Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘flowers

Fascination of Plants Day

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Today is Fascination of Plants Day. The word fascination is fascinatingly close to fasciation, the strange botanical phenomenon that I’ve shown you various examples of. On May 5th I was photographing some of the many Mexican hats (Ratibida columnifera) that were coming up along the Sierra Nevada fringe of Great Hills Park when I noticed one flower head that lacked the characteristic flattening and spreading that fasciated plants exhibit but that had four central columns instead of the normal one. Whether that’s still fasciation or a different anomaly, I don’t know. I do know it was weird enough to show it to you on Fascination of Plants Day.

In case you’re not familiar with Mexican hats, I’ll add that the ray florets display varying amounts of yellow and brown. Often there’s a mixture of the two. Sometimes one color mostly drives out the other color, as in the middle picture, or entirely excludes it, as below.




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By now you’ve probably heard about a deranged 18-year-old guy who drove several hours from a little town in New York to Buffalo, the state’s second largest city, to gun down people in a supermarket on May 14th. Most of the victims were black, and that apparently was no coincidence. A long manifesto allegedly written by the shooter soon surfaced, and the document made clear that he hated both blacks and Jews. The killer’s racist and anti-Semitic statements, along with the fact that he is white, almost immediately led some people in the news media to proclaim him, with good reason, a racist and a white supremacist. Among those people in the media were not a few who also somehow concluded that the killer is a Republican or a conservative and a follower of the conservative television network Fox News. How politically convenient—and how inconvenient that those quickly proved to be false accusations.

I couldn’t find the shooter’s manifesto online to check it for myself—it was apparently taken down not long after the incident—but I did find a May 16th Washington Examiner article by Tiana Lowe headlined “The Buffalo shooter was an eco-socialist racist who hated Fox News and Ben Shapiro.” That hardly sounds like your typical Republican or conservative, does it? Here’s a portion of Tiana Lowe’s article:

Hence, a seemingly concerted effort from the corporate media accusing the Buffalo barbarian of being some sort of Tucker Carlson [a Fox News host] acolyte would be baffling if it weren’t so transparently malicious. In the 180-page document purported to be authored by the shooter, he does not mention Carlson once. The sole explicit mention of Fox News is an infographic demarcating top Fox hosts such as Maria Bartiromo and Greg Gutfeld as Jewish. (Rupert Murdoch is decried as a “Christian Zionist” who may have Jewish ancestry,” although it’s never publicly admitted.) Ben Shapiro is mentioned multiple times, including as an example as the “rat” phenotype of Jewish people.

Moreover, the Buffalo shooter is a self-described “ethno-nationalist eco-fascist national socialist” who loathes libertarianism and conservatism in particular.

“Ask yourself, truly, what has modern conservatism managed to conserve?” the shooter wrote. “Not a thing has been conserved other than corporate profits and the ever increasing wealth of the 1% that exploit the people for their own benefit. Conservatism is dead. Thank god. Now let us bury it and move on to something of worth.”

Hell, the shooter admits that he’s a socialist, “depending on the definition.”

“Worker ownership of the means of production?” he writes. “It depends on who those workers are, their intentions, who currently owns the means of production, their intentions and who currently owns the state, and their intentions.”

The diatribe implies “those workers” better be white gentiles who worship Mother Earth. Here, crucially, is the shooter on his homicidal obsession with environmentalism.


To be continued tomorrow and the next day.


© 2022 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 18, 2022 at 4:32 AM

One on another (on another)

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While photographing Mexican hats (Ratibida columnifera) in Great Hills Park on May 5th I noticed that several Texas bindweed plants (Convolvulus equitans) had climbed on and twined around them. One of the bindweed flowers, above, got a taste of its own from an ant scurrying over it. In the second picture, note the bindweed bud about to open. In both photographs notice the eccentric and varied shapes of bindweed leaves.


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Independent self-reliant people would be a counterproductive anachronism in the collective society of the future where people will be defined by their associations.

The children who know how to think for themselves spoil the harmony of the collective society that is coming, where everyone would be interdependent.


Those lamentable statements are alleged in several books and on various websites to be by John Dewey, the first from 1896 and the second from 1899. While I haven’t been able to verify the authorship, I can say, alas, that increasingly many people who control education are acting as if they believe those things.


© 2022 Steven Schwartzman








Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 17, 2022 at 4:29 AM

Dayflower and false dayflower

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Been a long time since I showed you either a dayflower (Commelina erecta), above, or a so-called false dayflower (Tinantia anomala), below. The top picture is from May 5th in Great Hills Park and the bottom one is from April 1st in our yard, where little colonies have come up unbidden in a couple of places.



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Harvard has let me know that I cannot be a scholar of British Romanticism because I do not believe there are male women. For my part, I’d rather be damned with the Romantics and Plato than go to woke heaven with [English department coordinator] Erin [Saladin] and the Harvard faculty.


So wrote philosopher Devin Buckley after Harvard University canceled the talk she was scheduled to give there on British Romanticism. The reason for the cancellation was that as a feminist Dr. Buckley believes that radical transgender ideology gives short shrift to women. It made no difference to Harvard that the talk on British Romanticism had nothing to do with transgenderism. (“If my talk had been on astrophysics I have no doubt that I would have received a similar [cancellation] email.”)

You can read more about this incident in an article by Jonathan Turley and another on the Women’s Liberation Front website. Of particular interest in the latter is the letter that Dr. Buckley wrote in response to the cancellation. Here’s an excerpt from that letter:


It’s difficult to discern whether those who cancel feminists like me won’t or can’t understand us when we critique gender. My suspicion is that most people do not believe that a male can become female. They simply remain silent on the matter for the sake of their careers. I want to call them moral cowards, but I also have sympathy for those who must do this to survive, such as adjuncts who struggle to find non-academic jobs and continue to hang on desperately to exploitative part-time labor at wealthy universities which advertise themselves as bastions of social justice.

Your email disinviting me states that I am “on the board of an organization that takes a public stance regarding trans people as dangerous and deceptive.” This is a mischaracterization. Never has my organization, Women’s Liberation Front, made the claim that a person is dangerous simply because he or she identifies as trans. Rather, our organization opposes ideology and policy dangerous to women. This includes laws which allow males entry into women’s spaces on the basis of self-attested gender identity. This is happening right now in women’s prisons. 

One of my iniquitous 4W articles reported on a New York bill that would allow males to be housed with women solely on the basis of self-attested gender identity. We are already seeing the results of similar policies in California, Washington, and New Jersey. In New Jersey, for example, one of the 27 convicted male transfers being housed in New Jersey’s Edna Mahan Correctional Facility for Women is a trans-identified male serving a 50-year sentence for the brutal murder of a sex trafficked immigrant woman. Additionally, two women at this facility are now pregnant through their association with another trans-identified male who goes by “Demi.” There have also been reports of assaults on women by males in Washington and California prisons.

WoLF and I have never claimed that someone is dangerous in virtue of being a trans-identified person. Rather, we have claimed that some trans-identified males are dangerous in virtue of being predators. We have claimed that males in women’s prisons, for example, are a threat to women because they are violent males. WoLF has no issue with trans-identified females being housed in a women’s prison. Furthermore, one of our arguments against self-ID concerns the fact that self-attested gender identity is, by definition, unfalsifiable since it is grounded on a purely subjective experience and, therefore, may be abused by predatory males who would not otherwise identify as trans. 

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman








Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 16, 2022 at 4:29 AM

Three pearl milkweed flowers

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From May 1st in Schroeter Neighborhood Park come these three pearl milkweed vine flowers (Matelea reticulata), several buds, one leaf, and one ant. In the universe of flowers, not that many are green, a color normally associated with foliage and photosynthesis. Also unusual is the little pearly structure at the center, inside of which lie each flower’s reproductive elements.


And speaking of pearls, I’ve been reading Julian Baggini‘s The Ego Trick. This passage sets forth probably the book’s most important point:

It would be claiming too much to say that neuroscience has fully explained what selves are and how they can exist. Nevertheless, real progress has been made in recent decades and we are now in a position to at least sketch out how the self is constructed.

The most important finding, which seems to be universally accepted by all researchers into the self and the brain, is that brain research has given up on the search for the pearl of self. As the clinical neuropsychologist Paul Broks put it to me, ‘We have this deep intuition that there is a core, an essence there, and it’s hard to shake off, probably impossible to shake off, I suspect. But it’s true that neuroscience shows that there is no centre in the brain where things do all come together.’ The unity of the self is not to be explained in terms of a single, unified brain region, which acts as the master controller.

This is not what common sense would expect, but philosophers have anticipated it. For some time now, they have been wary of explanations which commit what is known as the homunculus fallacy. This is best explained through the example of vision. Armed with an elementary knowledge of how the eye works, it is tempting to think that light shines on the retina and then the brain creates from this a single, three-dimensional image. But who sees this image? The temptation is to think (or perhaps more usually assume) that there is a kind of mind’s eye which inspects the image in the brain. But then how does this ‘mind’s eye’ see this image? It cannot be that there is a little person — a homunculus — in our brains which watches mental images. If that were the case, we’d have to ask what was going on inside the head of that homunculus. Would there be another mental image, and if so, what would be seeing that? An even smaller homunculus? If we continued to explain each stage in the same way, we’d end up with an infinite number of ever smaller homunculi, each packed Russian-doll-like into our brains. Such an infinite regress could never explain how any seeing actually went on at all.

What is true of vision is true of the mental in general. Daniel Dennett uses the term ‘Cartesian theater’ to label this misguided way of thinking. The idea here is that it is easily assumed that in order to explain consciousness, we have to think of there being a single, unified centre of consciousness somewhere ‘inside’ us, whether we think this is an immaterial soul or a special part of the physical brain. But this cannot explain the unity of consciousness at all. You cannot explain the unity of experience by simply positing an inner, unified experiencer. That simply begs the question: how is unity of experience possible in the first place?

So even before neuroscience shone a light on how experience is unified in the brain, philosophers had a theoretical reason to think that, whatever the answer was, it couldn’t be that there was a kind of ‘inner self’ doing the work. Neuroscience has in effect discovered through experiment and observation what philosophers had concluded just by thinking.


© 2022 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 11, 2022 at 4:32 AM

Two views of prickly pear cactus flowers

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From April 28th in my part of Austin come outer and inner flower views from a prickly pear cactus, Opuntia engelmannii. I’m happy to report that as of today these cacti are still putting out flowers.



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As someone who has worked in the field of race relations for twenty-five years, I am utterly amazed that advocacy for “race essentialism” has come to the forefront over the last decade. Race essentialism is the practice of ascribing character traits and experiences to individuals based on the color of their skin. Advocates justify this approach by highlighting how skin color has been used to oppress people in the past as well as in the present, and argue that recognizing one’s “race” is necessary in order to correct for racism and build a more equitable future.

So begins an article by Quay Hanna entitled “How talking to strangers on the bus changed my views on race.” The author had grown up as a white supremacist but came to realize how mistaken that ideology is.

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 10, 2022 at 4:36 AM

What I couldn’t see

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The cedar sage (Salvia roemeriana) in wooded areas of my neighborhood was out in force by the middle of April. I found plenty of those plants to photograph in Great Hills Park, and then on April 17th I spent time with a group of them on a rocky embankment along Morado Circle. It’s not unusual to see cedar sage flowers that have fallen off, but one really caught my attention—and caught is an apt word. The flower had landed on a leaf and miraculously was standing upright. I assumed the base of the fallen flower had happened to land in a small hole in the leaf, and that accounted for the flower’s apparent defiance of gravity. After taking some pictures of the prodigy I touched it, and only then from the way it swung about did I realize that a strand of spider silk, still invisible to me, had kept the flower from falling over. My 100mm macro lens and camera sensor resolved the strand of silk that my unaided eyes couldn’t see. Now your eyes get to see it. They also get to see some nearby cedar sage buds that had begun opening.



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As much as I’ve been the bearer of reassurance in my photographs from nature, I’ve also been the bearer of increasingly dismal social news in my commentaries. For the past decade, and especially since the moral panic of 2020, “wokeism” has rapidly been taking over our institutions. Medicine is no exception. Some professors of medicine have taken to denying biological sex. Medical schools are already plotting to make gender ideology and racist ideology required parts of their curriculum. Faculty and staff who won’t pledge fealty to those delusional and hateful things will risk getting fired, and people who apply to work there but don’t show evidence of sufficiently “woke” fervor won’t get hired in the first place. Medical students will face the same kinds of pressure. You can read the distressing details in John D. Sailer’s article on the website of the National Association of Scholars.

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 5, 2022 at 4:33 AM

Following up on rain lilies

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For the three days from April 28th through April 30th I photographed first buds and then flowers of the abundant rain lilies (Zephyranthum drummondii) I found in Dominion at Great Hills Park on the far side of my neighborhood. I intended to continue my documentation for a fourth straight day on May 1st, when the flowers would begin to shrivel and turn colors as they approached the end of their short lives. And so I did, but in a different place; the location wouldn’t matter because all the rain lilies in Austin were of the same brood and on average would be in the same stage of development. I went to Schroeter Neighborhood Park, which though a mere two miles from home I’d never heard of till a day earlier, when someone posted pictures showing lots of rain lilies there.

With a different place, a different approach, as today’s two pictures show. In each one I got close enough to a rain lily that everything in the photograph except a portion of the nearest flower would be out of focus, and mostly way out of focus. (I think the yellow-orange flower heads were greenthread, Thelesperma filifolium.)


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“If liberty means anything at all it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.”
— George Orwell.

That line was in the preface that Orwell wrote for Animal Farm, but when he finally found a willing publisher for his allegory and it appeared in 1945, the preface wasn’t included. An article in The Quote Investigator tells how the preface then got lost and wasn’t rediscovered until 1971. You can read the preface if you’d like to.

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman





Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 4, 2022 at 3:20 AM

Rain, rain lilies, rain

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Rain lilies (Zephyranthes drummondii) took their common name from the fact that they come up a few days after a decent rain. We got that rain on April 25th, and by the 28th I noticed plenty of buds in the area where I photographed lace cactus flowers that day. I returned on the 29th and found almost all the buds had become flowers. I went back again on the 30th to follow their progress. A little light rain had me going back and forth to my car for shelter twice, but then I got to photograph rain-covered rain lilies. The picture above shows a still-fresh flower; the rain lily below was already beginning its decline.

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 2, 2022 at 4:21 AM

Blue stars and Barbara’s buttons

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Drove the 36 miles out to the Doeskin Ranch on April 27th in hopes of finding some blue stars (Amsonia ciliata). Found a few. Also found some flower heads of Barbara’s buttons (Marshallia caespitosa) with both a longhorn beetle (Typocerus sinuatus) and a bug of some sort.

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 1, 2022 at 4:28 AM

Ditch diving

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A recent post played up the advantage that plants in ditches get from the moisture the soil retains there. That’s how it was in a ditch on Main St. in the rural community of Thorndale on April 10th. The seed columns of anemones (Anemone berlandieri) vary a lot in length, with the one shown here coming from the long end of the range. Spiderworts (Tradescantia sp.) graciously provided the purple in the background. The second portrait shows the ditch-happy spiderworts in their own right.

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman



Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 26, 2022 at 4:33 AM

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