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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

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.

*

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

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Multitudinous snout butterflies and two kinds of white*

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Where the previous post showed you a close and then an even closer view of an individual American snout butterfly (Libytheana carinanta), look at the swarm I found on some frostweed flowers (Verbesina virginica) on November 1st along River Place Blvd. I count at least two dozen butterflies in this picture. The autumn of 2018 has proved a good season for the species, which I’ve continued seeing in other parts of Austin as well.

This multitude of snout butterflies came as a bonus because what I’d stopped to photograph was some poverty weed (Baccharis neglecta), as shown below with another bonus in the form of native grape vines (Vitis spp.) climbing on the bushes. If you look carefully, you may also pick out one or two or three bits of breeze-wafted poverty weed fluff in the air; that’s how this species spreads its seeds.

* A search for “multitudinous snout butterflies” got no hits, so you are probably the first people in the history of the universe (after me) to be reading that phrase. Happy novelty to you.

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 24, 2018 at 4:37 PM

Fluffy poverty weed and fleecy clouds

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Sometimes you get clouds that mimic your subject. That’s the way it was on November 2nd when I went over to a poverty weed bush (Baccharis neglecta) I know in my neighborhood that had matured to the stage where it was casting its seed-bearing fluff into the breeze.

After the seeds and fluff from each tuft blow away, a little “star” gets left behind.

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 20, 2018 at 4:43 AM

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