Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘grass

Ambushed bushy bluestem

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On November 15th, while wandering through the field in Manor adorned with myriad fluffy seed heads of bushy bluestem (Andropogon glomeratus) and goldenrod (Solidago sp.) that you saw in a post last month, I spied something that looked unusual and that I couldn’t initially identify. After I got closer I could tell that a plant had gotten wrapped up, presumably by a spider, but in a way I hadn’t seen before. Then I noticed the green lynx spider (Peucetia viridans) that must have done the deed. Eventually I realized that what the spider had wrapped up into a nest was a bushy bluestem seed head. Notice the spiderlings, of which there were plenty more than shown in this picture. You get a closer view of the green lynx in the following picture:

As relevant quotations for today, you can listen to Rudy Francisco reading his poem “Mercy,
which he indicates is after Nikki Giovanni’s “Allowables.”

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 22, 2020 at 4:22 AM

Way up there on the GAIN scale

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Way up there on the GAIN (great appeal in natives) scale for our grasses is gulf muhly (Muhlenbergia capillaris), which turns a delicious pink in the fall. It grows as close to Austin as one county east, but landscapers are understandably fond of planting it here. That’s why I could photograph these specimens along South Lakeshore Blvd. on November 17th. Texas is at the southwestern edge of gulf muhly’s range, which I was surprised to find tapers off in the opposite direction through Long Island, where I grew up, and into southern New England. The second picture offers a closer look at the pleasant disarray. In both images I used the contrasting blue sky to set off the pink of the grass.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 14, 2020 at 4:32 AM

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Silver bluestem seed heads blowing

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November 9; Brushy Creek Lake Park in Cedar Park.
Silver bluestem = Bothriochloa laguroides.
Backlighting; shutter speed = 1/640.

And speaking of blowing, here’s a comic comment that wafted its way into my spam folder recently: “Hello my loved one! I want to say that this article is amazing, nice written and include approximately all important infos. I’d like to peer extra posts like this.”

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© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 9, 2020 at 4:36 AM

Wind-waved willow yellow

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While wind whisked the leaves of this black willow tree sideways, my trusty camera set to 1/640 of a second proved its equal. The location on November 15th was new to me, Maxa Drive in Manor; the tree, Salix nigra, was hardly new, being a common species here. And not new either was the pretty yellow that the long leaves tend to turn before falling. Hardly half a mile east I’d earlier found and photographed a fine willow sapling serving as a backdrop for some bushy bluestem turned fluffy, both blazoned against the day’s blue skies. The two portraits exemplify the more-is-more or fill-the-frame esthetic that I often find myself drawn to.

Did you know that another English word for a willow is withy? Here’s “The Old Withy Tree” from an 1859 book called Songs of the Wye, and Poems, from a writer identified only by the pseudonym Wioni:

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 6, 2020 at 4:20 AM

Twi-light, yet not twilight

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On the morning of November 15th I spent a good couple of hours in a field on the north side of US 290 east of Bois d’Arc Rd. in Manor. Making that piece of prairie fabulous to behold and photograph were the extensive colonies of goldenrod (Solidago sp.) and bushy bluestem (Andropogon glomeratus) that had gone into their fluffy autumn stage. In some places the two colonies were mostly distinct; in others they interwove, as you see here. Notice in the lower right of the top picture that one goldenrod plant was still flowering.

The post’s title interweaves etymology and photography. The word twilight means literally ‘two lights,’ the two being the fading light of day and the oncoming darkness of night. I took these two pictures not in different parts of the day—they were only seven minutes apart—but in different parts of the field and, more importantly, facing in opposite directions. The first photograph shows the effects of the morning sunlight falling directly on the subject; the second picture looks in the direction of the sun, whose light on the way to the camera passed through much of the fluff and in so doing outlined the seed heads. The first landscape is softer and more colorful, the second starker and more dramatic. Both have their appeal.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 25, 2020 at 4:32 AM

Little bluestem in front of gayfeather flowers

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You’ve already had two posts from September 15th along FM 2769 in far northwest Austin showing Liatris punctata, known as gayfeather and blazing-star. In one you saw normal purple flowers, and in the other white flowers. In today’s photograph the gayfeather plays a supporting role (though colorfully a dominant one) behind a stalk of little bluestem grass, Schizachyrium scoparium, a part of which had turned brown in anticipation of approaching autumn.

And here’s an unrelated quotation for today: “When a theory really has got your brain in its grip, contradictory evidence—even evidence you already know—sometimes becomes invisible.” — Jordan Ellenberg, How Not to Be Wrong.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 7, 2020 at 4:44 AM

Sandbur doing its thing

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While some might say the droplets of dew on this sandbur soften the image, no amount of dew can soften the pain if Cenchrus spinifex‘s barbs get into your skin, which they have an uncanny predilection for doing. As Jim Conrad explains, this grass is “abundantly armored with stiff, very sharp spines which themselves are mantled with minute, backward-pointing spines. When a sandbur punctures your skin, because of those backward-pointing spines, pulling it out becomes a miserable experience. If you’re not thinking, when you realize the bur is resisting being pulled out, you squeeze it harder to get a better grip, and end up with stuck fingers, and with those backward-pointing spines on the spines, there’s simply no nice way of getting unstuck.”

I took this picture near the Sierra Nevada entrance to Great Hills Park on June 25th. I’ve had to deal with sandburs in several other places since then.

Unrelated thought for today: “Any maniac can kindle a conflagration, but it requires many wise men to put it out.” — Charles MacKay in Memoirs of Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds, first published in 1841.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 1, 2020 at 4:44 AM

Posted in nature photography

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Two takes on gulf muhly

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The decorative grass classified botanically as Muhlenbergia capillaris goes by the common names gulf muhly, pink muhly, and hair grass. The last time it appeared in these pages was four years ago. Because 4 is 2 times 2 as well as 2 plus 2 and also 2 to the power 2, and because mathematics is abstract, here are two abstract views of gulf muhly taken outside the Cedar Park Recreation Center on November 18th. The plant in the second, though still, appears to be blowing; thus did the genie in my camera make the static dynamic.

Muhly is short for Muhlenbergia, whose origin the website of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center explains this way: “The genus of this plant is named for Gotthilf Heinrich Ernst Muhlenberg (1753-1815), also Heinrich Ludwig Muehlenberg, or Henry Muhlenberg, who was a German-educated Lutheran minister and the first president of Franklin College, now Franklin and Marshall College, Pennsylvania. He is most famous due to his work in the field of botany. An accomplished botanist, chemist, and mineralogist, Henry is credited with classifying and naming 150 species of plants in his 1785 work Index Flora Lancastriensis. Muhlenberg’s work and collaboration with European botanists led to great advances in the study of plants and earned him the distinction as America’s first outstanding botanist.”

© 2019 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 28, 2019 at 4:42 AM

Giant bristlegrass

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Near where we first parked at the Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge on October 6th was some giant bristlegrass, Setaria magna. I scrunched and strained to get into a position from which I could play the seed head off against the cumulus clouds overhead. The result shown here strikes me as an emblem—of what, I can’t say, though the cloud nebulously recalls the shape of Antarctica.

© 2019 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 1, 2019 at 4:50 AM

Navarre Beach

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On the way from Atlanta to Mobile on August 9th we deviated from the most direct route to stop at Navarre Beach on the Gulf of Mexico in the Florida Panhandle. The dark clouds beyond the sea oats (Uniola paniculata) foreshadowed the downpour that hit us west of Pensacola an hour or so later.

© 2019 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 10, 2019 at 4:45 AM

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