Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘flowers

A pretty yellow

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A few prickly pear cacti (Opuntia engelmannii) were still putting out flowers in June.
I’d made this bold portrait of one in Allen Park on May 15th.


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Four days ago I saw a car with the custom license plate MRSCORN.
Was that Mrs. Corn or was it Mr. Scorn?
Or was it both, with the Mr. scorning the Mrs.?

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 21, 2021 at 4:33 AM

Mexican hat: en masse and solo

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Above, from Fireoak Dr. on June 5th, behold a happily flowering colony of Mexican hats, Ratibida columnifera. Below is a fresh new Mexican hat flower head along Capital of Texas Highway on June 14th.


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Yesterday I quoted from the speech that Martin Luther King Jr. gave in Washington, D.C., on August 28, 1963. Probably the most famous line from that speech is this one: “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

Now it’s 58 years later, and it pains me to have to say that Dr. King’s color-blind approach to human interaction is falling out of fashion. For some Americans it’s completely gone, and they insist on categorizing and analyzing everything according to race. One such person is Ibram X. Kendi. Where Dr. King strove to end discrimination, Kendi applauds it: “The only remedy to racist discrimination is anti-racist discrimination. The only remedy to past discrimination is present discrimination. The only remedy to present discrimination is future discrimination.”

Now, you might say that Kendi is just one person, and so what if he’s a racist?* Unfortunately Kendi has had one best-selling book after another. The U.S. Navy has put his How to Be an Antiracist on its recommended reading list. Institutions have paid him and keep on paying him tens of thousands of dollars to deliver speeches.Time magazine included him in its 2020 annual list of the 100 most influential people in the world. Boston University has appointed him to the Andrew Mellon Professorship in the Humanities. And on and on the insanity goes.

What a sorry state my country has fallen into!

Some people are speaking out (and writing out) against the insanity. If you’d like a detailed article along those lines, you can read one by John McWhorter, a linguistics professor at my alma mater, Columbia.

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* Notice the Orwellian way this racist calls himself an antiracist, just as a certain violent fascist group calls itself antifa, i.e. anti-fascist.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 20, 2021 at 4:29 AM

Blue curls and firewheel

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Been a long time since I showed you any blue curls, Phacelia congesta. In Allen Park on May 15th
I spotted one flowering close enough to a firewheel, Gaillardia pulchella, for me to contrast their colors.


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Today is Juneteenth, which became a national holiday this week. The name is short for June Nineteenth, which was the day in 1865 when Union forces brought the news to Galveston, Texas, that all former slaves were now free. This is the first new American holiday since Ronald Reagan signed into law the establishment of Martin Luther King Jr. Day in 1983.

Martin Luther King Jr. is famous for a speech he gave in Washington, D.C., on August 28, 1963, that has become known as “I have a dream” because that line figured repeatedly in the speech. Here’s a portion:

I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream.

It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal”…

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I’m all for that, and I expect you are, too.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 19, 2021 at 4:40 AM

Thryallis Thursday

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Galphimia angustifolia, a member of the botanical family Malpighiaceae, is a slender little native plant I seldom come across. After I saw a stand of it near the Upper Bull Creek Greenbelt Trail on June 13th I went back the next morning to take photographic advantage of my find. Vernacular names for this species are thryallis (apparently a Greek word meaning ‘wick’) and narrowleaf goldshower. Notice how the flowers express a fiveness, with the petals starting out very slender and abruptly widening farther out. Each flower is red, orange, or yellow, and sometimes all three kinds appear on the same plant. Flower diameter is no more than 3/8 of an inch (9mm), so this picture is much larger than life.

On the technical side, I used a ring flash and chose a shutter speed of 1/400 and an aperture of f/20 for good depth of field. That small an aperture also rendered the bright sky a dark blue.


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Yesterday I linked to the testimony of Xi Van Fleet, a woman who managed to escape the terror of the Chinese Communist regime, only to find years later that her school district in northern Virginia has been indoctrinating its students. I also recently learned about Yeonmi Park, who had a harrowing escape from North Korea in 2007 at the age of 13. After making her way to America, she eventually enrolled at Columbia University, my alma mater (alas), where she had a reaction similar to Xi Van Fleet’s. You can hear Yeonmi Park’s story in an online article that includes a video.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 17, 2021 at 4:33 AM

Wildflower carpets continuing into June

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Here from Mourning Dove Lane and US 183 in Leander is a field that was still wonderfully flowerful on June 7th. Dominating everything else was Gaillardia pulchella, known as firewheels, Indian blankets, and blanketflowers. The two kinds of white flowers toward the back were bull nettle (Cnidoscolus texanus) and white prickly poppies (Argemone albiflora).

Because I show pictures here at a size of about half a megapixel, you often miss details apparent in the full 50-megapixel photographs my camera takes. The image below is a strip across the bottom of the photograph above. Click the strip to enlarge it and see more details. The white flower at the left is Texas bindweed (Convovulus equitans). Near the middle of the strip is the pod of a milkweed, probably antelope horns milkweed (Asclepias asperula). The purple inflorescence a little farther right is a horsemint (Monarda citriodora). Notice how many of the firewheels had already become seed heads.


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“The Cultural Revolution, formally the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, was a violent sociopolitical purge movement in China from 1966 until 1976.” So begins the Wikipedia article about what I choose to call the Anti-Cultural Revolution because it destroyed culture and killed people. “Estimates of the death toll from the [Anti-]Cultural Revolution, including civilians and Red Guards, vary greatly, ranging from hundreds of thousands to 20 million.”

