Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Turn-of-the-year wildflowers in my neighborhood

with 11 comments

Ageratina havanensis is a native bush known as shrubby boneset, Havana snakeroot, white mistflower, and fragrant mistflower. Field guides for central Texas note that it blooms in the fall. So it does, including very late in the fall, as confirmed by the buds-and-flowers view above from December 16th in my neighborhood. At the same time that new buds were emerging and opening, some of the flower heads were already going to seed, like the ones in the picture below.

☆         ☆         ☆

Eleven months ago Glenn Loury delivered a lecture. After recounting details of three murders in Chicago on the most recent Memorial Day weekend, he said:

All of the victims were black people. Sixty-three shot, six dead, one weekend, one city. Here’s the thing: reports such as this could be multiplied dozens of times, effortlessly. If a black intellectual truly believes that “Black Lives Matter,” then what is he supposed to say in response to such nauseating reports—that “there is nothing to see here”? I think not.

Violence on such a scale involving blacks as both perpetrators and victims poses a dilemma to someone like myself. On the one hand, as the Harvard legal scholar Randall Kennedy has observed, we elites need to represent the decent law-abiding majority of African Americans cowering fearfully inside their homes in the face of such violence. We must do so not just to enhance our group’s reputation as in the “politics of respectability” but mainly as a precondition for our own dignity and self-respect.

On the other hand, we elites must also counter the demonization of young black men which the larger American culture has for some time now been feverishly engaged in. Even as we condemn murderers, we cannot help but view with sympathy the plight of many poor youngsters who, though not incorrigible, have nevertheless committed crimes. We must wrestle with complex historical and contemporary causes internal and external to the black experience that help to account for this pathology. (There’s no way around it. This is pathology. The behavior in question here is not okay. That one can adduce social-psychological explanations does not resolve all moral questions.)

Where is the self-respecting black intellectual to take his stand? Must he simply act as a mouthpiece for movement propaganda aiming to counteract “white supremacy”? Has he anything to say to his own people about how some of us are living? Is there space in American public discourses for nuanced, subtle, sophisticated moral engagement with these questions? Or are they mere fodder for what amount to tendentious, cynical, and overtly politically partisan arguments on behalf of something called “racial equity”? And what about those so-called “white intellectuals”? Do they have to remain mute? Or, must they limit themselves to incanting anti-racist slogans?

Professor Loury goes on to discuss what he calls unspeakable truths about the situation:

  • Downplaying behavioral disparities by race is actually a “bluff.”
  • “Structural racism” isn’t an explanation, it’s an empty category.
  • We must put the police killings of black Americans into perspective.
  • There is a dark side to the “white fragility” blame game.
  • There is an infantilization of “black fragility.”

You can read his analysis on each of those in the full speech in a Quillette article. In fact it was the most viewed article Quillette had in 2021. You can’t go wrong reading the other top nine as well.

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 4, 2022 at 4:41 AM

11 Responses

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  1. Boneset is beautiful in bloom, and also as it fades and withers. I’m still in awe of the many blooms still emerging so far into the winter season.

    Loury’s analysis is well worth the read.


    January 4, 2022 at 8:06 AM

    • These buds and flowers sure are pretty. Their scent attracts lots of insects. All of the boneset I’ve seen here has now gone to seed, but it wouldn’t surprise me if a spate of warm weather brought out a few more buds.

      Yes, Loury is a voice of reason. I wish the public saw him more in the media.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 4, 2022 at 8:55 AM

      • I wish that too. Thank you for posting the link – at least in a small way some of us may pass it on.


        January 4, 2022 at 8:58 AM

        • I reach a small audience—admittedly smaller than before I began including social commentary—but we do what we can.

          Steve Schwartzman

          January 4, 2022 at 9:22 AM

  2. I remember a flower from my mother’s New England garden that she called boneset. Common names can be confusing. I am assuming her boneset plant was probably Eupatorium perfoliatum, and not related at all to this one here.

    Lavinia Ross

    January 4, 2022 at 9:28 AM

    • You’re right about the profusion and confusion of common names. The species in this post was still classified as a Eupatorium when I started learning about native plants in my area a little over 20 years ago. Since then botanists have used DNA evidence to split off some of the plants in that large genus. The USDA map at https://plants.usda.gov/home/plantProfile?symbol=EUPE3 shows Eupatorium perfoliatum covering the eastern part of the country and reaching to within two counties of Austin.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 4, 2022 at 9:42 AM

  3. Loury’s article was both interesting and very thoughtful – thanks for giving me the chance to read it!

    Ann Mackay

    January 4, 2022 at 12:41 PM

  4. I’ve seen this blooming in the midst of the limestone rocks and prickly pear lining the ‘mountain route’ from Kerrville to Medina. You’re right about the fragrance, and I just looked at my photos of its lush bloom in 2017 and found six different butterfly species nectaring on it. Unfortunately, the photos aren’t publishable, but they’re a great reminder of where to look for the plant again. No mowing crew is going to eliminate it from those rocks.

    I first became aware of Loury when he published his rebuttal to Brown University’s President after the George Floyd incident. One section of his letter came back to mind recently: “They write sentences such as this: ‘We have been here before, and in fact have never left.’ Really? This is nothing but propaganda.”

    What brought it to mind was the opinion page of the New York Times on January1, where they boldly declared, “Every Day is Jan. 6 Now.” This, too, is propaganda.


    January 4, 2022 at 8:55 PM

    • It’s good to hear that you’re personally familiar with this species, and that you’ve found it growing in places where mowers can’t get at it. The bushes I photographed for this post grow in a sort of no man’s land right along the edge of a street, and I always worry that someone will eventually cut everything down. So far that strip has held out during the 17+ years we’ve lived in this neighborhood.

      The letter that you linked to by Glenn Loury sounds—no surprise—just like him. City Journal is a great source of articles; last year I subscribed to it.

      Just an hour or so ago while watching the latest Megyn Kelly interview [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W-c_e7NUUvg] we heard about that New York Times declaration, which I wouldn’t otherwise known about, as I dropped my subscription to the Times years ago after it became so propagandistic.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 4, 2022 at 10:09 PM

  5. […] the Ageratina havanensis that you saw two posts back, Viguiera dentata blooms in the fall and increasingly into the winter. Common names for this […]

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