Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Back-to-back water willow flowers

with 16 comments


On June 25th I found these back-to-back water willow flowers (Justicia americana) in a colony in Bull Creek. Flowers in this species are small, measuring only 1/4 to 5/8 of an inch (6–15mm).


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I find myself thinking a lot lately about the deficit of imagination among people who consider themselves savvy and sophisticated.

Here’s what I mean: Let’s say you work for a prestigious company or organization that professes to care about a certain set of values: open-mindedness, curiosity, excellence, hard work. And let’s say you watch as a colleague, previously held up as a paragon of those values, is ostracized and smeared for a thought crime that was not considered a thought crime until about five minutes ago. Maybe he made a bad joke. Or maybe he used the phrase “guys” instead of folks. Or Hispanic instead of Latinx.

Common sense would tell you: If it can happen to him, it can happen to me. Common sense would insist: If the leopard is currently eating the face of the person in the the cubicle next to me, what will stop it from eating mine?

But when the leopard comes for your colleague, what I have witnessed is that something like 99% of people find a way to wiggle out of this obvious next step. They tell themselves the person getting their face eaten deserved it. Or that the leopard was just particularly hungry that day.

That’s what makes today’s essay, by UCLA Anthropology Professor Joseph Manson, so important.

Most people who leave their jobs as professors these days do not do so because they have a choice. They leave because they are pushed out by ideological bullies. But Professor Manson is leaving of his own volition. Why? In large part because he understands the nature of leopards.

That’s Barry Weiss’s introduction to Joseph Manson’s July 7th essay “Why I’m Giving Up Tenure at UCLA,” which you’re welcome to read.


© 2022 Steven Schwartzman





Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 9, 2022 at 4:24 AM

16 Responses

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  1. There is so much beauty in these little water-willow flowers. I am glad you discovered them, Steve.

    Peter Klopp

    July 9, 2022 at 9:10 AM

    • This is a pretty common species along creeks here. For whatever reason, I’d shown it only twice before.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 9, 2022 at 3:17 PM

  2. Really beautiful plant.
    Looks interesting, as if you mirrored the image.


    July 9, 2022 at 9:50 AM

    • The symmetry was unique for me. Neither of the two previous photographs I’ve posted of this species have shown that kind of symmetry. The interplay of light and dark also worked well here.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 9, 2022 at 3:20 PM

  3. Beautiful flowers – well worth getting close enough to see all the detail. 🙂

    Ann Mackay

    July 9, 2022 at 11:49 AM

  4. University should be a place of free speech.

    Alessandra Chaves

    July 9, 2022 at 2:14 PM

  5. Nice find with them backed up to each other. Favorable light for white (mostly) flowers.

    Steve Gingold

    July 9, 2022 at 6:02 PM

  6. I didn’t remember your previous photos of this flower, but it’s fun to see it here. I’ve been trying to sort out the identity of a single flower I found at the San Bernard refuge, and I finally decided it’s Justicia lanceolata. Looking at the distribution maps, it’s interesting to see that this species doesn’t appear in our area, but J. lanceolata doesn’t quite make it over to you. Of course, plants don’t consult the maps. This one reminds me of an orchid.


    July 9, 2022 at 9:47 PM

    • Speaking of the likeness to an orchid, you may remember that a year ago I showed my first picture of Justicia pilosella, which you likened to a lobelia:


      I’ve not heard of Justicia lanceolata. I confirmed that the closest it comes to Austin is three counties to the east.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 9, 2022 at 10:02 PM

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