Portraits of Wildflowers

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Snow on giant ragweed stalks

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Approaching the end of three hours out in the snow and sleet in the northeast quadrant of Mopac and US 183 on January 10th, I came to a group of Ambrosia trifida. Not for nothing have people given the name giant ragweed to a species that occasionally grows as tall as 5m (16 ft.) Dried out by December, its stalks persist through the winter. Often they remain upright, but sometimes they don’t; snow may have had a hand (does snow have hands?) in making the stalks in the second picture lean more than they already had.

WordPress says this is post number 3333 in Portraits of Wildflowers. Call me dedicated or call me crazy.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 25, 2021 at 4:31 AM

Posted in nature photography

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Low wild petunia

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From Vaught Ranch Road on June 13th come two views of a native wildflower
I’d never photographed before: Ruellia humilis, known as low wild petunia.

Here’s an unrelated little mathematical diversion: the four numbers 1, 1.2, 2, and 3 have the interesting property that whether you add all of them or multiply all of them you get the same result (in this case 7.2). Are they the only foursome like that? Hardly. For example, whether you add -2, -1, 0, and 3 or multiply -2, -1, 0, and 3, you get the same result (in this case 0). Would you believe that infinitely many sets of four numbers exist that also have the property that adding the four numbers gives the same result as multiplying them? That turns out to be the truth of the matter. Are you surprised?

The second example suggests a template for generating as many more sets of numbers as you like that have the desired property. Let the first of the four numbers be 0. Now pick any two different negative numbers you like (say for example –4 and –6). Finally, add the two negative numbers and make the sum positive (in this case 10). You’ll now have four numbers with the desired property (–4, –6, 0, 10). This works because 0 times any other number is 0, and you’ve rigged the addition in such a way that the positive number cancels out the two negative numbers. In fact you can extend the pattern to as many numbers as you like. For instance, here are six numbers such that adding them gives the same result as multiplying them: 0, -3, -7, -10, -15, 35.

As a quotation for today, let me quote myself: Zero may be nothing, but not for nothing is zero special.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 4, 2020 at 4:37 AM

Developing leaves of a white prickly poppy

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White Prickly Poppy Leaves Developing 0906

Argemone albiflora is the only poppy native to central Texas. Not for nothing is the plant known as a white prickly poppy, as you can tell from this downward view of fractal-like young leaves in Great Hills Park on the still-wet morning of April 14.

© 2016 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 13, 2016 at 5:17 AM

Art critics, math teachers, nature photographers

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Phlox Bud Begining to Unroll 9697A

The art critic might talk about the negative space in this image.

The math teacher, hearing of negative space, might be tempted to talk about negative numbers. Oh, the arcane reality of a negative plus a negative making a negative but a negative times a negative making a positive. Not for nothing do math teachers think along those lines (or along the ellipse of the photo-frame).

The nature photographer will just present this portrait of a phlox bud beginning to unroll and tell you that the picture is from March 25th on Clovis St., which has a high FQ (floral quotient) for a street that’s just one short block long.

© 2016 Steven Schwartzman


Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 15, 2016 at 5:02 AM

Death camas flowers and buds

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Death Camas Flowers and Buds 3803

Not for nothing is Zigadenus nuttallii called death camas: eat some of this pretty wildflower and you’re liable to die. Today’s deadly photograph comes from D-K Ranch Rd. in northwest Austin on March 6, 2012.

If you’re interested in photography as a craft, you’ll find that points 1, 2, 4 and 8 in About My Techniques are relevant to this photograph.

NZ – 3.

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 7, 2015 at 5:27 AM

White prickly poppy

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When I was on the noisy embankment of the US 183 freeway adjacent to the Gateway Shopping Center in Austin on December 1 taking the pictures of the buffalo gourd flower and tendrils and the purple bindweed flower you’ve seen in the last few posts, I also photographed this white prickly poppy, Argemone albiflora. In fact I’d come to the embankment for it, having been surprised to see the plant’s delicate white petals when I drove past on the highway earlier in the morning. I say “surprised” because this is normally a spring-blooming species, but apparently the recent bit of rain and the warm temperatures fooled the plant into thinking it was spring again.

This view looks into the center of the flower, and if you’ve ever wanted a picture to symbolize matriarchy, here is it, with one velvety dark red female stigma rising above a subservient retinue of male stamens (that coincidentally are of the same yellow-orange color as the nearby buffalo gourd flowers). To give you a sense of scale, I’ll say that the globe of stamens was about an inch across. Note the faint smudges of yellow pollen on the rippled white petal in back and also the spines on the plant’s leaves below; not for nothing is this plant called white prickly poppy.

For more information about Argemone albiflora, including a state-clickable map showing where the species grows, you can visit the USDA website.

© 2011 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 6, 2011 at 5:11 AM

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