Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘leaves

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

Paloverde portrayed at different scales

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Here are two treatments of paloverde trees (Parkinsonia aculeata) that differ in scale and aesthetics. In Austin it’s common to see a paloverde (Spanish for ‘green tree’) springing up on untended ground, like the sapling above that looked so wispy in the northeast quadrant of Mopac and US 183 on August 22nd. A view at that distance doesn’t reveal the many thorns that grow on these trees; the second picture, from September 14th at the Riata Trace Pond, rectifies that.

The long thorn could symbolize the fact that yesterday we got our booster shots of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine six months to the day after we’d gotten our second shots. I’m happy to say that although our muscles around the injection sites are achy, our arms didn’t turn either of the prominent colors in this closeup.

What I continue to be not at all happy about is the current American administration’s claim to be “following the science” while refusing to follow the science. Back on August 28th I linked to an article in Science that reported the results of a large Israeli study of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. As the article noted: “The newly released data show people who once had a SARS-CoV-2 infection were much less likely than never-infected, vaccinated people to get Delta, develop symptoms from it, or become hospitalized with serious COVID-19.”

And yet this administration stubbornly denies that proven reality. This régime refuses to accept that people who have acquired protection from COVID-19 by having caught and recovered from the disease should not be subject to vaccine mandates. The people in charge of the government are science deniers.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 28, 2021 at 4:33 AM

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Portraits from our yard: episode 7

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Ashe juniper trees (Juniperus ashei) grow on all four sides of our house. What appealed to me about the one in our back yard shown above on July 22nd was the way two Virginia creeper vines (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) have flanked the trunk this year. That let me make a vertical “sandwich” of green-brown-green that thoroughly filled the frame. On the technical side, let me add that I took the picture from a distance and used my macro lens as a regular 100mm lens for a change. Below is an Ashe juniper in our front yard whose corrugated trunk always gets my attention. It, too, nicely fills a frame, with the corrugations offering countervailing horizontal elements to the predominant verticality of the image.


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And speaking of verticality, we hear a lot from activists about “white privilege,” but those ideologues are whitewashing the real problem: it’s not white privilege but height privilege. Tall people can reach things from high shelves without needing a stepladder. Tall people can see over the heads of others in crowds and theaters and stadiums. Tall people get to be on basketball teams. Getting the short end of the stick are non-tall men. According to an article on more.com,”a study… published in the Journal of Applied Psychology revealed that in the U.S., a six-foot-tall man makes an average of $790 more per year than his shorter peers do.” Women on average have a preference for taller men. Psychology Today reported on a study showing that “Men were most satisfied with women slightly shorter than them (about 3 in.), but women were most satisfied when they were much shorter than their male partners (about 8 in.)” On and on it goes, and it’s a real downer.

As an American man only 5’5″ tall, I get short shrift every minute of my life from a society poisoned by systemic heightism and toxic tallicity. According to an online height percentile calculator, I’m in the 8th percentile of American men, so I should have to pay only 8% of all the taxes I’m subject to. It’s also clear that reparations are owed me. I don’t want to seem vengeful, so it could be something as modest as $1,000,000 for each year I’ve endured the degradation of being short. More generally, every public institution should have a safe space with a low entrance and a low ceiling where no tall people are allowed to enter. A “bigger warning” should be posted everywhere I’m likely to encounter tall people. Whenever I’m waiting in line, all taller people ahead of me should have to relinquish their places and go to the end of the line (Get thee behind me, Satan!). Tall people who sell short on the stock market are committing altitudinal appropriation; only short people should be allowed to sell stock that way. People who use the s-word in saying horrific things like “I’m short on cash” or “When I was asked for an answer I came up short” or “I suffer from shortness of breath” should immediately lose their jobs, be banned from all social media, and have to abase themselves by undergoing height-sensitivity training on their hands and knees. It’s high time society stops selling short people short!

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 7, 2021 at 4:37 AM

Green, green, and more green

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Wandering along Bull Creek on June 25, 2019, I couldn’t help noticing the dense swirls created by the very long linear leaves of some plants (sedges? beargrass?) that had found a home on the sometimes flooded bank of the creek. Mixed in were a few remnants of the wild onions (Allium canadense var. canadense) you saw here in May of that year. New giant ragweed plants (Ambrosia trifida) were coming up in some of the swirls:

I prepared this post almost two years ago but other things soon intervened that seemed more important to show. Last year I happened to end up at this place again and took more pictures. Now here we are another year later and I’m finally going to release the original post, but with an added green picture from my 2020 visit that shows a dewdrop-decked wild onion bud:


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And here are some can-do words from Zora Neale Hurston: “It seems to me that if I say a whole system must be upset for me to win, I am saying that I cannot sit in the game, and that safer rules must be made to give me a chance. I repudiate that. If others are in there, deal me a hand and let me see what I can make of it, even though I know some in there are dealing from the bottom and cheating like hell in other ways.”

