Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘Bastrop State Park

Camphorweed puts on a show

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In Bastrop State Park on October 11th camphorweed (Heterotheca subaxillaris) was putting on quite a display, as were Maximilian sunflowers (Helianthus maximiliani). In the first view, for which I got down low, those tall sunflowers played only a secondary role behind the dense camphorweed. The following picture shows that elsewhere in the park the supporting cast for camphorweed included showy palafoxia (Palafoxia hookeriana) and woolly croton (Croton capitatus).

And below’s a closeup of a camphorweed flower head against a flowering spike of Liatris aspera.

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I’ll bet you haven’t heard, as I hadn’t, about the mammoth cheese that the people in Cheshire, Massachusetts, made and gave to President Thomas Jefferson in 1802. “The 1,235-pound (560 kg) cheese was created by combining the milk from every cow in the town, and made in a makeshift cheese press to handle the cheese’s size. The cheese bore the Jeffersonian motto ‘Rebellion to tyrants is obedience to God.'” You can read more of the fascinating details in a dedicated Wikipedia article. Today’s supermarkets sell many kinds of cheeses, but I’ve yet to see any with inspirational quotations on them. Someone’s missing a great business opportunity, don’t you think?

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 3, 2021 at 4:38 AM

First asters for 2021

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On our October 11th return to Bastrop State Park I photographed my first asters for 2021. The few I found were small and close to the ground, so I could easily have overlooked them on the forest floor. The one above was still opening; the one below had gotten farther along. Research points toward the species being either Symphyotrichum pratense or Symphyotrichum sericeum.


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I’ve been recommending The Coddling of the American Mind as a book that explains destructive and illiberal trends in America, especially among people of college age. So many drastic things have happened since publication in 2018 that the authors, Jonathan Haidt and Greg Lukianoff, wrote what was to have been an afterword to a new printing of the book. That addendum quickly grew so long that they decided to release it as a series of free articles. Part 4 has just appeared. It includes links to the first three parts.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 30, 2021 at 4:16 AM

Tenants of the forest floor

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During an October 11th return visit to Bastrop State Park I made some pictures of the forest floor, which in places was a carpet of dry pine needles. An even thicker carpet of them had contributed to the devastation wrought by the wildfire that raged there in 2011 and destroyed most of the pines and oaks in the park. Charred remains are still conspicuous in many places a decade later, as the first two photograph confirm.

In the tradition of Horton Hears a Who and Horton Hatches the Egg, I’ll add that Eve Found an Ovum, which is to say a bird’s egg. The inside was liquid except for an air pocket, which conveniently formed an oval within an oval in the picture below.


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In the 1920s my father came to New York City as a teenager, a poor immigrant speaking Russian but no English. Because of that, he was initially put in school with children years younger and much shorter. The humiliation proved a great incentive for him to learn English really fast, and before long he was with schoolkids his own age. Not only that, but he soon qualified to attend Townsend Harris High School, an elite school for the smartest students. Jonas Salk, who went on to create the first polio vaccine in the 1950s, was a classmate of my father.

Decades later, when I was now the teenager, my father would occasionally complain about how Fiorello La Guardia, a “populist” mayor of New York City, had shut down Townsend Harris High School in 1942, supposedly to save money. History repeats itself. In our own time it has become increasingly common for “woke” politicians pursuing “equity” [a horrid word that means ‘the forced sameness of outcomes for racial groups’] to shut down programs for the gifted and talented, as smart kids have come to be called. In the 1930s and ’40s the “problem” was “too many” Jews in those programs; today it’s that there are “too many” Asians. The fact that students are admitted to those programs based on objective tests is irrelevant to ideologues, who often hold that there’s no such thing as objectivity, or if there is, then it’s a tool of white supremacy. As part of their hegemony, white folks apparently made the mistake of lending too much of their whiteness to Asians, who now outperform them.

Zaid Jilani recently wrote a good article about this entitled “Culture — Not Racism — Explains Asian American Educational Success.” I recommend it to you. You may also want to read an essay by Jilani from earlier this year, “The Cult of Smart.”

