Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘colony

Wildflower carpets continuing into June

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Here from Mourning Dove Lane and US 183 in Leander is a field that was still wonderfully flowerful on June 7th. Dominating everything else was Gaillardia pulchella, known as firewheels, Indian blankets, and blanketflowers. The two kinds of white flowers toward the back were bull nettle (Cnidoscolus texanus) and white prickly poppies (Argemone albiflora).

Because I show pictures here at a size of about half a megapixel, you often miss details apparent in the full 50-megapixel photographs my camera takes. The image below is a strip across the bottom of the photograph above. Click the strip to enlarge it and see more details. The white flower at the left is Texas bindweed (Convovulus equitans). Near the middle of the strip is the pod of a milkweed, probably antelope horns milkweed (Asclepias asperula). The purple inflorescence a little farther right is a horsemint (Monarda citriodora). Notice how many of the firewheels had already become seed heads.


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“The Cultural Revolution, formally the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, was a violent sociopolitical purge movement in China from 1966 until 1976.” So begins the Wikipedia article about what I choose to call the Anti-Cultural Revolution because it destroyed culture and killed people. “Estimates of the death toll from the [Anti-]Cultural Revolution, including civilians and Red Guards, vary greatly, ranging from hundreds of thousands to 20 million.”

Elements of that horrific movement have now come to America, where crazed mobs, both in person and online, persecute people for having said or done something that the fanatics don’t like, even if the thing was decades ago and the people weren’t yet adults. As in the North Korean dictatorship today, a supposed offender’s family, friends, and associates also are deemed worthy of punishment. Thankfully, some Americans are speaking out against such destructive fanaticism. If you’d like to learn more about a recent incident, you can listen to Bari Weiss‘s half-hour podcast “America’s Cultural Revolution.”

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 15, 2021 at 4:32 AM

National Prairie Day for 2021

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Today is National Prairie Day. Unfortunately almost all of America’s prairies have been plowed, ranched, or built on. The picture above from May 10, 2020, shows that I could still see wildflowers covering a piece of the Blackland Prairie on Meister Place in southern Round Rock. Basket-flowers (Plectocephalus americanus) played a main role in that view. The numerous yellow flowers farther back are known as sundrops or square-bud primroses (Oenothera capillifolia). The white flowers in the distance were prairie bishop (Bifora americana). Below is a view from a different vantage point in which the square-bud primroses and prairie bishop predominated; the mostly red flowers were firewheels (Gaillardia pulchella).

This spring, three days short of one year later, I returned to the site and found that construction had claimed most of it. No great colonies of wildflowers were to be seen.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 5, 2021 at 4:41 AM

Mini-meadow Monday

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I’d call this little space covered with mixed wildflowers a mini-meadow. Photographed on May 21st just off Yaupon Dr. on the far side of my neighborhood, it offered up the white of a rain-lily, Zephyranthes drummondii; the red at the center of some firewheels, Gaillardia pulchella; yellow galore in a slew of four-nerve daisies, Tetraneuris linearifolia; and last but not least, as well as least in size while greatest in numbers, a starry sprinkling of least daisies, Chaetopappa bellidifolia.

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And here’s an unrelated quotation for today from Izabella Tabarovsky, who came to America from the Soviet Union at age 20:

Over the past year, as I have watched instances of American censorship multiply, and extend to speech, books, movies, opinions and plain facts, memories from those early years of my American life, when I first began to grapple with the consequences of living under censorship, have resurfaced. I have been flabbergasted to watch the staff of publishing houses become enraged over the publication of authors they disagree with, designate those works as harmful and demand that they be “cancelled.” I have been utterly perplexed to discover that some California schools have banned venerable classics such as Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men and Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, because of concerns about their use of racial slurs and stereotypes. Of course, we don’t want children to read racist literature. But believing that these particular works propagate racial hatred requires the same mental contortions that Soviet censors exercised when they laboured so hard to imagine all the ways a work of art might lead citizens astray.

You’re welcome to read the full essay, which is entitled
What My Soviet Life Has Taught Me About Censorship and Why It Makes Us Dumb.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 31, 2021 at 4:10 AM

Making inroads

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Here are two more pictures from May 9th showing the great wildpflower pfield in Pflugerville that you saw in a previous post. Most of the flowers are firewheels (Gaillardia pulchella) and greenthreads (Thelesperma filifolium). In the top picture there had been real motion, namely of a vehicle whose tracks became no-grow zones for the wildflowers. In the second view there’s an implied motion radiating up and out from the bottom center of the frame, a floral big bang. I think what accounts for that sense of movement was my vantage point as I stood on a stepladder. Having the camera up so high let me aim down at a greater angle, which in turn made it easier to keep all the plants in focus; that’s why I’d brought the stepladder with me.

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For an editorial about the value of free speech in a free society, and especially on college campuses, I recommend “Beliefs Aren’t Facts,” by Gary Saul Morson and Morton Schapiro, both of Northwestern University. Here’s one of the editorial’s seventeen paragraphs:

But if we discount the practice of learning through meaningful exchange, we not only default on our obligations as citizens, we place democracy itself in peril. Democracy demands we recognize our beliefs as opinions, and opinions sometimes prove false. If we could be certain they wouldn’t, there would be no reason to embrace democracy over a dictatorship of the virtuous.

And here’s another excerpt:

Those who acquiesce to violence and intimidation because it is invoked in the name of justice in fact invite it. Actions inconceivable one year become fringe the next, and soon they’re mainstream. Once the intelligentsia condones such excesses, the slide begins. The cancellers are soon canceled.  There is no limit to how far that process can go.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 24, 2021 at 5:36 AM

More from Wells Branch on May 11th

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Above, look at these colorful colonies of mealy blue sage (Salvia farinacea) and Engelmann daisies (Engelmannia peristenia). The light-colored curving vine tendril in the lower right is probably Texas bindweed (Convolvulus equitans). In the upper right some greenthreads (Thelesperma filifolium) and firewheels (Gaillardia pulchella) put in an appearance.

Below, I think I photographed a native wildflower I rarely come across, Bidens laevis, apparently known as bur-marigold and smooth beggarticks. The neutral background came from a creek, which I had to make an effort to keep from sliding into as I sat on its rather steep bank. That difficulty aside, the location makes me think I really did find Bidens laevis, which is known to favor wet soil along the banks of creeks and rivers.

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For a cautionary tale about the dangers of tribalism, you can read an editorial by Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 23, 2021 at 4:37 AM

Field of white, May delight

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From along US 183 in Burnet County’s tiny town of Briggs on May 12th, get a load of this dense prairie bishop colony, Bifora americana, with some firewheels, Gaillardia pulchella, as accessorizing bits of eye-catching red. Three days earlier I’d gone to a prairie parcel in Pflugerville where prairie bishop looked this good in 2020, only to find it paltry there this year. It’s another example showing the vagaries of nature.

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Imagine a couple born one day apart celebrating their 100th birthdays and 76th wedding anniversary.
You needn’t just imagine it.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 22, 2021 at 4:36 AM

Two surviving colonies

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In my April 22nd post I sadly reported this year’s loss to development of a great piece of Blackland Prairie in Pflugerville. I still held out hope of seeing good wildflowers, as I had in the spring of 2020, on the adjacent piece of land that hasn’t yet become a construction site. When I did check out that remnant on May 9th it disappointed me, as the wildflowers there were much less expansive than last spring. Oh well, such are the vagaries of nature. Even so, I found one happy group of clasping-leaf coneflowers, Dracopis amplexicaulis, as you see above, near the larger red-and-yellowful stand of firewheels, Gaillardia pulchella, shown below.

Here’s an entry for the “Why can’t they get this figured out once and for all?” category. So you call a company to pay a bill, as I did yesterday. (I’d tried to pay online, had entered all my information, and then the company’s website generated a system error, as it had on other occasions.) The person on the phone asked for the account number and the name on that account. Fine. Then the person asked for the birthday and last four digits of the account holder’s Social Security card. Fine. Then the person asked me for my name and my relationship to the account holder. Okay. Then the person asked for the address, and I gave our house number and street and said it’s in Austin, Texas. This was getting tedious. Then the person wouldn’t go further unless I also gave my ZIP code. I explained that anyone who knows a street address can easily look up the ZIP code online, so the ZIP code provides no additional confirmatory information. The person on the phone was nice and understood what I was saying but explained that management makes her ask for the ZIP code every time anyhow. I told her my opinion of a management that can’t get a website to work properly and that asks customers for unnecessary information, and she and I had some laughs together. At least for her and me this wasn’t one of those wasted days mentioned yesterday in a quotation by Chamfort.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 20, 2021 at 4:31 AM

Mexican hats, firewheels, Engelmann daisies

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Anyone walking along the north side of Wells Branch Parkway just east of Wells Port Drive on May 11th, as we did, would have enjoyed seeing these mixed colonies of Mexican hats (Ratibida columnifera) and firewheels (Gaillardia pulchella). In some places Engelmann daisies (Engelmannia peristenia) asserted themselves too, as shown below. All three species seem to be at or near their flowering peak in the Austin area now.

And here’s a quotation for today: “Mathematics knows no races or geographic boundaries; for mathematics, the cultural world is one country.” — David Hilbert. I became aware of that quotation from the current article “America is Flunking Math,” published on Persuasion.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 18, 2021 at 4:30 AM

Dense wildpflowers

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Now that it’s already the middle of May, if you thought I was done showing vast colonies of wildflowers this spring, think again. Above from May 9th in Pflugerville (hence the spelling of wildpflowers in the title) is a densely flowering colony of Gaillardia pulchella, called firewheels, Indian blankets, and blanketflowers. The yellow flowers mixed in are greenthread (Thelesperma filifolium), and the leaves forming a green mound belong to compass plants (Silphium albiflora).

In the picture below, the cream-colored flower at the bottom is a kind of foxglove (Penstemon cobaea). A few of the bright yellow spots further right are square-bud primroses (Oenothera berlandieri). The trees are Ashe junipers (Juniperus ashei). The clouds are clouds. I’m me.

And speaking of me, be aware that my pronouns are the exalted one and Mr. Wonderful.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 12, 2021 at 4:38 AM

My great land loss for 2021

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Today is Earth Day. That notwithstanding, not a single year in the past decade has gone by that development hasn’t claimed one or more properties where I used to photograph native plants. In the last few years the loss has been running four, five, or even six annually as the Austin area has kept up its rapid growth. Two days ago I drove out to a field in Pflugerville on the west side of Heatherwilde Blvd. immediately south of Spring Hill Elementary School. From 2016 onward I’d been photographing great colonies of wildflowers there in early May, and I went to see how things were coming along in 2021 after the delay or even total suppression of blooming that our frozen week in February had caused to some species.

Alas, I discovered that my flowerful field of yesteryear has become a construction site of today. As I did once before with another recently lost prairie site, today’s post commemorates the way the Heatherwilde Blvd. parcel of Blackland Prairie looked in the first half of May 2019 but will look no more.

The white flowers are prairie bishop (Bifora americana); the yellow are square-bud primrose (Oenothera berlandieri) and Engelmann daisy (Engelmannia peristenia); the yellow-green are prairie parsley (Polytaenia sp.); the red are firewheels (Gaillardia pulchella); the blowing grass is purple three-awn (Aristida purpurea).

I should add that the southernmost end of the property, separated from the construction site by trees and perhaps under different ownership, has so far survived. I got good pictures in that area last spring and will go back in the weeks ahead to see how the flowers are doing there. It may be my last chance.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 22, 2021 at 4:40 AM

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