Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Flower tower power versus mottled

with 6 comments


From the bed of the North Fork of the San Gabriel River near Tejas Camp in Williamson County on September 12th come these contrasting views of clammyweed, Polanisia dodecandra. The looking-upward view popped the phrase “flower tower power” into my mind, while “mottled” seemed a good word to describe the looking-downward picture with its patches of light and shadow on the ground beneath the flowers.



✦        ✦        ✦


A main theme in my essays for the past year and a half has been that justice requires similar things to get treated in similar ways. If it’s known that person A and person B both committed a certain transgression but only person B gets called out or punished for it, that’s not justice; it’s a double standard. Thirteen months ago I wrote a detailed commentary along those lines regarding the extensive rioting that took place in the United States from mid-2020 through January 2021.

A much less consequential example came to light this week. Sunny Hostin, a co-host on the American television talk show “The View,” accused Nikki Haley, former South Carolina governor and former American ambassador to the United Nations, of playing down her ethnic Indian heritage by using the first name Nikki. Turns out, however, that Nikki was in fact one of the names on Nikki Haley’s birth certificate. It’s not unusual for a person with multiple given names to prefer one of them, even if it isn’t the first one on the person’s birth certificate or baptismal certificate. For example, the great classical music composer Franz Joseph Haydn went by Joseph, not Franz. The American naturalist and writer Henry David Thoreau had been given the birth name David Henry but he eventually changed the order of his two given names and went by Henry. Similarly, Mr. and Mrs. Randhawa named their daughter Nimrata Nikki, and as a girl she chose to go by Nikki.

And now for the pot-calling-the-kettle-black part of the story. Knowing almost nothing about Sunny Hostin, I looked up her biography and found that her mother, Rosa Beza, comes from Puerto Rico, and her father, William Cummings, is American. Mr. and Mrs. Cummings named their daughter Asunción. That’s Spanish for Assumption, a Catholic reference to the Assumption of Mary. It’s easy to see how the -sun- in the Spanish name Asunción could give rise to the English name Sunny. There’s nothing wrong or unusual about that. What is wrong and unusual is for a person who changed Asunción to Sunny to accuse someone else of trying to cover up a foreign background. We call that hypocrisy.


© 2022 Steven Schwartzman





Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 22, 2022 at 4:36 AM

6 Responses

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  1. This is another one I don’t remember seeing, even though it’s listed for the coastal and hill country counties I tend to frequent. One reason for that widespread occurrence, and its appearance in your riverbed, may be this: “It favors full sun, mesic to dry conditions, and barren, sandy or gravelly soils, even highly disturbed areas where there is little other ground vegetation.” If it’s around, it shouldn’t be hard to spot, with those upturned pods and noticeable stamens. I like both views, but the structure really shines in the first image.


    September 22, 2022 at 6:57 AM

    • I know a place in my neighborhood where clammyweed grows and where I’ve photographed it a bunch of times. You probably remember the location, so often have I mentioned it over the years: underneath the power lines west of Morado Circle. Even with that close availability, when I found some healthy clammyweed in the riverbed near Tejas Camp some 25 miles from home, I couldn’t resist photographing it. In any case, now that you’re tuned in to this species, I’ll bet you come across it in one or more of the places you frequent near the coast and further inland. And yes, the top picture certainly reveals clammyweed’s unusual structure.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 22, 2022 at 7:45 AM

  2. Did you take any using your flash? I think the second shot would be great isolated against a dark background.

    With the negative and sometimes threatening attitude in certain areas of the country lately towards most anyone with a non-traditional American background I can understand the hesitancy to make it public. That said one should not demean another when doing the same thing.

    Steve Gingold

    September 23, 2022 at 2:31 PM

    • Using flash, as you noted, would have led to a darkened or even black sky. I’ve done that plenty of times this year but because the sky was such a pretty blue that morning I let it be the background for my upward-looking pictures of clammyweed. I just looked back at my archive and confirmed that I didn’t use flash at all for that set of pictures.

      I’ve done a little research about the incident with the names. Nikki Haley is on record saying that she’s never tried to play down her Indian heritage and that, as her birth certificate confirms, Nikki is in fact an Indian name. Sunny Hostin said “Americans can’t pronounce Asunción because of the under-education in our country.” While there’s certainly under-education in our country—and over the past 50 years I’ve been a big champion for better education and higher standards—it’s a fact that names in a language a person is unfamiliar with are often difficult to pronounce. With a little good will and a little effort, people can learn how to pronounce foreign names. I remember how when I lived in Honduras I had fun teaching my students how to pronounce Steve. Spanish speakers always want to stick an E in front of it: Es-teve. I had the kids hold a long sssssssss sound and then slide into the rest of my name. That did the trick.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 23, 2022 at 3:29 PM

      • I was speaking about the second which in my mind seemed like it would have taken the characteristics of fireworks. I would never suggest losing one of your signature blue sky backgrounds.

        Steve Gingold

        September 23, 2022 at 3:35 PM

        • I’d read your clear reference to the second picture and then somehow applied it to the first picture instead. I’ve had less success with downward flash because it can illuminate things on the ground that I’d usually rather conceal. That said, I’ll have to experiment some more with that. Clammyweed’s white flowers would certainly stand out nicely against a black background.

          Steve Schwartzman

          September 23, 2022 at 3:41 PM

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