Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘flower

Dew-covered rain-lilies

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From September 25th in Springfield Park in southeast Austin, here’s a dew-covered rain-lily (Zephyranthes chlorosolen). The pink tinges in the white tepals’ tips at the top foretell the stage to come so soon; that magenta tale is brightly told below.

Today’s related quotation is in the form of a poem, “The Noble Nature,” by Ben Jonson.

It is not growing like a tree
In bulk, doth make man better be;
Or standing long an oak, three hundred year,
To fall a log at last, dry, bald, and sere:
A lily of a day
Is fairer far in May,
Although it fall and die that night—
It was the plant and flower of Light.
In small proportions we just beauties see;
And in short measures life may perfect be.

 

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 14, 2020 at 4:29 AM

Two rain-lilies

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Because we didn’t get much rain in Austin this summer we also didn’t get many rain-lilies (Zephyranthes chlorosolen). On August 28th I wandered into southwest Austin for the first time in ages and found myself stopping along Commons Ford Rd. when I saw a stand of cattails by a pond. While walking around the site I happily came across a few rain-lilies and took a bunch of pictures. What I like about this backlit portrait, and what distinguishes it from many others I’ve made of rain-lilies, is the green glow at the bottom.

As a related quotation for today, take Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s “The Rainy Day,” with its famous penultimate line:

The day is cold, and dark, and dreary;
It rains, and the wind is never weary;
The vine still clings to the mouldering wall,
But at every gust the dead leaves fall,
And the day is dark and dreary.

My life is cold, and dark, and dreary;
It rains, and the wind is never weary;
My thoughts still cling to the mouldering Past,
But the hopes of youth fall thick in the blast,
And the days are dark and dreary.

Be still, sad heart! and cease repining;
Behind the clouds is the sun still shining;
Thy fate is the common fate of all,
Into each life some rain must fall,
Some days must be dark and dreary.

You can also listen to the song from the 1940s by Allan Roberts (lyrics) and Doris Fisher (melody) that bears Longfellow’s aphorism as its title.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 6, 2020 at 4:44 AM

I cotton to snake cotton

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I rarely come across snake cotton (Froelichia gracilis), so I got excited on August 2nd when I discovered a colony of it in a dry sump at the edge of Great Hills Park. On one of the snake cotton plants I noticed spiderwebs and soon saw the spider. Below is the picture I took of it using daytime flash and a small aperture; that combination gives the impression of dusk rather than broad daylight.

Then on August 14th out beyond Bastrop I found a few stalks of snake cotton
and was able to get a picture showing one of the plant’s small and inconspicuous flowers:

Here’s an unrelated quotation for today:
“Qui grate beneficium accipit primam eius pensionem solvit.”
“Anyone who receives a benefit with gratitude repays the first installment of it.”
Here’s an alternate translation (I wanted to make it sound more colloquial):
“If you accept a favor with gratitude you’ll repay the first installment on what you owe.”
Seneca the Younger in De Beneficiis (On Benefits).

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 28, 2020 at 4:32 AM

Bluebell bud and flower

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Way back on June 8th I went to a little pond I know on the Blackland Prairie in far northeast Austin because in some previous years I’d found good amounts of bluebells (Eustoma sp.) there. No luck then, but I did better when I returned on July 29th. Well, only slightly better: I found exactly three scattered bluebells, and all of them had been partly eaten (by what, I don’t know). By getting on the ground and aiming judiciously, I managed to make this portrait of a bluebell bud rising in front of a non-nibbled part of one of the flowers.

In our Ancient History Department, the magazine Archaeology reports in its July/August 2020 issue the discovery at Abri du Maras in France of the earliest known piece of cord. It dates back 46,000 years and was made, surprisingly, by Neanderthals. The article says that the “cord was made of three separate strands of fiber taken from the inner bark of a coniferous tree… The strands were then twisted in a clockwise direction to hold the fibers together, after which they were twisted together in a counterclockwise motion to make the cord.” That led archaeologist Bruce Hardy of Kenyon College “to believe that Neanderthals shared a cognitive capacity for mathematics with modern humans.” You can read more about this find in a Science News story.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 19, 2020 at 4:46 AM

I hardly expected a basket-flower on August 1st

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On August 1st, after taking a bunch of nature pictures at a large construction site in southern Round Rock, I was almost back to my car when I noticed something unusual for a date so far into the summer: a fresh basket-flower (Plectocephalus americanus), the only one of its kind. It was almost touching one of those low black fences that mark the boundaries of work sites, so I lay on the ground and contorted myself to take pictures in ways that excluded both the dark fence on one side and a nearby sign on the other. Below is a more detailed view that I made by standing back up, leaning over, and aiming down at the flower head.

