Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography


with 6 comments

This is the first time I’ve ever shown a member of the genus Rumex here because some of the species in Austin are native while others are not, and I don’t know how to tell them apart. In the northeast quadrant of Mopac and US 183 on August 14th I photographed a conspicuous group of plants and posted a few pictures in the Texas Flora group, where Floyd Waller identified what I’d found as Rumex altissimus, called tall dock; in fact the plants’ height had attracted me to them in the first place. I then checked botanist Bill Carr’s Travis County plant list and confirmed that the species is native. A website from Illinois notes that it can grow to 4 ft. tall. That article also says this: “Like other docks, [it] is widely regarded as an unattractive weed and often destroyed. In general, species of the Smartweed family suffer from a lack of appreciation by members of the public (and even professional ecologists). However, [this] is a native plant that occurs frequently in natural habitats, and it is a potentially important food source for some insects….” It may well be those insects that attracted the spider that made the web on the dry tall dock plant shown below.



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Three related insights


1) A long time ago I noticed something about politics. A bill in a legislature would be under discussion, with opponents saying that if the bill became law it would cause X to happen, where X was something bad. Supporters of the bill would say that the bill wouldn’t actually bring about X, and would ask the opponents a question: If we add a provision to the bill that specifically prohibits X, then would you support the bill? At that point the opponents would raise a completely unrelated objection to the bill, thereby indicating that X hadn’t really been a problem in the first place; it was just an excuse. The real objection was one that the opponents couldn’t admit because it would reveal how beholden they were to some special interest that funded them and for which the public had little sympathy.

2) One morning two or three decades ago I was watching a Sunday television talk show. At one point the moderator interviewed a partisan who came on the show to oppose a bill that was pending in Congress. The partisan said that passage of the bill would cause X to happen, where X was some dire consequence that I no longer remember. The moderator, however, had done his homework; he pulled out a copy of the pending bill and read aloud the section relevant to the partisan’s claim that X would happen. It was clear to everyone listening that the provision in the bill would not cause X to happen. The partisan was now exposed as being at best incorrect, or at worst a liar. Nevertheless, twice more during the interview the partisan insisted that if the bill passed, X would happen.

3) Now jump forward to last week and the Orwellianly named “Inflation Reduction Act,” which allows for the addition of 87,000 additional tax agents at the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Proponents of the bill had been assuring everyone that those additional tax agents would not be conducting a higher ratio of audits on Americans earning under $400,000 than the IRS had been conducting before. Skeptical Senators replied to supporters: if that’s the case, then there’s no harm in confirming what you say by adding an amendment to the bill:

To prevent the use of additional Internal Revenue Service Funds from being used for audits of taxpayers with taxable incomes below $400,000 in order to protect low- and middle-income earning American taxpayers from an onslaught of audits from an army of new Internal Revenue Service auditors funded by an unprecedented, nearly $, infusion of new funds.

Guess what: not a single Senate supporter of the bill was willing to add that amendment. You can read more in an article by Matt Welch in Reason.


© 2022 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 18, 2022 at 4:30 AM

6 Responses

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  1. What’s up, Dock? We have it in our yard and,yes, it is unattractive but we leave it be for those who enjoy and require it.

    Steve Gingold

    August 18, 2022 at 4:43 PM

    • You won’t get docked any points for leaving it in your yard, where it can benefit various critters.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 18, 2022 at 5:01 PM

  2. Here’s a coincidence. I just got run off the dock by a significant thunder-and-lightning storm, and here I find dock; a pretty version that I’ve never seen. I’m surprised that it’s considered native. On the BONAP maps, all of the docks around here are listed as noxious or exotic; can such plants also be native? I didn’t realize that. The tent-like draping in the second photo certainly implies a busy spider.


    August 18, 2022 at 4:45 PM

    • I expect you were willing to get run off a dock if it meant much-needed rain for Texas. In my neighborhood we’ve gotten some light rain this afternoon but not a whole lot. We’re still at least 9 inches below average for this time of year.

      I’m thinking something can be noxious while also being native. Take rattlesnakes, black widow spiders, mosquitoes, and chiggers. “Exotic” strikes me as a synonym of non-native. There’s also the possibility that a species native to one area spreads to an area where it didn’t previously grow. As you say, it’s complicated. I wonder if BONAP or the USDA offers a full explanation of its categories.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 18, 2022 at 5:12 PM

  3. I thought Biden said you don’t have an inflation problem last week… so why the bill?! 🤪


    August 19, 2022 at 4:13 AM

    • You and I are on the same wavelength: I pointed out the “zero inflation” claim in my commentary in the previous post. As a math teacher, I even drew a parallel to calculus.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 19, 2022 at 6:30 AM

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