Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Spotted beebalm colony flowering

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Monarda punctata Colony 6572

Here’s a species that hasn’t appeared in these pages till now, Monarda punctata, known as spotted (or dotted) beebalm. According to the USDA, this wildflower grows in many parts of the United States.

I photographed the flowering colony in today’s picture along TX 71 east of Bastrop on June 5th.

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 24, 2015 at 4:40 AM

What the mockingbird knew

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Tawny Emperor Butterfly Faded and Ailing 1598

At one point when I was walking near Shoal Creek in central Austin on August 20th I noticed a mockingbird on the ground that kept coming toward me. It got closer than I expected it to and I wondered why, when suddenly I saw it peck at what looked like a little dry leaf on the ground not too far away from me. Then I saw the “leaf” make a slight fluttering movement, so I walked forward to investigate and the mockingbird finally retreated. What it had seen and pursued but I had not was a tattered, faded, and ailing tawny emperor butterfly, Asterocampa clyton, that was near the end of its days. Whether that chomp out of the deposed emperor’s wing had been taken by the mockingbird, it knew but I didn’t, nor do I know whether it came back after I took my photographs and left, leaving the butterfly on the ground and to its fate.

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 23, 2015 at 5:36 AM

American beautyberry flowers

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American Beautyberry Flowers 5896

When I was in Bastrop County on June 4, I was surprised to see an American beautyberry bush, Callicarpa americana, flowering away. I say surprised because I associate this shrub with locations near water, so all the rain we had in the spring must have served in lieu of a creek or pond.

If you’d like a reminder of why this species is called beautyberry, take a look back at a post from 2013.

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 22, 2015 at 5:17 AM

Posted in nature photography

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Wild petunia colony along Shoal Creek

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Wild Petunias Flowering by Willows Along Shoal Creek 1442

Yesterday I wandered along Shoal Creek south of 34th St. and found this colony of wild petunias, Ruellia nudiflora, flowering along the edge of the creek.

¿Having trouble making out the flowers in the broad landscape photograph above? If so, fasten your seat belt and click the strip below.

Wild Petunias Flowering by Willows Along Shoal Creek 1442A

ADDITION: Many people are familiar with the hybridized garden petunias that are members of the nightshade family. In contrast, and in spite of the name, wild petunias are in the acanthus family and are therefore unrelated. Someone apparently saw a superficial resemblance, but of course not all that glitters is gold, and now we can add that not every plant called a petunia is one.

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 21, 2015 at 5:32 AM

Grasshopper on soft goldenaster

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Brown Grasshopper on Chrysopsis pilosa Flower Head 5792

On the flower head of another soft goldenaster, Chrysopsis pilosa, in Bastrop County on June 4th I found this grasshopper. There’s less of a contrast between it and its floral perch than between the pair you saw here the week before last.

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 20, 2015 at 3:44 AM

Chrysopsis pilosa

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Chrysopsis pilosa Flower Head and Bud 5694

Chrysopsis pilosa is one of those DYCs (darn yellow composites) that I don’t see in Austin, but on June 4th I went 30 miles east, to Bastrop County, and there I saw this flower head and opening bud of that species, which people call soft goldenaster. This is one of those lie-on-the-ground-and-aim-upward sorts of pictures.

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 19, 2015 at 5:32 AM

Periscope up!

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My friend Joe Smith recently told me about a new communications app for cell phones called Periscope. Using the Periscope app, people broadcast videos that other people can watch live and that then stay available for viewing for just 24 hours. (Can you spell ephemeral?) I’ve gone ahead and joined, which is free, and while I was out doing my usual thing this morning I also created a few brief test videos about the native plants I was seeing. These are very much on-the-fly productions without the controlled quality of the still images that appear on this blog, but if you’re curious you’re welcome to have a look. Videos have a couple of advantages over still images: [1] things move (plants in the breeze, for example, and me)  [2] there’s sound, so you get to hear my mellifluous narration (along with the noise of passing cars, etc.).

You can download the free Periscope app for iPhone at


and the free app for Android at


Once you have the app running on your phone, you can search for people by touching the icon at the bottom right of the screen, the one made up of three stylized people’s heads. I’m listed as Steve Schwartzman; you can also search for Portraits and the app will find my name. Once you find a person whose videos you want to see, you can press the circular icon with the plus sign to the right of the person’s name. From then on you’ll be notified of any new videos the person posts. And of course you may want to start posting videos of your own.


Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 18, 2015 at 2:35 PM

Posted in nature photography


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