Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘fruit

We interrupt fall color to bring you fall color

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The interrupted fall color is from New Mexico; it will resume tomorrow. Interrupting it are two colorful views from Austin. For a couple of months I’d watched the fruit forming on the yaupon tree (Ilex vomitoria) outside my window. First it was green, then yellow, then red. Finally on the sunny afternoon of November 13th I figured I was ripe enough to take some pictures of it, which I did with my telephoto lens. Notice that not all the little fruits ripened at the same rate.

The second view is from yesterday along the Capital of Texas Highway in my hilly part of Austin. The picture shows a seasonally colorful colony of poison ivy, Toxicodendron radicans. As much as we may crave order, nature is often a jumble, and there’s no such thing as personal space when it comes to plants.





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Two generations ago, my father, an immigrant from Mexico, benefitted from programs that gave him access to job opportunities and scholarships that were not available to my mother, whose Ashkenazi ancestry had imbued her with lighter skin. My wife, who immigrated to North America as a refugee from Ukraine when it was part of the former USSR, was similarly excluded from work and educational opportunities due to her ancestry. At what point can we start to hold every person to the same standards, and seek to grant them access to the same opportunities—regardless of skin color, ancestry, gender, sexual orientation, or other immutable characteristics?

Discriminating against a person based on the color of that person’s skin upends this nation’s foundational tenets of equality, while sacrificing our humanity in the process. Hard-earned principles and freedoms formed over centuries through the democratic process should not be abandoned. Treating applicants as representatives of identity groups, rather than as unique individuals with intrinsic value, elevates institutional interests over individual rights. In turn, this promotes division, resentment, and dehumanization.


So wrote Bion Bartning in a November 18th article for FAIR,
the Foundation Against Intolerance and Racism.
You can read the full article.


© 2022 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 27, 2022 at 4:30 AM

Colorful clusters along a shallowly sinuous arc

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American beautyberry (Callicarpa americana) alongside our house on September 2nd.



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I call to your attention David C. Geary’s well-researched September 1st article “The Ideological Refusal to Acknowledge Evolved Sex Differences.” The subhead is “Boys and girls are not infinitely malleable, socially constructed products of the patriarchy.” Here’s the article’s bottom line, which is to say its final paragraph:

The claims made in a virtual world of internet algorithms populated by ideological social media pundits, journalists, and gender studies professors contradicts common sense and rational analysis of real-world phenomena. This is a world of words and ideas fraught with wishes and desires that are not always tethered to reality, including many far-fetched beliefs about the number of sexes and the origins and malleability of any associated sex or gender differences. Much remains to be learned about these differences which leaves plenty of room for legitimate debate. But there is no scientific room for the nonsensical idea that boys and girls and men and women are infinitely malleable and merely socially constructed products of the patriarchy or some other social system.

You’re welcome to read the full article by David C. Geary, who is a Curators’ Distinguished Professor in the Department of Psychological Sciences and the Interdisciplinary Neuroscience Program at the University of Missouri.


© 2022 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 9, 2022 at 6:17 AM

Posted in nature photography

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Three takes on yellow

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Sunflowers weren’t the only yellow I found on August 14th in the northeast quadrant of US 183 and Mopac. Above is the fruit of western horse nettle, Solanum dimidiatum. Next you have a yellowing mustang grape vine leaf, Vitis mustangensis.

The sheen tells you it’s an upper surface. The fuzziness in the last picture indicates it’s the lower surface. 



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In 2016 in the New York Times, Samuel J. Abrams of Sarah Lawrence College summarized research on faculty political preferences and found that the leftward tilt in social sciences and the humanities was getting stronger. Citing studies by the Higher Education Research Institute, he noted that the ratio of liberal professors to conservative professors nationally by 2014 “was 6 to 1; for those teaching in New England, the figure was 28 to 1.” When restricted to the humanities and social sciences, it is difficult to find self-defined conservatives, period, as they fear losing their jobs, or if tenured, their promotions, or if adjuncts, their connection to universities whatsoever. In one small study, history departments were found to have a ratio of 33.5 to 1 of liberals to conservatives.

