Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘flower

Purple passionflower

with 19 comments

 

I found myself sauntering (and at 95° sweltering) along a walkway in Houston’s Memorial Park on the bright afternoon of September 17th after I’d noticed while driving through the park that many native species seem to have been planted there. (All the ones I recognized were native, so I assumed the others were, too.) The most striking wildflower I saw there—one I’d walked past on the outward segment of my sauntering and only noticed when I’d made it most of the way back to my car—was a purple passionflower, Passiflora incarnata. Me being me, I did some closer abstractions of the flowers on this vine.

 

  

Today’s post is the first of I don’t know how many that will cover the days we spent in Houston, at Brazos Bend State Park, and on Galveston Island.

 

❦        ❦        ❦

 

Two frequent themes in my commentaries have been: (1) We need to be accurate in reporting facts and incidents; (2) We should be wary when people try to change the longstanding meaning of a word or phrase. Those two things came together in a recent brouhaha brought about when Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams said: “There is no such thing as a heartbeat at six weeks. It is a manufactured sound designed to convince people that men have the right to take control of a woman’s body.”

Let’s examine this. Can an ultrasound detect, at least sometimes, activity from the heart area in a human embryo that has been developing for six weeks? The answer turns out to be yes. Stacey Abrams was therefore incorrect in calling the sound “manufactured.” Could she have meant that the embryo was “manufacturing” the sound? That hardly seems likely, based on the rest of her statement.

Supporters of Stacey Abrams rushed to defend her comment by saying that any “cardiac activity” detectable at six weeks isn’t really a heartbeat because the heart is only beginning to form at that stage. When I searched for information about that, one of the first hits I got was a 2019 article by Jessica McDonald on FactCheck.org called “When Are Heartbeats Audible During Pregnancy?” The article, which came in response to “fetal heartbeat” bills that legislators in various states had been proposing, noted that “‘fetal heartbeat’ is more of a legal term than a medical one.” Jessica McDonald went on:

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists also has said in a statement, “What is interpreted as a heartbeat in these bills is actually electrically-induced flickering of a portion of the fetal tissue that will become the heart as the embryo develops. Thus, ACOG does not use the term ‘heartbeat’ to describe these legislative bans on abortion because it is misleading language, out of step with the anatomical and clinical realities of that stage of pregnancy.”

 But then she went on to add:

At the same time, many online medical websites, including the Mayo Clinic, do refer to the heart and its beating early-on in pregnancy. And plenty of medical textbooks use the words “heart” and “heartbeat” to refer to the embryo’s developing heart.

So even medical experts differ on when cardiac activity in a developing embryo or fetus qualifies as a “heartbeat.” That’s actually not surprising. In many kinds of development there’s no hard and fast line between one stage and the next. For example, when does a child become an adult? Americans in three states can get a full driver’s license at 16; the other 47 states grant a full license at varying older ages. In all states people can vote and serve in the military at 18, but they aren’t allowed to buy alcohol till 21. And scientists tell us that human brain development isn’t complete until approximately age 25.

 

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 24, 2022 at 4:29 AM

A reward

with 18 comments

Our house had a conventional lawn when we moved here in 2004 and path-of-least-resistance me has never done anything to change it. As a result I do have to mow every so often. The most recent time was September 7th, by which date rain had finally caused the grass to come up noticeably from its drought-induced dormancy of the summer. Near the end of my chore I noticed a single wood sorrel flower (Oxalis drummondii) and carefully mowed around it. A little later I came back to get my photographic reward.

I took some of my pictures with flash and a small aperture to keep most of the flower’s details sharp. In this shot, however, I went with natural light, which in turn dictated a broad aperture and shallow depth of field.

 

¶        ¶        ¶

 

In 2007, the U.S. Congress mandated the blending of biofuels such as corn-based ethanol into gasoline. One of the top goals: reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

But today, the nation’s ethanol plants produce more than double the climate-damaging pollution, per gallon of fuel production capacity, than the nation’s oil refineries, according to a Reuters analysis of federal data….

The ethanol plants’ high emissions result in part from a history of industry-friendly federal regulation that has allowed almost all processors to sidestep the key environmental requirement of the 2007 law, the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), according to academics who have studied ethanol pollution and regulatory documents examined by Reuters….

That’s the shocking lead in a September 8th Reuters article by Leah Douglas. You can learn more by reading the full article. I’ll add that I’ve been against the ethanol boondoggle ever since Congress enacted it. One big reason is that converting so much corn to ethanol drives up the price of corn, which people around the world depend on as a primary food. Remember Mexico’s 2007 tortilla crisis?

