Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘bark

Bark beetle galleries

with 43 comments

In Great Hills Park on April 3rd a fallen tree trunk revealed bark beetle galleries.

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman



Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 14, 2022 at 4:20 AM

∏ Day for 2022

with 31 comments

Because the value of π when rounded to two decimal places is 3.14, mathematically minded folks have taken to calling March 14th π Day. Now, π happens to get pronounced in English the same as pie, and in Texas a favorite one of those is pecan pie. That happily provides a reason for this post—which went out at 3:14 in the morning—to show you two venerable pecan trees (Carya illinoinensis). The one above is from Richard Moya Park on February 11th. The one below is from the Copperfield Nature Trail along Walnut Creek on February 19th. In neither case would the gnarly, scaly bark that’s photographically delicious make for a good pie, though you could write a pie-in-the-sky story in which it did. You might even take your inspiration from a fantasy like “The Pied Piper.”

In closing, let me go off on a bit of a tangent by saying I can’t not point out how pi-ous math teachers are [and notice in good algebraic fashion how a double negative makes a positive out of can’t not].


❦          ❦          ❦


On March 2nd I linked to a 39-minute video interview with Garry Kasparov, perhaps the greatest chess player in our lifetime. Having grown up in the Soviet Union, he is also a staunch advocate for freedom and democracy, and currently chairman of the Human Rights Foundation. This time I want to tell you about another great Russian chess player and advocate for freedom, Natan Sharansky, who coincidentally was born in the Donetsk region in eastern Ukraine that Putin used as a pretext to invade the country. In the 1970s and ’80s Sharansky was among the best known of the so-called refuseniks who worked toward and eventually succeeded in getting many Jews out of the Soviet Union.

Now, in a March 7th Tablet article “Ten Questions for Natan Sharansky,” he offers many insights into the current crisis in Ukraine. For example:

So whether it is Poland, or whether it is Kamchatka, [Putin] sees these all like a czar—all Russian lands—and he sees bringing them back as his historical charge. For this he has worked already for many years. Belarus is practically part of Russia now. He tried Georgia in 2008, and he got Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which are now in fact Russia. Chechnya too, of course, though with a lot of blood, but now it’s his. And he is active all the time in Kazakhstan and the other Stans.

But of course the key here was always Ukraine. Even in our dissidents’ prisons, when we all saw that the Soviet Union would be falling apart, because it was too weak from inside, the critical piece we saw then was Ukraine. In our dreams Ukraine was becoming an independent country, like France or something, not only because of the large population but because it had the wheat and coal and metallurgy and missiles and everything.

It didn’t happen exactly so. Because of corruption and other things, Ukraine went through a difficult period. But nevertheless, a democratic Ukraine was born. So that was a big shock to Putin, and that’s why he has to declare openly that Ukraine is not a state and Ukraine is not a nation, and calls them neo-Nazis, and talks about bringing back its “historical status.”

And consider this assessment:

Russia is not the strongest country and Putin is not the strongest leader in the world. In fact, Russia today is something like 3% of the world economy and NATO represents something closer to 50%. And here it is very important to understand Putin’s psychology. From my time among criminals in prison, I know very well that the one who’s the ringleader in the cell is not the one who is physically strongest, but the one who is ready to use his knife. Everybody has a knife, but not everybody is prepared to use it. Putin believes that he is willing to use his knife and the West isn’t, that the West can only talk, even if it is physically stronger.

You can read the Tablet article to learn much more.

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 14, 2022 at 3:14 AM

Posted in nature photography

Tagged with , , ,

Portraits from our yard: episode 7

with 28 comments

Ashe juniper trees (Juniperus ashei) grow on all four sides of our house. What appealed to me about the one in our back yard shown above on July 22nd was the way two Virginia creeper vines (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) have flanked the trunk this year. That let me make a vertical “sandwich” of green-brown-green that thoroughly filled the frame. On the technical side, let me add that I took the picture from a distance and used my macro lens as a regular 100mm lens for a change. Below is an Ashe juniper in our front yard whose corrugated trunk always gets my attention. It, too, nicely fills a frame, with the corrugations offering countervailing horizontal elements to the predominant verticality of the image.

◊       ◊

And speaking of verticality, we hear a lot from activists about “white privilege,” but those ideologues are whitewashing the real problem: it’s not white privilege but height privilege. Tall people can reach things from high shelves without needing a stepladder. Tall people can see over the heads of others in crowds and theaters and stadiums. Tall people get to be on basketball teams. Getting the short end of the stick are non-tall men. According to an article on more.com,” a study… published in the Journal of Applied Psychology revealed that in the U.S., a six-foot-tall man makes an average of $790 more per year than his shorter peers do.” Women on average have a preference for taller men. Psychology Today reported on a study showing that “Men were most satisfied with women slightly shorter than them (about 3 in.), but women were most satisfied when they were much shorter than their male partners (about 8 in.)” On and on it goes, and it’s a real downer.