That’s from a 2019 op ed by Richard Vatz in the Washington Examiner. As these things go, 2016 and 2019 are ancient history. The pandemic and moral panic of 2020 accelerated the monopolization of one and only one kind of thinking at American colleges and universities. As others before me have pointed out — how could they not, when it’s so blatant? — the sacred and must-be-genuflected-to “Diversity” tolerates no more diversity of beliefs than does the dogma of any other hardcore religion.

You’re welcome to read the full article.


© 2022 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 24, 2022 at 4:33 AM

Posted in nature photography

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Carolina comes to Texas

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A common vine in central Texas is Cocculus carolinus, known as Carolina snailseed, Carolina moonseed, and Carolina coralbead. Here from July 12th along Bull Creek you get a close look at the vine’s flowers and a somewhat farther-back view of unripe fruit. One website calls the tiny blossoms “insignificant,” but they’re obviously not that to the humble snailseed, which manages to keep propagating itself just fine, thank you. The little fruits turn red as they mature.


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According to one online estimate, Austin in 2022 has 1,028,225 people living inside its city limits, making it the 11th most populous city in the United States. Austin has more people than each of the five least populous states had in the 2020 census:

  1. Wyoming (581,075)
  2. Vermont (623,251)
  3. Alaska (724,357)
  4. North Dakota (770,026)
  5. South Dakota (896,581)

Austin approximately ties with the sixth state in the list, Delaware, whose 2022 estimated population is 1.03 million. Whether Austin will pull ahead isn’t clear. Because Austin is continuing to grow, it may well soon surpass Rhode Island, which went from 1,061,509 in the 2020 census to a just slightly higher estimated 1.09 million in 2022.


© 2022 Steven Schwartzman






Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 4, 2022 at 4:27 AM

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with 25 comments

Contorted is how I might describe the branch of a possumhaw tree (Ilex decidua) already leafing out at East Metropolitan Park on March 25th. Five days earlier, as spring officially began, I’d photographed a prickly pear pad in my part of Austin that had reached the end of its life. In addition to the usual drying out and loss of green that a dead pad undergoes, it had contorted itself in a way that made me have to do its portrait.


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And speaking of contortion, I recommend Reason for its anti-contorted stance, which is to say its adherence to reason. The magazine of “free minds and free markets” promotes free speech, due process, and the deciding of matters based on evidence and logic. If you check out the Reason website, you’ll notice that it finds things to criticize in camps on both sides of the conventional left~right political divide. You could call that outlook libertarian.


© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 31, 2022 at 4:29 AM


with 9 comments

I’ve had a hard time fulfilling my PQ, or possumhaw quota, this winter. For whatever reason—perhaps the sustained freeze last February—most of the possumhaws (Ilex decidua) I’ve seen this season haven’t produced a lot of fruit. A few weeks ago I made sure to check out several that looked fabulous last year; this time they were almost completely bare. Among the best specimens I’ve found was the one shown above on January 26th in a front yard six houses away from us. A bright blue sky as a contrasting backdrop didn’t hurt, and a bird’s nest added a point of interest. A possumhaw within sight of that one that has borne dense fruit in other years was practically devoid of any this year. Three days later along Cameron Road I stopped to photograph another possumhaw that looked pretty good:


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I recently learned about the ruling by a United States District Court in the 1967 case “Lee v. Macon County Board of Education.” The court notably found that “It is also axiomatic that a state may not induce, encourage or promote private persons to accomplish what it is constitutionally forbidden to accomplish.” The same principle naturally holds true for the federal government. As the First Amendment to the United States Constitution puts it: “Congress shall make no law… abridging the freedom of speech….” Unfortunately, members of Congress and the executive branch of our government are increasingly seeking to circumvent that prohibition by urging private companies to do the censoring for them. In a current example, “Chelsea Greene Publishing is suing Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren for allegedly abusing her political authority to push Amazon to censor their book titled ‘The Truth About COVID-19.’ The publisher alleges serious First Amendment violations.”

I don’t know how accurate or inaccurate the statements in that book will eventually prove to be—think about the many times government health officials have reversed themselves about the Covid-19 pandemic, sometimes even later admitting that they’d known what they were saying wasn’t true—but no member of the government should be telling booksellers what books they can and cannot sell.

Not that large companies like Facebook, Google, Amazon, Apple, and Twitter need much nudging from the federal government—on their own they’ve already been suppressing and canceling people who dissent from whatever the latest orthodoxy is. Elizabeth Warren might as well encourage fire to be hot or rain to be wet.

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman







Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 13, 2022 at 4:25 AM

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Lost Maples 2021

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Turns out that 2021 hasn’t been a good year for fall foliage at Lost Maples State Park, which lies about 160 miles west-southwest of our home in Austin. We spent over three hours driving there on November 10th, only to hear from the ranger at the entrance when we arrived that while 2020 had been very good, this year a lot of the leaves were turning brown and falling off. Still, I did what I could. The pleasant scene above caught my attention because it embraces two things: several already bare flameleaf sumacs (Rhus lanceolata) still adorned with prominent fruit clusters, and a few bigtooth maples (Acer grandidentatum) whose leaves were among the more colorful ones we saw of that species there this year. The branches below, festooned with ball moss (Tillandsia recurvata), give you a closer look at some bigtooth maple leaves turning colors

None of the trees we observed there this year came close to the display they put on during our 2014 visit.

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Facts Matter

I’ve prefaced a couple of my recent commentaries by saying that I strive for accuracy. I’ve asked anyone who catches an incorrect statement of fact to let me know and to point me to a reliable source of information so I can correct my mistake. Who wouldn’t want to get things right?

Alas, many mainstream news outlets in recent years haven’t been so conscientious, despite (presumably) having an ethical code that requires the checking of facts. The Kyle Rittenhouse trial in Kenosha, Wisconsin, which concluded last week with a jury acquittal on all charges, is a recent example. Those charges were for four shootings by Rittenhouse, two of which were fatal, one of which wounded a man, and one of which missed. Rittenhouse claimed self-defense, and the jury concluded that prosecutors had failed to provide evidence to disprove self-defense. In the more than a year leading up to the trial, many media outlets had been making factually false claims about what occurred.

One much-repeated false claim was that Rittenhouse had carried a rifle across state lines. It turned out that Rittenhouse, who lived in Illinois, actually crossed into Wisconsin without a gun, then retrieved the gun from storage in Wisconsin. Another claim was that Rittenhouse, 17 years old at the time, wasn’t legally allowed to carry the kind of rifle he carried. When people finally checked the relevant statute in Wisconsin, they found the statute did not prevent Rittenhouse from carrying the kind of gun that he did.

Another much-repeated false claim was that Rittenhouse chased after the people he ended up shooting, as if he had been out hunting for innocent people to kill. The evidence presented at trial showed that actually all of those people had chased Rittenhouse, who shot them only after they attacked him first.

Aside from outright false statements, many media outlets slanted their coverage of the case to such an extent that readers and viewers came away with a false understanding of what had happened. The repeated harping about crossing state lines—notice the plural—was intended to give the impression that Rittenhouse had traveled through a bunch of states to carry out some nefarious action far from home in a place where he had no reason to be. Conveniently not mentioned was that only a single state line was involved, the one between Illinois and Wisconsin just a few miles from Rittenhouse’s home. (It’s the same state line I crossed a bunch of times in 2016 when we stayed at two hotels in far northeast Illinois and took day trips into Wisconsin, including Kenosha.) Also rarely mentioned in most media was the fact that Rittenhouse had been spending plenty of time in Kenosha; his father and a close friend live there; he was working as a lifeguard in Kenosha County. It takes just half an hour to drive to Kenosha from Rittenhouse’s home in Antioch, Illinois—about the same time as the average American spends commuting to work.

Many media outlets failed to mention that all of the people Rittenhouse shot were convicted criminals, not the “protestors” or “heroes” that some tried hard to portray them as. Here’s a summary of their backgrounds: “Rosenbaum was a registered sex offender [he’d raped boys] who was out on bond for a domestic abuse battery accusation and was caught on video acting aggressively earlier that night. Huber was a felon convicted in a strangulation case who was recently accused of domestic abuse. Grosskreutz was convicted of a crime for use of a firearm while intoxicated and was armed with a handgun when shot (he testified in court that he carried it concealed despite having an expired permit; Wisconsin law requires a valid permit to carry a weapon concealed).” That’s from a Wisconsin Right Now article, which offers documentation to back up the summary and also goes into much more detail. And the fact remains that all three of the people who got shot had taken part in a riot.

