Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘Bastrop State Park

Light and shadow, and light

with 25 comments

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.


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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 41 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

A visit to Bastrop

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On March 26th we visited Bastrop State Park for the first time since last fall. Almost 10 years ago a disastrous fire destroyed the majority of trees in the park, and the landscape is still full of burned dead trunks, both standing and fallen. The charred pine trunk in the photograph above was on the ground. I don’t know why the resin in the upper part of the picture picked up so much blue.

In contrast to that log, take this opening flower of plains wild indigo, Baptisia bracteata var. leucophaea, a species that makes its debut here today.

If you’re wondering what a full inflorescence looks like, the last picture will show you,
complete with the kind of insect that I assume was eating the flowers.

Four posts back I noted that it’s common to hear politicians and activists bandy about the phrase “common sense.” I said that’s a loaded and misleading term because some or even many things that a majority of people believe to be common sense are easily shown to be untrue. In that post and the next and the next and yesterday’s I gave examples of “common sense” leading to incorrect conclusions. Here’s another example.

Every person has a birthday. A year consists of 365 days—or 366 if you want to count February 29, which occurs only about a fourth as often as other days, thanks to leap year—so there are 365 or 366 possible birthdays. You’re naturally curious, and you get to wondering about groups of people, and how likely or unlikely it is that at least two people in a group have the same birthday (the day, not the year). In particular, you get to wondering how large a group of randomly chosen people it would take for there to be a 50-50 chance, i.e. 50%, that at least two people in the group share a birthday.

Many folks would answer that “common sense” tells them they’d need a group half as big as 366, namely 183 people, for there to be a 50-50 chance of a matching birthday. The truth is that with a group of only 23 randomly chosen people in it there’s about a 50% chance two or more people in the group will have matching birthdays. (I won’t go into the math, though it’s not difficult). By contrast, in a group of 183 people there’s a virtual certainty of at least one matching birthday.

You could also turn things around and ask how likely it is that in a group of 23 people there’ll be at least one pair of matching birthdays. Many folks might pull out a calculator, find out that 23 is about 6% of 365, and conclude by “common sense” that there’d be only a 6% chance of a pair of matching birthdays. You’ve already heard that in fact there’s about a 50% chance.

Here’s a way to confirm this without trying to rely on “common sense.” Stand on a busy street and ask people passing by what their birthday is. Mark the dates on a yearly calendar to keep track of them and see if there’s a match. If necessary, keep going until you’ve asked 23 people and still haven’t found a match. Then repeat the experiment a bunch of times. With enough repetitions, you should find that about half of the time you’ll get a matching birthday pair.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 12, 2021 at 4:22 AM

Transitory

with 20 comments

But truth be told of glory:
It’s always transitory.

This is what had become of a soft golden-aster flower head
when I photographed it in Bastrop State Park on June 6th.

© 2019 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 21, 2019 at 4:40 AM

Back to Bastrop

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June 6th this year was both D-Day and B-Day. No, not a birthday, but a trip back to Bastrop after not having visited the state park there for several years. Go around as we would, in no place were we not reminded of the devastating 2011 fire that burned for weeks and destroyed 90% of the pine trees.

Still, there was plenty of life. Look at all the greenery around that strangely burned tree trunk.
And look at this little orb-weaver spider in the genus Argiope:

© 2019 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 15, 2019 at 4:50 PM

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