Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Grabbing grape

with 21 comments

The most common native grapevine in Austin is the mustang grape, Vitis mustangensis. Last year I showed how a prolific one on the side of FM (Farm-to-Market) 2222 just west of the Capital of Texas Highway covered a tree. On May 10th of this year I went back to the same highwayside and focused on young mustang grape tendrils. In the top picture you see how some had latched on to a couple of Mexican hats, Ratibida columnifera. Even when nothing external is available, mustang grape tendrils can live out their innate impulse by curling around themselves, as seen below.



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The fight against mis- and dis-information—a worthy goal—is often based on two flawed assumptions. The first is that definitive answers are known to the disputed points. The second, related to the first, is that the right people to provide those answers can be identified and agreed upon. Both assumptions are themselves often steeped in the Certainty Trap—a resolute unwillingness to recognize the possibility that we might not be right in our beliefs and claims.

To understand the implications of the mis- and dis-information labeling, we need only consider instances like the initial response to claims around Hunter Biden’s laptop or the source of COVID-19. In 2020, several major media outlets dismissed as mis- or dis-information (see here and here for examples) the possibility that a laptop of incriminating emails belonged to Hunter Biden. The certainty with which this position was held led to the silencing of anyone who publicly questioned it—so much so that it has been called “the most severe case of pre-election censorship in modern American political history.” Recent evidence, however, has forced the same outlets who invoked those labels to acknowledge the laptop’s authenticity. Similarly, in early 2020, the suggestion that COVID-19 might have originated in a lab in China was dismissed as groundless fodder for racism and xenophobia. The certainty that led to this reflexive dismissal was walked back just over a year later, but the judgment of the once dissenting voices shouldn’t be forgotten.


That’s a passage from a May 9th article in Tablet titled “The Certainty Trap,” by Ilana Redstone, which you’re welcome to read. On March 21st Tablet had run the related article “Invasion of the Fact-Checkers,” by Jacob Siegel, which I also invite you to read. Its title reminds me of a line from the Latin poet Juvenal’s Satires: “Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?” “Who will watch those watchers?” Now we’re forced to ask who’s going to fact-check the fact-checkers.


© 2022 Steven Schwartzman





Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 22, 2022 at 4:31 AM

21 Responses

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  1. Nice post



    May 22, 2022 at 5:07 AM

  2. Self-supporting grape vines. They are infesting subjects whether doing their own thing or relying on others.

    Steve Gingold

    May 22, 2022 at 7:16 AM

  3. Those curls could serve as an inspiration to the craftsman in wrought ironwork.

    Peter Klopp

    May 22, 2022 at 8:43 AM

  4. Very nice photos!

  5. It took a bit of effort to visually sort out the tendrils in the second photo. The image reminds me of the metal puzzles we used to play with on my grandparents’ front porch. My dad could look at one and simply take it apart; I can’t remember ever solving one.

    In the first image, the ray floret drooping down from the top flower, combined with the tendrils, makes it look like a strange creature doing pull-ups on the Mexican Hat’s stem.


    May 22, 2022 at 5:06 PM

    • Even without the picture I knew the kind of metal puzzles you meant.
      Now that you’ve set it up, I cam imagine those pull-ups in the top picture. I’m not sure I can fully sort out the tendrils in the bottom one. Mustang grape and Mexican hat both qualify as the gift that keeps on giving, photographically speaking.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 22, 2022 at 9:08 PM

  6. Two very cool photos. I remember those metal puzzles that Linda mentions, my grandmother called them blacksmith puzzles, but even if they seemed puzzling at first, all of them could be solved and straightened out with a strong pair of pliers.

    Robert Parker

    May 22, 2022 at 5:23 PM

    • Ah, a modern equivalent of the old Gordian knot approach. I, too, remember those metal puzzles.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 22, 2022 at 9:11 PM

  7. That’s a fascinating find. I love how they’ve latched onto the pair of Mexican hats, wrapped around them so tightly it would likely be a real challenge to separate them all. I recall watching some time lapse videos of how plants reach out like this, looking for something to latch onto. Very interesting.

    Todd Henson

    May 24, 2022 at 9:06 AM

    • Tendrils like these are pretty sight in my part of Austin, where mustang grape vines thrive. Now you’ve got me wondering how tightly the tendrils have latched on, and how hard it might be to unlatch them. I may have to check a few to find out. I also don’t know, since you mentioned a time-lapse video, how long it takes for the tendrils to do the amount of twining shown here. Another question that warrants research.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 24, 2022 at 12:29 PM

  8. […] the Capital of Texas Highway (the same location that provided the pictures for the posts on Monday, Sunday, and Saturday). The critter above is a tachinid fly in the genus Cylindromyia on a firewheel […]

  9. Oh dear .. this vine is obviously invasive.


    May 29, 2022 at 9:54 PM

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