Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

A monumental mountain pink colony at Belton Lake

with 29 comments


On June 14th I got a tip from Rhonda Frick Smith in Morgan’s Point Resort about a huge colony of mountain pinks (Zeltnera beyrichii) close to the dam that sustains Belton Lake, so on June 16th I drove the hour north to check it out. I have to say it was the largest colony of these flowers I’ve ever come across, probably larger than all the others I’ve seen put together. What appears in the photograph above is merely one portion of the vaster colony. (An aerial photograph in the article I linked to shows the “barren” field that was home to this enormous mountain pink colony.)


Mountain pinks have a knack for growing in rocky and seemingly unpromising ground, as the middle photograph shows from a somewhat sparser portion of the colony. And speaking of rocky, here’s a closer look at all the fossilized tube worm casings in the slab of rock in the upper left of that second picture:


These are remnants from an era when what is now Texas lay beneath the sea.



❖         ❖         ❖


The developed world became wealthy through the pervasive use of fossil fuels, which still overwhelmingly power most of its economies. Solar and wind power aren’t reliable, simply because there are nights, clouds and still days. Improving battery storage won’t help much: There are enough batteries in the world today only to power global average electricity consumption for 75 seconds. Even though the supply is being scaled up rapidly, by 2030 the world’s batteries would still cover less than 11 minutes. Every German winter, when solar output is at its minimum, there is near-zero wind energy available for at least five days—or more than 7,000 minutes.

This is why solar panels and wind turbines can’t deliver most of the energy for industrializing poor countries. Factories can’t stop and start with the wind; steel and fertilizer production are dependent on coal and gas; and most solar and wind power simply can’t deliver the power necessary to run the water pumps, tractors, and machines that lift people out of poverty.

That’s why fossil fuels still provide more than three-fourths of wealthy countries’ energy, while solar and wind deliver less than 3%. An average person in the developed world uses more fossil-fuel-generated energy every day than all the energy used by 23 poor Africans.


I invite you to read Bjørn Lomborg‘s full commentary in the June 20th Wall Street Journal entitled “The Rich World’s Climate Hypocrisy.” The subtitle is “They beg for more oil and coal for themselves while telling developing lands to rely on solar and wind.”


© 2022 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 26, 2022 at 4:25 AM

29 Responses

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  1. That’s an amazing and unexpected sight. Obviously, the conditions there are favorable for the pinks, but still — I’m so accustomed to seeing them in road cuts or on rocky hillsides it feels a little surreal to see such a horizontal spread. As for their numbers, your second photo shows a scene that more closely resembles what I’ve found. Some years they’re ‘everywhere’ around Kerrville and etc., but only in very small groups.


    June 26, 2022 at 5:14 AM

    • Amazing: ✓. Unexpected: ✓. Conditions favorable, but still: ✓.

      Some of the mountain pink pictures I’ve shown in my posts are of the growing-out-of-the-rock-in-a-road-cut type. In fact just the day before yesterday I was happy to find a few of those at the same late-in-the-season place in my part of town that I featured in 2020:

      The picture is the right way

      I’d also shown some in horizontal ground that might not succeed in nurturing a less hardy species:

      Mountain pinks growing in caliche

      Yet never had I seen anything remotely close to the scale of the Belton colony, nor do I expect to again, unless the same field puts on a similar show in future years. If it does, you might be enticed into making the three-and-a-quarter-hour drive to see such a prodigy in person.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 26, 2022 at 8:32 AM

  2. Nice post



    June 26, 2022 at 5:37 AM

  3. That is huge even without the rest that isn’t in the frame. Is that the dam in the background? The aerial photo doesn’t seem to show that as the dam but maybe I am not reading the shot properly.

    Steve Gingold

    June 26, 2022 at 10:53 AM

    • Yes, that’s the northern end of the dam in the background in the top photograph, where north is to the left. In the aerial photo the vantage point is the opposite, with north to the right. Also in the aerial photo, the little tan ellipse just “above” the road is the track around the curving Belton Lake mural in the post’s top picture. As you know, I generally don’t include man-made structures in my nature photographs, and I could have cropped off the top of the top picture or used one of the many other pictures I took that were entirely natural. Nevertheless, I thought that the mural gives context to the photograph and serves as another change of pace (like the exterior of the museum in Corpus Christi I recently showed).