 

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 17, 2022 at 4:31 AM

Bluebell time

with 59 comments

 

Two years ago, during the first months of the pandemic, I brought you a picture of probably the densest and most expansive colony of bluebells (Eustoma sp.) I’ve ever seen. It sprawled across a field on the south side of San Gabriel Blvd. in Leander, a rapidly growing suburb north of Austin. Unfortunately that rapid growth meant the field soon became a construction site and the great bluebell colony was destroyed before another spring came around. This year a post in the Texas Flora group announced that some bluebells had come up on the north side of San Gabriel Blvd, presumably the progeny of plants from the now-gone colony. On June 14th I went up there and, sure enough, I found some bluebells flowering, mostly in a ditch.

For the portrait above, I lay on the ground and aimed toward a patch of bright sky. (If I remember correctly, this is the first picture with a white background I’ve posted since a winecup in December 2021, and that was the first since a rain lily in March 2020.) The portrait below shows some bluebell buds beginning to open.

 

As I was finishing up my photography in Leander, I noticed a crew of mowers getting closer and closer to the wildflower-filled ditch. When a guy with a weed-whacker approached the far end of the ditch, I went over and talked to him in Spanish, asking him not to cut down the beautiful wildflowers. He asked me if I was the encargado—the person in charge—of the property. I said no, but as a citizen it was important to me to preserve the wildflowers. He pointed to a guy on a tractor who he said was the head of the ground crew, so I walked over and talked to him. He turned out to speak good English. He said the crew mowed on a schedule, and he didn’t seem at all concerned about cutting down the flowers. I asked who at his company I could talk to. He pointed to the company truck, which had a phone number on it. I walked close enough to the truck to read the phone number, called it, and got a message saying that number was out of service. It didn’t seem there was any more I could do, so I drove home.

Two days later I went back to see what had happened. To my pleasant surprise, I found that the guys in the crew had mowed a narrow strip along the top edges of the ditch but had left everything lower down alone. It seems my plea had done some good after all. Below, strictly for documentary purposes, is how a portion of the ditch looked when I returned there. Other than the bluebells, prominent flowers were horsemints (Monarda citriodora) and firewheels (Gaillardia pulchella), visible in the upper left, and two others that I’ll show in a separate post.

 

After I told this story in the Texas Flora group a couple of days ago, florally named Rose Thomas commented that the incident reminded her of Robert Frost’s poem “The Tuft of Flowers.” I didn’t know that poem, so I looked it up and found a version in which Robert Frost himself reads it as the lines of verse scroll to keep pace. I also replied to Rose: “In addition to the bluebells at the bottom of the ditch, the mowers had spared one that was flowering up high, at the level of the adjacent field, next to a culvert. Substitute the culvert for a brook, and that bluebell could have been the tall tuft of flowers in the poem.” (That will make sense if you check out the poem.)

 

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 19, 2022 at 4:34 AM

Lace cactus

with 20 comments

Yesterday I found flowers on several adjacent lace cacti (Echinocereus reichenbachii ssp. reichenbachii) in my hilly northwest part of Austin. Today’s picture of one is the first I’ve ever shown here. Great saturated colors, don’t you think?

 

❖         ❖         ❖

 

For decades I’ve criticized the American education system. In the 15 years since I last taught, not only have the old problems persisted and worsened, but new problems have arisen. Here’s how Shane Trotter describes one of them in his Quillette article “Hidden in Plain Sight: Putting Tech Before Teaching.”

In its desire to embrace technology, our school district failed to recognize the social devolution that was taking hold of society. The iPad Initiative [which he’d just described in detail] came right as smartphones became virtually ubiquitous among American teens and adults. Teens began spending over seven hours per day consuming entertainment media. Twelfth-graders in 2015 were going out less often than eight graders Adolescent mental disorders skyrocketed. And at this crucial juncture, we decided to begin allowing students to use smartphones throughout the school day. These students would not know how to set boundaries for how they used their phones. They’d have no understanding of the psychological vulnerabilities that tech companies exploited—no training in how to use their phone without it using them. Most of all, they’d have no environment where they could be free from the incessant psychic drain that had come to define their world. Oblivious to any responsibility to help students or their families adapt better, our schools helped facilitate the community’s descent into becoming screen-addicted, constantly distracted people whose cognitive skills and attention spans were being chipped away rather than cultivated.

You’re welcome to read the full article.

