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A closer look at Baccharis neglecta

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The previous post, taken on the cloudy morning of October 27 at Riata Trace Park in northwest Austin, showed some Baccharis neglecta in its fluffy state. Although you could appreciate the overall fluffiness, you couldn’t see the details of the soft tufts that the female plants produce as they go to seed. Here’s a closer look at another poverty weed I photographed at the same park after the sun had dispelled most of the morning clouds. Who would believe that this species belongs to the sunflower family, and that this shrub can grow into a delicate, willowy tree as much as 10 ft. (3 m) tall?

Baccharis neglecta is mostly confined to Texas, as you can see from the state-clickable map at the USDA website, but the similar species Baccharis halimifolia grows from east Texas along the Gulf coast to Florida and up the Atlantic coast as far as Massachusetts.

© 2011 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 4, 2011 at 5:07 AM

Baccharis neglecta

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Baccharis neglecta; click for greater clarity.

Though many of you up north have been having frost for weeks, or even snow, one of the delights a native plant lover in central Texas can look forward to each autumn is the frosty-looking form taken on by the “weak” bush or small tree—that seems to be the way field guides inevitably describe it—that botanists know as Baccharis neglecta. The species name is historically appropriate, because during the hard times of the 1930s, when many farmers were forced to abandon their properties, this species took advantage of the situation by planting itself on those neglected pieces of former farmland. People of that difficult era understandably came to call the bush poverty weed, Roosevelt weed, New Deal weed, and Depression weed.

I photographed this Baccharis neglecta at Riata Trace Park in northwest Austin on the cloudy morning of October 27; that cloudiness accounts for the picture’s subdued tonality. Behind the bush you can see the leaves of a native grape vine and beyond them some branches of black willow, a tree often found near water.

Baccharis neglecta is mostly confined to Texas, as you can see from the clickable map at the USDA website, but the similar species Baccharis halimifolia grows from east Texas along the Gulf coast to Florida and up the Atlantic coast as far as Massachusetts.

© 2011 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 3, 2011 at 5:06 AM

Sunny poverty weed

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On October 14th I photographed some wet poverty weed (Baccharis neglecta) flowering along Bull Creek under overcast skies. As the month advanced, many of these bushes reached their peak of fluffiness, which I spent time recording in the town of Cedar Park on the morning of the 29th. Now the sun shone and the sky was clear blue, so the photographs came out quite different from those you saw earlier. Another factor this time was the presence of wind, which blew the bushes about. In the top picture you can pick out a couple of bits of fluff that had gone airborne. To deal with wind gusts I turned to shutter speeds as high as 1/640 of a second. That was fast enough to stop the motion in the following picture.

 


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Pronouns, pronouns, who’s got the pronouns?

According to the Gender Pronouns page on the website of Springfield College in Massachusetts,

  • The best thing to do if you use the wrong pronoun for someone is to say something right away, such as “Sorry, I meant they.” Fix it, but do not call special attention to the error in the moment. If you realize your mistake after the fact, apologize in private and move on.
  • It can be tempting to go on and on about how bad you feel that you messed up or how hard it is for you to get it right. But please, don’t. It is inappropriate and makes the person who was misgendered feel awkward and responsible for comforting you, which is not their job. It is your job to remember people’s pronouns.

My pronouns this week are mzekpitran for the subjective case and ervijmpt for the objective case. It is your job to remember them.

[Craziness and frivolity aside, you may be surprised that my subjective and objective pronouns don’t resemble each other. Actually English does the same thing with some of its pronouns—a fact that native speakers don’t normally think about. Consider the way English pairs the first-person I as a subject with the dissimilar me as an object, and likewise we with the dissimilar us. Corresponding to the I/me forms in the singular are the related French je/me, Russian я (ya)/меня (menyá), Portuguese eu/me, Italian io/me, Catalan jo/me, and Spanish yo/me].

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 17, 2021 at 4:40 AM

No poverty of approaches

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As October advanced I noticed more and more poverty weed bushes (Baccharis neglecta) putting out their many little white flowers. The typical visual effect is shown above in a view from alongside Bull Creek on October 14th. Notice the characteristic herringbone pattern of the branches at the right. Overnight rain had left the bushes wet, and I took advantage of that to do closeups of sodden poverty weed flowers.

As different as the last two photographs look, I took both of them at f/22 using flash. In the bottom view I aimed upward toward the cloudy-bright sky; in the middle photograph I aimed sideways.



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“For the contemporary reader, much of English literature can induce a kind of moral peanut allergy.” That’s one zinger from Michael Lewis’s article in the November 2021 issue of Commentary, “Wokeness and the English Language,” which I recommend.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 29, 2021 at 4:37 AM

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Poverty weed weighed down by snow

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Poverty weed (Baccharis neglecta) has been described as a weak tree, and the recent accumulation of snow forced some to bow low, as you see in these pictures taken west of Morado Circle on January 10th.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 14, 2021 at 4:43 AM

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Stark versus soft

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From the new Lakewood Park in Leander on November 10th come contrasting views. Above, sunrays broke through dramatic clouds over the park’s lake. Below is a portrait of poverty weed (Baccharis neglecta) as its fluff came loose. The soft chaos is similar to that of a thistle at the same stage of development; both plants are members of the sunflower family, after all.

