Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Pickerelweed abstractions

with 14 comments

After I went rainbow hunting at the pond along Gault Lane on July 7th, I concentrated on some of the flora on the pond’s margins. Here you’re seeing two abstract portraits of pickerelweed, Pontederia cordata. The first shows a bud sheath. The second obviously shows flowers, but I took the picture at an unconventional angle.



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Since childhood I’ve known that in some cases a part of a country is cut off by foreign land from the main part of the country. For Americans, the most prominent example is Alaska, which Canada separates from the “lower 48” states. Hawaii is not in the same category: yes, it’s cut off from the main part of the United States, but by an ocean, not by foreign land.

Just this week I learned that people have coined a term for a part of a country that’s cut off by foreign land. The term is exclave, made by replacing the prefix en- in enclave with its opposite, ex-. Some countries are content to live with exclaves. The United States isn’t going to invade Canada to connect Washington State to Alaska. In contrast, this year Russia invaded the* Ukraine to create a land bridge to the* Crimea, which it had illegally annexed from that country in 2014 but which had still remained reachable by land from the rest of Russia only by traveling on Ukrainian land.

Another Russian exclave that European countries are worried about is Kaliningrad Oblast—an oblast is akin to a state—which used to be German but after World War II became part of Russia. The Kaliningrad Oblast remains separated from the rest of Russia by Poland and Lithuania. Russia had for decades controlled both of those countries, and Lithuania in particular is worried that Russia wants to re-annex it. Given what’s going on in the Ukraine, the worry is justified.

The most complicated exclave in the world appears to be Baarle-Hertog, which comprises 24 tiny pieces of Belgium inside the Netherlands.

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* With certain geographic names English has traditionally used the. Everyone says the United States, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and the Vatican. People familiar with New York City know about the Bronx. For most of my life people said the Ukraine, but English speakers are now increasingly dropping the the in the Ukraine.


© 2022 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 14, 2022 at 4:28 AM

14 Responses

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  1. The vertical lines in the first photo perhaps indicate that the bud is ready to crack open its shell.

    Peter Klopp

    August 14, 2022 at 9:02 AM

  2. I can almost feel the energy of those buds waiting to break out of their covering! I like your unconventional angle in the second image.

    Ann Mackay

    August 14, 2022 at 10:18 AM

    • Let’s hear it for bud power!

      I’ll take the name of the 1962 song composed by Jimmy Van Heusen with lyrics written by Sammy Cahn and change it from “Call Me Irresponsible” to “Call Me Unconventional.”

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 14, 2022 at 10:34 AM

  3. The top image really shows why it’s so named!


    August 14, 2022 at 10:21 AM

  4. While the pod in the first photo looks a bit like the fish, the tendency of the plant and the fish to coexist in the same environments apparently gave rise to the name. I didn’t realize that so much of the plant is edible, too. If I ever find pickerel weed and it’s ripe, some toasted seeds would be worth a try.


    August 14, 2022 at 11:14 AM

    • I’d heard of the explanation that the plant and the fish tend to coexist, but it always made me wonder about the other kinds of fish that presumably also inhabit the same waters. Deborah’s suggestion about the resemblance of the bud sheath to the fish made sense to me. It’s hard to get a definitive explanation for some names. Frog fruit comes to mind as an example.

      I don’t think I knew about the edibility. As you said, some toasted seeds seem worth a try.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 14, 2022 at 2:52 PM

      • Well, I’m sticking with the pike/pickerel/pickerel weed explanation — even if it is a little fishy!


        August 14, 2022 at 3:55 PM

        • Good play on words! I imagine the sense of fishy as ‘suspect, dubious’ came about from the slipperiness of fish.

          Steve Schwartzman

          August 14, 2022 at 3:58 PM

  5. Two nice closeups.

    Steve Gingold

    August 14, 2022 at 6:40 PM

  6. […] addition to pickerelweed, another water-loving plant I found at the edge of the pond along Gault Lane on July 7th was […]

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