Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography


with 41 comments

The McKinney Kauri 3386

One of Aotearoa’s rākau rangatira, or chiefly trees, is the kauri, Agathis australis, which can grow to be more than 30 meters tall. Shown here on February 6th in the Parry Kauri Park in Warkworth on New Zealand’s North Island is a portion of the so-called McKinney kauri, which is more than 800 years old, and which you can read more about. Notice the flaking bark that characterizes mature kauris, and that in this case looks like plaques of lichen.

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 24, 2015 at 5:31 AM


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Mamaku Tree Fern 3929

The mamaku, Cyathea medullaris, is one of New Zealand’s best-known tree ferns, distinguished by a trunk that’s often so dark as to appear black. With regard to all the tree ferns, it’s common to see dying and dead fronds hanging downwards, as in this February 8th view from within the bush on Tiritiri Matangi Island off the tip of the Whangaparaoa* Peninsula north of Auckland.

And here’s a closer look at a mamaku from the Christchurch Botanic Gardens on February 14th:

Mamaku Tree Fern Detail 4566


* In words of Māori origin, wh is pronounced f.

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 23, 2015 at 5:32 AM

Different coastal rocks in close proximity

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Colorful Coastal Rocks 4242

While we were waiting for the ferry from Tiritiri Matangi back to the Whangaparaoa Peninsula on February 8th, I browsed the shoreline and was surprised to find rather different (and differently photogenic, and differently wet) sections of rock in close proximity.

Colorful Coastal Rocks 4273

These were close not only to each other but also to the lichen on dark rocks you saw here a few days ago.

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 22, 2015 at 5:26 AM

A contrast in leaves

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Small Leaf Fallen onto Fern Leaf 4009

The intricate compound leaves of many of new Zealand’s ferns are large and horizontally oriented, so they act as nets to catch lightweight things falling from above. Many a time I noticed the contrast between a living fern leaf and a much smaller dead one from a tree, as was the case here in a downward-looking view from February 8th at Tiritiri Matangi.

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 21, 2015 at 5:59 AM

When isn’t flax flax?

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Flax Plant by Tasman Sea 5007

Flax isn’t flax in New Zealand, where people traditionally use the term not for a member of the Linaceae (think linen), i.e. flax family, but for the members of a genus of plants in the Xanthorrhoeaceae that the Māori called harakeke and whose fibers they turned into clothing, mats, nets, and various other useful things. By far the most common species of New Zealand flax is Phormium tenax (think tenacious), and not a day of my stay there passed without my seeing it, usually in many places. Partly that’s because of its frequent natural occurrence, and partly because people plant it and various cultivars as ornamentals.

Today’s picture is from the shore of the Tasman Sea—note once again the color of the water—on the west coast of the South Island on February 17th. That was unfortunately much too late for me to see any of the plant’s flowers, but its characteristically upright seed capsules were very much in evidence everywhere I traveled in the country.


Happy vernal equinox about 12 hours from now to those of you north of the Equator, and happy autumnal equinox to those south of that great circle.

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 20, 2015 at 5:45 AM

Lichen on dark rocks

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Lichen on Rocks 4184

You don’t think I’d go all the way to New Zealand and not photograph any lichen, do you? This view, which includes the darkest rocks I’ve probably ever seeing lichen growing on, is from February 8th on the island of Tiritiri Matangi.

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 19, 2015 at 5:42 AM

Australasian gannet

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Gannet 3502

This morning’s picture of a gannet colony at Muriwai on the west coast of New Zealand’s North Island might have left you wanting a better look at an individual Australasian gannet, Morus serrator, so here’s a closer view of one from that February 7th visit.

For more information about this species, you can consult New Zealand Birds Online. You’d also do well to check out Gary Bolstad’s post from 2013 showing pictures of the same nesting site and even some gannets in flight.

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 18, 2015 at 12:05 PM


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