Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘leaf

What is this?

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I’m guessing you’ll have no idea what this is. If you’re up for a challenge, pause for a bit to contemplate the photograph and try to figure out what you’re seeing, then continue reading below for an explanation. Of course you’re welcome to tell us what you imagined this abstract picture shows.

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On April 25th I found that some rain-lilies (Zephyranthes drummondii) in my neighborhood had gotten well past the flowering stage and had produced seed capsules, so I set about photographing a few of them. Rain-lily leaves are typically only a third of an inch wide yet can grow to 12 inches long. Given those dimensions, the leaves usually end up lying on the ground, but I noticed that one rain-lily leaf had draped itself over a prickly pear cactus pad, with the result that the leaf’s distal portion was suspended in the air. I conceived the idea of taking pictures tip-on, so to speak, even as a bit of breeze complicated my task by causing the leaf to move somewhat. This minimalist portrait with almost nothing in focus is one result of my experiments. Prickly pear cactus buds on an adjacent pad became the orange orbs you see at the lower right.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 5, 2021 at 4:41 AM

Palmetto leaf arcs

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I wouldn’t do justice to Palmetto State Park, which we visited on January 29th, without showing you at least one close view of designs in the leaf of a palmetto, Sabal minor.

And here’s a quotation for today from Schiller’s 1801 play Die Jungfrau von Orleans, which is to say The Maiden from Orleans (meaning Joan of Arc):

Unsinn, du siegst und ich muß untergehn!
Mit der Dummheit kämpfen Götter selbst vergebens.

The original doesn’t rhyme but I ended up making a loose modern-day translation that happens to rhyme:

Madness, you’ve won the day and I’ve got to give in!
Against stupidity the gods themselves can’t win.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 10, 2021 at 4:38 AM

A new source of fall color for me

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Driving about on the Blackland Prairie on November 11th, we came upon a pond that was new to us. Located along Kingston Lacy Blvd. in Pflugerville, a plaque identified it as Mirror Lake. Some of the usual water-loving species were growing around the edge of the pond, including Iva annua, known as annual sumpweed or annual marsh elder. On one of those plants I noticed a leaf that caught my attention for two reasons: it was bright yellow, and it stayed pressed to the stem from which it grew. As I’d never seen a sumpweed leaf like that, it was a welcome new source of fall color.

The Romans had a saying, Nihil sub sole novum, which Wiktionary says was borrowed from the Hebrew אֵין כָּל חָדָשׁ תַּחַת הַשָּׁמֶשׁ‎ (en kol chadásh táchat hashámesh), “There’s nothing new under the sun.” Sorry, proverb, but this sunny leaf was new to me.

And speaking of old and new, the Illinois Wildflowers page for this species tells us that “Sumpweed has an interesting archaeological history because its seeds were used by early Amerindians as a source of food prior to the arrival of the squash-bean-corn complex from Mexico. The primary region of use was the lower to middle Mississippi region and the lower Midwest along the Ohio River. A cultivated variety of Sumpweed, Iva annua macrocarpa, was used for this purpose, as its seeds were about twice as long and wide in size (about 7 mm. in length and 4.5 mm. across) as the seeds of the wild varieties of Iva annua. Unfortunately, this cultivated variety of Sumpweed is now extinct with non-viable seeds existing only at archaeological sites or inside caves….”

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 3, 2020 at 4:37 AM

Two more views of pickerelweed

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Pontederia cordata; August 13th at a pond near E. Howard Lane
on the Blackland Prairie in northeast Austin.

And here’s an unrelated thought for today: “We can finish nothing in this life; but we may make a beginning, and bequeath a noble example. Thus Character is the true antiseptic of society. The good deed leaves an indelible stamp. It lives on and on; and while the frame moulders and disappears, the great worker lives for ever in the memory of his race. ‘Death,’ says the Philosopher, ‘is a co-mingling of Eternity with Time. In the death of a good man, Eternity is seen looking through Time.'” — Samuel L. Smiles; George Moore, Merchant and Philanthropist.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 10, 2020 at 4:39 AM

Two disparate emblems from the Blackland Prairie

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On September 7th I headed out to the Whitehorse Ranch subdivision that’s been going up on the west side of Manor for the past few years. Ever on the lookout for new ways to portray familiar subjects, I noticed I could line up the soft bract of a snow-on-the-prairie plant (Euphorbia bicolor) with a sunflower (Helianthus annuus) beyond it, as you see above. I wasn’t the only one plying my trade there: men were working on nearby houses to the accompaniment of Mexican music. Because it was a construction site, I noticed a certain amount of junk lying around on the ground. One thing that caught my fancy was an “empty” and partly scrunched water bottle, inside of which the remaining bits of liquid had evaporated and then re-condensed on the inner surface. Picking up the bottle carefully so as not to dislodge the drops, I photographed the abstraction.