Also softly chaotic and a member of Asteraceae is the seed head of this aster (Symphyotricum sp.) on a stalk conjoined to that of an opening bud; note the tight curling of the emerging rays.

You’ll find pertinent quotations illustrating some of the many meanings of the word soft in the 1913 Webster’s Dictionary.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 4, 2020 at 4:32 AM

Poverty weed in all its glory

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Long-time readers know that as the end of each year approaches I never neglect Baccharis neglecta, a slight tree known most commonly as poverty weed. This year has been no exception. I began photographing poverty weed flowering back in September and turning fluffy in October. One of the nicest late-stage specimens came my way on November 15th on George Bush St. at US 290 in Manor. A brisk wind blew on the Blackland Prairie that morning, and enough bits of fluff had gone airborne to reveal the many little “stars” shown above. You’re free to imagine a kind of softly self-ornamenting native Texas Christmas tree.

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And now for the answer to the question that’s been lingering for two days: what all the following English words have in common beyond the fact that in each of them a vowel letter and a consonant letter alternate.

HIS, SORE, AMEN, PAN, AWE, EMIT, SON, TOWER, HAS, LAX, TOMATO, FAT, SOME, DONOR.

Every pair of adjacent letters is a real word in its own right. For example, the adjacent pairs in TOMATO are TO, OM (as in the yoga chant), MA (meaning mother), AT and TO. In other letter pairings in the sample words, DO, RE, MI, FA, and LA are the names of notes. EN and EM serve as the names of letters and are also printing terms for widths corresponding to those typeset letters. AW is an interjection.

I forget which word it was that first made me realize consecutive pairs of its letters are independent words. Once the notion was in my head, I started playing around to see how many other words I could find with that property. I eventually came up with over 90, though some of those are contained within others, like PIT and TON inside PITON. Words with three or four letters make up the large majority. I found fewer words with five or six letters because the longer a word gets, the likelier it is that at least one adjacent pair will fail to be a word.

In almost all cases a vowel letter and a consonant letter need to alternate because there are hardly any pairs of consonant letters that can stand as real English words. One that does shows up at the beginning of SHOWER, where SH is a conventional spelling of the sound people make for somebody to be quiet; HO and OW are interjections, and ER indicates hesitation in speaking.

If you’re a fan of word puzzles and have nothing more pressing to do with your time, you might hunt for more words that have this property. You could also try it in another language. For example, Spanish HAYAS ‘that you may have’ yields HA ‘it has’; AY ‘ouch,’ YA ‘already,’ and AS ‘ace.’ For a German example, take EIN ‘a, an,’ which gives EI ‘egg’ and IN, the cognate of the same word in English.

Another way of extending the challenge is to find words in which every consecutive triplet of letters forms a word. For example, MANY produces MAN and ANY, while PAYER yields PAY, AYE ‘yes,’ and the informal YER.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 29, 2020 at 4:42 AM

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Another of autumn’s big four

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I tend to think that when autumn comes to central Texas we have a botanical “big four” here. I could even split them into two groups of two according to color: yellow Maximilian sunflowers and goldenrod, plus white snow-on-the-prairie (or -mountain) and poverty weed. It’s the last of those, Baccharis neglecta, that you see above in a September 30th photograph from Pflugerville. (The small yellow fruits in the foreground are silverleaf nightshade, Solanum elaeagnifolium.) The zillions of little white flower heads that from a distance make this delicate tree seem frosted are quite an insect magnet, as you see in the closeup below showing a hoverfly (Toxomerus sp.) and a spotted cucumber beetle (Diabrotica undecimpunctata).

And here’s an unrelated quotation for today. “For every one pupil who needs to be guarded from a weak excess of sensibility there are three who need to be awakened from the slumber of cold vulgarity. The task of the modern educator is not to cut down jungles but to irrigate deserts. The right defence against false sentiments is to inculcate just sentiments. By starving the sensibility of our pupils we only make them easier prey to the propagandist when he comes. For famished nature will be avenged and a hard heart is no infallible protection against a soft head.” — C.S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 13, 2020 at 4:23 AM

Riata Trace Pond in autumn

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On November 15th the Riata Trace Pond in northwest Austin had taken on an autumnal look. Above you see the feathery stage of poverty weed (Baccharis neglecta), and below the fluffy stage of goldenrod (Solidago sp.).

© 2019 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 13, 2019 at 4:34 AM

What a 400mm focal length is good for

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Even at 400mm I had to crop the resulting picture quite a bit to close in on this northern mockingbird, Mimus polyglottos, that I spotted atop a bare poverty weed bush, Baccharis neglecta, in Cedar Park on December 1, 2017.

If you’re interested in the craft of photography, points 3 and 18 in About My Techniques are relevant to today’s picture.

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 1, 2018 at 4:10 AM

Posted in nature photography

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