowers.

    Ann Mackay

    November 17, 2021 at 12:49 PM

  7. The poverty weed is simply stunning, and the blue sky gives it all the room it needs to be the center of attention.

    I agree with Linda on the current pronoun issue. She found a nice way to say what she did. I, on the other hand, will not comment further. My mom always said, “If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all”. I believe this is one of those situations.


    November 17, 2021 at 3:11 PM

    • Yes, poverty weed is a graceful adornment for fall down here, especially with a bright blue sky to play it off against. It’s one of many plants I find attractive despite the “weed” in their name.

      I understand your resolution not to say anything if you can’t say something nice. It’s often a good choice. Even so, I’ve taken the opposite tack this past year, feeling that I can’t live with myself if I don’t speak up against the onslaught of delusions coming our way. The book I’m currently reading calls them “moral panics.”

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 17, 2021 at 3:32 PM

      • I find a lot of what has been happening in our country very ridiculous, and most of the time I’m flabbergasted at people who just accept the new normal and go with it. I do enjoy that you speak out, and it is always done in a straightforward fashion, but not offensive. Your thoughts often prompt me to do a little more research when I have time, and consider what others have to say. Forrest spends a lot more time reading and researching than I do, so I often forward what you have posted to him.


        November 17, 2021 at 3:47 PM

        • My personality is such that I try to get at the truth of things. (Having lived as teacher with the precision of mathematics for years reinforces that.) I’ve spent hours on some of my commentaries tracking down the facts as best I can and doing my best to avoid repeating anything I can’t verify (unlike the Russia collusion hoax that plagued the country for years). Occasionally the things I’ve reported in my posts, despite being verified as true, have offended some people, and readership has dropped off by at least a third. What can I say? Like you, I’m appalled at the way so many people accept unsubstantiated assertions as truths.

          Steve Schwartzman

          November 17, 2021 at 4:01 PM

  8. There’s a richness to these photos that belie their subject’s name.

    Steve Gingold

    November 18, 2021 at 3:38 AM

    • Well said. In the 1930s, poverty weed was also known as Roosevelt weed and Depression weed.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 18, 2021 at 6:31 AM

  9. […] October 29th, when I drove up to the adjacent Austin suburb of Cedar Park looking for poverty weed at its fluffy best, I also came across some gulf muhly (Muhlenbergia capillaris) that looked good enough for me to get […]

  10. […] a while since I declared my pronouns (the last time was November 17). Let me remind you that in the religious rite of pronoun pronouncement—ah, what a euphonious […]

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