Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Colors above, colors below

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Welcome to a tree that’s native in central Texas but that has never appeared in these pages till now: Sapindus saponaria var. drummondii, known as western soapberry. I couldn’t help noticing this one turning colors on the afternoon of November 30, 2016, outside the office at Monument Hill State Historic Site in La Grange, some 75 miles southeast of my home in Austin.

It wasn’t only above me that I found fall foliage. Close to the ground I noticed some vine leaves becoming patterned and taking on warm colors. I believe the plants were pearl milkweed vines, Matelea reticulata.

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Click to enlarge.

© 2017 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 9, 2017 at 4:46 AM

I wasn’t expecting another chance this season…

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I wasn’t expecting another chance this season to photograph frostweed ice. My outlook changed two nights ago when the weather forecast for the morning of January 7th predicted a low temperature of around 23°F (–5°C). Out I went into that cold morning, once more to Great Hills Park, and sure enough some of the frostweed plants were doing their thing again. Because of previous performances, this time practically all the ice displays were way down low on the stalks, often touching the ground. In my 90 minutes of taking pictures I went mostly for close and abstract views of the ice, one of which you see here.

© 2017 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 8, 2017 at 5:03 AM

Desert views north of Barstow

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Click to enlarge.

In addition to making portraits of a few Joshua trees a bit north of Barstow, California, on October 25 of last year, I took pictures there of the pastel desert landscape itself.

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© 2017 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 7, 2017 at 4:59 AM

A botanical surprise

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I got close to a substantial Joshua tree a few miles north of Barstow, California, on October 25. Despite the common designation of “tree” based on the presence of bark and a sturdy trunk, the scientific name Yucca brevifolia tells us that the plant is actually a yucca. Surprise. A closer look at a cluster of Joshua tree leaves clearly shows their yucca-ness.

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Click to enlarge.

Yuccas in central Texas are a lot smaller than Joshua trees, but west Texas has some closer in stature to California’s giants.

© 2017 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 6, 2017 at 5:01 AM

Lichen update

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In a post a month ago I showed what I initially thought was Spanish moss, Tillandsia usneoides, at Monument Hill State Historic Site in La Grange, Texas. Bill Dodd added a comment in which he said he thought I’d actually photographed a so-called beard lichen, Usnea trichodea. On January 3rd of this year, on my first photo outing for 2017, I drove back to the site in La Grange and confirmed that Bill was right about my having photographed a lichen and not an epiphytic vascular plant. I invite you to check out the updated version of December’s post.

On the way back from La Grange I stopped at a scenic overlook on TX 71 east of Smithville and found some very different lichens growing on heavy stones along the road that circles the rest area. As today’s image I’ve included a photograph showing some of those much more colorful lichens.

© 2017 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 5, 2017 at 5:07 AM

Beehive

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Probably the best-known sandstone formations at Nevada’s Valley of Fire State Park are the ones that people have nicknamed beehives. Here’s an example from our visit on October 24, 2016. Notice how one set of compact rock layers slices across many thicker layers.

© 2017 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 4, 2017 at 4:45 AM

Colors and textures of native grasses

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Native grasses provide subtle visual delights in Austin near the end of the year. This November 23rd photograph shows a backlit group of little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium) in the southwestern fringe of my Great Hills neighborhood.

© 2017 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 3, 2017 at 4:53 AM

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