Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘bush

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

Despite the snow and sleet

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Despite the snow and sleet that came down from the morning into the afternoon on January 10th, this is still Austin, and the very next day I noticed that a goldeneye bush (Viguiera dentata) in my neighborhood was putting out new flowers. As is true for various composite flower heads, the opening was asymmetric. In case you’re wondering, the background brown came from leaves on the ground that remained conveniently featureless at my macro lens’s widest aperture, f/2.8. And if you’re also wondering whether I’m already done showing snow and ice pictures, I’m not.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 12, 2021 at 4:32 PM

Another of autumn’s big four

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I tend to think that when autumn comes to central Texas we have a botanical “big four” here. I could even split them into two groups of two according to color: yellow Maximilian sunflowers and goldenrod, plus white snow-on-the-prairie (or -mountain) and poverty weed. It’s the last of those, Baccharis neglecta, that you see above in a September 30th photograph from Pflugerville. (The small yellow fruits in the foreground are silverleaf nightshade, Solanum elaeagnifolium.) The zillions of little white flower heads that from a distance make this delicate tree seem frosted are quite an insect magnet, as you see in the closeup below showing a hoverfly (Toxomerus sp.) and a spotted cucumber beetle (Diabrotica undecimpunctata).

And here’s an unrelated quotation for today. “For every one pupil who needs to be guarded from a weak excess of sensibility there are three who need to be awakened from the slumber of cold vulgarity. The task of the modern educator is not to cut down jungles but to irrigate deserts. The right defence against false sentiments is to inculcate just sentiments. By starving the sensibility of our pupils we only make them easier prey to the propagandist when he comes. For famished nature will be avenged and a hard heart is no infallible protection against a soft head.” — C.S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 13, 2020 at 4:23 AM

Another native species flowering in Austin in January

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It’s not unusual to see the shrubby boneset plants (Ageratina havanensis) in northwest Austin flowering in January as a continuation of the bloom season that began in the fall. The bushes of that species along Floral Park Drive in my neighborhood were still putting out new buds and flowers on January 18th, as you see here.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 23, 2020 at 4:17 PM

Dark and light

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On June 12, 2018, at Garden in the Woods in Framingham, Massachusetts, I photographed the buds of black cohosh (Actaea racemosa). The only other place I’d ever seen black cohosh was in Arkansas in 2016.

The dense pentagonal flowers of mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia) remain a highlight of my visit to Garden in the Woods. They’re quite different from those of the similarly named but botanically unrelated Texas mountain laurel that you’ve seen in these pages several times.

© 2019 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 12, 2019 at 4:34 AM

Elderberry

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How about this young elderberry bush (Sambucus nigra subsp. canadensis) that I found flourishing at McKinney Falls State Park on June 3rd? Individual blossoms are tiny, measuring just 1/8–1/4 of an inch across (3–6mm). As attractive as elderberry flowers are, somehow they’ve never appeared in these pages till today. And look at what a wide North American distribution this shrub has.

© 2019 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 6, 2019 at 4:45 AM

Time again to say that spring has sprung

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Yesterday morning’s weather forecast predicted that by afternoon the temperature would go above 80°F, so before it got too hot we went over to the Southwest Greenway at the Mueller development in east-central Austin, where we confirmed that spring had indeed arrived. One token of that was some agarita bushes (Mahonia trifoliolata) flowering away, as you see in a broad horizontal view above and in a closer upward view in the following photograph.

The Mueller development occupies the site of the old Austin airport that closed in 1999. It’s likely that at least some of the wispy clouds we saw yesterday coincidentally came from diffused airplane contrails, so I’ve decided to follow that theme and add a non-botanical photograph from the Southwest Greenway: it shows Chris Levack’s “Wigwam.” Six years ago I semi-broke botanical ranks and showed his adjacent “Pollen Grain” sculpture.

© 2019 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 16, 2019 at 4:44 AM

If you’ve got it, flaunt it

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The “it” in this case is a wildflower in January. Here from yesterday afternoon is a flower head of goldeneye, Viguiera dentata, growing wild in my neighborhood.

If you’re interested in the craft of photography, this picture is an example of points 1, 2, and especially 6 in About My Techniques.

© 2019 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 5, 2019 at 4:52 AM

What a 400mm focal length is good for

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Even at 400mm I had to crop the resulting picture quite a bit to close in on this northern mockingbird, Mimus polyglottos, that I spotted atop a bare poverty weed bush, Baccharis neglecta, in Cedar Park on December 1, 2017.

If you’re interested in the craft of photography, points 3 and 18 in About My Techniques are relevant to today’s picture.

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 1, 2018 at 4:10 AM

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Joshua Tree National Park

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We spent a good part of November 5th two years ago at Joshua Tree National Park in the desert of southern California. The first picture shows you a picturesque wall of boulders there. The reddish-brown growths occupying the bare branches in the foreground are desert mistletoe, Phoradendron californicum.

Here’s a closer look at some boulders:

Smaller details also caught my attention:

Oh yeah, we did see some Joshua trees in Joshua Tree National Park:

By the time we drove out the southern entrance of the park, the sun had already set.
Even so, I stopped to photograph a creosote bush, Larrea tridentata:

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 5, 2018 at 4:38 AM

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