Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘butterfly

Tawny emperor

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On July 23rd I noticed what I take to be a tawny emperor, Asterocampa clyton, on an aluminum railing near the entrance to Great Hills Park. I’d been doing botanical closeups in the park and still had a ring flash at the end of my macro lens, so I was able to get good depth of field in the pictures I took of the butterfly.

The other day I used the second picture to play around with some of the effects in Topaz Studio 2, which I downloaded a 30-day free trial of. Click the thumbnail below if you’d like to see the result of applying “Brilliant on White.”


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When I got home from taking pictures that morning, Eve was watching a television program in which the host was interviewing two women who had opposite political perspectives. I walked in just at the moment when the woman representing the Democratic Party claimed that a bill that had passed the Texas Senate, S.B. 3, would prevent teachers in Texas public schools from teaching about the Ku Klux Klan. I’d heard that false claim before. The reason I knew it was false, aside from the blatant implausibility that Texas schools would suddenly forbid the teaching of important episodes in American history that they’d already been teaching for decades, was that the first time I heard the claim I did what I normally do: I looked for evidence to support or refute it. In this case, the obvious source to check was S.B. 3. You’re welcome to read it for yourself, and if you see a clause that would forbid teaching about the Ku Klux Klan, please point it out to us.

You may recall that in a post last week I mentioned a television interview program decades ago that made a big impression on me because a guest persisted in repeating a claim about a federal bill even after the moderator had read viewers the relevant section of the bill that proved the activist’s claim false. In the July 23rd interview I wished the host had asked the activist making the claim to cite the provision in S.B. 3 that would prove her assertion.

I intended to include a link to information about the Ku Klux Klan for any readers from outside the United States who might not know about that terrorist organization (which ironically was founded and sustained over the course of a century by members and supporters of the Democratic Party). I thought the article in the Encyclopedia Britannica might serve, and then I noticed a mistake:

The 19th-century Klan was originally organized as a social club by Confederate veterans in Pulaski, Tennessee, in 1866. They apparently derived the name from the Greek word kyklos, from which comes the English “circle”; “Klan” was added for the sake of alliteration and Ku Klux Klan emerged.

Actually Greek kyklos has given English the word cycle. Our similar-sounding word circle comes from a diminutive of Latin circus, which the Romans had borrowed from the etymologically unrelated Greek noun kirkos. Several days ago I sent an e-mail to the Encyclopedia Britannica pointing out the mistake. So far I haven’t gotten a reply and the mistake is still there.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 29, 2021 at 4:34 AM

Red admiral on basket-flower

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From May 7th on the Blackland Prairie in southern Round Rock, here’s a red admiral butterfly (Vanessa atalanta) on a basket-flower (Plectocephalus americanus). According to a Wikipedia article, Johan Christian Fabricius gave the name Vanessa to this genus of butterflies in 1807. The name itself has an interesting origin: “It was invented by the Anglo-Irish writer Jonathan Swift for Esther Vanhomrigh, whom Swift had met in 1708 and whom he tutored. The name was created by taking ‘Van’ from Vanhomrigh’s last name and adding ‘Essa’, a pet form of Esther.” Speaking of the author best known for writing Gulliver’s Travels, I’ll add that the English adjective swift meant ‘moving quickly’ before it got applied to and became the name of a bird that moves quickly. And because I moved so quickly from nature to words, let me come back to our basket-flower and point out that the genus name Plectocephalus (which recently got changed from Centaurea) is made up of Greek elements meaning ‘plait’ and ‘head,’ because the flower heads of this species remind people of little woven baskets.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 10, 2021 at 4:34 AM

Radial arrangements

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It occurred to me that two of the plants I photographed on April 11th in Round Rock display radial arrangements. The picture above shows the top of a lace cactus, Echinocereus reichenbachii. In the other view the radial (and always five-fold) arrangement characterizes the flowers of the most common milkweed in my area, Asclepias asperula, called antelope horns. You also get to see a butterfly that I take to be Callophrys gryneus, known as the olive or juniper hairstreak, though this individual didn’t show much green.