There was a huge campaign to racialize the case, despite the fact that Rittenhouse and the three people he shot were all white—an inconvenient truth that many accounts purposely failed to mention. American journalist Glenn Greenwald, who lives in Rio de Janeiro, said last week that the three largest newspapers in Brazil had all been reporting that the men Rittenhouse shot were black, an impression the Brazilian newspapers had incorrectly picked up from the way so many American sources had reported the events.

It’s a sad state of affairs that even after all the evidence presented in the televised trial, some people in the media are still making factually untrue statements about the case. You can read more about that in an Epoch Times article.

Opinions, of course, differ from facts, and people often draw different conclusions even from agreed-upon facts. I think most people, including me, will agree that a 17-year-old with a powerful rifle shouldn’t have gone to a riot thinking that he could offer aid and protect stores. The fact that he felt he needed to help is an indictment of the authorities in Wisconsin, especially the governor, who had done and continued to do little to stop the nights of rioting that ended up causing tens of millions of dollars in damage in Kenosha.

UPDATE. After this commentary appeared, I was made aware of a Newsweek opinion piece entitled “I’m a Black Ex-Felon. I’m Glad Kyle Rittenhouse Is Free.”

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 23, 2021 at 4:31 AM

It’s not just flameleaf sumac’s leaves

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It’s not just the leaves of flameleaf sumac (Rhus lanceolata) that turn warm colors: its fruit clusters at their most vivid become bright red. In the second view, nary a colorful leaflet remains.

Both photographs are from November 1st at the corner of Spicewood Springs Rd. and Old Spicewood Springs Rd. (Because that description could apply to either of two intersections about a quarter of a mile apart, I’ll have to specify that it was the one a block south of Capital of Texas Highway.)

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From 2019, you’re welcome to watch an interview by Malcolm Gladwell of Jonathan Haidt and Greg Lukianoff, authors of The Coddling of the American Mind, and Lenore Skenazy, founder of the Free-Range Kids movement.

Here’s a blurb for the discussion:

Civil discourse is in decline, with potentially dire results for American democracy. On college campuses across America, visiting speakers are disinvited, or even shouted down, while professors, students, and admini-strators are afraid to talk openly, for fear that someone will take offense. Political discussion on social media and television has devolved into a wave of hyper-partisan noise. A generation of overprotective parents are reluctant to let their children play outside without supervision. How did we get here? And how can we change the way that we engage with one another?

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 21, 2021 at 4:33 AM

Posted in nature photography

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Not exactly a pumpkin

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Okay, so buffalo gourds (Cucurbita foetidissima) aren’t pumpkins, but they are in the same botanical genus. Like pumpkins, buffalo gourds develop on the ground, a position where it’s hard to take photographs free from distracting stuff. To get around that difficulty, on October 8th at the Arbor Walk Pond I got down low and used my left hand to lift a buffalo gourd as high as the attached vine would let me, while my right hand wielded the camera. That was good enough to exclude the ground entirely, as I did in most of the pictures I took of this gourd, but I ended up liking the way the darker fringe across the bottom “grounds” this portrait. If you’d like to compare it to one of the “ungrounded” images, and also see a somewhat different portion of what you could fancifully call the planetary surface, click the thumbnail below.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 31, 2021 at 3:55 AM

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Portraits from our yard: episode 14

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We have an American beautyberry bush (Callicarpa americana) growing in three places around our house. On October 6th I stood on a stepladder to aim mostly downward at this fruiting branch. The one yellow leaf is the first fall foliage you’ve seen here for 2021—ironic, given that afternoon high temperatures stayed in the 90s for at least a week after I took the picture.

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For at least five years, some astute social observers have been classifying Wokeness as a secular religion, complete with unquestionable dogma, proselytizing zeal, priests, and a prohibition against blasphemy. For a good explanation of the phenomenon, you can watch a remote talk that John McWhorter gave to the International Literature Festival in Berlin on September 9th.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 18, 2021 at 4:29 AM

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