Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Purple passionflower

with 39 comments


I found myself sauntering (and at 95° sweltering) along a walkway in Houston’s Memorial Park on the bright afternoon of September 17th after I’d noticed while driving through the park that many native species seem to have been planted there. (All the ones I recognized were native, so I assumed the others were, too.) The most striking wildflower I saw there—one I’d walked past on the outward segment of my sauntering and only noticed when I’d made it most of the way back to my car—was a purple passionflower, Passiflora incarnata. Me being me, I did some closer abstractions of the flowers on this vine.



Today’s post is the first of I don’t know how many that will cover the days we spent in Houston, at Brazos Bend State Park, and on Galveston Island.


❦        ❦        ❦


Two frequent themes in my commentaries have been: (1) We need to be accurate in reporting facts and incidents; (2) We should be wary when people try to change the longstanding meaning of a word or phrase. Those two things came together in a recent brouhaha brought about when Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams said: “There is no such thing as a heartbeat at six weeks. It is a manufactured sound designed to convince people that men have the right to take control of a woman’s body.”

Let’s examine this. Can an ultrasound detect, at least sometimes, activity from the heart area in a human embryo that has been developing for six weeks? The answer turns out to be yes. Stacey Abrams was therefore incorrect in calling the sound “manufactured.” Could she have meant that the embryo was “manufacturing” the sound? That hardly seems likely, based on the rest of her statement.

Supporters of Stacey Abrams rushed to defend her comment by saying that any “cardiac activity” detectable at six weeks isn’t really a heartbeat because the heart is only beginning to form at that stage. When I searched for information about that, one of the first hits I got was a 2019 article by Jessica McDonald on FactCheck.org called “When Are Heartbeats Audible During Pregnancy?” The article, which came in response to “fetal heartbeat” bills that legislators in various states had been proposing, noted that “‘fetal heartbeat’ is more of a legal term than a medical one.” Jessica McDonald went on:

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists also has said in a statement, “What is interpreted as a heartbeat in these bills is actually electrically-induced flickering of a portion of the fetal tissue that will become the heart as the embryo develops. Thus, ACOG does not use the term ‘heartbeat’ to describe these legislative bans on abortion because it is misleading language, out of step with the anatomical and clinical realities of that stage of pregnancy.”

 But then she went on to add:

At the same time, many online medical websites, including the Mayo Clinic, do refer to the heart and its beating early-on in pregnancy. And plenty of medical textbooks use the words “heart” and “heartbeat” to refer to the embryo’s developing heart.

So even medical experts differ on when cardiac activity in a developing embryo or fetus qualifies as a “heartbeat.” That’s actually not surprising. In many kinds of development there’s no hard and fast line between one stage and the next. For example, when does a child become an adult? Americans in three states can get a full driver’s license at 16; the other 47 states grant a full license at varying older ages. In all states people can vote and serve in the military at 18, but they aren’t allowed to buy alcohol till 21. And scientists tell us that human brain development isn’t complete until approximately age 25.


© 2022 Steven Schwartzman





Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 24, 2022 at 4:29 AM

39 Responses

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  1. Passion flowers always delight me. There is so much “busy” going on that I can’t seem to focus on any one part of the crazy wheel. It simply makes me smile.

    There are many ways to justify killing life. My, how broadly we have been convinced of the lies we tell ourselves.


    September 24, 2022 at 7:08 AM

    • In the wild I occasionally come across the yellow passionflower Passiflora lutea, which is smaller and less showy. The plants along the walkway in Memorial Park had apparently been cultivated, and I took photographic advantage of this showier passionflower that I found there.

      My idea is that, outside of poetry and wordplay, we should try to describe things as accurately as we can. Many interpretations and decisions are intrinsically hard enough without making them worse with imprecise language.

      As for people telling themselves lies, we recently witnessed that when a friend of ours, widowed last year, fell under the spell of an Internet romance scam. It went on week after week, even as every single person she knows pointed out the obvious things that proved it was a scam. She was delusional in refusing to understand the mountain of evidence.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 24, 2022 at 7:57 AM

      • We recently experienced this same romance scam with our mother, this the second time this supposed man (complete with photo showing how handsome he is) managed to get all of her information and attempt to get money from bank accounts and investments, pretending to BE her. Her need to have this relationship is strong. Not so unlike many people who need to tell themselves lies to justify or get what they need or dispose of what they need to detach from. In the end it matters to be responsible and do the right thing. It’s also interesting how we may suffer as a result of these poor decisions, and yet we will turn around and point the finger at another to help relieve ourselves of the guilt and misery.


        September 24, 2022 at 8:10 AM

        • Oh, I’m sorry you and your mother went through that. As you said, her need to have that kind of relationship is strong. Scammers understand that need all too well and they know how easily many people will delude themselves. People in the throes of delusion are unable to act responsibly and do the right thing. I hope your mother escaped without a big financial hit. Have you helped her get all her account numbers and passwords changed?

          Steve Schwartzman

          September 24, 2022 at 8:28 AM

          • Yes, two of my sisters managed to close accounts and change passwords before any real damage was done. It’s great that banks and many credit card companies are proactive with these situations, which was our experience with mom’s accounts. As for her phone, because she gave him so much information he was able to gain access to everything stored on her phone. Unfortunately all of her Contacts information was compromised as well. This all happened over a year ago. Then, just in the last couple of weeks, despite our efforts to change everything, this person has contacted mom again and though she was wary of him at the first, he’s already managed to schmooze her. Thankfully, we’re all better informed and watching closely. One has to constantly be on it!


            September 24, 2022 at 8:51 AM

            • Isn’t it crazy that after that whole first round a year ago your mother would let herself get schmoozed by the same scammer a second time? Maybe you should change your mother’s phone number and e-mail address so the scammer can’t reach her. But then she might just call him anyway. Oh, the things we don’t understand about the human mind!

              Steve Schwartzman

              September 24, 2022 at 9:25 AM

              • Her email address was changed the first go-around, along with the phone number and all passwords. Once they have their hooks in, no telling how they manage to link to new information. And of course, we have no way of knowing what her involvement has been in it. She says she didn’t do anything, but she’s got a track record of dishonesty so there’s that.


                September 24, 2022 at 10:43 AM

                • Ah yes, the complicity of the “victim.” Despite your good intentions, there may be only so much you can do. Maybe the best thing would be if she could make the acquaintance of an honest local man; that may be easier thought than done.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  September 24, 2022 at 10:51 AM

                • You got a laugh out of me this time. You nailed it with “victim”. She’s been the route with good, local men too, and it was always a fiasco.


                  September 24, 2022 at 10:59 AM

                • Sorry to hear that.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  September 24, 2022 at 11:04 AM

  2. I hope you enjoyed your time in my part of the state and yes, it has been extremely hot. I hope you saw some alligators. The first time I saw a Maypop hanging over a fence, it blew my mind. I have wild ones in the wooded area behind my house and domestic ones in pots.

    automatic gardener

    September 24, 2022 at 7:59 AM

    • Good for you to have passionflowers in your life.

      Yes, we enjoyed ourselves in your part of the state, even as the continuing heat and humidity wore us out. The trip would have been more comfortable a month from now but a visit with someone meant we had to go when we did. As usual, I took a bunch of pictures in the different environments of Memorial Park, Brazos Bend State Park, and Galveston Island. While alligators do live at Brazos Bend, we apparently didn’t go far enough into the park to see any. I was still happy with what we did see.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 24, 2022 at 8:10 AM

  3. The name of this beautiful flower does not only perfectly fit but is also indicative of the photographer’s passion for wildflowers.

    Peter Klopp

    September 24, 2022 at 8:33 AM

    • All that you say is true, and yet the wildflower’s name came from the Catholic sense of the word passion.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 24, 2022 at 9:27 AM

  4. Those really are striking. Beautiful.

    • Thanks. I was pleased with these two views. Others came out well, too, but I didn’t feel I should show more than two together.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 24, 2022 at 9:28 AM

  5. What a gorgeous find! I love passionflowers and do grow them here but the plants tend not to last more than a few years. It amazes me that they do come through a few winters though.

    Ann Mackay

    September 24, 2022 at 9:43 AM

    • I don’t think of passionflowers in connection with winter but your comment confirms that those flowers may have less trouble with winter than I do.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 24, 2022 at 9:49 AM

  6. The passion flower is very beautiful, Steve.

    Yes, the world is a crazy place, and more polarized by the day. I have been too busy trying to stay afloat with my own life to get involved in much discussion of it, and I find I need less stress. Still there are times and places where diverse people and cultures meet and can understand each other, at least to a degree. Some of the stories are improbable.

    Lavinia Ross

    September 24, 2022 at 12:17 PM

    • I sure was glad I noticed the passionflower on the way back, having walked past it on the way out. (Actually that kind of thing has happened to me so many time that I now expect to see at least some different things when walking in opposite directions.)

      So much of what we hear in the news is superficial, and all too often incorrect. I try to get at the facts, and I expect people in positions of influence to do so too, even as the cynic in me knows how uncommon that is.

      I understand how what happened to you this year leaves you needing less stress. Toward that end, keeping away from the news and contentious discussions is probably a good idea.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 24, 2022 at 12:55 PM

  7. Nice Passiflora photos. Mine have gone from the South side of the front of the house, over the fence into the backyard, and I’m hoping they will escape cultivation and get into the greenbelt eventually.

    Fetal heartbeats aside, I agree that it’s a good idea to listen to or read a variety of sources of information, whether, science, politics, or musical… politicians being what they are, they will say whatever will get them a. donations, b. elected., c. re-elected, d. all of the above.

    Since the fetal heartbeat laws all seemed to be aimed at preventing abortions, I have offered a simpler solution: Free vasectomies for all males age 13 and over. Reversible upon consent of a female partner after a year of counseling to ensure that the relationship is a strong one in which both partner’s needs are respected. Free therapeutic castration for all rapists. Nip the problem of abortion in the bud, so to speak.