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 29, 2022 at 4:38 AM

In the pink again

with 36 comments

Having already shown you a colony of pink evening primroses this spring, I’d be remiss in not adding a closeup. Today’s view of an Oenothera speciosa flower dates back to April 14th in southeast Austin. The light coming from in front of me cast shadows of the stigma, stamens, and pollen strands onto the petals. The multi-pointed green member at the lower right is the sheath that used to enclose the flower’s bud.

 United becomes its opposite, untied, if you flip it around.

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 28, 2022 at 4:30 AM

Time again for prairie celestials

with 28 comments

During the first week of April native plantophile Robert Kamper kept me apprised of how the prairie celestials, Nemastylis geminiflora, were coming along in the greenbelt right behind his house in Round Rock. Early in the afternoon on April 11th I went out there and was pleased to find over half a dozen of the flowers scattered about, including the one shown here.

 

❄︎

❄︎         ❄︎         ❄︎

❄︎

 

So yesterday morning I went to Sprouts to buy some produce. While walking around the store I noticed in the dairy section that there was a Manager’s Special on the house brand of cream cheese, whose current regular price is $1.79 each. The sale sign told customers they’d get $2.58 off if they bought two packages. How could I pass up a good deal like that? I put four packages of cream cheese into my cart.

A little later, as the cashier was tallying my items, I noticed that each package of cream cheese was ringing up on the register at the regular price of $1.79. I pointed out to the cashier that the cream cheese was on sale, and I asked if the discount would show up at the end (some stores—do you hear me, Central Market?—annoyingly do it that way rather than showing the discount right after each item appears on the screen). The cashier seemed not to know the item was on sale. After a little back and forth, she finally asked whether I was talking about a Manager’s Special. Yes, I told her, that’s what it was. Her answer was that, oh, Manager’s Specials typically only last one day, and because of that they don’t get entered into the store’s computer and therefore don’t show up at the register. She asked me what the sale price was, but I didn’t remember exactly how much of a discount I was supposed to get, so she had to run all the way to the dairy section in the most distant part of the store to read the sign, do the calculations, and then come back and manually ring up each cream cheese for 50¢ rather than $1.79.

What kind of a way to run a business is that? Is each customer required to announce at the register that an item is a Manager’s Special? There was nothing on the sale sign that said I had to do that. Think about all the people who get enticed into buying Manager’s Specials and don’t notice at the register that they’ve been charged the regular price after all. A cynical shopper couldn’t be blamed for saying that that’s the whole point. What do you think, shoppers?

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 18, 2022 at 3:42 AM

Grasshopper central

with 32 comments

While at Tejas Camp in Williamson County on September 25th I though of calling the place “grasshopper central” for the many insects of that kind I saw ensconced on plants and jumping about. Here are two portraits of grasshoppers on river primrose plants (Oenothera jamesii).


◊     ◊     ◊

Yesterday I outlined a proposed Constitutional amendment of mine that would require legislators to read and understand bills before being allowed to vote on them. Actually that would be part of a larger amendment dealing with legislative bills. Here’s more of what I’d like to see included.

1. A legislative bill shall deal with only one subject.

2. The first line of the bill must state what that subject is, and it must conform to the general understanding among the public of what that subject includes.

3. For each pending Congressional bill, every sentence shall be identified by the name and position of the person or persons who wrote the sentence. If the writer(s) acted on behalf of or at the behest of some other person(s) or organization(s), those identifications must also be included.

4. Unless Congress by a three-quarter majority in each house separately declares a national emergency, the complete text of a bill must be released to the public and made readily available online at least 14 days before a bill is brought to a vote.

5. A non-partisan commission created by Congress shall thoroughly examine every final bill and remove all parts of it that don’t conform to points 1–3 above. The commission is also empowered to prevent, and must prevent, voting on any bill whose final form the public has not had easy access to for 14 days.

Point 1 is intended to eliminate the monstrous bills we now get that run to hundreds or even thousands of pages and that include a slew of unrelated things. Politicians too easily hide pet projects and controversial proposals in the welter of such “omnibus” bills. My idea is to have the legislature vote separately on each proposal or small group of related proposals. That would let the public know which legislators support which things.

Point 2 is intended to head off concept creep and gross semantic inflation. For example, the current administration has been referring to anything under the sun as “infrastructure,” e.g. “human infrastructure” and “family infrastructure,” whereas the normal use of the term “infrastructure” includes only physical structures like roads, bridges, airports, dams, power lines, railroads, ports, canals, and the like.

Point 3 is intended to reveal who is actually inserting provisions into a bill. As things stand now, the real promoters are often hidden from the public.

Point 4 is intended to give the public and the press a reasonable amount of time to find out what’s in a bill before it gets voted on.

Point 5 creates a neutral external body to enforce the provisions that members of Congress may be too pusillanimous to adhere to.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 2, 2021 at 4:32 AM

Yumptious yellow

with 36 comments

The other day the word yumptious popped into my mind. Wondering whether anyone had come up with it before me, I searched and found I wasn’t the first to use that portmanteau of yummy and scrumptious (with scrumptious having perhaps arisen as an alteration of sumptuous). Now I’m getting to use that adjective for the river primrose flowers (Oenothera jamesii) I went to see on September 25th at Tejas Camp in Williamson County, where I’d found the species for the first time in 2020.

Before each bright yellow flower emerges at the tip of a long stem, river primrose’s svelte buds are sculptural and textural, as you see below. Notice the reddish tips, above which strides a stilt bug in the genus Jalysus.

⚛︎
⚛︎     ⚛︎
⚛︎     ⚛︎     ⚛︎
⚛︎     ⚛︎
⚛︎

One of the worst statements ever spewed forth from the mouth of a legislator came in 2010: “… We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what’s in it.” That’s not how laws are supposed to be made. Legislators aren’t supposed to vote on bills whose contents they and the people they represent aren’t aware of. The “representative” who made that infamous statement should have been summarily expelled from Congress for dereliction of duty and breach of ethics.

On September 8th I mentioned that in recent years I’ve gradually been crafting amendments to the American Constitution to fix things that are wrong with our government. The would-be amendment I described then involved contributions to political campaigns. Now I’d like to propose an amendment to deal with the horrid thought quoted in the previous paragraph.

Prerequisites for a member of Congress to be allowed to vote on a bill

A.  The member shall read the final version of the bill in its entirety.

B.  The member shall create an uncut video showing the member reading the entire bill, and shall post, at least 24 hours before voting on the bill, the complete video online in an easily accessible place where the public can view it.

C.  The member shall pass a test about the contents of the bill, such test to be created and administered by a non-partisan commission established for that purpose. The test shall contain at least 10 questions and the passing grade shall be set no lower than 80%. A member of Congress who fails may take one retest consisting of a randomly different set of questions about the bill. A second failure shall bar the member from voting on the bill.

D. Each revision of a bill that comes up for a vote shall trigger these requirements anew.

I’m optimistic that these requirements would greatly shorten the lengths of proposed bills and simplify their contents. What do you think?

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 1, 2021 at 4:30 AM

More looking up

with 16 comments

As you’ve already seen, at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center on September 11th I lifted my telephoto zoom lens to photograph a neon skimmer dragonfly. Earlier in our visit I’d lain on a mat on the ground to aim up with my macro lens at something much lower: the jimsonweed flower you see here, Datura wrightii. I rarely convert to black and white, but in this series of pictures I was having trouble getting the sky to look a natural blue. Out of curiosity, I tried monochrome on one frame, as shown below.


◊       ◊       ◊

I’ve already read and recommended two books that treat climate change as real but nothing to get hysterical about, as so many activists and politicians have unfortunately done:

Unsettled: What Climate Science Tells Us, What It Doesn’t, and Why it Matters, by Steven E. Koonin.

Apocalypse Never: Why Environmental Alarmism Hurts Us All, by Michael Shellenberger.

Now I’ve become aware of a third book that also treats the subject rationally: False Alarm: How Climate Change Panic Costs Us Trillions, Hurts the Poor, and Fails to Fix the Planet, by Bjørn Lomborg.

In addition to or instead of reading Lomborg’s book, you can watch a one-hour interview with him about climate change.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 27, 2021 at 4:33 AM

Halberdleaf rosemallow flower backlit

with 34 comments

Near the end of my foray through the land in the northeast quadrant of Mopac and US 183 on August 22nd I noticed a halberdleaf rosemallow plant (Hibiscus laevis) some distance away and in a place that was hard to get to. I used my long zoom lens at its maximum 400mm focal length to make this portrait of a backlit flower.


✧     ✧
✧     ✧     ✧
✧     ✧
✧ 

Here’s a good but sad and disturbing article offering yet another confirmation that many American universities have become indoctrination camps with no tolerance for dissent from woke orthodoxy.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 17, 2021 at 4:45 AM

%d bloggers like this: