Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘colors

Our majestic cottonwood trees

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On December 21st, the date of the winter solstice in 2020, I witnessed another display of colorful year-end foliage in the form of two venerable eastern cottonwoods, Populus deltoides subsp. deltoides. Botanist Bill Carr describes the cottonwood tree in Travis County as “uncommon but, due to its massive size, usually conspicuous in gallery woodlands along perennial streams and impoundments.” The two I found were on opposite sides of Pleasant Valley Rd. just south of the Longhorn Dam on the Colorado River. The first picture shows a lower portion of the cottonwood tree on the west side of the road. The other cottonwood, pictured below, had leaves that the different angle of the light made look a little more yellow-orange.

It’s not obvious that some of the leaves were larger than
a person’s face; here’s one in isolation by the Colorado River:

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 2, 2021 at 4:35 AM

Green and orange in the fall

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The leaves of the black willow (Salix nigra) tend to turn yellow in the fall, as you recently saw. On November 26th at the Southeast Metropolitan Park in Del Valle I was pleased to find several of those trees with some of their leaves taking on orange hues. Notice the fuzzy goldenrod (Solidago sp.) seed heads in both pictures.

And if you’ll allow orange to shade toward tan and brown, then how about this long colony of slenderpod sesbania (Sesbania herbacea) stretched out along the edge of another pond at the site? The trees lined up parallel to them are paloverdes (Parkinsonia aculeata).

Here’s a closer look at the thorny green from the opposite side:

If you’d like some quotations about the color orange, you can find them in The Quote Garden.

The history of the word orange is also interesting.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 10, 2020 at 4:37 AM

Closer looks at flameleaf sumac’s colorful fall foliage

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⇧ Arterial 8, November 8

⇧ Seton Center Drive, November 15

⇧ Cedar Park, November 18

Rhus lanceolata is the most colorful of the three native sumacs in the Austin area.
Backlighting enhanced those colors in all three pictures.

In the relevant quotation department we have this interchange from Albert Camus’s 1944 play Le malentendu, The Misunderstanding:

Martha: Qu’est-ce que l’automne?
Jan: Un deuxième printemps, où toutes les feuilles sont comme des fleurs.

Martha: “What is autumn?”
Jan: A second spring, when all the leaves are like flowers.

Versions floating around on the Internet glom the question and answer together into a single declarative sentence. Here you get no glomming, only the original.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 24, 2020 at 4:26 AM

Maybe autumn’s big five

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I recently referred to the “big four” native plants that are prominent in central Texas in the fall. The number is arbitrary, and even when I said four I was thinking that I could well add asters as a fifth. With that in mind, here’s a picture of one of our native asters, Symphyotrichum subulatum, known colloquially as eastern annual saltmarsh aster, baby’s breath aster, slender aster, annual aster, and blackland aster. Some in Texas call it hierba del marrano (hierba is pronounced the same as its alternate spelling yerba); translated loosely, the Spanish name means pigweed, but I think most people find the flowers as attractive as pigs are alleged to do. Notice the endearing way the tips of the ray florets curl under.

The picture above comes from October 4th at Cypress Creek Park (where I photographed a snail on a valley redstem and also a late-season bluebell flower). Fortunately the aster was growing close to another plant (I’m not sure what it was) whose leaves had turned pleasantly red and yellow, and those colors made a good out-of-focus background to set off the aster. And from August 13th on the Blackland Prairie, here’s a view showing one of these flower heads from below:

The ancient Greek word astēr had the same meaning as its native English cognate star. The Greeks extended the word to designate a daisy-like flower that they saw as a stylized star, and we’ve continued the tradition. Greek asteroeidēs, which meant ‘resembling a star,’ has become our asteroid. Similarly, we call the typographical character * an asterisk, literally ‘a little star.’ And “there you are, little star.”

And if it’s a famous quotation you’re after, try Ralph Waldo Emerson’s exhortation to “Hitch your wagon to a star.” Or, with a floral reference, take these lines from Longfellow’s Evangeline:

“Silently, one by one, in the infinite meadows of heaven,
Blossomed the lovely stars, the forget-me-nots of the angels.”

