Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘Leander

Green milkweed pods

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From June 14th along San Gabriel Parkway in Leander come these views of green milkweed pods, Asclepias viridis. An incessant wind had me resorting to shutter speeds as high as 1/1250 of a second, which is the one I used for the second picture.

 

    

 

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I’ve intermittently been working on a glossary to explain what seemingly innocuous or positive-sounding words and phrases from social activist jargon really mean. The other day I learned that Drs. Bruce Gilley, Peter Boghossian, and James Lindsay have beaten me to it with a poster they put together called “Responding to Social Justice Rhetoric: a Cheat Sheet for Policy Makers.” I think they did a good job interpreting the current incarnation of newspeak.

 

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 28, 2022 at 4:35 AM

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A blowing stack of black-eyed susans

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In the ditch along San Gabriel Blvd. in Leander on June 14th that you heard about in the last post, I couldn’t help but notice a lushly flowering black-eyed susan plant, Rudbeckia hirta. Aiming the camera horizontally wouldn’t have kept the sloping sides of the ditch out of any portraits I made, so the only thing was to lie at the base of the plant and aim high enough for the blue sky to isolate and contrast with the bright yellow flowers. Complicating things was the wind, which I’m estimating blew at a pretty steady 15 mph, with gusts even stronger. While lying on the ground I steadied the plant against the wind as best I could with my left hand and manipulated the camera with my right. I also set the shutter speed to a high 1/800 of a second, which turned out to be fast enough to keep the ray florets from blurring while still capturing a sense of their movement. That’s particularly noticeable at the upper left, where you can see how the wind was blowing the florets to the right.

When I returned two days later and found the wildflowers in the ditch had gotten a reprieve from the mowers, I took some more pictures, including the one below showing a basket-flower, Plectocephalus americanus.

   

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Yesterday was June 19th, and to coincide with the date the Austin PBS television station showed “Juneteenth Jamboree: Soldiers, Cowboys, and Indians.” Not far into that program, I heard the narrator telling how Columbus, after landing on an island in 1492, captured some native people and by so doing introduced slavery into the New World. Do the people writing this stuff not know there are such things as history books? If those people are too lazy to read books, at least they could go to the Internet. It doesn’t take much checking to confirm that slavery was well entrenched among the indigenous peoples of the New World long before Columbus’s time.

Even Wikipedia, as biased as it has been becoming, has a whole article on slavery among the Aztecs. And an article entitled “Maya Social Structure” from the Tarlton Law Library at the University of Texas begins with this sentence: “Maya society was rigidly divided between nobles, commoners, serfs, and slaves.” As the article tells us later on: “There was an active slave trade in the Maya region, and commoners and elites were both permitted to own slaves. Individuals were enslaved as a form of punishment for certain crimes and for failing to pay back their debts. Prisoners of war who were not sacrificed would become slaves, and impoverished individuals sometimes sold themselves or family members into slavery. Slavery status was not passed on to the children of slaves. However, unwanted orphan children became slaves and were sometimes sacrificed during religious rituals. Slaves were usually sacrificed when their owners died so that they could continue in their service after death. If a man married a slave woman, he became a slave of the woman’s owner. This was also the case for women who married male slaves.”

So if anyone in your presence makes the claim that white people invented slavery or introduced slavery into the Americas, please tell them it isn’t so. And if they try to give you an argument, point them to the linked articles or the many others that confirm the existence of slavery in the Americas long before Europeans came here. And if those people still keep giving you a hard time in spite of all the evidence, you’ll know they’re not sincere and don’t care about the truth.

 

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 20, 2022 at 4:28 AM

Bluebell time

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Two years ago, during the first months of the pandemic, I brought you a picture of probably the densest and most expansive colony of bluebells (Eustoma sp.) I’ve ever seen. It sprawled across a field on the south side of San Gabriel Blvd. in Leander, a rapidly growing suburb north of Austin. Unfortunately that rapid growth meant the field soon became a construction site and the great bluebell colony was destroyed before another spring came around. This year a post in the Texas Flora group announced that some bluebells had come up on the north side of San Gabriel Blvd, presumably the progeny of plants from the now-gone colony. On June 14th I went up there and, sure enough, I found some bluebells flowering, mostly in a ditch.

For the portrait above, I lay on the ground and aimed toward a patch of bright sky. (If I remember correctly, this is the first picture with a white background I’ve posted since a winecup in December 2021, and that was the first since a rain lily in March 2020.) The portrait below shows some bluebell buds beginning to open.

 

As I was finishing up my photography in Leander, I noticed a crew of mowers getting closer and closer to the wildflower-filled ditch. When a guy with a weed-whacker approached the far end of the ditch, I went over and talked to him in Spanish, asking him not to cut down the beautiful wildflowers. He asked me if I was the encargado—the person in charge—of the property. I said no, but as a citizen it was important to me to preserve the wildflowers. He pointed to a guy on a tractor who he said was the head of the ground crew, so I walked over and talked to him. He turned out to speak good English. He said the crew mowed on a schedule, and he didn’t seem at all concerned about cutting down the flowers. I asked who at his company I could talk to. He pointed to the company truck, which had a phone number on it. I walked close enough to the truck to read the phone number, called it, and got a message saying that number was out of service. It didn’t seem there was any more I could do, so I drove home.

