Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘Bastrop State Park

Wand blackroot

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A year ago in Bastrop State Park I chanced upon some tall, slender, and erect plants that were new to me: Pterocaulon virgatum, a member of the sunflower family known as wand blackroot. I caught the plants past their flowering peak, as you see above, when seed heads were already coming undone. The genus name means ‘winged stem’ (think of pterodactyl, the winged dinosaur), which we can see in the top photograph. Below, I noticed that the plant’s drying leaves were turning into corkscrews.


When I chanced upon this species again on September 17th in Houston’s Memorial Park, the plants looked so different that I never drew any connection to what I’d seen in Bastrop until someone in the Texas Flora group identified the Houston specimens as wand blackroot:



In fact my first glance made me suspect I was seeing a decomposing cattail, but it was a wand blackroot.


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Every language has its quirks in vocabulary. English, with more words than any other language, certainly has plenty of quirks. Take verbs with prefixes, for example.

You can consume, presume, and resume but you can’t just plain sume.

You can conspire, inspire, perspire, and even respire, but you can’t just plain spire.

You can conceive, deceive, perceive, receive, and even transceive, but you can’t just plain ceive.

You can eject, inject, deject, project, reject, object, and subject but you can’t just plain ject.

You can abstract, distract, detract, contract, protract, extract, and retract but you can’t just plain tract.

You can induce, produce, reduce, deduce, transduce, and even conduce and abduce and educe, but you can’t just plain duce.

If you’re up for an experiment (or down with one, as young people say, having turned the expression 180° for no obvious reason), try using sume, spire, ceive, ject, tract, and duce on their own as verbs in your conversations or writings and see how people react.


© 2022 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 14, 2022 at 4:24 AM

Bracted fanpetal

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Here’s another debut of a wildflower with a quaint common name: bracted fanpetal, Sida ciliaris, which I found on the ground right outside our car during one of our stops in Bastrop State Park on October 11th last year. Because closeups can belie a subject’s size, let me add that flowers in this species grow to little more than an inch across (3 cm).


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If pathological optimists still think the U.N. Human Rights Council cares about human rights, they might want to note events last week. A motion was made in Geneva to debate China’s abuses against the Uyghurs in Xinjiang province, and the council voted 19-17 not even to discuss it.

So began an October 9th editorial in The Wall Street Journal. Here’s the ending:

Pragmatists might be pleased that the motion Thursday failed by only two votes, after a fierce lobbying campaign by Beijing to defeat it. But what a disgrace. Everyone knows the U.N. Human Rights Council is a sinkhole of moral equivalence. But if it can’t pass a motion merely to open discussion on China’s abuses in Xinjiang, there is no reason for it to exist, or for the United States to continue to be a member.

You can read the full editorial.




© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 13, 2022 at 4:31 AM

Longleaf buckwheat

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Another new wildflower for me on October 11th last year was Eriogonum longifolium, known as longleaf buckwheat and tall buckwheat. I found loose groups of these tallish plants with smallish flowers in a couple of places in Bastrop State Park. The out-of-focus yellow flower heads providing color in the second view were camphorweed, Heterotheca subaxillaris.



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It’s become a sad fact of American life that many corporations subject their employees to mandatory “diversity” training. In almost all cases that’s a biased way of looking at society in which activists prod people into resenting one another based on the groups they happen to have been born into. In an unwitting homage to Orwell, those “diversity” trainers exhibit zero diversity in the way they categorize everything according to presumed power and privilege.

A few nights ago at an Austin get-together with Greg Lukianoff of FIRE (Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression), I met comedian and entrepreneur Karith Foster, who has mercifully put together a humane substitute for the standard “diversity” training.

Instead of Diversity, we’re going to talk about INversity. We’re going to talk about the things we have in common with each other.

INVERSITY™ is the inverse of the word “Diversity,” which has “divide” and “division” at its root. Division is exactly what we see happening when diversity is done poorly — that includes checking a box, wagging a finger or placing blame and shame.

If you find yourself in a job that subjects you to “diversity” training, you might approach the relevant people in your company, point them to the Inversity website, and suggest they hire Inversity to do future training. You’ll be so much better off.

Even if you’re not subject to “diversity” training, check out the Inversity website for lots of interesting information. You can also watch Karith Foster’s TED talk.


© 2022 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 12, 2022 at 4:32 AM

Forked bluecurls

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A year ago today in Bastrop State Park I had my first encounter with Trichostema dichotomum, a member of the mint family known by the quaintly descriptive common name forked bluecurls (except that I see the color as purple). Does the curving part of the flower at the upper left remind anyone else of Hokusai’s “The Great Wave off Kanagawa“?


We’re out of Texas for the first time since the pandemic. Sorry if I’m slow replying to comments.



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What would you think if an American university posted an opening for an engineering professor and concluded the announcement with a euphemistic statement to the effect that African American women need not apply? I take it you’d be outraged. After all, this is 2022, not 1822. And you’d be justified in your outrage because our country has evolved and has passed many laws prohibiting such discrimination. Nevertheless, American universities today do issue such job announcements, the only difference being that the group excluded a priori consists of white men, and sometimes Asian men too. Sad to say, such blatant bigotry has become commonplace, no matter what our laws say to the contrary.

As an example take Texas A&M University, whose Department of Finance recently opened up a position. As Louis K. Bonham reported in a September 12th “Minding the Campus” article: “The head of the recruiting committee confirmed in writing that the position was indeed ‘reserved’ for non-white, non-Asian candidates.” And now one person has done something about it. Finance professor Richard Lowery, of the University of Texas, has filed the lawsuit  Lowery v. Texas A&M University System. Bonham’s article quotes three paragraphs from the lawsuit:

8. The Texas A&M University System, along with nearly every university in the United States, discriminates on account of race and sex when hiring its faculty, by giving discriminatory preferences to female or non-Asian minorities at the expense of white and Asian men. This practice, popularly known as “affirmative action,” has led universities to hire and promote inferior faculty candidates over individuals with better scholarship, better credentials, and better teaching ability.

9. These race and sex preferences are patently illegal under Title VI and Title IX, which prohibit all forms of race and sex discrimination at universities that receive federal funds. But university administrators think they can flout these federal statutes with impunity because no one ever sues them over their discriminatory faculty-hiring practices and the Department of Education looks the other way.

10. These discriminatory, illegal, and anti-meritocratic practices have been egged on by woke ideologues who populate the so-called diversity, equity, and inclusion offices at public and private universities throughout the United States. The existence of these offices is subverting meritocracy and encouraging wholesale violations of civil-rights laws throughout our nation’s university system.

“The lawsuit also has another twist: it seeks certification as a class action, for the benefit of all white and Asian candidates who have been discriminated against by Texas A&M’s DEI [diversity, equity, inclusion] employment initiatives.”

You’re welcome to read the full article for more information.


© 2022 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 11, 2022 at 4:30 AM

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.

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© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 14, 2021 at 4:35 AM

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