Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

More turn-of-the-year wildflowers in my neighborhood

with 20 comments

Like the Ageratina havanensis that you saw two posts back, Viguiera dentata blooms in the fall and increasingly into the winter. Common names for this species include plateau goldeneye, sunflower goldeneye, and just plain goldeneye. It’s not uncommon for yellow daisy-type flower heads to open asymmetrically, as the one shown here was doing on December 16th in my neighborhood. The same goldeneye bushes were still displaying flowers on the day 2022 began.

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See what you make of each of these. Are any more logical or plausible than any of the others?

  • This is Daniel. He was born 10 years ago. That means that everyone thinks he’s 10 years old. Only now he’s grown old enough to tell everyone that he’s actually an adult and is entitled to get married, vote, and buy alcoholic beverages.
  • This is Maria. She was born in Italy to Italian parents who trace their Italian lineage back 500 years. This means that when she was born everyone thought she was Italian. Until she grew a little older — old enough to tell everyone that she’s actually Japanese.
  • This is Juan. He was born to a human mother and a human father, so everyone thought he was a human boy. Until he grew older — old enough to bark and tell everyone that he’s actually a dog.
  • This is Mark. He has been a truck driver his whole adult life. That means everyone believes he drives trucks for a living. But now he’s gone to the White House to reveal that he’s actually the President of the United States.
  • This is Ruthie. She’s a transgender girl. That means when she was born, everyone thought she was a boy. Until she grew a little older — old enough to tell everyone that she’s actually a girl.


The third of those fits a rare condition called clinical lycanthropy, in which people believe themselves to be animals. “Canines are certainly not uncommon, although the experience of being transformed into a hyena, cat, horse, bird or tiger has been reported on more than one occasion. Transformation into frogs, and even bees, has been reported in some instances.”

The fourth of those could indicate schizophrenia, symptoms of which sometimes include delusions of grandeur. Approximately 1.2% of Americans suffer from schizophrenia., including the primary subject of the excellent documentary “I Am Another You,” which we watched last night.

The fifth of those is actual text from the book It Feels Good to Be Yourself, which some elementary schools have put in their library. You can read about it in a December 22nd opinion piece by Betsy McCaughey in the New York Post. Researchers have estimated that 0.6% of U.S. adults identify as transgender.

UPDATE: Here’s a follow-up on the last of those topics from Dr. Erika Anderson, who was the first transgender president of the US Professional Association for Transgender Health.

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman


Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 6, 2022 at 4:27 AM

20 Responses

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  1. Our landscape is now buried under a deep blanket of snow. It will be a while before we would find any flowers. You are fortunate to live in such a mild climate, Steve.

    Peter Klopp

    January 6, 2022 at 8:55 AM

    • We got down below freezing on January 2nd. When I drove past the goldeneye bushes a few minutes ago I found no flowers on them anymore. On the other hand, plenty of Mexican hats were flowering along a busy expressway a few miles away.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 6, 2022 at 9:05 AM

  2. You were just in time to catch the goldeneye then! I wonder if the Mexican hats had escaped the frost or if they’re hardy enough to survive it?

    Ann Mackay

    January 6, 2022 at 7:00 PM

    • Just this morning I observed Mexican hat flowers along a busy expressway a few miles from home. A couple of below-freezing mornings don’t seem to have daunted the Mexican hats at all.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 6, 2022 at 7:27 PM

    • And yes, hardy is a good word to describe Mexican hats.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 6, 2022 at 7:39 PM

  3. Lovely photograph of this sunflower goldeneye. The asymmetry is very interesting. I wonder if it has an adaptive function.

    Alessandra Chaves

    January 6, 2022 at 10:38 PM

    • Now that’s a good question. I don’t know the answer, but I wonder if the asymmetry leads to any efficiency in the opening of the flower head. I’d like to say that one adaptive function is enticing photographers to take your picture, but I can’t think how that benefits the plant.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 7, 2022 at 5:49 AM

  4. As your lovely image shows, not every flower develops the same way. The same goes for people, of course, especially with their reading development. I was trying to remember what books I read when I was at school. At the age of 5, when I learned to read, all I can remember reading were ghastly, incredibly boring, Janet and John books. I don’t remember other books that I read or that were read to me, until I was about 7 or 8. The books I read then were mostly adventure stories. By the time I was 9 or 10 I was reading my parents’ books and by 11 I was allowed to read from the adult section of our local library. From the school library I was reading the YA historical stories. Other children at my school were reading comics, trashy romance novels or not reading at all. Others were already tackling Shakespeare. I looked at the book you linked to and found it a bit dull; would I have read it if it had been available in my library as one book among many? Probably not. My point here is that I think adults worry too much about what children read in school and out of school. This list from the NY Public Library is an indication of reading habits when children and adults are given choices in reading material. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/new-york-public-library-announces-its-top-ten-most-borrowed-books-180973955/


    January 6, 2022 at 11:08 PM

    • That’s an interesting list. I’m pleased to see that 1984 is the top adult item. I’ve cited or alluded to Orwell more than once (for example last August 18 and September 4) as a prescient writer whose works are just as relevant in our own era—for the past two years I’ve been thinking even more relevant and cautionary—as when he wrote them in the middle of the last century. I wonder how different the library list would be if compiled in American cities or towns other than New York.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 7, 2022 at 6:15 AM

  5. As for gender issues being part of a school curriculum, I would say, from my own experience, as a kid and as a mother, kids will mostly go their own way with or without guidance from teachers and parents. My high school gave no sex education whatsoever (that I can remember) but that meant the most sought after book (shared around in great secrecy) was The Little Red Schoolbook. One of the best examples of the independence of the teenage mind (regardless of what a school is trying to teach them) is the Netflix series, Sex Education. The story line is over the top but it should be mandatory viewing for parents. I suppose my point here is that these gender/sex issues can be part of education but should not be fussed and fought over. I think you will appreciate this educational advice, from the 1920 NZ novel I am reading, when the emotional well being of Asia, the child, is being discussed:

    “And children demand exactness, things they can see and handle. Does she know anything about arithmetic?”
    “But,” she interrupted breathlessly, “wouldn’t you teach children about God?”
    “Why, certainly, more or less as a fairy tale. And I would give them arithmetic as an antidote. A child like Asia needs arithmetic and other things that are useful on this earth.”

    I don’t remember the contents of The Little Red Schoolbook but I certainly remember my times table!


    January 6, 2022 at 11:54 PM

    • Hooray for the times table! You may have heard me lament the fact that not all schoolchildren today, including many who are given high school diplomas, can reliably do elementary school arithmetic. About 15 years ago I reluctantly agreed to teach a summer remedial course for students who had been provisionally accepted to a local college, the provision being that they first had to show an improvement in their basic skills. One of the college’s math teachers gave me a diagnostic test he uses on the first day of such a class to find out what each student knows and doesn’t know about arithmetic. One of the questions was something like 1/7 + 2/7. I asked the teacher if that wasn’t too simple a question. Would any 18- or 19-year-old really get it wrong? He told me to wait and see, and sure enough, there were kids who added across the top and separately across the bottom to come up with 3/14.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 7, 2022 at 6:36 AM

      • How distressing. I feel the need to listen to a lament.


        January 8, 2022 at 7:11 PM

        • I’m not sure all the laments ever written would be enough to match the ills of the current American “education” system.

          Steve Schwartzman

          January 8, 2022 at 9:43 PM

    • Historians have long pointed out that many civilizations collapse from within. It seems to me that that’s what’s happening now in the United States. Our schools no longer hold kids accountable for absorbing basic arithmetic, English, history, geography, and civics, but spend lots of time on trendy ideological theories like “social emotional learning.” And the schools are propagandizing kids who are very young, indoctrinating them into thinking they can arbitrarily pick a gender. As for teenagers, although they’re notoriously rebellious, many are also extremely eager to be part of the latest hot thing. A term that’s been used for that is “social contagion.” If you look back at the end of this post’s text, I’ve added a link to an article I came across last night. Mentioned in that article is Abigail Shrier’s book about transgender social contagion among teenage girls. My sister, who describes herself as politically on the left in most things, read Abigail Shrier’s book and found it to be a real eye-opener.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 7, 2022 at 6:50 AM

      • That’s a good article on Erica Anderson. I haven’t read Abigail Shrier’s book but I have listened to a critique of it from my daughter. As usual I can’t recall the details of her chapter by chapter critique but I can recall being able to almost hear the ‘eye rolls’ coming across the phone line. Meanwhile after about 2 hours of phone listening my eyes were glazing over. I guess one’s view of these issues can depend on the society one lives in. Similarly for social emotional learning which wouldn’t really be described as trendy in NZ. The NZ curriculum emphasizes five key competences (relating to others, managing self, thinking, participating and contributing and using language, text, and symbols) and has a unique indigenous (Māori) emphasis based on the concept of Hauora. Hauora is a philosophy of well-being. As for civilizations collapsing from within, I know how painful it is to watch a country you love and thought you understood either slowly or violently changing into a place you can hardly recognise.


        January 8, 2022 at 7:06 PM

        • That’s an interesting contrast: Abigail Shrier’s book as an eye-opener for some people, and a cause of eyes glazing over for you when listening to your daughter’s critique of the book. Perhaps one day you’ll read it, and then we’ll find out what your own reaction is. Or if you have an hour, you can watch a talk she gave on the subject last year.

          Your last sentence is a good summary of how I’ve been feeling for the past two years.

          Steve Schwartzman

          January 8, 2022 at 9:38 PM

  6. Your comments about seeing Mexican hats alongside the expressway reminded me of a stretch of Highway 3 in La Marque where Coreopsis and Texas dandelions appear at this time every year. They bloom in perhaps a mile-long stretch where they’re situated between the highway and railroad tracks that might be thirty feet away. I’ve always thought the warmth from the cars and the passing trains encourages them, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the same is true along the expressway.

    The conversation about reading choices and sex education brought to mind a favorite memory. My mother read to me as a baby, and my dad and I began reading the newspaper together by the time I was three. I became a voracious reader, and was allowed to read anything on my parents’ bookshelves. I probably was in the third or fourth grade when I pulled a book off the shelf that raised a question. I ran downstairs to where my parents were hosting a bridge party and asked my dad, “What does it mean if something is ‘sterile’?” Giving me a look, he said, “That means something is really clean, like in a doctor’s office.” There was a brief silence in the room when I said, “I don’t think that’s it, ’cause my book said a lady couldn’t have a baby because she was sterile.” After a little discussion, I returned to my book, and I suspect my dad might have had another drink.


    January 7, 2022 at 7:13 AM

    • I’ve occasionally noticed that our car’s outside-temperature thermometer dropped a couple of degrees after we got off an expressway. If I think of it, I’ll gather evidence for your hypothesis by checking a place in Great Hills Park where I’ve found plenty of Mexican hats in the spring, to see whether the ones there are flourishing the way the ones along Mopac are. Other factors could be at work too, like the orientation of the site relative to the sun, and the soil’s composition and its retention of water. In any case, I’m happy to hear you have your Mexican hat counterparts in coreopsis and Texas dandelions.

      Ah, precocious you; that’s an amusing anecdote you’ve recounted. It suddenly reminded me of the old Art Linkletter television show and book, “Kids Say the Darnedest Things.”

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 7, 2022 at 7:48 AM

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