Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘bud

Pink evening primrose bud in a colony of phlox

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Oenothera speciosa and Phlox drummondii along FM 812 in western Bastrop County on March 19th.


© 2023 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 28, 2023 at 4:22 AM

Colorful musings

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Look at how a Phlox drummondii bud unravels on its way to becoming a flower. What I can’t unravel is how ravel came to mean both ‘to clarify by separating the aspects of’ and ‘to tangle or complicate.’ Unravel is the opposite of the ‘tangle’ sense of ravel but the same as the ‘clarify’ sense of ravel—except when plans or projects unravel. Perhaps listening to music by Ravel would help you unravel those semantic difficulties.

Do you revel in the complexities of ravel and unravel, or do you rebel against them? And do you revel in the fact, or rebel against it, that revel and rebel are two forms of the same word?

If all that has scrambled your brains, you can symbolize your enscramblement with the Corydalis flowers below, which popular naming has cast as scrambled eggs. Both portraits come from February 17th in Gonzales County, where phlox abounds, yet where scrambled eggs of the culinary kind are presumably no more common than in any other Texas county.





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Unreality infects medicine 


On Valentine’s Day Quillette published an article by Amy Eileen Hamm that gets to the heart of woke ideology contaminating medical schools. “Teaching UBC [University of British Columbia] Medical Scholars that Biological Sex is a ‘Colonial Imposition’” bears the subhead “How to identify a male research subject? At the University of British Columbia, it’s anyone who “resonates with masculinity’.” Here are the third and fourth paragraphs:

There are probably few regular Quillette readers who haven’t already read indictments of overreach in the DEI [Diversity, Equity, Inclusion] field—or, as one Harvard Business Review headline writer calls it, “the DEI-Industrial Complex.” At best, dubious DEI practices are merely ineffective. At worst, they’re an outright scam. We’ve been forced (or “voluntold”) to sit through so many DEI seminars and Zoom sessions that we can recite the often-religious-seeming mantras by heart. No, I will not ask a non-white person “where they are from”; yes, I will announce my pronouns every time I step into a room. Hail, Mary, full of grace, they/them is with thee.

Like other critics of DEI, I had long assumed that this ideological movement would stop at the gates of medical and engineering schools. After all, it’s one thing to affirm the existence of 37 genders when you’re writing an Intersectional Feminism midterm. It’s another thing when you’re training to become an obstetrician. It’s one thing to insist that “Indigenous ways of knowing” are just as scientifically valid as, well, science, when you’re composing a long-form land acknowledgement. It’s another thing to explicitly denounce the scientific method so that you can make sure no one gets their feelings hurt by the reality of human sexual biology.


You’re welcome to read the full article.


© 2023 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 6, 2023 at 4:27 AM

Posted in nature photography

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An endemic wildflower

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In the United States Spigelia texana grows only in Texas.
On the morning of September 18th I got to see some
at Brazos Bend State Park southwest of Houston.



If Texas pinkroot has pink roots, I never got to see any.
I did see that the buds look yellow and turn whiter as they open into flowers.




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As woke as some segments of American society have rapidly become, the United States has nothing on our great* neighbor to the north, which in its sprint to claim the title of the Wokest Country on Earth has been leaving everyone else in the dust. If you haven’t heard about the latest in-your-face transgression at an Ontario high school, you can read accounts of it in the September 23rd Toronto Sun, the September 21st National Desk, and the September 21st New York Post. Scroll through each article for photographs and embedded videos. Alert: you won’t be able to unsee what you’ve seen. You can also watch a four-and-a-half minute video that interviews people protesting this affront. And you can read Brendan O’Neill’s take on this as confirming what he calls the cult of validation. It’s also possible that the teacher in question is trolling everyone and the whole thing is an outlandishly clever hoax.


* Canada has a greater land area than the United States, which is in fourth place. Canada is second, behind Russia and ahead of China. No known correlation exists between the physical size of a country and the extent to which its institutions promote freedom and sanity.


