Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Solidago sentinel

with 31 comments


At the pond by the Costco in suburban Cedar Park on the morning of January 11th wispy clouds enhanced the remains of what I take to be tall goldenrod, Solidago altissima. Though these plants’ yellow to yellow-orange flowers brighten up our autumns, the dried-out seed heads stand as sentinels far into the year that follows. Up wasn’t the only direction I could look at goldenrod seed heads to see blue; down worked as well, and it brought me a different shade of that color:




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Disconcertingly many measures that supporters claim will help disadvantaged groups actually end up harming them. You can read about that with respect to school discipline in a January 17th editorial by Jason L. Riley.


© 2023 Steven Schwartzman





Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 24, 2023 at 4:33 AM

Posted in nature photography

Tagged with , , ,

31 Responses

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  1. nice contrast in the backdrop


    January 24, 2023 at 4:45 AM

    • Originally only the top picture was in the post. Shortly before publication I added the second picture to have more contrasts.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 24, 2023 at 7:16 AM

  2. The light in the second photo suggests frosty plants: an impression that’s supported by the ice-like blue of the water.

    In the first, it looks to me as though you’ve captured virga: precipitation that forms but doesn’t reach the ground. It shows up as streaks, and generally is associated with cumulus clouds of one sort or another, but it can appear on fine days as well. Lucky you!


    January 24, 2023 at 6:47 AM

    • Enlarge the second photo in the link, and you can see the similarity.


      January 24, 2023 at 6:49 AM

    • I wish I saw more frosty plants around here. Not a single one has come my way this season.

      Thanks for the tip on virga. The clouds were wonderful that day, so I’ll probably post another picture of them in their own right. One thing the linked article doesn’t explain is the word virga itself. In Latin it meant ‘a slender green branch, a twig, sprout, switch, rod,’ which is what the descending wisps were being likened to.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 24, 2023 at 7:27 AM

  3. I like the way the cloud appears to wisp downwards and the Solidago contrasts by having wispy growth that points upwards. It certainly makes a very tall and upright sentinel.

    Ann Mackay

    January 24, 2023 at 7:41 AM

    • And I like your comparison between the downward cloud wisps and the upward plant wisps. The S.S. that’s a Solidago sentinel can sometimes be taller than the S.S. that’s a photographer.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 24, 2023 at 7:51 AM

      • Hehe! I like the feeling of being dwarfed by plants occasionally – makes me wonder if that’s how the world feels to dogs and cats.

        Ann Mackay

        January 24, 2023 at 7:56 AM

  4. The goldenrod in the first photo looks like a giant tree stretching far into the sky.

    Peter Klopp

    January 24, 2023 at 9:11 AM

  5. I think the first photo would look good in black and white as well.

    Alessandra Chaves

    January 24, 2023 at 9:27 AM

  6. […] a comment on this morning’s post Alessandra Chaves suggested the image of tall goldenrod seed head remains (Solidago altissima) […]

  7. Golden rod is one of my favorites, Steve, in color or in black and white. It is one of the first plants I learned to recognize as a child.

    Lavinia Ross

    January 24, 2023 at 10:55 AM

    • Easy to understand why it’s a favorite of yours. I wish I could go back and make my young self aware of it when I was growing up on Long Island. I leaned about native plants only decades after I’d moved to Texas.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 24, 2023 at 10:59 AM

  8. In the “down” view, the goldenrod looks almost frosted. If you had told us it was, I would have believed it.


    January 24, 2023 at 4:43 PM

    • You’re not alone: at least one other person saw a frosted look in the second picture. I assume that living in a cold climate makes you more predisposed to imagining frost than a person in a warm climate.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 24, 2023 at 4:51 PM

  9. Just coming back to this after commenting on the black and white conversions…I still prefer the first black and white over this for its more abstract quality. Putting that aside this is another of your typical “looking up” images that are well done.

    Steve Gingold

    January 25, 2023 at 3:44 AM

    • With clouds like those, I spent more than my usual amount of time aiming up. A clouds-in-their-own-right picture should follow in a few days. It occurs to me that the top view here could qualify as a limited-color photograph, as it has only brown and blue.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 25, 2023 at 6:59 AM

  10. Poor Solidago gets a bad rap from allergy sufferers who aren’t aware this beautiful plant is innocent.

    Lovely photographs. The first image has me thinking the plant is in the process of “beaming up” to an alien flora vessel which will whisk it away to flourish on some currently barren planet.

    I need more coffee.

    Wally Jones

    January 25, 2023 at 10:05 AM

    • You’re right: for decades goldenrod has apparently been taking the rap for the true culprit, ragweed, which blooms at the same time. Someone has an active (and non-caffeinated) imagination in seeing dry goldenrod getting beamed up to an alien flora vessel. I’m afraid that’s beyond my pay grade.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 25, 2023 at 10:16 AM

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