Elements of that horrific movement have now come to America, where crazed mobs, both in person and online, persecute people for having said or done something that the fanatics don’t like, even if the thing was decades ago and the people weren’t yet adults. As in the North Korean dictatorship today, a supposed offender’s family, friends, and associates also are deemed worthy of punishment. Thankfully, some Americans are speaking out against such destructive fanaticism. If you’d like to learn more about a recent incident, you can listen to Bari Weiss‘s half-hour podcast “America’s Cultural Revolution.”

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 15, 2021 at 4:32 AM

Monday milkweed

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Only occasionally do I come across Texas milkweed, Asclepias texana. Yesterday morning along the Upper Bull Creek Greenbelt Trail was one of those times. To give you a sense of scale, I’ll add that each little flower in the cluster is only about a quarter of an inch (6mm) long.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 14, 2021 at 4:41 AM

Brown-eyed Susan colony

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Here’s a wildflower that hasn’t appeared in these pages for a good while: Rudbeckia hirta, known as brown-eyed Susan or black-eyed Susan. (Maybe Susan’s the sister of the Barbara whose buttons you saw last time.) Mixed in are a few firewheels, Gaillardia pulchella, many of which had already gone to seed by the time I took this picture at Tejas Camp in Williamson County on June 7th. Among some of the brown-eyed Susans I found the basket-flower, Plectocephalus americanus, that’s shown below. Sometimes my hair looks like that, except for the pink.


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My country’s current administration is changing the word mothers to birthing people in some official documents. Honest. At least greeting card companies have 11 months to update their products for May 8, 2022, which will be the next Birthing People’s Day. A whole lot of changes are gonna have to get made. Whereas ma and mom were pet forms of the now discredited and unspeakable m-word, I guess children will fondly call the people who birthed them their bir. And of course the verb smother will have to be changed to sbirthingperson. As in: Google, Facebook, and Twitter keep sbirthingpersoning the expression of truths they don’t want you to know.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 12, 2021 at 4:34 AM

White makes its rounds

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Here are two takes on white. Above is a flower head of Barbara’s buttons (Marshallia caespitosa) in Allen Park on May 15th. Who the eponymous and alliterative Barbara was is anyone’s guess. The same photo session yielded the portrait below of a firewheel (Gallardia pulchella) with white ray tips, though in that white you can see traces of the customary yellow that’s dominant in the firewheels farther back. The ring flash I used for the top picture accounts for the darkness surrounding the flower head. For the other picture I went with natural light—or did natural light go with me?

Along those lines, here’s Austin Dobson’s poem “The Paradox of Time”:

Time goes, you say? Ah no!
Alas, Time stays, we go;
Or else, were this not so,
What need to chain the hours,
For Youth were always ours?
Time goes, you say?—ah no!

Ours is the eyes’ deceit
Of men whose flying feet
Lead through some landscape low;
We pass, and think we see
The earth’s fixed surface flee:—
Alas, Time stays,—we go!

Once in the days of old,
Your locks were curling gold,
And mine had shamed the crow.
Now, in the self-same stage,
We’ve reached the silver age;
Time goes, you say?—ah no!

Once, when my voice was strong,
I filled the woods with song
To praise your ‘rose’ and ‘snow’;
My bird, that sang, is dead;
Where are your roses fled?
Alas, Time stays,—we go!

See, in what traversed ways,
What backward Fate delays
The hopes we used to know;
Where are our old desires?—
Ah, where those vanished fires?
Time goes, you say?—ah no!

How far, how far, O Sweet,
The past behind our feet
Lies in the even-glow!
Now, on the forward way,
Let us fold hands, and pray;
Alas, Time stays,—we go!

Dobson took his inspiration from a famous sonnet by Ronsard, which you’re welcome to read in the original and in an English translation.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 11, 2021 at 4:38 AM

Red admiral on basket-flower

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From May 7th on the Blackland Prairie in southern Round Rock, here’s a red admiral butterfly (Vanessa atalanta) on a basket-flower (Plectocephalus americanus). According to a Wikipedia article, Johan Christian Fabricius gave the name Vanessa to this genus of butterflies in 1807. The name itself has an interesting origin: “It was invented by the Anglo-Irish writer Jonathan Swift for Esther Vanhomrigh, whom Swift had met in 1708 and whom he tutored. The name was created by taking ‘Van’ from Vanhomrigh’s last name and adding ‘Essa’, a pet form of Esther.” Speaking of the author best known for writing Gulliver’s Travels, I’ll add that the English adjective swift meant ‘moving quickly’ before it got applied to and became the name of a bird that moves quickly. And because I moved so quickly from nature to words, let me come back to our basket-flower and point out that the genus name Plectocephalus (which recently got changed from Centaurea) is made up of Greek elements meaning ‘plait’ and ‘head,’ because the flower heads of this species remind people of little woven baskets.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 10, 2021 at 4:34 AM

Centering

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Nature photographers have a field day with basket-flowers (Plectocephalus americanus), which offer themselves up as subjects in so many ways. In this photograph from May 7th on the Blackland Prairie in southern Round Rock I closed in on the center of an open flower head to increase the portrait’s abstraction.

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This reminds me that one of the latest bits of jargon from ideologues and malcontents—but I repeat myself—is center used as a verb. For example, one website describes an activity “to create a visceral learning experience that centers racism in our bodies.” Ugh. I’ll stick to centering wildflowers, thank you.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 8, 2021 at 3:00 AM

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