Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography


with 18 comments


For the many times over the past decade that I visited a flowerful piece of prairie on the west side of Heatherwilde Boulevard north of Wells Branch Parkway in Pflugerville you could call me a veteran of that field. I went there most recently on Veterans Day, November 11, and discovered that development had expanded since my previous visit. More of the portion that had until recently hung on was now scraped of vegetation, with only a fringe in the back still left. That’s where I found things to photograph on that overcast and about-to-rain morning. Probably most conspicuous were many scattered tufts of Clematis drummondii that had turned feathery, one of which you see above. I also noticed some seed head remains of common sunflowers, Helianthus annuus; on one I encountered a shield-backed bug (family Scutelleridae), seemingly Sphyrocoris obliquus. In spite of the bug’s species name, its “here’s looking at you” gaze was anything but oblique.



(Pictures from the New Mexico trip will resume tomorrow.)



§       §       §



The basics of great education have been around for thousands of years; it simply doesn’t take tremendous amounts of money to teach well. In an English classroom, we rarely need more than a pen and paper and a book or an essay to get the job done. Small class sizes, high expectations for student academic performance and behavior, and diligent, invested, highly respected educators backed up by an administration who supports teachers over parents and students would fix so many of these problems. But until it starts getting better, fewer and fewer ambitious and competent youngsters will see teaching as an attractive profession. And so the teacher shortage problem is going to continue to get worse.

That’s the conclusion of Elizabeth Emery’s January 2020 article “The Public School Teacher Attrition Crisis.” Schools have indeed worsened since then, in part because of the pandemic but still primarily because of the terrible attitudes and practices of administrators that Elizabeth Emery detailed in her article, and that caused her to quit teaching in a public school after just one full semester. You’re welcome to read the full article.


© 2022 Steven Schwartzman





Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 1, 2022 at 4:29 AM

18 Responses

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  1. Steve, does “oblique” refer to the slanting ridges on its back? Its cousin, I guess, the brown stink bug, that I used to see a lot in Maryland, seems to becoming a regular in the more northern states, so perhaps we’ll see this oblique version someday.

    Robert Parker

    December 1, 2022 at 5:09 AM

    • Even after some online searching, for me the species name remains an oblique reference. As for the range of this bug, I found an inaturalist map at


      Notice there’s one oblique sighting, off in the upper right. If you click the plus sign a few times to enlarge the map, you’ll see that it’s near Ottawa, so apparently the species has expanded northward—or at least one intrepid bug has.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 1, 2022 at 6:03 AM

  2. I’m saddened about the nature ruining. There are so many vacant building zoned appropriately, seems those can be reclaimed instead of killing more nature by building new. Many of the overpopulation apparently don’t want to work anyway, which means more vacant buildings in time.
    I love these photos, and the lives. The featheriness (new word) is dainty & elegant. The insect is so beautiful and cute.

    Dawn Renée

    December 1, 2022 at 5:21 AM

    • As I’ve continued taking nature pictures in the Austin area these last 23 years, more and more development has taken place here. In the past five years alone, dozens of sites where I’d taken photographs have gotten built on. In some cases new buildings have sprung up on previously used properties, but there aren’t that many run-down places in this generally prosperous area.

      The featheriness of Clematis drummondii is something I’ve reveled in ever since I got acquainted with our native plants. In contrast, I’d never consciously seen one of these bugs before.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 1, 2022 at 6:10 AM

  3. It looks as if that shield bug is giving you quite a bit of consideration! It’s very sad to see wild areas being destroyed by development. It must be hard for some of the plants, with all the creatures that rely on them, to cling on.

    Ann Mackay

    December 1, 2022 at 6:29 AM

    • Yes, the bug looked at me in a bug-eyed sort of way.
      You’ve heard me relate the sorrow of losing so many wild places here over the past few years. There are bound to be more.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 1, 2022 at 9:03 AM

  4. The feathery appearance of Clematis drummondii reminds me of the crest of a bird.
    Yes there is a shortage of teachers and rules, regulations, low salaries and constant harassment from parents will make the list of volunteers even shorter.

    Alessandra Chaves

    December 1, 2022 at 7:09 AM

    • Yes, definitely avian, even if it can’t fly on its own volition but only on the wind.
      I’m as pessimistic about our schools as you are.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 1, 2022 at 9:05 AM

      • Those times when teachers could apply tough love are gone. I’m glad I grew up when they still could criticize, correct, discipline, give accurate grades, and help me find motivation to give my best.

        Alessandra Chaves

        December 1, 2022 at 1:28 PM

        • Unfortunately American education is getting worse, not better. It’s a sorry state of affairs.

          Steve Schwartzman

          December 1, 2022 at 1:49 PM

  5. From the many things I have learned from your blog, one technique stands out for me: the use of flash to highlight the details of your object against a dark background.

    Peter Klopp

    December 1, 2022 at 11:52 AM

  6. That’s a beautiful portrait of the clematis’s plumes. I’ve recently come across two instances of plumes which are remarkably similar: a downy feather caught on a grass stem, and the breeding plumes of a pair of snowy egrets. Both will show up on my blog as soon as I figure out how to present them. Coincidentally, the egrets were feeding at the same culvert where you took your photos of the great egret when we were visiting the Brazoria refuge.

    Compared to the feathery clematis plumes, your bug seems remarkably solid, not to mention stolid. Its colors really shine against the seedhead.


    December 2, 2022 at 9:13 AM

    • As of yesterday morning I was still finding some of these botanical plumes—and of course I couldn’t resist taking a few more pictures. I’m looking forward to see how you juxtapose your two plumes. (That Brazoria culvert seems a fertile spot.)

      Interestingly, the original Latin adjective stolidus meant ‘unmovable; and hence, slow, coarse, uncultivated, rude.’ Later it took on the senses ‘dull, senseless, slow of mind, obtuse, stupid.’ Merriam-Webster gives this word history:

      “Stolid derives from stolidus, a word that means ‘dull’ or ‘stupid’ in Latin. It is also distantly related to the word stultify, meaning ‘to cause to appear or be stupid, foolish, or absurdly illogical.’ The earliest examples of usage for stolid, dating back to the early 17th century, indicate that it too was originally associated with a lack of smarts; it was used to describe people who were considered dull or stupid because they didn’t wear their emotions on their sleeves. By the 1800s, however, stolid was frequently appearing without the connotation of foolishness, and it continues to be free of such overtones today.”

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 2, 2022 at 9:45 AM

  7. Love the delicate and windblown tuft!


    December 2, 2022 at 12:15 PM

    • These tufts definitely are delicate. In this case I see how you can infer wind, but actually there wasn’t any significant breeze. At other times I’ve noticed that it doesn’t take much to make the fibers move.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 2, 2022 at 4:45 PM

  8. Lovely


    December 3, 2022 at 4:57 AM

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