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 16, 2020 at 4:37 AM

One shade the more, one ray the less

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As you’ve heard, I’ve been pursuing abstraction a lot this year. My entry into the field has been primarily through the shapes and colors of Austin’s native wildflowers; the two shown here, both members of the sunflower family, are the Mexican hat (Ratibida columnifera) and the firewheel (Gaillardia pulchella). The title of today’s post is a line from Byron that conveniently lets me allude to the one remaining ray flower on the Mexican hat, which I photographed in the little wildflower area at the Floral Park Drive entrance to Great Hills Park on July 8th. And below from the same outing is an edge-centric, eccentric (ex-centric, off-center) portrait of a firewheel in its own right and my own rite.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 27, 2020 at 4:39 AM

Rainbow or nebula?

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You know those optical illusions where a drawing or design can be seen in different ways; this isn’t exactly one of those. And it’s also not quite like those works by Escher in which one thing gets transformed into another. Still, this photograph has elements of both of those: going from bottom to top, lily pads with a rainbow above them give way to a nebula in the night sky.

Here’s the story. On July 14th (Bastille Day), I was on the Burnet Rd. side of the Domain complex and discovered a pond with two fountains shooting water to good heights. The morning was clear, so sunlight refracting through the sprays of water created two rainbows. I set out to photograph each one along with the heavy splashing of the water as it rained back into the pond and moved sideways at the will of the wind. In the picture above I serendipitously got more than I bargained for.

Below, in a crop from a different frame, you get a closer look at the effect of the splashing water I was originally after, photographed at 1/800 of a second. Click to enlarge and see more details.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 16, 2020 at 4:37 AM

Two views of flameleaf sumac

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Longtime visitors here know that central Texas is too warm to get the kind of fall foliage that colder parts of the country are famous for. That said, we do get some autumn color, and one reliable source of it is the aptly named flameleaf sumac, Rhus lanceolata. On November 9th I spent time on part of the Brushy Creek Regional Trail in Cedar Park, where I made the two flameleaf sumac pictures in today’s post.

© 2019 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 10, 2019 at 4:40 AM

Texas being Texas

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In the spring Texas does wildflowers.

Prompted by reports of good sightings a little over a hundred miles from home in Cestohowa, we headed south on March 18. We began finding good things just past Seguin and even better ones after we detoured a little from our route to check out New Berlin. In fact the wildflowers were so bountiful on some of the properties in that area that we never got any farther. Sorry, Cestohowa.

We’d first stumbled on the flowerful cemetery at Christ Lutheran Church of Elm Creek in 2014, and this year proved its equal. Here’s an overview:

To my mind, every cemetery should be covered in wildflowers.

The tombstones are interesting, with the oldest ones dating from the 1800s and inscribed in German (remember, the town is New Berlin). Still, as this blog is devoted to nature, here are a couple of photographs that focus on the profuse wildflowers in their own right. The colonies were so intertwined that I was able to frame the flowers in lots of ways. The bright yellow ones are Nueces coreopsis (Coreopsis nuecensis).

The red flowers are Indian paintbrushes (Castilleja indivisa) and the others are bluebonnets (Lupinus texensis), the state’s official wildflower. You saw a closeup of one way back in early February.)

© 2019 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 21, 2019 at 4:44 AM

“Fall” foliage in winter

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From my neighborhood on January 4th comes this emblematic leaf of an oak (Quercus spp.).
You could say the composition is minimalist; you’d have trouble making that claim about the color gamut.

Notice how far into the season we were still seeing isolated instances of colorful foliage.
The same outing brought another example, this time from a cedar elm (Ulmus crassifolia).

While yellow is the most common fall color for cedar elms, I also found two leaves that had turned orange.

© 2019 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 15, 2019 at 4:48 AM

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Smartweed

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After doing my theme and variations with prairie agalinis in the northeast quadrant of Mopac and US 183 on September 19th, I noticed a colony of smartweed (Polygonum spp.) that I’d overlooked. To give you a sense of scale, I’ll add that each smartweed flower is no more than one-eighth of an inch (3mm) in diameter.

Smartweed leaves have a tendency to turn bright colors when they age. I photographed the one below in roughly the same stance as the flowers and buds above, and with the backlighting that lit up the prairie agalinis in the previous post’s close views. And how about that little curlicue at the leaf’s tip?

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 5, 2018 at 4:38 AM

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