As an American man only 5’5″ tall, I get short shrift every minute of my life from a society poisoned by systemic heightism and toxic tallicity. According to an online height percentile calculator, I’m in the 8th percentile of American men, so I should have to pay only 8% of all the taxes I’m subject to. It’s also clear that reparations are owed me. I don’t want to seem vengeful, so it could be something as small as $1,000,000 for each year I’ve endured the degradation of being short. Every institution that caters to the public should have a safe space with a low entrance and a low ceiling where no tall people are allowed to enter; nobody’s gonna lord it over me there, no siree. A “bigger warning” should be posted everywhere I’m likely to encounter tall people. Whenever I’m waiting in line, all taller people ahead of me should have to relinquish their places and go to the end of the line (Get thee behind me, Satan!). In months that are shorter than the maximum 31 days, baseball’s seventh inning stretch should get replaced by the seventh inning scrunch.

Tall people who sell short on the stock market are committing altitudinal appropriation; only short people should be allowed to sell stock that way. In baseball, the player now known by the slur “short stop” shall be referred to instead as the “second-and-a half base person.” People who use the s-word in saying horrific things like “I’m short on cash” or “When I was asked for an answer I came up short” or “I suffer from shortness of breath” should immediately lose their jobs, be banned from all social media, and have to abase themselves by undergoing height-sensitivity training on their hands and knees.

Our state and local governments should require tall people who own businesses to paint a big red T on their storefronts; BLM and Antifa rioters would be allowed to vandalize, loot, and burn down only buildings marked with that big red T. And speaking of which, alongside BLM we need a new organization, SLM, for Short Lives Matter.

Even our justice system is infected with institutional tallism: don’t judges sit on a platform that raises them above everyone else? We must recognize that the word Court in legal matters is a dog whistle to height supremacists, who know that court means ‘short’ in French. Similarly, supreme comes from the Latin word for ‘highest,’ so our most authoritative legal institution must have its name changed from the Supreme Court to the Ultimate Tribunal.

In short, it’s high time society stops selling short people short!

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 7, 2021 at 4:37 AM

More than rocks at Hopewell Rocks

with 28 comments

As impressive as the rock formations are at New Brunswick’s Hopewell Rocks, on the trail down from the parking lot to the shore I had to stop and photograph some trees with peeling bark, presumably birches.

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 15, 2018 at 4:38 AM

New Zealand: Manginangina

with 37 comments

A year ago today in New Zealand’s Northland we visited the Manginangina Scenic Reserve, which is a good place to see the native bush that once covered much of the country.

Behold the distinctive branches of a young rimu tree (Dacrydium cupressinum):

As a photographer fond of abstractions, I particularly enjoyed the self- and lichen-mottled bark of a kauri tree (Agathis australis).

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 15, 2018 at 4:46 AM

New Zealand: kauri bark

with 19 comments

You’ve already seen a picture from February 12 showing Tāne Mahuta, the largest known extant kauri tree, Agathis australis. Three days later we visited the Manginangina Kauri Reserve northwest of Kerikeri. In spite of intermittent rain, we walked the [p]reserve’s path, where I made various pictures, including this abstract portrait of kauri bark.

© 2017 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 2, 2017 at 5:01 AM

Arizona sycamore

with 21 comments


While visiting Montezuma Castle on October 18th last year I learned that there’s such a thing as an Arizona sycamore tree, Platanus wrightii. Like the better-known American sycamore, Platanus occidentalis, this one has bark that peels to reveal trunk and branches that shine white in the light of the sun, especially from a distance. A closer look, like the one below, reveals patterns and details.


Click to enlarge.

I’m still halfway around the world. You’re welcome to comment but I may be slow to reply. I’m sorry I also haven’t been able to keep up with your blogs.

© 2017 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 20, 2017 at 5:12 AM

Posted in nature photography

Tagged with , , , ,

Alligators in arid Trans-Pecos Texas?

with 9 comments

Alligator Juniper 9649

Okay, not real alligators, but alligator junipers, Juniperus deppeana, whose rough and patchy bark reminded people—probably people who came from the bayou country in far east Texas—of the skins of those reptiles. I photographed some of those atypically barked junipers on November 20th along TX 118 in the mountains northwest of Fort Davis. The picture below even gives the alligator an eye (and also puts an end, I think, I hope, to the recent spate of zoomorphic and anthropomorphic images).

Alligator Juniper Trunk Detail 9653

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 17, 2015 at 5:39 AM

Poison ivy vine on a rough-barked tree

with 30 comments

Poison Ivy Vine with Rootlets on Rough Bark 6266

This vine that put out rootlets to attach itself to the tree it has climbed is poison ivy, Toxicodendron radicans. In conjunction with those rootlets I like the texture of the tree’s rough bark finely covered with lichen, but at the same time I recognize that few people like anything having to do with the dread poison ivy.

Today’s photograph is from September 19th in Great Hills Park.

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 29, 2015 at 4:56 AM

New Zealand: Whitey wood

with 16 comments

Whitey Wood Trunks 3890

Now that you’ve had some more glimpses of Texas in the early spring, let me go back to New Zealand with another set of photographs from my summer (in the Southern Hemisphere) trip there. You’ve gotta hand it to a country that so sensibly calls its north island North Island, its south island South Island, and its tree with white bark whitey wood, known natively as māhoe and scientifically as Melicytus ramiflorus. I photographed this answer to America’s birches and sycamores on February 8th at Tiritiri Matangi.

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 3, 2015 at 5:03 AM

%d bloggers like this: