Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘colony

A flowering goldenrod colony

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Much more expansive than the goldenrod (Solidago sp.) you recently saw by the side of a pond is this colony on the prairie in far northeast Austin that I spent time with on October 2nd. The bushes forming a wall across the background are poverty weed, Baccharis neglecta.



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I think you’ll all agree that food is a human necessity: if we don’t eat, we die. According to one website, “the average cost of food per month for one person [in the United States] ranges from $150 to $300, depending on age. However, these national averages vary based on where you live and the quality of your food purchases.” For simplicity, let’s take the average of those two monthly figures, $225, which amounts to $2700 per person per year buying groceries.

Now imagine the federal government required each of you to give it $225 a month, in return for which you’d get a $225 monthly credit at any government-run grocery store. What foods those grocery stores carried would be determined by the government. If you didn’t like the selection available in government grocery stores, you could still shop at private grocery stores if you wanted to, but none of the $225 you’re required to give to the government each month could be used in the private grocery stores. You’d forfeit the obligatory $225 a month and would have to use additional money of your own to buy groceries in a private grocery store.

Would you be happy with that arrangement? Why or why not?

(To be continued two posts from now.)


© 2022 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 16, 2022 at 4:26 AM

River primrose again

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The tallest of all our evening primrose species in central Texas is Oenothera jamesii, known as river primrose. I’d discovered a good colony of it in the bed of the North Fork of the San Gabriel River near Tejas Camp in Williamson County in mid-September of 2021, so on September 12th this year I went back there and wasn’t disappointed, as you see above. And here’s a much closer look at one of the low flowers:



© 2022 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 21, 2022 at 4:29 AM

By the side of the road

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I take many of my nature pictures along roadsides, even ones with lots of cars passing by (fortunately the noise doesn’t appear in the photographs). On May 10th I pulled over on the north side of RM (Ranch-to-Market) 2222 just west of the Capital of Texas Highway to get a good look at the plants there. Among other things, I found a thriving colony of Gaillardia pulchella, known as firewheels or Indian blankets. Though those flower heads almost always have ray florets that are largely red with yellow tips, I found two fully yellow flower heads on one plant in the colony. Here’s one of them:

The top picture also includes some young Maximilian sunflower plants, which won’t flower till the fall. What the prominent grass is, I haven’t been able to determine.

Today’s title reminded me of the aspirational poem “The House by the Side of the Road,” from Sam Walter Foss‘s 1897 collection Dreams in Homespun:


There are hermit souls that live withdrawn
In the place of their self-content;
There are souls like stars, that dwell apart,
In a fellowless firmament;
There are pioneer souls that blaze the paths
Where highways never ran—
But let me live by the side of the road
And be a friend to man.

Let me live in a house by the side of the road
Where the race of men go by-
The men who are good and the men who are bad,
As good and as bad as I.
I would not sit in the scorner’s seat
Nor hurl the cynic’s ban—
Let me live in a house by the side of the road
And be a friend to man.

I see from my house by the side of the road
By the side of the highway of life,
The men who press with the ardor of hope,
The men who are faint with the strife,
But I turn not away from their smiles and tears,
Both parts of an infinite plan—
Let me live in a house by the side of the road
And be a friend to man.

I know there are brook-gladdened meadows ahead,
And mountains of wearisome height;
That the road passes on through the long afternoon
And stretches away to the night.
And still I rejoice when the travelers rejoice
And weep with the strangers that moan,
Nor live in my house by the side of the road
Like a man who dwells alone.

Let me live in my house by the side of the road,
Where the race of men go by-
They are good, they are bad, they are weak, they are strong,
Wise, foolish — so am I.
Then why should I sit in the scorner’s seat,
Or hurl the cynic’s ban?
Let me live in my house by the side of the road
And be a friend to man.


© 2022 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 21, 2022 at 4:33 AM

Posted in nature photography

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A good time for Nueces coreopsis

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After we visited both parts of Lake Somerville State Park on April 6th, we continued clockwise around the lake. On LBJ Dr. across from Overlook Park Rd. in Washington County we found this happy colony of Nueces coreopsis, Coreopsis nuecensis. (Click to enlarge.) The erect white-topped plants in the background were old plainsman, Hymenopappus scabiosaeus. Below is a closer view of one in Round Rock on April 2nd.


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There’s been a lot of hoopla since U.S. District Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle ruled on April 18 that a public mask mandate in mass transit (planes, trains, etc.) is unlawful.

Some critics of the ruling complained that a single judge had overturned all the medical science established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In fact the judge did no such thing. Nowhere in her 60-page decision did she rule “on the merits” of the issue. She did not decide—and never claimed to have the requisite expertise to decide—whether wearing masks in public transit vehicles is an effective way to reduce the spread of Covid-19. Maybe it is and maybe it isn’t, but that’s not what the ruling dealt with.

What the judge did rule on was the legality of the CDC issuing its mass transit mandate. “Judge Mizelle said the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had exceeded its authority with the mandate, had not sought public comment and did not adequately explain its decisions.”

Another illogical reaction to the decision came from people who interpreted the end of a requirement to wear masks in mass transit as meaning that nobody would be allowed to wear masks in public transit. The judge’s ruling, of course, did not prevent anyone wanting to wear a mask from doing so—or even wearing double or triple masks, goggles, a face shield, and earphones if they want to.

