Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Two cowpen daisy mysteries

with 18 comments

By the time I wandered in and near Brushy Creek Park last December 14th, the cowpen daisies (Verbesina encelioides) had all gone to seed and many of their leaves were drooping as they dried out. On one plant I noticed lots of red droplets on several leaves, as you see above. I queried the Facebook Texas Flora group but still wasn’t able to identify what the blood-like droplets were. For a closer look at the lowest leaf, click the following thumbnail.

Another cowpen daisy had gotten wrapped up inside a webbing that I presume insect larvae had spun. I’ve drawn a blank about that, too. Whatever these things are, at least they’re visually interesting


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Franz Kafka, where are you when we need you?

A January 27th announcement from FIRE, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, alerted me to a Kafkaequesque situation at the University of Illinois Chicago. A law school professor named Jason Kilborn had “posed a hypothetical question — which he has asked in previous years — using redacted references to two slurs, in a December 2020 law school exam. The question about employment discrimination referenced a plaintiff being called ‘a “n____” and “b____” (profane expressions for African Americans and women)’ as evidence of discrimination.” After a student (or students) complained about the occurrence of those words, even though only the first letter of each appeared on the exam, the University’s administration ended up forcing Prof. Kilborn “to participate in months-long ‘training on classroom conversations that address racism’ and compelling him to write reflection papers before he can return to the classroom. In a stunning display of unintended irony, the individualized training materials include the same redacted slur that Kilborn used in his test question.”

Professor Kilborn is now suing his university (hooray!). You can find further details in the article from FIRE.

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman





Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 29, 2022 at 4:26 AM

Posted in nature photography

Tagged with , , ,

18 Responses

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  1. Now I’m curious too about the red droplets!
    The university issue looks complicated.

    Alessandra Chaves

    January 29, 2022 at 8:08 AM

    • I don’t even know if the droplets had oozed out of the leaf or been splattered onto the leaf from something else.

      As for the university issue, is there something in particular that complicates it for you?

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 29, 2022 at 8:21 AM

      • I don’t understand exactly what the professor did wrong

        Alessandra Chaves

        January 29, 2022 at 8:21 AM

        • From my point of view, the professor did nothing wrong. In a law school, a discussion of anti-discrimination law has to deal with actual cases or hypothetical cases based on reality. Some hypersensitive activist(s) got upset over something that there’s nothing to get upset about. I’d say they were looking for a reason to get upset. As is now so often the case, university administrators then capitulated to unreason and persecuted the professor to placate the activists. The irony in this case is that the woke propaganda the university forced the professor to endure contained the very same form of the word that the student(s) claimed to be horrified by in the first place. Some portions of our society have gone crazy.

          Steve Schwartzman

          January 29, 2022 at 8:37 AM

          • What I know about institutions is that if someone complains to a higher up, that person must address the complaint and that goes up a ladder …

            Alessandra Chaves

            January 29, 2022 at 8:36 PM

            • But when the complaint is unwarranted, the administrator must say so and put an end to the matter. The problem is that most administrators are cowards and bow down to woke ideologues who make demands.

              Steve Schwartzman

              January 29, 2022 at 9:58 PM

              • That’s not exactly how it happens. The administrator must act on the complaint and that usually end up in Human Resources, where it has a chance to end.

                Alessandra Chaves

                February 1, 2022 at 9:07 AM

                • From what I’ve heard, the people in Human Resources have unfortunately become increasingly “woke.”

                  A few years ago it occurred to me that “two can play this game.” With respect to colleges, I imagined students opposed to “wokeness” pretending to be just as sensitive to every little thing as “woke” students are, and filing so many complains it would clog up the bureaucracy. In the world of business, I’m eager for workers who get subjected to racist “anti-racist” “training” to file one discrimination lawsuit after another.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  February 1, 2022 at 2:52 PM

                • That would certainly give bureaucrats lots to do! 😉

                  Alessandra Chaves

                  February 1, 2022 at 5:52 PM

                • Yes, they’d actually have to work.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  February 1, 2022 at 10:15 PM

        • I’ll add that what’s going on in “higher” education now is reminiscent of what happened in regimes like the Catholic Inquisition and the Soviet Union. In some cases the harassment doesn’t seem al that far from the “struggle sessions” in Communist China:


          Steve Schwartzman

          January 29, 2022 at 8:43 AM

        • Just minutes after my last reply I learned about a similar situation at another law school:


          Steve Schwartzman

          January 29, 2022 at 8:52 AM

  2. That second photo looks as though it’s the same sort of spider-webbing-on-flowers that you’ve shown before, only writ large. The double curve of the stem and the webbing’s especially nice.

    As for those red droplets, my first thought was guttation: water seeping out at the tips or edges of a plant’s leaves. Of course, this leaf is covered entirely by droplets, which doesn’t seem to fit. But, when I wondered if guttation ever produced red droplets — well, look at this. The second paragraph’s especially interesting. If guttation can cover the surface of a mushroom, maybe some anomaly in a plant leaf could allow the same thing to happen. So many questions!


    January 29, 2022 at 9:41 AM

    • The kind of webbing around the cowpen daisy looked a lot more to me like what I’ve seen from webworms than from spiders, which is why I assume some sort of insect larvae created the webbing. Of course I could be wrong.

      Thanks for your lead on guttation (the root of the word is the same as in the gutter that channels drops of water). The bit of searching I did for more about guttation shows it on leaf margins, as you noted, but never on a leaf’s surface, and never with droplets that weren’t clear.

      That fungus oozing red drops is something else: I’d love the chance to see one in person and take pictures.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 29, 2022 at 10:08 AM

      • I thought about webworms, too, as well as that insect that covers the bark of oak trees in certain seasons. The fact that both are associated with trees sent me back to spiders; what I don’t know is whether webworms would set up shop on a flower. I suppose there’s no reason they couldn’t.


        January 29, 2022 at 10:11 AM

        • I wondered about that too, knowing that webworms in my limited experience seem to choose trees, particularly pecans. On the Texas Master Gardener website I just found a clarification; it says that webworms attack “more than 88 different kinds of plants, including many fruit, nut, and ornamental trees and shrubs. It does not attack conifers, such as, pines and other needle-bearing trees. The feeding preference of the fall webworms vary from one place to another. Oak, hickory, and pecans are the most often attacked.” The word plants leaves open the possibility of something like a cowpen daisy plant. And while webworms served as a model that could account for the spinners of the webbing, I left open the possibility of a different kind of insect.

          The math teacher and linguist in me want to know why the TMG site said “more than 88 different kinds of plants.” If that’s true, the writer of the sentence must be aware of a higher number than 88, so why not mention that higher number?

          Steve Schwartzman

          January 29, 2022 at 10:30 AM

  3. How curious! I’ve heard of guttation before, but just for producing clear, dew-like droplets. A mystery indeed. The web reminds me of what Eastern Tent caterpillar does to wild cherry trees.


    January 29, 2022 at 2:54 PM

    • Right, that’s the kind of web I had in mind, without knowing the specifics. As for the red droplets, they remain a curiosity. Maybe someday I’ll know.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 29, 2022 at 5:03 PM

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