Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘bud

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

Portraits from our yard: episode 3

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In our yard we have three stands of Turk’s cap bushes, Malvaviscus arboreus var. drummondii. I don’t know if someone planted them before we moved in 17 years ago or if they sprang up on their own. I’ve found Turk’s cap growing wild in the woods in our neighborhood, so both possibilities are plausible.

The top portrait reveals the interesting “architecture” surrounding a bud. The second photograph shows the characteristic rich red of a Turk’s cap flower beginning to emerge from a bud.


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I recently came across the April 19th article “America’s Smug Elite Is Harming Our Kids,” by Rutgers professors Jacob Hale Russell and Dennis Patterson. Here are two paragraphs that will give you a feel for the tenor and contents of the article. (Links within the quoted passages were in the original.)

This disdain for healthy skepticism, a normal part of functioning science and democracy, is corrosive to public trust and impedes the accumulation of knowledge. A climate of overconfidence makes it both more likely that we will adopt bad policy and harder to fix our missteps. Reversals of conventional wisdom are, for better or worse, inevitable in science. We have had many reversals of official positions on COVID-19—from the usefulness of masks to which medications work to guidance about school openings—and will likely see more as evidence continues to come in. The problem is that our current climate locks us into polarized mindsets, which makes it harder to recategorize “misinformation” that winds up being correct….

While it is tempting—especially in the wake of a presidency that showed a keen disregard for facts—to suggest that elite culture is simply tamping down misinformation, this is a self-serving myth. Most who study scientific communication have found that admitting uncertainty doesn’t harm public trust. When we and others express alarm at the overlabeling of misinformation, we are not defending those who do things like deny the existence of COVID-19 or spread falsehoods about vaccine side effects. Over the course of the pandemic, we have also seen the misinformation label regularly applied to mainstream scientists speaking in their field of expertise. The suppression of doubt can be subtle, such as the kind of bandwagoning and overconfidence that drown out debate, or it can be obvious—from outright censorship to misuse of the phrase “fact check” when applied to disagreeable opinions. This approach not only hampers discourse, but ultimately undermines public trust in science and the credibility of the very elites who claim its mantle.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 1, 2021 at 4:37 AM

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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

Posted in nature photography

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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

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