Yet another unfounded accusation was of the ad hominem*—or in this case ad mulierem*—type. Some people complained that Judge Mizelle is only 35 years old. Age has nothing to do with the validity of a legal argument. Some people complained that Judge Mizelle had never tried a single case in court. True, but then neither had Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan, whom the critics of Judge Mizelle presumably support and whom they no doubt did not criticize on those grounds. In any case, that’s irrelevant to the facts and legal principles adduced in the current decision.

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* The Latin phrase ad hominem means ‘against the man.’ We use that phrase when a person criticizes some personal trait of an opponent rather than dealing with the opponent’s arguments. The Latin word homo, of which hominem is one grammatical form, meant not only ‘man’ in a biological sense but also generically ‘human being.’ For anyone who objects to the use of a male form as a generic, I’ve turned to the Latin word mulier, ‘woman,’ to create the indisputably female phrase ad mulierem.

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 24, 2022 at 4:32 PM

The median with more than the median amount of wildflowers

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It’s hard to stop showing colorful pictures from the median of US 290 east of TX 21 as it looked on April 6th. Of the three main wildflowers—bluebonnets (Lupinus texensis), Texas dandelions (Pyrrhopappus pauciflorus), and Indian paintbrushes (Castilleja indivisa)—different colors predominated in different parts of the median. The paintbrushes that constituted the largest share in the top view put in only a minor appearance below, where bluebonnets and Texas dandelions marshaled* roughly equal forces in the field of floral fracas.

* Here’s the history of marshal that Merriam Webster gives:

Although most French words are derived from Latin, a few—among them marshal—are Germanic. In the last centuries of the Roman Empire, the Germanic Franks occupied what is now France and left behind a substantial linguistic legacy, including what became medieval French mareschal. Mareschal came from a Frankish compound noun corresponding to Old High German marahscal, composed of marah, meaning “horse” (Old English mearh, with a feminine form mere, whence English mare), and scalc, meaning “servant” (Old English scealc). The original marshal was a servant in charge of horses, but by the time the word was borrowed from French into English in the 14th century, it referred primarily to a high royal official.

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 22, 2022 at 4:02 PM

Philadelphia flees to Brenham

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Eleven days ago you saw a great field filled with mixed colonies of Indian paintbrush (Castilleja indivisa) and butterweed (Packera tampicana) in Brenham. From that same April 8th session, here’s a Philadelphia fleabane plant (Erigeron philadelphicus) that was as happy as I was to be in such good company.


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If you’re like me, you’ve heard of Atlantis, a land described by the ancient Greeks that supposedly sank beneath the ocean. It became the stuff of legend down through the ages, with some people positing its location in the similarly named Atlantic Ocean, while others favor a location in the eastern Mediterranean.

If you’re like me—or at least like me until last week—you’ve never heard of Doggerland, a region that likewise sank beneath the ocean. The difference is that Doggerland, despite its seemingly outlandish name, was real. It existed during and after the last ice age in a large area that eventually sank beneath the North Sea but used to connect what is now Britain with what are now France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, and Denmark.

Over the past century, more and more Doggerland artifacts have been pulled from beneath the North Sea, so archaeologists are slowly learning about the Mesolithic civilization(s) that existed there. You can find out a lot more in Jason Urbanus’s article “Letter from Doggerland.”

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 21, 2022 at 3:40 PM

The largest dense bluebonnet colonies this year

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I got to experience my largest dense bluebonnet colony for 2022 on April 14 in the southwest quadrant of Metropolis Dr. and US 183 across from Austin’s airport. Because bluebonnets (Lupinus texensis) vary in height, en masse they often seem to have waves passing through them, even without any wind. The few daubs of red in the blue-purple sea were Indian paintbrushes (Castilleja indivisa). A little earlier that morning on FM 1327 slightly west of US 183 down near Creedmoor I saw a bluebonnet colony that was even larger but it was fenced, so I couldn’t go in and experience it the way I did with the colony along Metropolis Dr. Instead I shot over the barbed wire fence with a telephoto lens, as shown below.

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 19, 2022 at 4:31 PM


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Today’s post’s title is a portmanteau of the bluebonnets (Lupinus texensis), Indian paintbrushes (Castilleja indivisa), and Texas dandelions (Pyrrhopappus pauciflorus) that we saw in the median of US 290 east of TX 21 on April 8th. I walked back and forth in the median; by aiming at different angles and zooming my 24–105mm lens to different focal lengths I was able to get quite a variety of pictures.

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 17, 2022 at 4:33 AM

Posted in nature photography

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Classic combo

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Probably the best-known combination of spring wildflowers that Texas lays claim to is bluebonnets (Lupinus texensis) and Indian paintbrushes (Castilleja indivisa). That’s what compelled me to stop at the field you see above along TX 105 southwest of Navasota on April 8th. Looking in the opposite direction, toward the highway embankment I’d scampered down, I got low to photograph a cluster of pale paintbrushes nestled among bluebonnets.

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman



Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 16, 2022 at 4:22 PM

A different take

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Last week you saw a picture from April 6th showing a great mixture of purple phlox and sandworts (Minuartia drummondii), with some Indian paintbrushes (Castilleja indivisa) adding red-orange touches. I took that picture at a high shutter speed to counteract the strong breeze that stayed with us all day (one source estimated gusts as strong as 40 miles per hour). I also took a few pictures at a slow shutter speed to let the wind have its way with the flowers and create something akin to an Impressionist painting, where forms are suggested rather than clearly delineated. You’re looking at one of those that I took at 2/25 of a second (the camera showed 1/13 of a second, but I’m assuming that meant 1/12.5).

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 15, 2022 at 4:15 PM

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