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 26, 2022 at 11:13 AM

      • I knew that was the dam in the aerial picture but wasn’t sure if the mural was one side of the dam. Sounds like it isn’t, Like you I rarely show a manmade object but one is forthcoming.

        Steve Gingold

        June 26, 2022 at 11:20 AM

  4. It was unknown to me until I read an article in the April 25 New Yorker that there are multiple, well financed ‘renewable storage’ research projects taking place in various countries. These energy storage ideas have nothing to do with batteries. There are a number of possible ways to capture huge amounts of renewable energy to be used in times of no wind or sun. Once this work culminates in successful (probably relatively simple) technology, energy usage could really come from mostly renewable sources. Developing countries won’t have to revamp/tear down existing power systems. A bonus for them. They can start from scratch building renewable energy and renewable storage facilities.

    Bill H

    June 26, 2022 at 3:05 PM

    • I’ve read a little about some of those storage methods. If scientists and engineers can figure out ways to scale them up, so much the better. Until such a time—which is likely far in the future—the world will need large amounts of the things we currently get our energy from.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 26, 2022 at 4:48 PM

  5. It is sure a large colony of mountain pinks! We do need to find efficient substitutes for fossil fuels because it’s a finite resource. And we need to do it fast. In the meantime every person could at least try not to waste so much energy.

    Alessandra Chaves

    June 26, 2022 at 5:01 PM

    • In my little household we make an effort not to waste food, and it’s now pretty rare for any that we buy to spoil before we can eat it. It bothers me how much food restaurants and nursing homes and schools regularly throw away.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 26, 2022 at 5:08 PM

      • Yes. Food is also energy and when we throw it away we’re wasting energy.

        Alessandra Chaves

        June 26, 2022 at 5:11 PM

        • An adage tells us: Waste not, want not (where want has the old sense ‘to lack’).

          Steve Schwartzman

          June 26, 2022 at 9:18 PM

          • My great grandparents were completely obsessed with not wasting. From the wars I think. Not much to buy and no money to buy it with.

            Alessandra Chaves

            June 27, 2022 at 8:22 AM

            • Similarly my grandmother, who had escaped from the Soviet Union and then lived through the Great Depression, was very frugal and hated to waste anything. She once said that if you earn $30 and spend $29 you’re rich, but if you earn $29 and spend $30 you’re poor.

              Steve Schwartzman

              June 27, 2022 at 10:55 AM

  6. The colony of mountain pinks is proof of the old adage that there is strength (and beauty) in numbers.

    The other numbers you reference are, by contrast, very sobering. We simply can’t keep burning fossil fuels as if there were no tomorrow and can only hope that, beyond individual lifestyle choices, the world’s smart people will figure out a way to reduce our footprint and destructive ways of being.


    June 26, 2022 at 11:27 PM

    • We keep the thermostat in our house set to 78°F during the half year of heat in Austin. Most people find that uncomfortably warm.

      The world’s smart people have figured out a great many things. If they could master nuclear fusion, which has remained elusive, that would solve the world’s energy problems.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 27, 2022 at 5:47 AM

      • I think adjusting the thermostat setting is something concrete each of us can do. I have always thought that public buildings get turned into ice boxes in the summer, which is not only unpleasant but also completely wasteful.

        Luckily, we don’t get too many infernally hot days here that makes us turn on the AC (only when the temperature inside climbs above 83 degrees), but we have a basement into which we can escape, where it’s usually 10 degrees cooler.

        I truly hope that all the smart people can put their smarts together and make climate change priority #1, which it should have been for decades. Visionaries have predicted many of the calamitous changes that have occurred, but the vast majority of us have chosen to look the other way.


        June 27, 2022 at 5:55 PM

        • I remember that when I was in college in New York City the classrooms in winter were sometimes so overheated that students would partly open a window to let a little cold air in.