Two days later I went back to see what had happened. To my pleasant surprise, I found that the guys in the crew had mowed a narrow strip along the top edges of the ditch but had left everything lower down alone. It seems my plea had done some good after all. Below, strictly for documentary purposes, is how a portion of the ditch looked when I returned there. Other than the bluebells, prominent flowers were horsemints (Monarda citriodora) and firewheels (Gaillardia pulchella), visible in the upper left, and two others that I’ll show in a separate post.

 

After I told this story in the Texas Flora group a couple of days ago, florally named Rose Thomas commented that the incident reminded her of Robert Frost’s poem “The Tuft of Flowers.” I didn’t know that poem, so I looked it up and found a version in which Robert Frost himself reads it as the lines of verse scroll to keep pace. I also replied to Rose: “In addition to the bluebells at the bottom of the ditch, the mowers had spared one that was flowering up high, at the level of the adjacent field, next to a culvert. Substitute the culvert for a brook, and that bluebell could have been the tall tuft of flowers in the poem.” (That will make sense if you check out the poem.)

 

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 19, 2022 at 4:34 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

White egret standing on a grape vine

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Herodias alba; Lakewood Park in Leander; January 12.

And here’s an unrelated quotation for today: “There’s more mendacity in the way educated people in America talk to each other now than I have ever seen in my 54 years.” — John McWhorter in a recent interview.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 1, 2021 at 4:37 AM

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Stark versus soft

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From the new Lakewood Park in Leander on November 10th come contrasting views. Above, sunrays broke through dramatic clouds over the park’s lake. Below is a portrait of poverty weed (Baccharis neglecta) as its fluff came loose. The soft chaos is similar to that of a thistle at the same stage of development; both plants are members of the sunflower family, after all.

Also softly chaotic and a member of Asteraceae is the seed head of this aster (Symphyotricum sp.) on a stalk conjoined to that of an opening bud; note the tight curling of the emerging rays.

You’ll find pertinent quotations illustrating some of the many meanings of the word soft in the 1913 Webster’s Dictionary.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 4, 2020 at 4:32 AM

A glorious bluebell colony

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Yesterday I drove up to San Gabriel Parkway in Leander to photograph what may have been the largest colony of Texas bluebells (Eustoma sp.) I’ve ever seen. The property had a barbed wire fence around it, so I had to take my pictures from the outside. For the second view, I bent over and shot between the strands of wire.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 24, 2020 at 4:40 AM

Green milkweed flowers and pods

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From May 29th at the Benbrook Ranch Park in Leander you’re seeing the flowers and pods of green milkweed, Asclepias viridis. And how about those great clouds? Because I took these pictures only three minutes apart, the clouds hadn’t changed that much, so if you compare you can still match some of them up.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 16, 2020 at 4:40 AM

Swirly, wispy, fleecy clouds

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Thanks to a tip from Jason Frels, on the morning of May 29th Eve and drove some 25 minutes north to  Leander, a fast-growing suburb of Austin, so we could go walking for the first time in Benbrook Ranch Park. The swirly and wispy clouds that accompanied us the whole time kept changing and forming intricate designs that enticed me to take lots of pictures of them in their own right, as shown above. I also welcomed the chance to play other things off against them, like the dead tree below.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 5, 2020 at 4:31 AM

But it wasn’t just the prairie

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My jaunts to northeast Austin on May 9th and May 12th were making me tie the profusion of Bifora americana to the Blackland Prairie, and the common names prairie bishop and prairie bishop’s weed* reinforced that. Then on May 13th I found myself in the second suburb north-northwest of Austin, Leander, where prairie bishop once again became a hero**, this time on the west side of US 183 in a large field that’s prairie-ish but likely lies too far west to be considered part of the Blackland Prairie.

The Engelmann daisy colony (Engelmannia peristenia) there was probably the best I’ve ever seen. Notice the many firewheels (Gaillardia pulchella) mixed in as well.

Except for a utility crew that had pulled over on the shoulder of the highway a bit ahead of me to do whatever work they’d been sent to do, not one person in the hundreds of other cars that passed by while I was there stopped to enjoy the view. Here’s how the prairie bishop looked in the swale by the side of the highway.

* Don’t confuse our native prairie bishop’s weed with bishop’s weed, Aegopodium podagraria, a species from Eurasia that has become an invasive nuisance in parts of the United States. As Joel E. Holloway notes sarcastically in A Dictionary of Common Wildflowers of Texas & the Southern Great Plains, the name bishop’s weed was “first applied in Scotland because it was almost impossible to get rid of, as it would be to remove a bishop from the church.”

**The Leander in Texas takes its name from Leander “Catfish” Brown, an official of the Austin and Northwestern Railroad Co. in the 1880s. That down-to-earth origin hasn’t deterred the town from playing up the ancient Greek myth of Hero and Leander, even to the point of renaming a road Hero Way. (Public information officer Mike Neu told me that the road’s new name was also intended as a tribute to public service men and women.) Additionally the town of Leander has inspired the clever and alliterative paleontological name Leanderthal Lady.

© 2019 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 22, 2019 at 4:40 AM

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