Portraits of Wildflowers

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Mesquite pod and dry leaflets by pond

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While I was avoiding hikers near the boardwalk pond in River Place on August 10th, I made some portraits of honey mesquite pods (Prosopis glandulosa). The dark-looking water and otherwise black background in today’s photograph might make you think I used flash. I didn’t. The sunlit pod was bright enough to make the background dark by comparison, and in my processing of the image I played up that difference. (If clicking the photograph in your browser brings up a black page around the image, as Chrome does, so much the better; the picture, in particular the blue-indigo of the water, looks more vivid that way.)

While we’re on the subject of mesquite, you may remember I photographed what I called a zebra mesquite thorn back in June. I’m sorry to say that within weeks of my taking that picture the site was razed for construction. That’s at least the fourth loss in 2020 of a place where I’d taken nature photographs.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 30, 2020 at 4:40 AM

Zebra mesquite

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On June 17th, when I saw how the sun cast shadows of mesquite tree leaflets (Prosopis glandulosa) onto a thorn and the branch it was on, the word zebra popped into my head.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 3, 2020 at 4:47 AM

Mesquite pods

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While on the Blackland Prairie in northeast Austin on August 24th I spent time at a mesquite tree, Prosopis glandulosa, whose many pods caught my attention. Indian tribes in what is now Mexico and the southwestern United States used to grind the pods to make a sweet flour. In fact many places sell mesquite flour today. There’s even a Texas mesquite group on Instagram. And it isn’t just people who like mesquite: I noticed plenty of ants attracted to the pods, presumably due to their sweetness.

© 2019 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 3, 2019 at 4:42 AM

Contorted mesquite pod

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Mesquite Pod Detail 6617

One of the most common trees in Texas is the honey mesquite, Prosopis glandulosa. Members of the legume family produce seed pods, and in this species the pods are especially long. This one was colorful and constricted in so unusual a way that I couldn’t resist photographing it up close. No doubt some of you with active imaginations will see this as the long neck, tapering head, and long-lanced beak of some fantastic creature.

Today’s picture is from September 22 on what is thankfully still undeveloped land between Josh Ridge Blvd. and Harris Ridge Blvd. on the prairie in northeast Austin.

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 12, 2015 at 4:49 AM

Keeping an eye on goldeneye

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I began seeing Viguiera dentata, known as goldeneye, flowering in Austin around the middle of October, which is normal timing for these bushes. When I did several closeups of flower heads along Spicewood Springs Rd. on October 22nd, some drops of morning dew or residual rain hadn’t yet evaporated. The light was dull, so for this picture I used flash, then softened harsh parts of the image a little when processing it.

In contrast, on a sunny November 1st I stopped to photograph a good goldeneye stand along RM 2222 about a mile west of Capital of Texas Highway. The tree is a mesquite, Prosopis glandulosa.

And in the “more is more” category, here’s a closer look at the interplay between the bare branches and the masses of goldeneye flowers:

For those of you in cold places, may all this yellow brighten your day. Even in November, Texas still knows how to put on a wildflower display.

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 10, 2018 at 4:30 AM

What I found on a spiderwort leaf

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As you heard last time, I photographed a few spiderwort (Tradescantia spp.) flowers alongside my house on March 6th. These plants have long but narrow leaves, on one of which I noticed something less than an inch in length:

Click for greater size and clarity.

Click for greater size and clarity.

Not knowing what it was, I turned to local aficionada Val Bugh, who identified it as “a batch of leafhopper eggs. From their size and look, I would guess they are one of the larger species… You can see the brochosomes (that white waxy stuff) that many leafhoppers use to cover their eggs, which is another clue.” Thanks, Val.

Back in the realm of botany, notice (especially if you click to enlarge) how much the spiderwort leaf looks like a textile. Thanks, macro lens.

I thought I’d close by linking to a post in which I showed a leafhopper, but when I searched I discovered I’ve never shown one. To remedy that, here’s a leafhopper* on a mesquite pod in northeast Austin on June 3, 2011. (It just dawned on me that that was one day before my first post on this blog.)

* Update: Steve Gingold has pointed out that the second picture shows a planthopper rather than a leafhopper. Oh, terminology.

Leafhopper on Mesquite Pod 5066

© 2016 Steven Schwartzman

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 23, 2016 at 5:01 AM

Home away from home

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Goldeneye Flowering in Fort Davis 9457

Although 400 miles west of home in the Trans-Pecos, I noticed a few old friends that also grow natively in Austin. Pecan and cottonwood and mesquite trees were among them, and so was Viguiera dentata, a bush known as goldeneye or sunflower goldeneye. Here you see one flowering on the grounds of the old Fort Davis on November 20. Thanks to Prof. Michael Powell of Sul Ross State University for confirming the identification.

Before leaving Austin for west Texas I’d noticed a few flowers on several goldeneye bushes in my Great Hills neighborhood, but nothing to write home (i.e. to you) about. Within a couple of weeks of my return, though, I found that some of the goldeneyes in northwest Austin were putting on a good show. Below is an example of one from Arboretum Blvd. late on the afternoon of December 4.

Goldeneye Densely Flowering 0660

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 16, 2015 at 4:40 AM

A different purple

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Eryngo Flowering 6488

In yesterday’s post you saw the purple of gayfeather, but this time the purple comes from Eryngium leavenworthii, known as eryngo. People sometimes see these flower heads as little purple pineapples, or the plant itself as a thistle because of its needle-tipped leaf lobes, but the fact remains that eryngo is in the same botanical family as celery, carrots, parsley, and dill.

Like the mesquite pod you saw two days ago, I photographed this eryngo on September 22 on a piece of undeveloped prairie between Josh Ridge Blvd. and Harris Ridge Blvd. in northeast Austin.

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 14, 2015 at 4:28 AM

Another insect

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Texas Bow-Legged Bug on Mesquite Pod 1510

Near the end of my foray through the field at the corner of Metric Blvd. and Howard Ln. on the morning of October 9th, I stopped to photograph some pods on a honey mesquite tree, Prosopis glandulosa. On one pod I found a type of insect I don’t think I’d ever seen before, the Texas bow-legged bug, Hyalymenus tarsatus (which is truly a bug). This photograph introduces the insect and the pod but not the mesquite tree itself to these pages.

© 2013 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 11, 2013 at 5:59 AM

Asters on the prairie

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Click for greater detail.

In a post on October 8th I asked “What would autumn be without asters?” The aster shown then was a species (I don’t know which one) that produces flower heads with some space separating them. In contrast, today’s photograph shows white heath aster, Symphyotrichum ericoides, which gives rise to dense masses of flower heads. (If you’d like a closer look at flowers of this species, you can check out a post from a year less a day ago.)

I photographed this compact floral display at Southeast Metropolitan Park on October 30th during the same session that produced the recent pictures of wolly croton and a katydid. Note the bitterweed flowers in the background and the young mesquite trees at the upper left and in the distance.

© 2012 Steven Schwartzmann

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 12, 2012 at 6:15 AM

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