Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Lichens, mosses, and ferns

with 43 comments

All the things mentioned in the title commonly occur in Great Hills Park, as I confirmed for the umpteenth time on January 2nd. The top picture looks like it shows hoary rosette lichen, Physcia aipolia. The young fern in the bottom picture seems to be a southern maidenhair, Adiantum capillus-veneris. I’m sorry I can’t give any information about the other greenery.


⤱          ⤱          ⤱


“…Countries that have pushed the laudable doctrines of equality of opportunity most assiduously (so that would be the Scandinavian countries) have the lowest rates of STEM [Science, Technology, Engineering, Math] enrolment among females in the world, as it turns out that freed females, so to speak, given free choice, do not often voluntarily become engineers and mathematicians and physicists. To call this a major problem for those who insist (1) that all sex differences are socially constructed and (2) that equality of opportunity doctrines will necessarily equalize outcomes is to say almost nothing at all.”

That’s from Jordan Peterson’s essay “Equity: When the Left Goes Too Far,” which you’re welcome to read. While discrepancies in upper-echelon jobs get lots of attention, the lower portion of the job market, which employs a much larger work force, scarcely draws any attention. Consider the people who come around and empty the garbage cans that home-dwellers put out at their curb, and the dumpsters of people in apartment complexes. I distinctly remember—because it was so unusual—seeing one woman working on a garbage-collecting crew, and I might have seen a second one at another time. That’s it for my entire life. How many women have you ever seen working in a pick-up-the-garbage crew?

Similarly, here in Texas the people who sweat long hours maintaining yards in the summer heat, and who bake on rooftops putting shingles on houses, are universally male. I’ve never seen a woman doing either of those jobs (though a woman is in charge of the arborist crew that has come to our house several times to cut down damaged trees, and she’s always joined in doing the physical work along with the men). In your experience, what percent of the yard maintenance and roofing crews that you’ve see are female? Can you imagine any sort of “affirmative action” that will coax tens of thousands of women to give up even low-paying positions in winter-warmed and summer-air-conditioned offices to do those jobs instead? That’s a rhetorical question.

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman


Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 18, 2022 at 4:38 AM

Posted in nature photography

Tagged with , , , ,

43 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. Beautiful photo


    January 18, 2022 at 5:02 AM

    • Close looks at nature reveal many interesting and curious things.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 18, 2022 at 8:05 AM

      • We’d miss so much if we didn’t stop and have a really close look at nature – lots of interesting shapes, patterns and textures.
        I wonder how much the feeling that a woman might not be welcome in an otherwise all-male working environment might put women off some of these jobs?

        Ann Mackay

        January 19, 2022 at 5:43 AM

        • As you’ve seen here, I use my macro lens more often than all my others put together. That’s how important close looks are.

          I think you’ve hit upon a good reason that some women don’t pursue jobs that they otherwise would.

          Steve Schwartzman

          January 19, 2022 at 6:30 AM

  2. Those hoary rosettes look remarkably like barnacles. As for that green-on-green-on-green, it’s wonderful. I’m wondering if the underlayer might be a combination of two plants. In east Texas, I’ve sometimes seen that ‘starry’ moss combined with something else that looks a little more gelatinous, but my memory’s foggy and I don’t have a photo. No matter; at this point in the year, it’s a lovely sight.

    It may be that more than a male/female distinction’s involved in at least one of the occupations you highlighted. I can’t remember ever seeing a white guy on a yard crew; from what I’ve seen in this area, the workers are wholly Hispanic, which suggests yard work’s an entry level job for part of the population. I’ll grant you that roofers and garbage collectors seem to be wholly male, no doubt because of the need for physical strength, but around here, framers on house construction crews, heavy equipment operators on highway projects, and sailboat riggers do include women.

    Of course, that’s not a response to ‘affirmative action’ but a result of choice. I once knew a woman who’d worked both for the railroad and on an offshore oil platform. Whenever someone asked her about her choice of work, she’d grin and say, “Money, honey.” And here in Texas, the people who sweat long hours maintaining boats in the summer heat (and who freeze doing the same in winter) are an even mix, although I know only one guy who primarily does varnish work. The rest are women, and most of them gave up higher-paying jobs to begin working on the docks. Especially these days, the value of the freedom gained exceeds that of the income lost.


    January 18, 2022 at 8:00 AM

    • I do see the barnacle resemblance. Whether that qualifies as what’s called convergent evolution, in which unrelated organisms develop a similar trait, I don’t know. The resemblance could be purely coincidental and have nothing to do with similar functions or advantages.