    September 24, 2022 at 1:47 PM

    • In preparing this post I thought about the Passiflora coil I photographed at your place on April 11 (could it really have been five months ago already?):

      Two kinds of curls

      As you implied, politicians are hardly known for truth and accuracy. I’ve had the fantasy of filling offices by lottery among legally qualified volunteers rather than by election in a few sample jurisdictions to see if the on average the results were any better or worse.

      As for your fantasy proposal, be aware that not all vasectomies are reversible:

      “A vasectomy is usually considered to be a permanent form of contraception because it’s not always possible to reverse the procedure.

      “If you’re considering having a vasectomy, you should bear this in mind and think very carefully before making your decision.”

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 24, 2022 at 2:24 PM

  8. That’s purple? This is a genus that I really know nothing about. I would not recognize a species that is native to North America if I encountered it. A few are available here, but they are all exotic, and likely all fancy breeds. A common sort had naturalized to a minor degree in Beverly Hills, where it had historically grown in small orchards. It can be difficult to eradicate, although it tends to be too pretty to annoy those who contend with it.


    September 24, 2022 at 2:24 PM

    • This specimen was whiter than many in the species. I’ve noticed over the years that many purple flowers have white variants. You can see the range in this selection. Passiflora incarnata is native here but I’m not sure I’ve ever found one in the wild the way I have the smaller yellow ones, Passiflora lutea.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 24, 2022 at 2:30 PM

      • Yes, I remember the white variants of purple flowers, because I noticed it also, particularly with blue flowers, such as Agapanthus, Jacaranda and Campanula.


        September 24, 2022 at 4:41 PM

        • And for me it’s the white variants of local wildflowers.

          Steve Schwartzman

          September 24, 2022 at 8:02 PM

          • Oh yes, I get that, but it seems common with many purple flowers and almost typical of blue flowers, such as your Texas bluebonnet and our common lupines.


            September 24, 2022 at 8:27 PM

  9. I’m suprised you found these. They’ve always been quite thick in areas of the Brazoria refuge, but this year I couldn’t find a single one. Perhaps the drought was responsible. The color of these is surprising, too. I’m accustomed to seeing more deeply colored ones, but on the other hand, the green in these seems far more vibrant than what I remember. It may be that the bright afternoon light played a role, particularly since the ones I find usually are in a tangle on the ground.

    I hadn’t come across that statement by Stacey Abrams, and I’m glad of it. The woman gives me a headache.


    September 24, 2022 at 9:59 PM

    • From what you’ve said about conditions this year, I didn’t know how lucky I was to find this one vine putting out flowers. In an earlier comment Tony T. also questioned the “purple” in the common name, based on this picture. Because I don’t have much experience with the species, I looked up pictures online and saw that the coloring varies a lot, from richly saturated purple to a whiter display like this one.

      Speaking of Stacey Abrams, the Babylon Bee did a funny article about her when Queen Elizabeth died.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 25, 2022 at 6:56 AM

  10. I saw my first passionflower as an adult in Germany not too long ago. It looked very exotic then and continues to intrigue me, as it’s like no other other flower I know. I just learned that it is native to the Americas and was imported to Europe by the Spanish. Not surprisingly, they appropriated and turned it into a Christian symbol.


    September 25, 2022 at 3:40 PM

    • Ironic that you had to travel back to the land of your birth to see a wildflower that’s native in the land where you’ve long lived (though not in Colorado, as I just confirmed). Yes, the Catholic missionaries made a big thing out of this wildflower, and the passion in the common name isn’t the one we normally think of when we hear that word, but rather the passion (i.e. suffering) on the cross. Here’s a detailed article about the symbolism, if you’re interested:


      And relevant to you: ‘…once introduced into Europe, the Passion Flower soon acquired other religious names, such as in Germany, Jesus-Leiden, “Jesus’ Passion”; Christos-Strauss, “Christ’s Bouquet”; Herr-Gotts-Blume, “Our Lord’s Flower”; Dorn-Krone, “Crown of Thorns”; Christos-Krone, “Christ’s Crown”; Marter, “Martyr”; and Muttergottes-Schurzchen, “Mother-of-God’s Star”.’

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 25, 2022 at 4:16 PM

      • Thank you, Steve. I knew a little about the meanings attributed to this unusual flower which was made to carry a heavy burden indeed. Fortunately, it seems oblivious and continues to thrive as its own unencumbered self.


        September 27, 2022 at 9:36 PM

  11. Gotta be one of the wildest flower designs there is!


    September 27, 2022 at 4:40 PM

  12. Passion Flower color and texture are awesome. It refresh my mind. Thanks for your share.

    Mahmud @ Clipping Path Provider

    September 29, 2022 at 10:09 AM

  13. This is wonderful

    The Three Muslimahs

    September 29, 2022 at 10:09 AM

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