Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Crab spider on Texas thistle

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Spider on Texas Thistle Flower Head 2349

What would spring be if I didn’t show you at least one Texas thistle (Cirsium texanum)? This one carries the bonus of a tiny crab spider in the genus Mecaphesa.

Today’s photograph is from the Purgatory Creek Natural Area in San Marcos on April 27.

© 2016 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 20, 2016 at 5:07 AM

Praise be to embankments

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Prairie Bishop's Weed Colony with Other Wildflowers on Embankment 3353

An embankment covered with wildflowers is a gift to a nature photographer, who can get low enough for the embankment to block unseemly things in the background. In this case you don’t see the traffic on the Capital of Texas Highway that runs across the top of the slope, nor do you see anything else distracting beyond that.

The date was May 5. The white flowers forming the prominent colony were prairie bishop’s weed, Bifora americana, which has had an excellent season and which you’ll see again more closely in an upcoming post. The yellow flowers along the ridge were Engelmann daisies, Engelmannia peristenia. Some greenthread, gaura, and Indian blanket also put in an appearance, as did the fleecy clouds.

© 2016 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 19, 2016 at 4:59 AM

Red and yellow

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Texas Yellow Stars in Firewheel Colony 0741

The flower heads of Gaillardia pulchella, known as firewheels and Indian blankets, are red with yellow fringes. The flowers of Lindheimera texana, called Texas yellow stars, bear only the color of their common name. (A post from 2012 afforded you a much closer look at yellow stars.)

Mixed in among the colony of firewheels were some specimens of a native plant that most of you won’t know: Dracopis amplexicaulis, called clasping-leaf coneflower. Its flower heads look like those of the brown-eyed (or black-eyed) susan and the Mexican hat, but the leaves are quite different and really do clasp the plant’s stems.

Clasping-Leaf Coneflower Flower Head by Firewheels 0854

These views are from Bull Creek Rd. across from Jackson Ave. on April 14. I took pictures on this plot last year and couldn’t help noticing it was surrounded by yellow caution tape. I’d hypothesized that people had put the tape up to keep mowers from destroying all those wildflowers. This year a man saw me photographing there and came over to talk with me. He said he and some of his friends from the nursing home across the street created the wildflower garden and he confirmed that they surrounded it with caution tape to keep the mowers from destroying what anyone with half an ounce of common sense would know not to mow down (the editorializing is mine, but we agreed on the need for the tape).

© 2016 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 18, 2016 at 5:06 AM

Speaking of antelope-horns milkweed

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Milkweed Bug on Antelope Horns Milkweed Leaf 2134

Speaking of antelope-horns milkweed (Asclepias asperula), as I did last time when I showed a snail on one, let me add that I also noticed a typical quota of milkweed bugs (Oncopeltus fasciatus) on the antelope-horns plants that I stopped to examine on the prairie in northeast Austin on April 22.

For a closer look at the milkweed bug, the better to see it staring back at you, click the excerpt below.

Milkweed Bug on Antelope Horns Milkweed Leaf 2134A

© 2016 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 17, 2016 at 5:03 AM

Snail on a small plant

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Snail on Small Plant 2166A

On the prairie in northeast Austin on April 22nd I noticed this snail that had climbed onto a small plant. The most common land snails here are tiny but this one was larger, maybe 3/4 of an inch (19mm). Shortly after finding that snail, I saw that another one of the same type had gotten up on a leaf of an antelope-horns milkweed plant, Asclepias asperula.

Sanil on Antelope Horns Milkweed Plant 2204

© 2016 Steven Schwartzman


Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 16, 2016 at 5:08 AM

What the yellow might have been

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Tansy Mustard Flowering 9674

Click for greater clarity.

I no longer remember what the yellow wildflowers in the background of yesterday’s first picture were, but they could well have been tansy mustard, Descurainia pinnata, which was present in goodly numbers in that field. In fact I don’t often come across this species, and I saw more of it there that morning of March 25 than I think I’d ever seen anywhere or anywhen* else.

* Standard modern English allows anywhere and anyhow but arbitrarily rejects anywho, anywhat, anywhy, anywhen and anywhich (which as separate words has appeared in the film title “Any Which Way You Can”).

© 2016 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 15, 2016 at 4:53 AM

And now for the white of a white prickly poppy

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White Prickly Poppy Flowering with Other Wildflowers 9787

The fragile petals of Argemone albiflora account for the white in the white prickly poppy. Here’s an early one I found along Clovis Street in southeast Austin on March 25th. Compared to the flower’s bright white, the field beyond looks dull even though the sun was shining in a clear sky. The navy blue flowers were bluebonnets and the magenta ones were phlox. I’m not sure about the yellow wildflowers but I’ll give you my guess next time.

And here to complement the side view of the white prickly poppy is a close-up from May 9 in Great Hills Park that looks down into the center of one of these flowers. Can you say crinkled?

White Prickly Poppy Center 3930A

© 2016 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 14, 2016 at 5:06 AM


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