Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Maximilian sunflower seed heads

with 8 comments


The northeast quadrant at the intersection of Mopac and US 183 includes some wetland and is therefore presumably and thankfully immune to development. I wander over that terrain several times a year and always come away with pictures, often many of them. During my most recent foray there on December 14th I noticed typical ribbony fasciation in one “arm,” and only one, of a Maximilian sunflower plant (Helianthus maximiliani) whose seed heads had dried out. (Click the “fasciation” tag at the end of this post to scroll through other examples of fasciation and learn about the phenomenon if you’re not familiar with it.)

That was the second time recently that I’d photographed dried-out Maximilian sunflower seed heads.
The first had come five days earlier at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center:



And as a reminder of what one of these erect spikes would have looked like
not long before, here’s a picture from Liberty Hill on October 22nd:





§       §       §



Parable in the form of a dialogue between an American and the American’s friend


The American: “A gust of wind blew the door to my house open. Now whenever the people on either side of me mow their lawn or use a leaf blower I have to put on noise-canceling headphones to keep the racket from distracting me. Some of the grass and leaves the neighbors stir up gets inside my house, so I do more sweeping and vacuuming than I used to. Every time it rains some of the rain gets in. I put down towels to absorb it and then mop up afterwards, but the water caused the wooden floor inside the doorway to warp and I had to get it replaced at great expense. Every few days a neighbor’s cat wanders inside. It’s a friendly cat but I do have to shoo it out. Once a bird flew in and was much harder to rescue. There’s a period in the spring when mosquitos are especially bad and we get a lot of bites. I’m spending so much more on electricity to heat my house in the winter and cool it in the summer that I had to take a second job to pay for it.” 

The American’s friend: “Why don’t you just close your door?”


© 2022 Steven Schwartzman








Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 21, 2022 at 4:31 AM

Posted in nature photography

Tagged with , ,

8 Responses

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  1. Like the curved stem of the sunflower in the lead picture. I’ll have to visit the intersection of Mopac and 183 someday – have noticed vegetation in passing by at 40 MPH, but haven’t ever stopped to walk around. Have you ever visited the McNeil Rd. – Toll 45 frontage road in Rock? it has some interesting plants, if one can find a safe place to park one’s mode of transportation.
    Regarding the “American”in the editorial content: why is it that “American” is assumed to mean citizens or residents of the United States of America? I trained folks on computer skills back in the early 90s, and one summer had the opportunity to teach scientists from around the world. I asked them the same question. I was born in Central America, one of the student assistants was born in Canada, another in South America. In my way of looking at it, it doesn’t matter which part of the two continents and the isthmus joining them one comes from, we are all “Americans,” and all people born on the planet earth are all earthlings. You may question whether I sincerely believe that, or whether it was merely an andragogical ploy to make everyone in the class feel a sense of belonging, but it was successful.
    You might have used “Average white guy in the USA” and his friend, but that wouldn’t be politically correct, I suppose..


    December 21, 2022 at 3:00 PM

    • You’re anticipating: my commentary tomorrow touches on the use of “American,” and I refer to my time in Honduras and how people there refer to Americans in Spanish. I’ll add something here that’s not included there. Many indigenous groups around the world refer to themselves with names that mean “the people,” as if they were the real humans and everyone else is something less. Ah, universality….

      I’ve occasionally taken pictures along E. McNeil Rd. in the vicinity of Austin White Lime, which has caused a white particulate coating to settle on some of the adjacent land. I did a post about it in 2021:

      A strangely desaturated landscape

      One good thing about the northeast quadrant of Mopac and US 183 is that I (or you) can easily park at the southern dead-end of Neils Thompson Drive and walk in along an edge of the property on a paved hike-and-bike trail.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 21, 2022 at 4:34 PM

  2. Happy Holidays, Steve! 🙂

    H.J. for avian101

    December 21, 2022 at 8:18 PM

  3. Parables aren’t meant to be dissected; they’re meant to suggest. I always think of Dickinson’s line in that regard: “tell all the truth, but tell it slant.” Yours does a fine job, particularly with that laugh-producing last line that makes the absurdity obvious.

    Somehow it never had occurred to me that dried plants could exhibit fascination. It makes perfect sense, of course; fasciation is a structural change rather than a bloom, so it doesn’t fade away like a flower. It’s great that you found one. Sunflowers had been popping up around our construction sites again, but I suspect by the time this freeze is over, they’ll not look so perky.


    December 22, 2022 at 10:05 PM

    • I like your analysis of parables as being meant to suggest rather than to be dissected. Emily Dickinson’s “tell all the truth, but tell it slant” also works well. The gist of this little parable came to me the other day—from where, I don’t know. The next day on television I heard someone say something similar to one of the lines in it. The idea seems to have been in the air.

      It had been a while since I found a good fasciation. As far as I remember, this was my first on a Maximilian sunflower. Speaking of which, just last week a few Maximilians were still flowering a bit, like your regular sunflowers at construction sites. Tomorrow’s freeze will likely put an end to all that, which is why I went out one last time this morning and photographed what wildflowers I could still find.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 22, 2022 at 10:28 PM

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