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 28, 2021 at 4:33 AM

Light and shadow, and light

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Central Texas is home to several species of Sesbania, including the Sesbania vesicaria that botanists have now reclassified as Glottidium vesicarium, known as bladderpod sesbania or bagpod sesbania for the shape of its pods. In Bastrop State Park on September 23rd I played with the light and shadows on some of the many pods in evidence there that morning. I also took advantage of bright sunlight to portray a gray hairstreak butterfly (Strymon melinus) on the flowers of what I take to be tall bush clover (Lespedeza stuevei), a species I’d never photographed before and that is therefore making its debut here today.


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Here’s more from Xi Van Fleet, a woman who escaped from the depredations of Mao’s [Anti-]Cultural Revolution and who sees worrisome parallels in the increasing repression and censorship in the United States. (I have a personal connection to such stories because my father and his parents and brother managed to escape from the terror of the Soviet Union in the 1920s.)

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 19, 2021 at 4:26 AM

One more take on woolly croton

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On a woolly croton plant (Croton capitatus) in Bastrop State Park on September 23rd I noticed that a green lynx spider (Peucetia viridans) had caught what appears to be a potter wasp, seemingly in the genus Parancistrocerus, from the subfamily Eumeninae.

One of the great existential questions of our time, at least in the Anglosphere (i.e. the English-speaking parts of the world), is how to spell the adjectival form of wool: is it woolly or is it wooly? Dictionaries accept both, though the form with a double-l seems to be favored, for the same reason we write really rather than realy and totally rather than totaly. For people who come to woolly as non-native speakers, its non-literal meanings must seem strange. Merriam-Webster gives these:

2a: lacking in clearness or sharpness of outline
woolly TV picture

b: marked by mental confusion
woolly thinking

3: marked by boisterous roughness or lack of order or restraint
where the West is still woolly— Paul Schubert—used especially in the phrase wild and woolly

Though my pictures have usually come from the wild and my posts have sometimes been wild and woolly, I trust you haven’t found any instances of really totally woolly thinking in them.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 16, 2021 at 4:37 AM

Yet another Euphorbia

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You’ve already seen Euphorbia bicolor, Euphorbia marginata, and Euphorbia cyathophora here this season. Now comes Euphorbia corollata, which doesn’t grow in Austin or anywhere else in Travis County but which I found 40 miles southeast of home in Bastrop State Park on September 23rd. (In searching past posts, I discovered that 1200 miles northeast of Austin, during a visit to Illinois Beach State Park in 2015, I’d taken and shown you a photograph of this wide-ranging species in an earlier stage of flowering.)

The crab spider in the picture above is a bonus—for you as well as me, given that I didn’t notice it at the time I took the picture. I did notice the plant’s red stems, which are also a feature of Euphorbia bicolor and Euphorbia marginata. And now that I’ve brought up those other red stems, I guess I’ll have to show you one. Below is a minimalist view of a snow-on-the-mountain stalk against blue sky at Tejas Camp in Williamson County on September 25.


Don’t you love spam? Of course you don’t, but it can be amusing. Here’s a recent comment I got:

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© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 14, 2021 at 4:35 AM

From croton to cotton

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Speaking of woolly croton (Croton capitatus), as I did the other day, in Bastrop State Park on September 23rd I found a large stand of it that blended nicely into an even larger colony of snake cotton (Froelichia gracilis). In the picture above, the croton predominates toward the left, the snake cotton toward the right. The second picture gets a little closer to the snake cotton colony in its own right.

As you’ve already seen a closeup of woolly croton, so below I’ve given you one of snake cotton. (Due to what seems a WordPress quirk, the last photograph looks blurry in my preview of today’s post, but when I click it I get the original version with normal sharpness. If the bottom picture looks out of focus to you, see if clicking it solves the problem.)


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“It is wrong and ultimately self-defeating for a nation of immigrants to permit the kind of abuse of our immigration laws we have seen in recent years. — Bill Clinton; January 24, 1995.

“We simply cannot allow people to pour into the United States undetected, undocumented, unchecked, and circumventing the line of people who are waiting patiently, diligently, and lawfully to become immigrants in this country.” — Barack Obama; December 15, 2005.

“Let me tell you something, folks, people are driving across that border with tons, tons—hear me, tons—of everything from byproducts from methamphetamine to cocaine to heroine, and it’s all coming up through corrupt Mexico.” — Joe Biden, 2006.