© 2022 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 27, 2022 at 4:25 AM

Hanging out at/on trumpets

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The at was me. The on was ants. The date was August 14. The place was the northeast quadrant of Mopac and US 183. The bud above was about to open. Its species was Campsis radicans. Its common name is trumpet vine. If I were an ant I’d probably have stuck my head in there too. The “trumpet” below with seven sisters on it is purple bindweed, Ipomoea cordatotriloba.


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In recent months WordPress has been appending a grid of ads to our posts. Two days ago one of the ads looked interesting, so I clicked on it and got taken to a site called USAFacts. Here’s how it describes itself:

USAFacts provides a data-driven portrait of the American population, US governments’ finances, and governments’ impact on society. We are a nonpartisan, not-for-profit civic initiative without a political agenda. We provide vital spending, revenue, demographic, and performance information as a free public service and are committed to maintaining and expanding our available data in the future.

USAFacts believes that facts deserve to be heard. Democracy is only successful when it’s grounded in truth. We’re here to provide that grounding with trusted government data that’s both easy to access and understand. We standardize data straight from government agencies and present it in plain language with helpful visualizations so you can understand the history of programs and policies. Americans deserve unbiased facts straight from the government to have serious, reasoned, and informed debate.

As the largest source for standardized US government data, USAFacts offers something unique. We exclusively use publicly available government data presenting a vast array of reports on US spending, revenue, population and demographics, and policy outcomes. We don’t make judgments or prescribe policies. Whether government money is spent wisely or not, whether the quality of life is improving or getting worse — that’s for you to decide.


Here are a few facts I gleaned from browsing USAFacts.

  • Between 2010 and 2021, Texas had the largest growth [of any state] with 4.3 million more residents. Illinois had the largest decline with 169,076 fewer people. Among counties, Maricopa County, Arizona had the largest growth with 671,405 more people. Baltimore city, Maryland had the largest decline with 44,444 fewer residents. (Look at those five 4’s in a row.)
  • Obesity hasn’t doubled. It’s nearly tripled in the United States over the last fifty years…. The trend in obesity is not evenly distributed throughout American demographics. Low-income Americans were more likely than higher earners to experience obesity in 2017. Roughly 36 percent of those earning less than $15,000 a year fit the CDC definition compared to 26 percent of those with incomes greater than $75,000 per year. A similar pattern holds for those with less than a high school education (36 percent). While Asians are the least likely to be obese (11 percent), non-Hispanic blacks and American Indians are the most likely to experience obesity (39 percent for both).
  • Funding for the nation’s education system comes primarily from state and local governments. Federal, state, and local governments spent a combined $997 billion on education in 2019, the most recent year for which data is complete. Spending per student has increased 21% since the 2000–2001 academic year, after adjusting for inflation. 


Don’t delay delving into data delights at USAFacts.


© 2022 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 20, 2022 at 4:25 AM

Posted in nature photography

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Trumpet vines

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I’ve come to expect to see one or two trumpet vines, Campsis radicans, in the northeast quadrant of Mopac and US 183. The property lived up to expectations on August 14th when I found one there that had plenty of buds and flowers on it. The second picture, quite tonally and compositionally different from the high-flying view in the first, shows what it’s like to look into one of these “trumpets.”


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Yesterday I commented on the Orwellianly named Inflation Reduction Act—a contorted $739 billion boondoggle spending spree that will do a lot of things, none of which will reduce inflation. The supposed need for such an act is especially hard to understand, given that our President vehemently assured us on August 10th that the nation had zero inflation in July. Tell that to the people who shopped for groceries, paid their utility bills, bought gasoline, or went looking to buy a car that month. If you want a sense of how many Americans are feeling the effects of high inflation, and how worried a lot of them are, check out the easy-to-read bar charts and pie graphs showing the results of a survey The Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (Freddie Mac) conducted in June.

According to the Consumer Price Index (CPI), average prices in July were 8.5% higher than in July of last year. The CPI had been 9.1% in June, so it’s true that inflation was no higher in July than it had been in June, and was even a little lower, but that doesn’t mean there was zero inflation. Inflation still ran a hefty 8.5%, which is higher than at any time over the forty years from 1982 through April of this year.

