Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘flowers

Not many ladies’ tresses orchids this year

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On October 22nd I checked out a site a few miles from home where I look for ladies’ tresses orchids (Spiranthes magnicamporum) in the fall. I didn’t find any. On November 17th at Wild Basin I located exactly two and photographed exactly one. What an exacting fellow I am.

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman

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Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 8, 2018 at 4:38 AM

Ageratina havanensis does its thing

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A great floral attractor of insects in the fall is Ageratina havanensis, known as fragrant mist flower, shrubby boneset, and thoroughwort, and apparently in Spanish as the barba de viejo (old man’s beard) that corresponds to the fuzzier stage the inflorescence takes on after it goes to seed.

Click to enlarge.

The insect shown above working these flowers in my neighborhood on November 2nd is a syrphid fly, which you can see gains some protection by mimicking a bee. The stray seeds with silk attached came from the adjacent poverty weed bush that graciously put in an appearance here a couple of weeks ago. Below you’ll find a much larger and more colorful insect that was visiting the flowers, a queen butterfly, Danaus gilippus.

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 4, 2018 at 4:56 AM

More than I bargained for

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On October 27th I was driving east on Louis Henna Blvd. in Round Rock when I caught a glimpse of some Maximilian sunflowers (Helianthus maximiliani) way up at the top of a tall mound of earth at a construction site. After parking on Roundville Ln. I walked around to photograph the sunflowers, as shown here:

I’d barely taken any pictures, though, when I noticed a raptor perched on a highway sign not far away. I put on my longest lens and managed to get two pictures before the bird glided down to the ground in a place where I couldn’t easily photograph it; then it flew away altogether.

Knowing practically nothing about birds, I checked with Shannon in Houston, who said she thought it was most likely either a “Red-tailed hawk (all season) or Swainson’s Hawk (immature, migratory),” and that she was leaning toward the former.

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 26, 2018 at 4:46 AM

Multitudinous snout butterflies and two kinds of white*

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Where the previous post showed you a close and then an even closer view of an individual American snout butterfly (Libytheana carinanta), look at the swarm I found on some frostweed flowers (Verbesina virginica) on November 1st along River Place Blvd. I count at least two dozen butterflies in this picture. The autumn of 2018 has proved a good season for the species, which I’ve continued seeing in other parts of Austin as well.

This multitude of snout butterflies came as a bonus because what I’d stopped to photograph was some poverty weed (Baccharis neglecta), as shown below with another bonus in the form of native grape vines (Vitis spp.) climbing on the bushes. If you look carefully, you may also pick out one or two or three bits of breeze-wafted poverty weed fluff in the air; that’s how this species spreads its seeds.

* A search for “multitudinous snout butterflies” got no hits, so you are probably the first people in the history of the universe (after me) to be reading that phrase. Happy novelty to you.

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 24, 2018 at 4:37 PM

Cardinal flower: a cluttered view and one that’s less so

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On the pleasant afternoon of November 1st we traipsed along the boardwalk around one side of the pond at River Place. I was surprised when I looked down over the railing and saw bright red atop a lone cardinal flower plant (Lobelia cardinalis). In photographing plants I rarely aim straight down because that’s the most likely way to end up with lots of clutter in a picture, as you see here in the photo I took with my 24–105mm lens zoomed to its maximum focal length:

Normally I reduce background clutter in a wildflower portrait by getting close and aiming horizontally, or by getting low and aiming upward. In this case the plant was growing in shallow water, in addition to which the railing and the raised boardwalk prevented me from getting close to the cardinal flower. What to do? I switched to my 100–400mm lens, zoomed it to its maximum, leaned as far as I could over the railing, and then even stretched my arms out so my eye was no longer at the camera’s viewfinder. Guessing at framing my subject and relying on the camera’s autofocus, I ended up with this portrait:

The cardinal flower ranges across an enormous territory from Mexico to Canada, including California through Maine in the United States, as you can verify on a map. You’ve got to hand it to a plant that tolerates the winters in Quebec as well as the summers in Nevada. That last location strikes me as especially surprising, given that this species has to grow near water.

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 21, 2018 at 4:55 PM

Frost and frostweed ice

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As yesterday gave way to today, the temperature in Austin dropped below freezing, so out I went this morning to check on a stand of frostweed (Verbesina virginica) that I rely on in Great Hills Park. Sure enough, a couple of dozen plants had done their magic ice trick. The one shown here did so right next to a straggler daisy (Calyptocarpus vialis) that conveniently harmonized with it by getting frosted in its own right. If you’d like a better view of the straggler daisy, click the thumbnail below.

And if you’re not familiar with the frostweed ice phenomenon, you’re welcome to read more about it.

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 14, 2018 at 4:18 PM

Keeping an eye on goldeneye

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I began seeing Viguiera dentata, known as goldeneye, flowering in Austin around the middle of October, which is normal timing for these bushes. When I did several closeups of flower heads along Spicewood Springs Rd. on October 22nd, some drops of morning dew or residual rain hadn’t yet evaporated. The light was dull, so for this picture I used flash, then softened harsh parts of the image a little when processing it.

In contrast, on a sunny November 1st I stopped to photograph a good goldeneye stand along RM 2222 about a mile west of Capital of Texas Highway. The tree is a mesquite, Prosopis glandulosa.

And in the “more is more” category, here’s a closer look at the interplay between the bare branches and the masses of goldeneye flowers:

For those of you in cold places, may all this yellow brighten your day. Even in November, Texas still knows how to put on a wildflower display.

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 10, 2018 at 4:30 AM

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