Portraits of Wildflowers

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Posts Tagged ‘cemetery

Basket-flowers at the old Merrilltown Cemetery

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On May 30th the old Merrilltown Cemetery up north along Burnet Rd. was home to a good smattering of Texas dandelions (Pyrrhopappus pauciflorus), as the view at the end shows once again. At the fence beyond the tombstones in that picture you can make out a happy little group of basket-flowers (Plectocephalus americanus), on a bud of which I found the planthopper shown above.



Call the middle picture a pleasant basket-flower study in pale pink and blue. And speaking of those colors, I guess this is a good time for my periodic reminder that before the middle of the 20th century blue was considered the color for baby girls and pink the color for baby boys.





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It matters who heads research ventures and medical faculties. Top scientists can identify the most promising directions of study and organize the most productive research teams. But the diversity push is discouraging some scientists from competing at all. When the chairmanship of UCLA’s Department of Medicine opened up, some qualified faculty members did not even put their names forward because they did not think that they would be considered, according to an observer. “It’s the end of the road for me as a Jewish male doctor,” a cancer researcher told me.

College seniors, deciding whether to apply to medical school, can also read the writing on the wall. A physician-scientist reports that his best lab technician in 30 years was a recent Yale graduate with a B.S. in molecular biology and biochemistry. The former student was intellectually involved and an expert in cloning. His college GPA and MCAT scores were high. The physician-scientist recommended the student to the dean of Northwestern’s medical school (where the scientist then worked), but the student did not get so much as an interview. In fact, this “white, clean-cut Catholic,” in the words of his former employer, was admitted to only one medical school.

Such stories are rife. A UCLA doctor says that the smartest undergraduates in the school’s science labs are saying: “Now that I see what is happening in medicine, I will do something else.”


That’s from Heather MacDonald’s new book When Race Trumps Merit, which confirms that our country has fallen into a sorry state from which it seems unlikely to extricate itself in my lifetime.

The quoted passage is from a chapter of the book based on the essay “The Corruption of Medicine” in the Summer 2022 issue of City Journal.



© 2023 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 9, 2023 at 4:24 AM

The old Merrilltown Cemetery

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On May 30th the old Merrilltown Cemetery up north along Burnet Rd. wasn’t as splendiferously covered with wildflowers as some of the cemeteries I showed early this spring. It was, however, home to a good smattering of Texas dandelions (Pyrrhopappus pauciflorus), as you see below. One of them became the subject of the mandala-like portrait above, in which flash caused the clear blue sky to appear much darker than it really was.



© 2023 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 6, 2023 at 4:14 AM

Return to the St. Peter Lutheran Church Cemetery in Walburg

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Last April bluebonnets (Lupinus texensis) covered parts of the St. Peter Lutheran Church Cemetery in Walburg, about 30 miles north-northeast of Austin. This April 9th we went back and were pleased to find plenty of bluebonnets there again.

Given that the town began as a German settlement in 1881, the oldest tombstones often bear inscriptions in German. The name atop the one below is Katharine Muehlhause. The front of the stone tells us she was born on the 16th of May, 1854, in Waldkappel, Hessen-Kassel, and died on the 26th of March, 1916 (presumably in or near Walburg). The quotation from the New Testament book of John means “I live, and you shall also live.”



Orange lichens now make it easier to read the inscription on the tombstone of Dorathea Kuhn, née Kissman, who was born on the 24th of November, 1813, and died on the 21st of March, 1906.



In contrast to that long life of a little over 87 years, compare the short one below: Louise T., daughter of W.H. & S.H. Homeyer and wife of W.J. Cassens. She died on Christmas Day in 1891 at the age of 19. The line at the bottom reads: “She was a kind and affectionate wife — A fond mother and friend to all.” Her son Wessel Cassens had been born two days earlier, so most likely Louise died from complications of childbirth. Her son lived for only half a year and is also buried in the cemetery, which holds the graves of other infants as well. In those days high child mortality was a sad fact of life—or rather death. Fortunately improvements in sanitation and medicine since then have let many more people live longer and healthier lives.



© 2023 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 14, 2023 at 4:28 AM

German tombstones

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Because many of the early colonists in central Texas were Germans, it’s not unusual to find old cemeteries here with tombstone inscriptions in German. So it is for the cemetery at the Christ Lutheran Church of Elm Creek southeast of New Berlin—look at that name—which we visited (for I think at least the third time in the past decade) on March 25th, as you saw last time. Here are four of those German-language tombstones, along with translations. (If any of you German speakers catch mistakes in the translations, please let me know.) While the wildflowers surrounding the graves need no translation, I’ll add that the reddish-orange ones are Indian paintbrushes (Castilleja indivisa) and the yellow are Nueces coreopsis (Coreopsis nuecensis).


Here rests in God
Emilie Lippke
Née Koehler
Born 27 September 1853
In Falkenburg, Pomerania
Died 18 January 1889
In Wilson
Softly rests her [soul]
[The ending is effaced.]




Here rests in peace
Edward Lenz
Aug. 5, 1839
Dec. 17, 1929

People’s death is only a sleep.
He gives rest to the weary,
Relieves the burden of those who suffer,
Brings them to eternal peace.
Weep not that this is a farewell:
The dead will arise.



Here rests in peace
The son of H.W.M.
Born and died
The 27th of October 1900.



Here rests in peace
Anna Bargfrede
Née Holtermann
Born 26 October 1861
Died 14 June 1932

Farewell, sweet Mother
Farewell for all time
When we find each other again
It will be for eternity.
Psalms 4.9.



© 2023 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 31, 2023 at 4:31 AM

Christ Lutheran Church of Elm Creek

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On March 25th we made our first visit in several years to the Christ Lutheran Church of Elm Creek southeast of New Berlin, whose grounds, including the cemetery, are reliably alive at this time of year with the myriad native wildflowers that the owners graciously allow to do their thing. The orange flowers are Indian paintbrush (Castilleja indivisa) and the yellow ones are Nueces coreopsis (Coreopsis nuecensis). On the opposite side of the church from the cemetery, Lindheimer’s gaura (Oenothera lindheimeri), though smaller than a paintbrush or coreopsis flower, outnumbered them both by far.




© 2023 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 30, 2023 at 4:32 AM

McKeller Cemetery

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The Rancho Cemetery in yesterday’s post was the second one we visited on March 13th. The first was the McKeller Cemetery a few miles north of Gonzales. One thing that jumped out at me was the contrast between the colonies of phlox (Phlox drummondii) and bluebonnets (Lupinus subcarnosus) on the one hand, and the artificial flowers people have put on some graves.

And speaking of cemeteries, there’s now lots more information about seashell-covered graves in yesterday’s post about the Rancho Cemetery.


© 2023 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 15, 2023 at 4:37 PM

Rancho Cemetery

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Yesterday we spent seven hours on a wildflower quest to the southeast and south of Austin. At the farthest point in our circuit, approaching the town of Nixon, I saw a sign for a cemetery. I followed the arrow and almost immediately encountered the Rancho Cemetery, named for the now-long-gone little town of Rancho. Happily covered with wildflowers the cemetery was, and I took several dozen pictures. The most interesting grave I found was the one shown here. To get a closer look at the seashells covering it, click the thumbnail below. The magenta flowers are phlox (Phlox drummondii) and the blue ones are sandyland bluebonnets (Lupinus subcarnosus), named for the sandy soil that’s common in that part of Texas. As I’ve said many times: would that all cemeteries were wildflower cemeteries. At least in central Texas a bunch of them are.



Update. Theresa Blackwell has provided a link to the informative article “Why Victorian-era Southerners created seashell graves and where you can still see them.” Jean Wilson has added that “these cement grave covers adorned with shells were common in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s in the South, particularly Texas and German settlements. Comal Cemetery in New Braunfels and Fischer Cemetery near Fischer (Canyon Lake area) have several that are attributed to Heinrich T. Mordhorst (1864-1928) who came to New Braunfels around 1900. These grave covers display Mordhorst’s attention to detail and individual style. On the domed covers, rows of shells form almost perfect lines, running from the head to the foot of the grave, and follow a distinct pattern attributed to Mordhorst.”



© 2023 Steven Schwartzman





Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 14, 2023 at 5:01 PM


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This morning Facebook popped up a post from a group I’d never heard of: World Wildflower Photography. The post showed a cemetery in Walburg that had dense bluebonnets (Lupinus texensis) in it. Walburg is a small settlement in eastern Williamson county, much of which has remained rural. Nevertheless, when I searched online I discovered the little town has two cemeteries. Noting the names on a couple of the tombstones in the post’s photographs, I searched in an online cemetery registry and determined that the right cemetery was the one belonging to St. Peter Lutheran Church (which incidentally is a mile away from its cemetery).



Despite the (much needed) rain coming down in Austin, we set out for Walburg and hoped the rain would let up by the time we reached Walburg. It did. Only a minute after we arrived, and before I’d had a chance to take a single picture, another car pulled into the driveway. A couple visiting Texas from North Carolina had also seen pictures of the bluebonnet-covered Walburg cemetery online and had come to check it out, too. Small world, no? And in the middle picture, how about the stylized flower decoration among all the real flowers?



 © 2022 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 13, 2022 at 4:00 PM

The cemetery in Sibonga

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Sibonga*, on the east coast of Cebu, is Eve’s home town. On none of my previous trips had I gone to the town’s cemetery, but on the morning of December 15th we walked over there for a visit. From my time in Honduras I’d learned that cemeteries in poor countries are likely to be very different from those in the United States and other wealthy countries, so what I found in Sibonga didn’t surprise me. It may, however, surprise you or even disturb you. With that caveat, here’s a photo essay showing parts of Sibonga’s cemetery.

The boy shown below cutting off coconuts in a tree at the edge of the cemetery seemed an early candidate for membership as he stood barefoot on the tops of two metal poles to which electric wires were attached.

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* Most languages have at least the five vowels [a], [e], [i], [o], and [u]. Cebuano is unusual in that it reduces that basic set to three vowels: a native speaker doesn’t distinguish between [e] and [i], nor between [o] and [u]. As a result, in spite of the spelling Sibonga, people pronounce the name as if it were Sibunga.

Also notice the strange fact that although the inhabitants of the Philippines speak their various native languages almost all the time, when it comes to signs, posters, billboards, and even to tombstones, the large majority of those are written in English. Some of today’s pictures provide examples of that.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 17, 2020 at 4:51 AM

The fifth wildflower-covered cemetery

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The fifth and last wildflower-covered burial ground we visited last month was the Garza-Valadez Cemetery in Floresville. On March 27th we’d left the main city cemetery and the downtown and were beginning to head back to Austin when on a whim I stayed on 4th St. for a while instead of cutting over to US 181 on 10th St. Without that whim we’d never have known about this place.

Even better than the cemetery itself was the wildflower meadow behind the house next door. I couldn’t go in there so I had to content myself with shooting over the fence with a telephoto lens zoomed to 400mm.

And now for the colorful botany lesson. The white flowers were white prickly poppies (Argemone albiflora). The yellow were Nueces coreopsis (Coreopsis nuecensis). The magenta were a species of Phlox. The blue were sandyland bluebonnets (Lupinus subcarnosus). The red were Indian paintbrushes (Castilleja indivisa).

© 2019 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 8, 2019 at 4:32 AM

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