(As a math teacher I think in terms of calculus here. The change in prices from a year earlier [akin to the first derivative] was still positive, namely 8.5%, but the change of the change in prices [akin to the second derivative] was negative: 9.1% had gone down to 8.5%.)


© 2022 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 17, 2022 at 4:32 AM

Posted in nature photography

Tagged with , , , , ,

Pickerelweed abstractions

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After I went rainbow hunting at the pond along Gault Lane on July 7th, I concentrated on some of the flora on the pond’s margins. Here you’re seeing two abstract portraits of pickerelweed, Pontederia cordata. The first shows a bud sheath. The second obviously shows flowers, but I took the picture at an unconventional angle.



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Since childhood I’ve known that in some cases a part of a country is cut off by foreign land from the main part of the country. For Americans, the most prominent example is Alaska, which Canada separates from the “lower 48” states. Hawaii is not in the same category: yes, it’s cut off from the main part of the United States, but by an ocean, not by foreign land.

Just this week I learned that people have coined a term for a part of a country that’s cut off by foreign land. The term is exclave, made by replacing the prefix en- in enclave with its opposite, ex-. Some countries are content to live with exclaves. The United States isn’t going to invade Canada to connect Washington State to Alaska. In contrast, this year Russia invaded the* Ukraine to create a land bridge to the* Crimea, which it had illegally annexed from that country in 2014 but which had still remained reachable by land from the rest of Russia only by traveling on Ukrainian land.

Another Russian exclave that European countries are worried about is Kaliningrad Oblast—an oblast is akin to a state—which used to be German but after World War II became part of Russia. The Kaliningrad Oblast remains separated from the rest of Russia by Poland and Lithuania. Russia had for decades controlled both of those countries, and Lithuania in particular is worried that Russia wants to re-annex it. Given what’s going on in the Ukraine, the worry is justified.

The most complicated exclave in the world appears to be Baarle-Hertog, which comprises 24 tiny pieces of Belgium inside the Netherlands.

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* With certain geographic names English has traditionally used the. Everyone says the United States, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and the Vatican. People familiar with New York City know about the Bronx. For most of my life people said the Ukraine, but English speakers are now increasingly dropping the the in the Ukraine.


© 2022 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 14, 2022 at 4:28 AM

Baby blue eyes

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It’s been years—four, I think—since I showed you the little wildflower colloquially called baby blue eyes, Nemophila phacelioides. Here’s a portrait from the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center on March 23rd that includes an opening bud in addition to the flower.



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Last week I happened upon William Deresiewicz’s article “Escaping American tribalism: Only personal bravery can end polarisation.” Deresiewicz explains how he, a self-styled progressive, became disillusioned with media outlets he used to love, in particular NPR (National Public Radio):

My discontent had been building since the previous summer, the summer of the George Floyd protests. It was clear from the beginning that the network would be covering the movement not like journalists but advocates. A particular line was being pushed. There was an epidemic of police violence against unarmed African-Americans; black people were in danger of being murdered by the state whenever they walked down the street. The protests were peaceful, and when they weren’t, the violence was minor, or it was justified, or it was exclusively initiated by the cops. Although we had been told for months to stay indoors, the gatherings did not endanger public health — indeed, they promoted it. I supported the protests; I just did not appreciate the fact that I was being lied to.

But it wasn’t just that story. Overnight, the network’s entire orientation had changed. Every segment was about race, and when it wasn’t about race, it was about gender. The stories were no longer reports but morality plays, with predictable bad guys and good guys. Scepticism was banished. Divergent opinions were banished. The pronouncements of activists, the arguments of ideologically motivated academics, were accepted without question. The tone became smug, certain, self-righteous. To turn on the network was to be subjected to a program of ideological force-feeding. I was used to the idiocies of the academic Left — I had been dealing with them ever since I started graduate school — but now they were leaking out of my radio.

I encourage you to read the full article. It concludes with an incident that reinforces its anti-tribalism theme. The publication that originally accepted the article soon turned around and rejected it:

I had written a piece about the truths we aren’t allowed to utter on the Left, but that truth too, apparently, must not be uttered. The editor, it seemed, did not appreciate the irony.


© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 2, 2022 at 4:32 AM

Posted in nature photography

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Autumn sneezeweed

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One place I’ve learned to look for autumn sneezeweed (Helenium autumnale) is a spot along the trail that follows Bull Creek near Lakewood Dr. Sure enough, that’s where I found this flower head and bud on September 30th. On another flower head a grey Tachinid fly agreed to sit for its portrait.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 1, 2021 at 4:38 AM

But soft, what light on yonder flower falls?

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The date was August 13th, and the place was a property along Wells Branch Parkway at Strathaven Pass on the Blackland Prairie in far north Austin. You’ve already seen a flowering colony of partridge pea plants there, so now here’s a closeup of a single Chamaecrista fasciculata flower as it opened. Notice how the reddish blush shades through orange to yellow as your eyes follow it away from the flower’s base.

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Our word coincidence comes from Latin, where co meant ‘together with,’ in meant ‘into,’ and cid came from a root that meant ‘to fall.’ A coincidence is ‘things falling into each other.’ The night before last a 1929 movie shown on Turner Classic Movies ‘fell into’ tragic current events. The film, mostly a romantic comedy, was The Love Parade, directed by Ernst Lubitch. The movie marked the screen debut of Jeanette MacDonald, who played Queen Louise in the imaginary country of Sylvania. Opposite her was Maurice Chevalier as the hitherto womanizing military officer Count Alfred Renard (which happens to mean ‘fox’ in French). A synopsis of the film says this: “Queen Louise’s cabinet are worried that she will become an old maid, and are delighted when she marries the roguish Count Renard. Unfortunately, he finds his position as Queen’s Consort unsatisfying and without purpose, and the marriage soon runs into difficulties.”

In a scene that shows the wedding between the royal Louise and the commoner Alfred, the dignitaries include the ambassador from Afghanistan (there’s the coincidence with this week’s tragic events). After the priest follows royal protocol and pronounces the newly married couple “wife and man,” the ambassador comments in a fake language: “A singi. A na hu. A na hu. Prostu, pass harr. Fo malu a yu.” The Sylvanian Prime Minister asks what that means, and the Afghan ambassador’s translator tells him: “He says, man is man and woman is woman. And if you change that, causes trouble. He does not see how any man could stand being a wife. And therefore, he hopes this will be a most unhappy marriage.” The Prime Minister replies: “For heaven’s sake, if he reports this to Afghanistan. Tell him, this is a love match. It will be the happiest marriage in the world.”

Unfortunately, the two-decade involvement of the United States and Afghanistan didn’t end up being the happiest marriage in the world. Things fell apart.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 26, 2021 at 4:22 AM

Gumweed really is gummy

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On July 18th in southeast Austin I saw my first gumweed (Grindelia sp.) for 2021. Notice the little drops of goo along the serrated edges of the leaves. Holding on to these plants, as I often do to stabilize subjects while I take their pictures, left me with a sticky left hand and I had to be careful not to transfer any of that to my camera. As in other pictures I’ve recently shown here, using flash on a bright day to allow for a smaller aperture and a greater depth of field caused the sky to come out unrealistically dark. The effect isn’t “natural,” but then neither is photography.

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Here’s yet another thought by Wendell Berry, this time from his 1968 essay “Some Thoughts on Citizenship and Conscience in Honor of Don Pratt.”

To hear the boasts and the claims of some of our political leaders, one would think that we all lived in the government. The lower order of our politicians no doubt do so, and they no doubt exhibit the effects. But though I am always aware that I live in my household and in the world, I wish to testify that in my best moments I am not aware of the existence of the government. Though I respect and feel myself dignified by the principles of the Declaration and the Constitution, I do not remember a day when the thought of the government made me happy, and I never think of it without the wish that it might become wiser and truer and smaller than it is.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 17, 2021 at 4:15 AM

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