Speaking of radial arrangements, the word that that adjective comes from is Latin radius, which originally meant ‘a staff, a rod.’ The Romans later put the word to work metaphorically to designate ‘a beam or ray of any shining object.’ In a less radiant way, geometers came to use the word abstractly for ‘any line segment connecting a circle’s center to the circle itself.’ We also find that notion of ‘going out from a central point’ in Old-French-derived ray and the Latin-based verb radiate. And then there’s rayon, which appears to have been borrowed unchanged (except for pronunciation) from the modern French word for ‘ray’; the connection is that rayon has a somewhat radiant surface.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 26, 2021 at 4:41 AM

Great purple hairstreak butterfly and Mexican plum blossoms

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On March 15th at McKinney Falls State Park many flying insects were drawn to the heady blossoms of a Mexican plum tree (Prunus mexicana). Among those insects was a great purple hairstreak butterfly (Atlides halesus). You can see that despite its common name, it doesn’t look purple. You can also see in the second picture the dense multitude of blossoms that adorned the tree.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 23, 2021 at 4:29 AM

Fiery skipper on Texas thistle

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You’re looking at a fiery skipper (Hylephila phyleus) on a Texas thistle (Cirsium texanum). Square-bud primroses (Oenothera capillifolia) in the background lit up the Blackland Prairie in Pflugerville on May 11th.

By the way, Texas thistle flowers have a pleasant scent for people as well as butterflies and other insects. If you’re in an area where these grow and haven’t ever sniffed one, give it a shot while some are still around.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 3, 2020 at 4:04 AM

An idea for a post

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On two of our earlier visits to the Philippines we tried to go to the island of Bohol, and each time we had to cancel our side trip there because of bad weather and rough seas. On December 20, 2019, we finally made the two-hour crossing from Cebu City to Tagbilaran, the main town on Bohol, located in the southwestern corner of the island. As part of an arranged tour, we stopped at the Bohol Python and Wildlife Park, where, as the name suggests, almost all of the animals came from outside the Philippines. Of the various insects in the butterfly enclosure there, I asked which ones were native to the Philippines. Two were. The first was the idea butterfly, Idea leuconoe, also known as the paper kite butterfly and rice paper butterfly.

The other native butterfly was the Magellan birdwing, Troides magellanus, shown twice below.

The first Magellan picture is more dynamic, the other more informative.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 3, 2020 at 4:42 PM

Multitudinous snout butterflies and two kinds of white*

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Where the previous post showed you a close and then an even closer view of an individual American snout butterfly (Libytheana carinanta), look at the swarm I found on some frostweed flowers (Verbesina virginica) on November 1st along River Place Blvd. I count at least two dozen butterflies in this picture. The autumn of 2018 has proved a good season for the species, which I’ve continued seeing in other parts of Austin as well.

This multitude of snout butterflies came as a bonus because what I’d stopped to photograph was some poverty weed (Baccharis neglecta), as shown below with another bonus in the form of native grape vines (Vitis spp.) climbing on the bushes. If you look carefully, you may also pick out one or two or three bits of breeze-wafted poverty weed fluff in the air; that’s how this species spreads its seeds.

* A search for “multitudinous snout butterflies” got no hits, so you are probably the first people in the history of the universe (after me) to be reading that phrase. Happy novelty to you.

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 24, 2018 at 4:37 PM

American snout butterfly on goldenrod flowers

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On October 29th I photographed this American snout butterfly, Libytheana carinenta, on some goldenrod flowers that were growing around the pond at Central Market on North Lamar Blvd. If you’d like an even closer view from another frame that will better reveal how hairy the snout and head are, click the thumbnail below.

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 23, 2018 at 4:55 AM

More from my hours on the Blackland Prairie

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While out on the prairie on October 27th looking for Maximilian sunflowers and finding plenty of them, I also came across a colony of goldenrod (Solidago altissima) along Bratton Lane whose flowers were happily fresh.

Some of the plants were simultaneously drying out and putting forth new flowers:

All those goldenrod flowers attracted a slew of insects, including this monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus):

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 1, 2018 at 4:42 AM

Olive = juniper

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On September 2nd, while walking on a streamside path along the upper reaches of Bull Creek, I stopped to photograph a butterfly that entomologists classify as Callophrys gryneus and that people call a juniper hairstreak or olive hairstreak. Although what I know about butterflies weighs less than one, it seems to me that the russet color on this individual was more saturated than average for the species.

If you’re wondering about the flowers, which I paid much less attention to than the hairstreak did because I needed to maintain my focus on the moving butterfly, they were Eupatorium serotinum, known as late boneset and late thoroughwort.

For a closer look at the butterfly, you can click on the excerpt below from a different frame to enlarge it.

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 22, 2018 at 4:21 AM

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