Here’s an unrelated quotation for today: “It is better to remain silent at the risk of being thought a fool, than to talk and remove all doubt of it.” — Maurice Switzer in Mrs. Goose, Her Book, 1906.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 13, 2020 at 4:44 AM

Color comes to Clematis

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Clematis drummondii flowers and the lustrous fibers that emerge from the ones that get fertilized don’t have a lot of intrinsic color. For these three portraits I’ve used external colors to enhance my subjects. In the picture above of a female flower, the blue came from a small pond on the Blackland Prairie on July 29th, and the brown and green from the land on the far and near sides of the water, respectively. In the second portrait, made during the same outing, I used a shallow depth of field to focus on (in both senses) the seemingly metallic sheen at the base of a flower beginning to produce silky fibers. A nearby sunflower, Helianthus annuus, provided a golden aura to accompany the silvery strands.

The last picture, taken in my neighborhood on July 11th, shows the swirling fibers that this species is best known for. I got low and aimed at an angle that let me include some blue from the sky.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 12, 2020 at 4:26 AM

Two takes on buffalo bur

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I see buffalo bur (Solanum rostratum) fairly often in Austin, yet I haven’t shown any pictures of it here since 2015. Today’s post puts an end to the five-year hiatus. You may notice the flower’s similarity in shape, but not color, to that of its genus-mate silverleaf nightshade, which appeared here recently. The picture below, also from west of Morado Circle on July 5th, shows you the prickly seed capsules that put the bur in buffalo bur, and caution in people who get close. The flowers in the background were two-leaf senna.

Would you like to know what the British conductor Sir Thomas Beecham had to say about the harpsichord?
Sure you would. He said it “sounds like two skeletons copulating on a corrugated tin roof.”

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 9, 2020 at 4:27 AM

A pond as a pleasant background, twice

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Pink evening primroses reach their peak here in the spring, when large colonies of Oenothera speciosa sometimes form. Even so, individual plants are often found flowering through the summer and fall, like this one that I photographed on July 24th at the edge of a pond off Naruna Way on the Blackland Prairie. I also coaxed the pond to pose behind a spiderwebbed Texas thistle seed head, Cirsium texanum.

And here’s an unrelated but relevant quotation for today: “So we must beware of a tyranny of opinion which tries to make only one side of a question the one which may be heard. Everyone is in favour of free speech. Hardly a day passes without its being extolled, but some people’s idea of it is that they are free to say what they like, but if anyone says anything back, that is an outrage.” — Winston Churchill in the U.K. Parliament on October 13, 1943.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 8, 2020 at 4:38 AM

Low wild petunia

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From Vaught Ranch Road on June 13th come two views of a native wildflower
I’d never photographed before: Ruellia humilis, known as low wild petunia.

Here’s an unrelated little mathematical diversion: the four numbers 1, 1.2, 2, and 3 have the interesting property that whether you add all of them or multiply all of them you get the same result (in this case 7.2). Are they the only foursome like that? Hardly. For example, whether you add -2, -1, 0, and 3 or multiply -2, -1, 0, and 3, you get the same result (in this case 0). Would you believe that infinitely many sets of four numbers exist that also have the property that adding the four numbers gives the same result as multiplying them? That turns out to be the truth of the matter. Are you surprised?

The second example suggests a template for generating as many more sets of numbers as you like that have the desired property. Let the first of the four numbers be 0. Now pick any two different negative numbers you like (say for example –4 and –6). Finally, add the two negative numbers and make the sum positive (in this case 10). You’ll now have four numbers with the desired property (–4, –6, 0, 10). This works because 0 times any other number is 0, and you’ve rigged the addition in such a way that the positive number cancels out the two negative numbers. In fact you can extend the pattern to as many numbers as you like. For instance, here are six numbers such that adding them gives the same result as multiplying them: 0, -3, -7, -10, -15, 35.

As a quotation for today, let me quote myself: Zero may be nothing, but not for nothing is zero special.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 4, 2020 at 4:37 AM

Clematis drummondii flower viewed edge-on

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I made this portrait on June 25th in Great Hills Park.
You saw a later stage in this vine’s development a week ago.

Related quotation for today: “There is that in the glance of a flower
which may at times control the greatest of creation’s braggart lords.”
— John Muir in A Thousand-Mile Walk to the Gulf, 1916.

News flash (July 22, 2020): Sierra Club denounces founder John Muir; statues of him to be removed.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 24, 2020 at 4:43 AM

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