And here’s a quotation relevant to the second picture: “A drop of water, if it could write out its own history, would explain the universe to us.” — Lucy Larcom, The Unseen Friend, 1892.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 9, 2020 at 4:39 AM

Paloverde parts

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From August 25th at Mopac and US 183, here are the ever cheery flowers of a paloverde tree (Parkinsonia aculeata). I also did a closeup of one of the tree’s drying pods.

Below is a minimalist view of a paloverde leaf whose curling tip had turned reddish.

And here’s an unrelated quotation for today:
“Sensible people don’t grieve over what they don’t have but rejoice in what they do have.”
Epictetus, Fragments.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 23, 2020 at 4:41 AM

A predilection to turn red

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The leaves of smartweed plants (Polygonum sp.) tend to turn yellow and red. On August 25th I positioned myself with the sun in front of me so that its light would transluce this smartweed leaf and saturate the red. Cameras don’t like looking into the sun—which is to say photographers generally don’t like it—because the light bouncing around off the lens elements can create unwanted artifacts. That’s how there came to be orbs at the top of this picture. Technically it’s a defect, and I could easily remove it, but you may find it’s a smart look for a smartweed leaf. The plant’s stems also noticeably have red in them:

The answer to yesterday’s question asking which independent country has the lowest population density is Mongolia, with only about 2 people per square mile. Eliza Waters quickly came up with the right answer, and Peter Klopp soon followed.

When we look at a globe of the world, we’re accustomed to seeing countries represented in proportion to their areas. For a change, you may want to check out a map that represents countries according to their populations (click the map there to enlarge it). You’ll notice some countries appear smaller or even much smaller than you’re used to seeing them (e.g. Canada, Mongolia, Australia, Ireland, Russia, Algeria, Saudi Arabia), and others larger (e.g. Nigeria, India, the Philippines, Japan, Bangla Desh).

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 21, 2020 at 3:51 AM

Powdery alligator flag leaves

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When I was out photographing powdery alligator flag flowers (Thalia dealbata) at the River Ranch pond on August 10th, I noticed bright red not only at the base of the inflorescence sheath but also on the stalk at the base of each leaf. You see that in the first picture, which also shows a purple bindweed (Ipomoea cordatotriloba) vine that had twined around the stalk.

I couldn’t help noticing that when the leaves in this species dry out they curl and fold in ways that have photographic appeal. I made several kinds of abstract portraits of them, two of which you see here.

And here’s a quotation for today: “On n’est jamais si heureux ni si malheureux qu’on s’imagine.” “We’re never as happy or as unhappy as we imagine.” — François de la Rochefoucauld, Maximes.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 4, 2020 at 4:40 AM

Two takes on square-bud primrose flowers

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Along the Capital of Texas Highway on June 13th I found some bright yellow flowers of Oenothera berlandieri, known descriptively as square-bud primroses and poetically as sundrops. How could I not get down low and make abstract portraits of such sunny wildflowers? The first picture shown here plays up the idea of “a light shining in the darkness.” In the second, I was intrigued by the way one of the plant’s leaves curled into a spiral and turned reddish-brown as it dried out. A spider had been intrigued enough to hang out inside the spiral.

Unrelated proverb for today: You can’t unring a bell.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 30, 2020 at 4:41 AM

Well, come on, yucca, let’s do the twist

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It’s the distinctive torsion that gives the central Texas endemic called twistleaf yucca (Yucca rupicola) its common name. I can’t explain the bits of red but they add interest to this otherwise yellow-green portrait from northwest Austin on July 13th.

Speaking of twistleaf yucca, I just realized I’d never shown you a portrait of one I made way back on May 1st with a four-nerve daisy (Tetraneuris linearifolia) that had nestled against it. Better late than never.

Update to yesterday’s post: I’ve added a closeup showing details in the damselfly’s abdomen and wings.

And here’s an unrelated thought for today: “The pessimist stands beneath the tree of prosperity and growls when the fruit falls on his head.” (This unattributed saying circulated in various American newspapers in the first decade of the 20th century.)

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 29, 2020 at 4:40 AM

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