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 25, 2021 at 4:31 AM

Our majestic cottonwood trees

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On December 21st, the date of the winter solstice in 2020, I witnessed another display of colorful year-end foliage in the form of two venerable eastern cottonwoods, Populus deltoides subsp. deltoides. Botanist Bill Carr describes the cottonwood tree in Travis County as “uncommon but, due to its massive size, usually conspicuous in gallery woodlands along perennial streams and impoundments.” The two I found were on opposite sides of Pleasant Valley Rd. just south of the Longhorn Dam on the Colorado River. The first picture shows a lower portion of the cottonwood tree on the west side of the road. The other cottonwood, pictured below, had leaves that the different angle of the light made look a little more yellow-orange.

It’s not obvious that some of the leaves were larger than
a person’s face; here’s one in isolation by the Colorado River:

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 2, 2021 at 4:35 AM

More Texas red oak

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Among the last displays of colorful fall foliage in Austin each year is that of the Texas red oak, Quercus buckleyi, as seen here from Great Hills Park on December 15th. (The oaks are young and slender; the large trunks are from other kinds of trees.) Now it’s two weeks later and I’m still finding some red Texas red oak leaves, including a few in our back yard.

Sensorily and psychologically it seems that red is the most fundamental color, and it’s a truism of linguistics that the first color word a language creates is the one for red. The Indo-European language root representing the color red has been reconstructed as *reudh-, which is still recognizable thousands of years later in native English red and ruddy. Red-related words English has acquired directly or indirectly from Latin, which is a cousin of English, include rufous, rubeola, ruby, rubidium, rubicund, rubefacient, rubella, robust, rouge, roux, and russet. (If you’re puzzled about robust, it’s based on Latin rōbur, which designated a type of red oak tree; robust conveys the strength of that tree rather than its color.) From Greek, also a relative of English, comes the erythro– in technical terms like erythrocyte and erythromycin.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 30, 2020 at 4:39 AM

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Late-in-the-year scenes along Brushy Creek

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On December 17th we walked a section of Brushy Creek in far north Austin that was new to us. In the first picture you see how the slender leaves of a black willow tree (Salix nigra) had turned yellow and fallen onto the creek’s surface next to a colony of cattail plants (Typha domingensis), some fresh and others dried out. Nearby it was dead cattails that did the falling:

The image below shows dry goldenrod plants (Solidago sp.)
on the creek bank by dense tangles of vines and now-bare branches.

If you’re interested in the art and craft of photography, point 15 in About My Techniques pertains to all three of the pictures in today’s post. And if you’d like to go off on a bit of a maximalist tangent, you can check out Victorian interiors and certain modern décor.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 29, 2020 at 4:41 AM

When red becomes orange

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Another reliable source of colorful fall foliage in central Texas is the small tree known as rusty blackhaw, Viburnum rufidulum, whose species name means ‘reddish.’ You see it exemplified in the photograph above, taken in Great Hills Park on December 15th. As a reddish color came over those leaves, curiosity came over me, and I wondered what sort of pictures might be possible from behind the tree looking in the opposite direction. Cautiously I worked my way in there and got low to aim partly upward. From the other side the leaves looked more orange due to the sunlight shining through them and perhaps the blue sky beyond:

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 17, 2020 at 4:43 AM

Red does its thing

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Around 3:15 yesterday afternoon I lay on my back at the edge of a parking lot behind an office building along the Capital of Texas Highway. I did that so I could aim upward to record the view against a bright blue sky of an oak tree whose leaves had turned red. Because the leaves were richly red, the tree might well have been Quercus buckleyi, known understandably as the Texas red oak.

As recent posts have shown, we’ve still been getting various fall colors down here, even as the temperature when I took yesterday’s picture had climbed to 78°F (26°C).

Have you heard about the enormous catalogue of the world’s plants compiled in Leipzig, Germany?

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 11, 2020 at 4:34 AM

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Green and orange in the fall

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The leaves of the black willow (Salix nigra) tend to turn yellow in the fall, as you recently saw. On November 26th at the Southeast Metropolitan Park in Del Valle I was pleased to find several of those trees with some of their leaves taking on orange hues. Notice the fuzzy goldenrod (Solidago sp.) seed heads in both pictures.

And if you’ll allow orange to shade toward tan and brown, then how about this long colony of slenderpod sesbania (Sesbania herbacea) stretched out along the edge of another pond at the site? The trees lined up parallel to them are paloverdes (Parkinsonia aculeata).

Here’s a closer look at the thorny green from the opposite side:

If you’d like some quotations about the color orange, you can find them in The Quote Garden.

The history of the word orange is also interesting.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 10, 2020 at 4:37 AM

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