Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Two whites from Brazos Bend

with 3 comments


At Brazos Bend State Park southwest of Houston on the sultry Sunday morning of September 18th I photographed two kinds of white wildflowers. At the top you see aquatic milkweed, Asclepias perennis. This species, which doesn’t grow in central Texas, looks similar to the Texas milkweed that does. Below is Carolina horsenettle, Solanum carolinensis. That nightshade is common in east Texas but rare in the center of the state, where other Solanum species like silverleaf nightshade and western horsenettle predominate.




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A time to react and a time to investigate


Sometimes it makes sense to act before investigating. If you’re walking down a street and you suddenly notice a nearby car speeding toward you, you don’t stop to wonder about the make of the car or who’s driving it or why the driver is going so fast. No: you immediately jump out of the way to keep from getting run down. (A well-known Buddhist parable makes the same point.)

Most things in life, though, do leave time to investigate before acting. What cell phone plan best meets my needs? Are there any cities I could move to that would likely make me happier than where I am now? What organizations could I join to meet interesting people?

Investigating is particularly important in reporting the news. That’s because incidents sometimes turn out to be different from the way they initially seem, especially when important relevant facts haven’t yet been ascertained.

With those things in mind, let’s look at a recent incident. On August 26th a women’s volleyball match took place at Brigham Young University, with players from Duke University as the visiting team and some 5500 spectators in attendance. Afterwards, Duke sophomore Rachel Richardson said that she and other black athletes “were targeted and racially heckled throughout the entirety of the match.”

I later saw clips from various television news shows that aired soon afterwards, in all of which the announcers stated that that’s what happened. The announcers didn’t report that Rachel Richardson said that she and her teammates been racially targeted or claimed that she and her teammates had been racially targeted, but that she and her teammates had been racially targeted. How could people in the news media so quickly know the truth of the matter when authorities hadn’t had time to investigate?

Based on the initial claim of racial targeting, officials at Brigham Young University apologized to the Duke team and banned the fan who supposedly had done the racial targeting. It was an instance of Lewis Carroll’s satirical “Sentence first—verdict afterwards.”

You can probably guess where this is going. As NPR (National Public Radio) reported on September 14th:

Brigham Young University has apologized to a fan it banned for allegedly shouting racist slurs at Black volleyball players visiting from Duke University, saying the school’s investigation found no proof of racial heckling or slurs…

Announcing the findings of its inquiry, BYU Athletics said last week that it went to great lengths to find moments in which the fan in question or anyone else might have yelled slurs during the match. The effort included a review of numerous records, it said, including match video from the school’s broadcast outlet with the commentators’ audio track removed, and video footage from security cameras.

“We also reached out to more than 50 individuals who attended the event,” from fans and BYU personnel to Duke’s players and team staff, the department said.

“From our extensive review, we have not found any evidence to corroborate the allegation that fans engaged in racial heckling or uttered racial slurs at the event,” BYU Athletics said, adding that it would not tolerate such conduct.

How could so many in the media have gotten the story wrong? The sad answer is that they wanted the racial targeting to have happened because it would have fit their ideology, and in too many cases they let ideology overrule the facts. This was only the latest in a series of similar allegations that turned out to be false. Probably the best-known previous one came in 2019, when actor Jussie Smollett claimed that in the wee hours one morning he went out to get a sandwich and two white supremacists put a rope around his neck in Chicago, that bastion of white supremacy. In that case, too, the media had been filled with stories about how horrible that racist incident was. And yet, as CNN reported in March of this year:

Former “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett was sentenced Thursday to 30 months of felony probation, including 150 days in jail, and ordered to pay restitution of more than $120,000 and a $25,000 fine for making false reports to police that he was the victim of a hate crime in January 2019.

You would think that such a prominent incident and subsequent trial would have taught everyone in the news media the lesson of not jumping to conclusions about a racially charged claim before a thorough investigation has taken place. You might think that, but you’d be wrong.


© 2022 Steven Schwartzman





Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 28, 2022 at 4:26 AM

3 Responses

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  1. Of course I love these two white flowers, especially that aquatic milkweed. It’s my favorite of the milkweeds, and always a delightful surprise when I find it.

    It also tickles me that I don’t have any photos of these two plants, because while you were busy photographing them, I was otherwise occupied with the Queen butterfly and the spider whose images I posted. It’s the photographic version of different strokes for different folks, and a great reminder of how many worthy subjects can fill even a small spot in nature.


    September 28, 2022 at 7:11 AM

    • In an alternate universe you might well have photographed the white flowers and I the queen butterfly. (I did take pictures of the spider but am not planning to show any, given the inexorable passing of days and how many other things there are to show.) With aquatic milkweed being your favorite kind, perhaps one day you’ll come across the similar Texas milkweed in the center of the state.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 28, 2022 at 7:23 AM

  2. I like the star-like pattern of these two flowers. Their pentagonal shape is impressive.

    Peter Klopp

    September 28, 2022 at 9:36 AM

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