Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘bud

Bluebell time again

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On June 18th, after photographing some mountain pinks I’d been tipped off to, I stopped at nearby Cypress Creek Park and found to my pleasure that a bunch of bluebells (Eustoma sp.) were coming up. Bluebells put out distinctively shaped buds, as you see in this portrait of one with an opening flower behind it.


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For those of you who find yourselves in jobs where you feel like you’re walking on eggshells all the time and can’t speak openly about what you believe, here’s a relevant thought from someone who lived through Soviet oppression: “In a room where people unanimously maintain a conspiracy of silence, one word of truth sounds like a pistol shot.” ― Czesław Miłosz. (If I understand right, Polish cz is pronounced like English ch, ł like w, w like v, and sz like sh. As a result, Czesław Miłosz comes out sounding like Cheswav Miwosh.)

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 1, 2021 at 4:35 AM

A new month, a new wildflower

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I remember seeing snake herb flowers (Dyschoriste linearis) at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center years ago. I don’t recall ever seeing any in the wild till this spring, when I’ve come across the species at least three times. Either it’s having a good year or my eyes have opened. To give you a sense of scale, let me add that snake herb flowers range from about 3/4 of an inch (18mm) to an inch (25mm) across. The picture above is from Allen Park on May 15th. I’d found the bud below in Liberty Hill on May 6th.

And here’s an unrelated quotation for today: “One of the most treacherous forms of censorship is self-censorship—where walls are built around the imagination and often raised from fear of attack.” You’re welcome to read the full article about PEN International, the 100-year-old organization that upholds writers’ freedom and works against censorship.

In a poll of 2000 people in the United States in mid-2020, 62% of respondents said the political climate prevents them from sharing their political views. After all that has ensued in the year since then, I suspect the percent of self-censorers is higher now.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 1, 2021 at 4:37 AM

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Visiting nerve-ray

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On the first day of May this Tetragonotheca texana (known by the strange name nerve-ray) had two simultaneous morning visitors. Whether the non-me visitor was a non-bee. i.e. a bee-fly, I’m not sure. Nerve-ray is one of the few yellow daisy-type flowers that’s fragrant. Where the conventional wisdom is to stop and smell the roses, I always stop and bend down to enjoy the subtle fragrance of nerve-ray flowers.

Another colloquial name for nerve-ray is square-bud daisy. The starkly lit portrait below explains that name.

I’ll grant you that this bud looks a bit off from being exactly square—hey, nature’s not perfect. For that matter, neither is language. As nice and succinct as square is, English doesn’t have a simple word to designate ‘any four-sided closed figure in a plane.’ English has occasionally used Greek-derived tetragon, following the same pattern in the familiar pentagon and hexagon. Nowadays, though, English is pretty much stuck with the unwieldy five-syllable Latin-derived quadrilateral. If only we could follow the model of German, a related language, which has Viereck, literally ‘four-edge(s),’ and call a quadrilateral a fouredge or a fourside.

Speaking of quadrilaterals, here’s something interesting you may not know, or if you did learn it in high school geometry have probably forgotten. Take any quadrilateral you like, whether convex, concave, or even with two of its sides crossing each other. Connect the midpoints of the four sides (going in order from each side to the next) with straight line segments and you’re guaranteed to end up with a parallelogram. That’s just how the universe is. As a picture is often worth a lot of words—some say a thousand, others a myriad—you’re welcome to look at an example with a convex quadrilateral.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 11, 2021 at 4:32 AM

Rain-lily bud and flower

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Zephyranthes drummondii; April 27 in my neighborhood.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 10, 2021 at 4:33 AM

Bluebell bud and flower

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Way back on June 8th I went to a little pond I know on the Blackland Prairie in far northeast Austin because in some previous years I’d found good amounts of bluebells (Eustoma sp.) there. No luck then, but I did better when I returned on July 29th. Well, only slightly better: I found exactly three scattered bluebells, and all of them had been partly eaten (by what, I don’t know). By getting on the ground and aiming judiciously, I managed to make this portrait of a bluebell bud rising in front of a non-nibbled part of one of the flowers.