          As for visionaries, please be aware that during the past half-century some supposed experts made wildly wrong predictions about climate, resources, population, and the like. I’ve been thinking about putting together a commentary documenting some of those incorrect predictions.

          Steve Schwartzman

          June 27, 2022 at 7:39 PM

          • Too much heat in the winter and too much cold in the summer makes no sense at all. That’s such an easy fix, yet it’s still not happening. I find that completely depressing but also very maddening.

            As far as incorrect predictions, I don’t understand the ins and outs well enough to be able to draw a conclusion. I suspect one could make a similar list with regard to political and economic predictions and find many errors. Hindsight is always 20/20, and not all factors are predictable.


            June 27, 2022 at 11:20 PM

            • Like you, I don’t know enough about scientific models and how likely they are to be right versus wrong. As you say, no matter what subject we consider, errors occur. I’ve read that weather is extremely complicated. Looking out my window right now, I see pleasantly colored clouds, and yet on most mornings the view out this same window at the same time (relative to the time of sunrise) is not colorful. What special conditions here produce sunrise color, I don’t know. Other than when unusually many particles are in the air (whether smoke from a forest fire or a volcanic eruption someplace, or dust blown across the ocean from the Sahara), I don’t think I’ve heard local weather forecasters predict the likelihood of getting a good sunrise the next morning.

              Steve Schwartzman

              June 28, 2022 at 6:38 AM

            • You mentioned things that could be easily fixed but often aren’t. With regard to results from surveys and polls, for most of my life people who reported the news failed to mention the margin of error in each poll or survey. With a large enough margin of error, Candidate A might seem to be well ahead of Candidate B but could actually be behind. Another thing that to this day only rarely gets reported is the number that tells us how likely it is that the true value of whatever we’re trying to determine falls outside the margin of error. That number is referred to as the p-value or confidence level. A 95% confidence level is the most commonly used one. That sounds high, and yet, just due to the randomness of things in the world, it means that 5% of the time the true value being sought will still lie outside the margin of error.

              Steve Schwartzman

              June 28, 2022 at 7:04 AM

              • I think if everybody stopped being wasteful, our energy consumption would already be reduced significantly. Can you believe that our societies are still producing and using single-use plastic bag which end up polluting the oceans? Reusable bags have been recommended for several decades and here we still worry about inconveniencing somebody.

                I think most of the general population (including me) will not have the mathematical/statistical understanding you have. Which is why one would hope for someone trustworthy to interpret certain data for us. But as recent history has proven, many individuals will not care a whit for facts or statistics but only believe what fits into their ideology. I find it all so very disheartening.


                June 28, 2022 at 6:33 PM

                • When I had to teach statistics for the first time, in 2002, I went to an intensive teacher prep course for a couple of weeks, as I’d never taken a statistics course in college. After teaching AP Statistics for four years my knowledge of the subject is still elementary, but that puts me way ahead of most people. One good trend in secondary education is the push to include some elements of statistics in the curriculum. For smart high school students not planning to go into math or the physical sciences, a year of statistics makes more sense than a year of calculus.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  June 28, 2022 at 6:43 PM

                • I had to take one semester of statistics during my university studies but it was wasted on me. I think I vaguely understood a few concepts, but my basic understanding of mathematics was too limited to really make sense of all the statistical formulae.
                  I’m sure your elementary understanding exceeds mine. 🙂


                  June 29, 2022 at 5:29 PM

                • True enough. When you teach a subject you have to clarify things in your own mind in order to explain them to your students.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  June 30, 2022 at 5:27 AM

  7. […] A post late last month revealed the largest colony of mountain pinks (Zeltnera beyrichii) I’ve ever seen. In that case the plants came up vertically in a field of caliche. Mountain pinks are also known to emerge horizontally from the faces of cliffs and roadcuts, which is what you see above from Fireoak Dr. on June 24th. Before the huge colony interposed itself last month I’d been planning to show the closeup below, from Hidden Hills Lane in Cedar Park on June 12th. It looks no worse for the delay. […]

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