Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘flower

Bluebell time

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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

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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?

 

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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

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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

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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.

 

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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

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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).


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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

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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.

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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

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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.


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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

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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.


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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

Tiny bee on a rain-lily

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On August 20th at the Hanna Springs Sculpture Garden in Lampasas
I found this tiny bee on a rain-lily, Zephyranthes chlorosolen.



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The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is making like it’s the Centers for Language Control. Yup, that branch of the American government earns the George Orwell Newspeak Award for its latest pronouncements in the world of reality spinning or outright denial. Here are some lowlights.

You shouldn’t say “genetically male” or “genetically female” but rather “assigned” or “designated” “male/female at birth.” This supposedly scientific branch of the government is okay with canceling the science of genetics.

The CDC is big on converting a simple word into a string of words. “Smokers” should be “people who smoke.” Was anyone so in danger of assuming that smokers might include squirrels or vultures that we need to specify that smokers are actually people? Similarly “the uninsured” should be “people who are uninsured,” which thankfully rules out bumblebees, potatoes, and walruses. “Koreans” should be “Korean persons,” I guess so that we don’t mistakenly include any of the Koreans’ pets.

“The homeless” should be “people experiencing homelessness.” Though not in the list, “the clueless” should presumably be called “people experiencing cluelessness.” Actually it’s shorter to replace that with “the CDC.”

But brevity is clearly not the goal in the new suggestions. Anti-brevity is, and therefore the CDC has done at best a middling job. Think about all the missed opportunities for expansionism. “White” could have been “people characterized by having a low melanistic pigmentation and therefore capable of being noticed in dark rooms more easily than people belonging to certain other ethnoracial groups with greater melanistic pigmentation.”

Some of the CDC’s advice does get anti-brief. For example:

“People/communities of color” is a frequently used term, but should only be used if included groups are defined upon first use; be mindful to refer to a specific racial/ethnic group(s) instead of this collective term when the experience is different across groups. Some groups consider the term “people of color” as an unnecessary and binary option (people of color vs. White people), and some people do not identify with the term “people of color”.

“Although the term “LGBTQIA2” is recommended, no explanation is given for what all the letters and the one number mean. The CDC’s new guidelines also missed the chance to announce a contest to determine what the next change to that ever-lengthening alphanumeric string should be. Will the “2” gradually go up to “3” and “4” and so on, in the same way the leading digit on California license plates has done over the past several decades? Or should the string get longer, for instance “LGBTQIA2VM6YR7”? Maybe not, as people might confuse it with a car’s VIN (Vehicle Identification Number). Or, like online passwords, maybe at least one special character should be required, e.g. “LGB#TQIA2V%M6YR7.” No hacker’s ever gonna crack that.

A cynic might say that all the CDC’s changes and complexities will be used to justify hiring a cadre of language consultants to interpret the new terms and rules to hapless bureaucrats (forgive my redundancy). Those language consultants will swell the ranks in the army of diversity, equity, and inclusion consultants already on the dole, thereby revealing the true goal of an ever larger government whose minions regulate all aspects of our lives.

But hey, what do I know? I’m just a person who engages in thinking—formerly known as a thinker.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 4, 2021 at 4:34 AM

Prairie parsley seeds by purple bindweed flowers

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From August 22nd in the northeast quadrant of Mopac and US 183 comes a portrait of prairie parsley seeds (Polytaenia sp.) in front of several purple bindweed flowers (Ipomoea cordatotriloba). I don’t remember taking a picture like this one before, so here’s to novelty. Pitchforks, anyone?


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Another Recent Case of Media Censorship
(I could probably post a new example every day.)

Facebook Suspends Instagram Account of Gold Star Mother Who Criticized Biden.

Facebook’s later admission that the account was “incorrectly deleted” is technically true but doesn’t
change the fact that once again an employee or a politically biased algorithm did delete an account.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 2, 2021 at 4:35 AM

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