In our Ancient History Department, the magazine Archaeology reports in its July/August 2020 issue the discovery at Abri du Maras in France of the earliest known piece of cord. It dates back 46,000 years and was made, surprisingly, by Neanderthals. The article says that the “cord was made of three separate strands of fiber taken from the inner bark of a coniferous tree… The strands were then twisted in a clockwise direction to hold the fibers together, after which they were twisted together in a counterclockwise motion to make the cord.” That led archaeologist Bruce Hardy of Kenyon College “to believe that Neanderthals shared a cognitive capacity for mathematics with modern humans.” You can read more about this find in a Science News story.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 19, 2020 at 4:46 AM

Two riders on velvetleaf mallow

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On July 5th west of Morado Circle I photographed some velvetleaf mallow plants (Allowisadula holosericea) that were beginning to flower, as you see in the first picture. I didn’t notice the little dark insect until I looked at the picture on my computer screen days later. In contrast, I couldn’t help but notice the colorful critter that the second picture shows you on the underside of one of the mallow’s leaves. Don’t you think parts of its body look like they’re riveted together? Val Bugh tells me it’s an immature Niesthrea louisianica. That species is in the family Rhopalidae, whose members are known collectively as scentless plant bugs, though this one apparently lacks a common name (like the Calocoris barberi that you saw here not long ago).

An unrelated saying for today: “Worry is interest paid on trouble before it falls due.”
That thought appeared in William Meade Pegram’s 1909 book Past-Times,
which included a section that offered up various proverbs.
Where the quoted one originated isn’t clear, but I won’t worry about it.
Here’s another along similar lines:
“Anxiety and Ennui are the pencils that Time uses to draw wrinkles.”

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 23, 2020 at 4:42 AM

Cowpen daisy buds and flowers

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For whatever reason, I rarely come across cowpen daisies (Verbesina encelioides) except in a few places, all of which conveniently happen to be near each other in my own neighborhood. On June 6th (D-for-Daisy Day) I was coming home “the back way” on Rain Creek Parkway when I spotted some wildflowers by the side of the road bordering the Great Hills Country Club and stopped to investigate.

The Wikipedia article on this species gives the additional common names golden crownbeard, gold weed, wild sunflower, butter daisy, American dogweed, and South African daisy. That last is strange because this species is native in North America, not South Africa.

In contrast to the yellowscuro portrait above, look at how different the second picture is. I’d made it two minutes earlier by getting low and aiming upward toward a patch of bright blue sky rather than downward toward a partly shaded area the way I did in the top portrait.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 2, 2020 at 4:43 AM

Texas thistle bud with disk florets emerging parallel

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I don’t remember ever seeing an opening Cirsium texanum bud whose disc florets* had emerged so far while keeping together in a bundle of parallel elements.  If any of you who are familiar with this wildflower have seen instances of the emerging florets staying so neatly packed for such a distance, please let me know; maybe it’s not as unusual as I think. I found this roughly cylindrical thistle on June 10th in the town of Manor.

*The Texas thistle, though in the composite botanical family, lacks ray florets. So does its local tribe-mate in that family, the basket-flower.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 1, 2020 at 4:38 AM

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Sound the trumpet

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On May 26th ominous clouds made me give up taking pictures in the northeast quadrant of Mopac and US 183. The next morning I went back and resumed photographing native plants there. One I found was a trumpet vine, Campsis radicans, with both flowers and buds. The buds were more heavily covered with dewdrops and made better portrait subjects. I estimate this bud was about 2 inches (5 cm) long.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 9, 2020 at 4:43 AM

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Three approaches to portraying basket-flower “baskets”

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On the Blackland Prairie in Pflugerville on May 7th I tried various approaches to photographing basket-flower “baskets” in a search for new ways to portray the familiar species Plectocephalus americanus (even if the new genus name isn’t yet familiar). For the first picture, I cast my shadow on the subject to create soft lighting while a wide aperture of f/3.5 kept the background well out of focus. I also had no aversion to a version in which f/8 let a background basket-flower reveal more of its shape:

For the third portrait I used the familiar technique of aiming toward a deeply shaded area:

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 31, 2020 at 4:29 AM

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