      Yard crews in Austin are totally Hispanic. Typically the foreman will have been in the country long enough to have acquired a working facility with English, which allows him to find out what the homeowner wants done. The foreman then speaks in Spanish to the rest of the crew, who usually appear to speak no English. A historian or sociologist might be able to tell us about the ethnic composition of Texas yard crews in other eras, especially in places with a minimal Hispanic population (assuming there are any in the state!). My guess is that out of necessity yard crews would have included white men, or perhaps black men then filled the role now played by Hispanics.

      I brought up “affirmative action” to point out the curious lack of any institutional attempt to get women to make up an equal share with men of occupations that aren’t considered prestigious but that often still afford a good living. Ah, the old double standard. Of course my stance has always been that no one should be blocked or hindered in the pursuit of a desired occupation, and by the same token no one should be pushed toward some occupation to satisfy the arbitrary assumption that all groups should do all things in equal measure.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 18, 2022 at 8:27 AM

  3. The lichens do look like barnacles. The other green stuff looks like starry mosses and very young ferns.


    January 18, 2022 at 8:31 AM

    • I also had the impression of starry mosses but didn’t and still don’t know how to be more scientifically precise. As for the other small green organisms, I wonder if they might be liverworts.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 18, 2022 at 9:12 AM

  4. I love the top one with the lichen. It looks like an alien surface! The bits of red, bright green, and that pale gray green of it are wonderful.

    Do you know I find so many topics and careers interesting and fascinating but, when given the choice I didn’t pick any of them as I just don’t have the brain for them!!! Perhaps the women like me who didn’t choose those careers either are pretty smart after all? 😀


    January 18, 2022 at 10:22 AM

    • The rosy tinge in the lichen surprised me. Of course as a nature photographer I welcomed it; the more alien-looking a surface, the better.

      What sort(s) of career did you end up pursuing? Did you find fulfillment? I’ve often regretted not pursuing a career as a historian.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 18, 2022 at 10:37 AM

      • Mortgage loan finance, and my last job was a technified room mom at a big electronics firm’s education department. That was a fun job.


        January 18, 2022 at 3:05 PM

  5. Speaking of occupations, there are going to be some Texas Parks & Wildlife people on the hot seat (no pun intended). I just found out about the Rolling Pines Fire in Bastrop. I don’t understand this one. The Forest Service has been warning about fire danger for days. Conditions must have changed rapidly; at about 4 p.m. winds were gusting to 20 mph and the humidity was down to 40%. A prescribed burn when burn bans have been issued seems like a very bad idea, but what do I know? I’m just so irritated. I hope they can get it under control sooner rather than later.


    January 18, 2022 at 4:45 PM

    • We just learned about that fire 15 minutes ago on the local television news. We checked several stations, one of which mentioned a recent prescribed burn but gave no details. If that was the cause of the current fire, then someone’s going to be on the hot seat indeed. Culpability aside, it’s sad to see the beginning of what could be 2011 all over again. The last status report we heard said 600 acres burned and 0% under control. Not good news.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 18, 2022 at 5:18 PM

      • Here are the bare bones of the story:

        Bastrop County OEM confirmed that the wildfire started in relation to a prescribed burn at Bastrop State Park. The burn was set to be conducted Tuesday, Jan. 18, and possibly the next day as well. Park Road 1C from Harmon Road to Park Road 1A were closed for the prescribed burn. Bastrop County Judge Paul Pape told KVUE’s media partners at the Austin American-Statesman the prescribed burn broke the lines and ignited new fires as winds picked up. “The winds were just stronger than anyone anticipated,” he told the Statesman.

        Since Sunday, the Bastrop County OEM has been plastering social media with warnings about burns, and when social media exploded with people questioning the decision to do the burn in the park, TP&W officials responded by saying, essentially, “We know what we’re doing.” I can’t find the quote now. Maybe I’ll come across it again.


        January 18, 2022 at 5:35 PM

        • One bit of misinformation floating around has been that Bastrop Country was under a burn ban. They weren’t. Caldwell and Williamson Counties were the closest counties with such bans.


          January 18, 2022 at 7:04 PM

        • Thanks for the details. On local television this morning I saw a clip of a guy from Texas Parks and Wildlife saying the prescribed burn was within the normal “parameters.” Too bad the fire didn’t know that. The latest figure I’ve heard is that the fire is 10% controlled. Unfortunately winds are predicted to get up to 20 mph or so by late afternoon.

          Steve Schwartzman

          January 19, 2022 at 5:54 AM

  6. I recall that when I was in college my friends and I liked to take the shuttle to engineering school for lunch, because it was a good place to find guys and they were on their way to good salaries 😉. To enter Brazil’s public universities, one needs to choose a profession and take a test. Admission is 100% based on test scores. No one sees you or talks to you during the process. Therefore, I think it’s a good model to study gender-based professional choices. Women could always choose and would find no barriers to get a degree in engineering. Conversely, nursing school always had very few males, and I recall the government actually campaigning to recruit more males in nursing. I think it would be a shame to prevent someone from doing something based solely on their sex, but I also find it unproductive to try to get 50% of each sex in each profession. In my profession, most graduate students in the USA are females, but most people employed in permanent positions are males. Trying to understand why that is, and identifying which barriers prevent females from becoming accomplished, well paid professionals in biology, is worth investigating. Just some thoughts.

    Alessandra Chaves

    January 19, 2022 at 8:30 AM

    • So did you or any of your friends ever end up snagging one of those engineering guys?

      What you described as the 100%-test-based admissions system in Brazil corresponds to a pure meritocracy, as the applicant’s race and background don’t get taken into account at all. Unfortunately in the United States there are many who want to do away with the meritocratic system and want to get rid of blind applications and auditions because they’re unhappy with the results, in which Asians perform a lot better than any other group.

      Based on natural predilections, occupations like nursing and pre-school teaching will always attract a lot more women than men. Obviously no men who want to do those things should get blocked, but trying to force outcomes makes no sense. It’s true that in the past women were discouraged or outright excluded from some professions, but now many companies go out of their way to recruit women. If only people could live and let live.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 19, 2022 at 10:15 AM

  7. I married another biologist and I don’t think any of my friends caught one of those boys! But it was fun taking the shuttle to engineering school for lunch !

    Alessandra Chaves

    January 19, 2022 at 11:27 AM

    • You could do an entertaining post about some of the adventures that shuttle took you to.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 19, 2022 at 11:38 AM

      • Lol. One thing I wish is that I had the gift of writing stories. Maybe in Portuguese with a little effort and training but in English I feel that it doesn’t “flow” naturally when I write.

        Alessandra Chaves

        January 19, 2022 at 2:41 PM

  8. In New Zealand and Australia I have seen quite a few (not sure of percentage) of women working on road crews. They are in construction, too.


    January 28, 2022 at 7:04 AM

    • That’s still uncommon here. Of course any women who want to do those jobs should have the same opportunities as men.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 28, 2022 at 7:18 AM

      • Agreed, and women mostly do have the same opportunities here, at least as far as apprenticeship and trades training are concerned.


        January 28, 2022 at 7:44 AM

        • My intuition, following what Jordan Peterson said in the first paragraph I quoted, is that with all the opportunity anyone could want, men will still always outnumber women in occupations like roofing and construction.

          Steve Schwartzman

          January 28, 2022 at 8:13 AM

          • Possibly true on a worldwide scale. I think in NZ, women will work in all areas if the wages and working hours are right. Having said that, I am suddenly remembering the many women I saw in India and Nepal who laboured on construction sites and on roadworks. A sight to behold. Women also did the job of sweepers ( outside garbage collectors). The conditions were terrible, the pay was terrible, but the women worked to survive. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-india-women-construction-idUSKBN0KL00920150112


            January 28, 2022 at 3:03 PM

            • Good link: I hadn’t heard about women in construction jobs in India. I imagine if people are desperate enough they’ll take any job.

              Steve Schwartzman

              January 28, 2022 at 3:13 PM

              • My memories of these women in India date from the early 1990s. The women were incredibly hard working. And their physical strength was extraordinary.


                January 28, 2022 at 3:16 PM

                • And when people from countries like India come to wealthier countries like the United States, they often outperform the native population. When you look at lists of academic contest winners here, most of the names are Asian. Many medical doctors in the United States are now Asians who came here when young or the children of those who immigrated here.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  January 28, 2022 at 3:56 PM

                • That is usually the immigrant story. When people move to another country to better themselves or for the future of their children, they work hard to achieve their goals.


                  January 28, 2022 at 9:14 PM

                • Where I grew up in New York, it was common for people’s parents or grandparents to speak English with an accent.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  January 28, 2022 at 9:58 PM

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: