Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘colony

But it wasn’t just the prairie

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My jaunts to northeast Austin on May 9th and May 12th were making me tie the profusion of Bifora americana to the Blackland Prairie, and the common names prairie bishop and prairie bishop’s weed* reinforced that. Then on May 13th I found myself in the second suburb north-northwest of Austin, Leander, where prairie bishop once again became a hero**, this time on the west side of US 183 in a large field that’s prairie-ish but likely lies too far west to be considered part of the Blackland Prairie.

The Engelmann daisy colony (Engelmannia peristenia) there was probably the best I’ve ever seen. Notice the many firewheels (Gaillardia pulchella) mixed in as well.

Except for a utility crew that had pulled over on the shoulder of the highway a bit ahead of me to do whatever work they’d been sent to do, not one person in the hundreds of other cars that passed by while I was there stopped to enjoy the view. Here’s how the prairie bishop looked in the swale by the side of the highway.

* Don’t confuse our native prairie bishop’s weed with bishop’s weed, Aegopodium podagraria, a species from Eurasia that has become an invasive nuisance in parts of the United States. As Joel E. Holloway notes sarcastically in A Dictionary of Common Wildflowers of Texas & the Southern Great Plains, the name bishop’s weed was “first applied in Scotland because it was almost impossible to get rid of, as it would be to remove a bishop from the church.”

**The Leander in Texas takes its name from Leander “Catfish” Brown, an official of the Austin and Northwestern Railroad Co. in the 1880s. That down-to-earth origin hasn’t deterred the town from playing up the ancient Greek myth of Hero and Leander, even to the point of renaming a road Hero Way. (Public information officer Mike Neu told me that the road’s new name was also intended as a tribute to public service men and women.) Additionally the town of Leander has inspired the clever and alliterative paleontological name Leanderthal Lady.

© 2019 Steven Schwartzman

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Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 22, 2019 at 4:40 AM

The secondary players become primary

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The previous post about velvet gaura featured firewheels (Gaillardia pulchella) and to a much lesser extent mealy blue sage (Salvia farinacea) as background color. Now here they are in their own right.

While mealy blue sage flowers are normally light purple, I noticed a bunch of white variants like the one highlighted below; the regular color predominates in the background. Both of these views are from the edge of the office building parking lot from which I walked a short distance to the Mopac embankment at Braker Ln. Unlike those wildflowers along the highway that got prematurely mowed down, these by the parking lot are maintained by a different company and were left alone to thrive.

© 2019 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 11, 2019 at 5:38 PM

Wildflowers along Mopac

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Mopac, named for the Missouri-Pacific railroad whose tracks it partly runs alongside, is a north-south expressway on the west side of Austin. For hours each morning and again each afternoon from Monday through Friday it’s jammed up, but not on Sunday mornings. That’s the time on May 5th when I went to the embankment at the northeast corner of Mopac and Braker Lane to photograph the dense wildflowers I’d enjoyed seeing there in April and May in other years and again this spring. The mostly red flower heads are Gaillardia pulchella, known as firewheels, Indian blankets, and blanketflowers. The mostly yellow flower heads are Thelesperma filifolium, called greenthread because of the plant’s thread-like leaves.

The astute viewer will have noticed (as some writers used to put it) the contrast between the flowerful embankment that fills two-thirds of the photograph, and the bare one on the other side of the highway. I don’t recall whether that opposite embankment had looked as good as the near one; I do know that just a few days earlier I saw mowers cutting down all the wildflowers on that side of Mopac farther south, in the vicinity of Far West Blvd. I’d been planning to photograph there but didn’t make it. Fortunately I was in time to catch this display on the east side of the highway. Below is another view, now in my usual way, which is to say without any human elements. The bits of white are gaura, Oenothera sp., and the darker flowers are Mexican hats, Ratibida columnifera, a strange one of which you saw in the previous post.

UPDATE: When I drove past this intersection three days later, on May 8th, I found that all the wildflowers on the east side of the highway, the ones you see above, had been mowed down.

© 2019 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 7, 2019 at 4:44 AM

The best year for four-nerve daisies

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The four-nerve daisy (Tetraneuris linearifolia and scaposa) is among the most common wildflowers in Austin, with a few occasionally blooming even in the winter. As with so many other wildflowers, they appear in their greatest numbers in the spring. That said, in the two decades I’ve been paying attention to nature in central Texas, I don’t recall seeing four-nerve daisy colonies as large and dense as some of the ones that have sprung up here this year.

I photographed the first and second groups on the east side of Yaupon Dr. on April 26th. The rocky ground is typical of my Great Hills neighborhood, thanks to the limestone substrate in the Edwards Plateau.

I’d come across the colony shown below on the west side of Spicewood Springs Rd. on April 20th. I think it’s the hugest I’ve ever seen.

UPDATE: In the previous post, the majority preferred the first photograph of Heller’s plantain.

© 2019 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 30, 2019 at 4:41 AM

Wildflower displays move north

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Various posts here have made clear that by far the densest and most widespread wildflower displays I saw this season grew in an east-west swathe below San Antonio in March. As spring advanced northward, Austin got a few respectable displays too, even if not nearly so expansive. Above from April 8th in the northeast quadrant of Loop 360 and RM 2222 is one such wildflower display with greenthread (Thelesperma filifolium) as the predominant species. Below from the same place you’ll find some fresh Engelmann daisies (Engelmannia peristenia) in the foreground and various other wildflowers behind them.

© 2019 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 18, 2019 at 4:43 AM

Red phlox

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In much of the area south of San Antonio that we visited in late March magenta dominated the phlox. On April 2nd, as we came up TX 304 north of Interstate 10, it was red phlox, as fluorescent as the magenta, that grabbed our attention and made me turn around and go back for pictures. (I suppose I should also go back and tell you that phlox in ancient Greek meant ‘flame, blaze.’)

Click to enlarge.

While photographing the vibrant reds, I found a few individuals that were white with pronounced red accents.

Click to enlarge.

A day after I’d prepared this post up to the second picture I happened to look back through my recent archive and was reminded of some phlox I’d photographed on March 21st and then forgotten about, given the large number of wildflower displays we kept seeing. On TX 80 north of Nixon that day the color of the phlox was mostly between ultra-vibrant magenta and super-saturated red.

© 2019 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 13, 2019 at 4:47 AM

Every school should have grounds that look this good

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When I showed you the grounds of Cedar Ridge High School in Round Rock last spring, the bluebonnets (Lupinus texensis) had done their thing but the huisache trees (Vachellia farnesiana) had not. When I returned on April 4th this year, both were in their flowering prime.

Unlike the huisache surrounded by bluebonnets that I found near Poteet two weeks earlier, which was far away in a pasture made inaccessible by barbed wire, here I could wander freely (while stepping carefully among the bluebonnets) to get close and try out varied compositions. Below is one such. Note the white bluebonnet at the bottom. Unfortunately I can’t show you the combined aromas of bluebonnets and huisache blossoms.

I called the school to ask how the property came to look so good. The person who answered the phone said that the bluebonnets on one side of the entry road had always been there, whereas people replanted the ones on the other side after construction of the auditorium messed up that part of the colony.

© 2019 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 11, 2019 at 4:48 AM

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