“You can’t continue to have open borders. And you’ve got to put more technology and personnel along the borders to make sure we know who know who is coming into our country and prevent people from entering illegally.” — Hillary Clinton; November 6, 2007.

“Illegal immigration is wrong, plain and simple…. People who enter the United States without permission are illegal aliens and illegal aliens should not be treated the same as people who enter the U.S. legally.” — Chuck Schumer; June 24, 2009.

“We’re a nation-state. We have borders. The idea that we can just have open borders is something that … as a practical matter, is unsustainable.” — Barack Obama, September 2021.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 13, 2021 at 4:37 AM

Fuzzy, pink, and blue

with 42 comments

The genus Croton is home to plants that don’t have conspicuous flowers. Woolly croton (Croton capitatus) makes up for that, at least from a photographic standpoint, by offering a pleasant fuzziness. I found it especially appealing in Bastrop State Park on September 23rd when it was backed up by the pink of some showy palafoxia flower heads (Palafoxia hookeriana) and the blue sky that morning. As I so often do, I lay on my mat on the ground for the somewhat upward-looking first view. If you prefer your croton straight, which is to say without pretty colors coming from other things, you can have the Rembrandtesque portrait below.

WordPress tells me this blog has accumulated a little over 90,000 comments, about 42,000 of which are my replies. Both are big numbers.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 10, 2021 at 4:39 AM

The other Liatris in Bastrop

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The other species of Liatris we saw on September 23rd in Bastrop that doesn’t grow in Austin is Liatris elegans, elegant blazing-star, which is unusual in having pale yellow or cream-colored flowers rather than the expected purple ones. As with other Liatris species, the flower spikes of this one tilt at varying angles, with the most extreme being largely horizontal, as above (which meant I had to lie on the ground and aim high enough to get a shot clear of distractions in the background). Even so, the predominant orientation for Litatris flower spikes is upright, which you can confirm in the closer frame-filling view below. Does your imagination let you see how “blazing star” came to be a common name for Liatris?


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At least twice in these pages I’ve quoted George Santayana’s most famous line: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” The other day a friend pointed me to a passage by Santayana that I didn’t know, from the essay “The Irony of Liberalism“:

Now what is the direction of change which seems progress to liberals? A pure liberal might reply, The direction of liberty itself: the ideal is that every man should move in whatever direction he likes, with the aid of such as agree with him, and without interfering with those who disagree. Liberty so conceived would be identical with happiness, with spontaneous life, blamelessly and safely lived; and the impulse of liberalism, to give everybody what he wants, in so far as that is possible, would be identical with simple kindness. Benevolence was one of the chief motives in liberalism in the beginning, and many a liberal is still full of kindness in his private capacity; but politically, as a liberal, he is something more than kind. The direction in which many, or even most, people would like to move fills him with disgust and indignation; he does not at all wish them to be happy, unless they can be happy on his own diet; and being a reformer and a philanthropist, he exerts himself to turn all men into the sort of men he likes, so as to be able to like them. It would be selfish, he thinks, to let people alone. They must be helped, and not merely helped to what they desire—that might really be very bad for them—but helped onwards, upwards, in the right direction. Progress could not be rightly placed in a smaller population, a simpler economy, more moral diversity between nations, and stricter moral discipline in each of them. That would be progress backwards, and if it made people happier, it would not make the liberal so.

That’s as true of illiberals today as when Santayana wrote the essay a century ago.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 8, 2021 at 4:37 AM

Showy palafoxia in Bastrop

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Another species that doesn’t grow in Austin that I therefore drove to see in Bastrop State Park on September 23rd is Palafoxia hookeriana, called showy palafoxia, sand palafox, and Hooker’s palafoxia. This plant is sticky to the touch, as the short, soft, goo-tipped hairs in the second picture’s lower left confirm. (So do the fingers of anyone who has handled one of these plants, but I think you’ll agree that a picture of gooey fingers would take away from this post’s esthetic appeal.)

For more information about this genus in Texas, you can check out an article by Jason Singhurst.
And speaking of Texas, it’s the only American state where showy palafoxia grows.

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The other day I discovered The Thinking Shop, which sells posters and playing cards that teach about common cognitive biases and logical fallacies. If you go to the company’s online store and click on either of the posters, you can buy it but there’s also an option to download a free Creative Commons pdf version.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 5, 2021 at 4:33 AM

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