Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘macro

Armed

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Buffalo bur (Solanum rostratum) produces heavily armed seed capsules, as this picture from December 16, 2021, in my neighborhood confirms. What the capsules lack in size, they make up for in skin-puncture power.

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…[N]egative information is attention-grabbing—it is literally processed differently in our brains—whereas… progress is mostly gradual and incremental. We’re not nearly as adept at spotting these trends as sudden and eye-catching disasters. Max Roser from the University of Oxford points out that newspapers could legitimately have run the headline ‘Number of people in extreme poverty fell by 137,000 since yesterday’ every day for the last twenty-five years. But, as we’ve seen from academics’ detailed analysis of news values and criteria, the predictable isn’t newsworthy, because that’s how our brains work: we get the media we deserve and, to some extent, crave.

So wrote Bobby Duffy in Why We’re Wrong About Nearly Everything. In addition to reading that book, you’ll find lots of interesting information at the Ipsos website that documents people’s misperceptions about many things. (Professor Duffy used to be the managing director of the Ipsos MORI Social Research Institute and global director of the Ipsos Social Research Institute.)

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 12, 2022 at 4:31 AM

Posted in nature photography

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Non-minimalist and minimalist fall color

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I think you’ll agree that the top picture, which shows backlit leaflets of flameleaf sumac
(Rhus lanceolata) against a blue sky, exhibits non-minimalist fall color.

Mature grasses offer up fall color on a small scale. That was the case with this hairy grama (Bouteloua hirsuta) seed head that I photographed on a redder-than-usual stalk. I also noticed a single spike of gayfeather (Liatris punctata var. mucronata) that had turned fluffy and that the sun lit up.

All three pictures are from November 22nd on the same property
that provided the pictures you recently saw of ladies’ tresses orchids.

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Free expression keeps meeting suppression. Canada seems to be as bad as the United States.

Toronto School Board cancels Yazidi Nobel Peace Prize winner because
her account of being a sex slave at the hands of ISIS ‘would foster Islamophobia’

The Toronto School Board also canceled high-profile criminal defense lawyer Marie Hunein.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 12, 2021 at 4:28 AM

Moss takes a minor role

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Yesterday’s post gave you a close view of a moss carpet in northwest Austin on November 1st. Many spiderwebs parallel to the ground lay near by, made conspicuous by the myriad dewdrops that had settled on them. Because it’s hard to see details at this scale, click the thumbnail below for a closer look at some of the sparkly dewdrops.


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UPDATE. Six weeks ago I wrote a commentary pointing out that inflation is as much of a tax as any that a legislature imposes on you. Inflation makes your money worth less. People who have lived within their means and saved for retirement—like me!—find that their savings won’t go as far as expected. Those who can least afford inflation—the poor—are affected most by the rising prices inflation causes.

At the time I wrote my commentary, authorities had calculated the U.S. inflation rate to be 5.4%. Since then the figure has been updated to 6.2%, the highest rate in three decades. And still the current administration is pushing to spend trillions of dollars more, despite the fact that our country is already $29 trillion in debt. It’s delusional: borrowing additional trillions of dollars will only drive the inflation rate higher and do even more damage than this year’s profligate spending has already done.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 20, 2021 at 4:33 AM

Posted in nature photography

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Moss on the ground

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From November 1st comes a close and bright look at moss on the ground.
The dry leaves fallen onto the moss were from Ashe junipers, Juniperus ashei.


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You may have heard of Ai Weiwei, the Chinese artist and political dissident. The other day we watched Margaret Hoover interviewing him in November 2021 for her television show Firing Line. I was glad to hear him warning about the danger of political correctness in the United States, which he said reminded him of the “Cultural Revolution” in China. If you’re not familiar with that horrible movement, it entailed the persecution of tens of millions of people and the deaths of many of them. Here’s the relevant portion of the interview:

Ai Weiwei: But certainly, in the United States, with today’s condition, you can easily have an authoritarian. In many ways, you’re already in the authoritarian state. You just don’t know it.

Margaret Hoover: How so?

Ai Weiwei: Many things happening today in U.S. can be compared to Cultural Revolution in China.

Margaret Hoover: Like what?

Ai Weiwei: Like people trying to be unified in a certain political correctness. That is very dangerous.

You may recall that back in June I highlighted the testimony of Xi Van Fleet, a refugee from Communist China who made the same point to the “woke” Loudoun County School Board in Virginia.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 19, 2021 at 4:38 AM

Posted in nature photography

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Two brown things

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The opening picture confirms that as I was wandering near Bull Creek on September 30th I noticed something brown on a sideways inflorescence of giant ragweed, Ambrosia trifida. I managed to find a position from which the unknown thing—probably the remains of a caterpillar—lined up with a nearby prairie agalinis flower, Agalinis heterophylla. The photograph below, from November 9th at the Riata Trace Pond, is of a curlicue or tilde coming off the main part of a bushy bluestem seed head, Andropogon glomeratus. Whether the tilde is upside down, as shown here, or right side up, depends on which side it gets looked at from. Now that I think of it, that could be a metaphor for many things in life, couldn’t it?

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The other day I came across a revealing 14-minute excerpt of a discussion between Coleman Hughes and Bonnie Snyder about some of the abuses being perpetrated by “woke” teachers in our public schools. The examples provided in the interview refute the claim that Critical Race Theory isn’t really being taught in our schools. You can find out much more in Bonnie Snyder’s new book, Undoctrinate.

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UPDATE. The day before yesterday I mentioned that I gave up my subscription to the New York Times some years ago after I found that too many of the stories the paper presented as news were ideologically slanted. Yesterday I came across an Epoch Times article from March 2021 reporting that New York Supreme Court Justice Charles Wood similarly found that “in stories from 2020 about Project Veritas videos, [New York Times] writers writers Maggie Astor and Tiffany Hsu had inserted sentences that were opinions despite the articles being billed as news.”

“’If a writer interjects an opinion in a news article (and will seek to claim legal protections as opinion) it stands to reason that the writer should have an obligation to alert the reader, including a court that may need to determine whether it is fact or opinion, that it is opinion,’ Wood wrote in a 16-page decision denying the paper’s request to dismiss a lawsuit from Project Veritas.”

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 18, 2021 at 4:36 AM

First asters for 2021

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On our October 11th return to Bastrop State Park I photographed my first asters for 2021. The few I found were small and close to the ground, so I could easily have overlooked them on the forest floor. The one above was still opening; the one below had gotten farther along. Research points toward the species being either Symphyotrichum pratense or Symphyotrichum sericeum.


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I’ve been recommending The Coddling of the American Mind as a book that explains destructive and illiberal trends in America, especially among people of college age. So many drastic things have happened since publication in 2018 that the authors, Jonathan Haidt and Greg Lukianoff, wrote what was to have been an afterword to a new printing of the book. That addendum quickly grew so long that they decided to release it as a series of free articles. Part 4 has just appeared. It includes links to the first three parts.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 30, 2021 at 4:16 AM

No poverty of approaches

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As October advanced I noticed more and more poverty weed bushes (Baccharis neglecta) putting out their many little white flowers. The typical visual effect is shown above in a view from alongside Bull Creek on October 14th. Notice the characteristic herringbone pattern of the branches at the right. Overnight rain had left the bushes wet, and I took advantage of that to do closeups of sodden poverty weed flowers.

As different as the last two photographs look, I took both of them at f/22 using flash. In the bottom view I aimed upward toward the cloudy-bright sky; in the middle photograph I aimed sideways.



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“For the contemporary reader, much of English literature can induce a kind of moral peanut allergy.” That’s one zinger from Michael Lewis’s article in the November 2021 issue of Commentary, “Wokeness and the English Language,” which I recommend.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 29, 2021 at 4:37 AM

Posted in nature photography

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Yet another Euphorbia

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You’ve already seen Euphorbia bicolor, Euphorbia marginata, and Euphorbia cyathophora here this season. Now comes Euphorbia corollata, which doesn’t grow in Austin or anywhere else in Travis County but which I found 40 miles southeast of home in Bastrop State Park on September 23rd. (In searching past posts, I discovered that 1200 miles northeast of Austin, during a visit to Illinois Beach State Park in 2015, I’d taken and shown you a photograph of this wide-ranging species in an earlier stage of flowering.)

The crab spider in the picture above is a bonus—for you as well as me, given that I didn’t notice it at the time I took the picture. I did notice the plant’s red stems, which are also a feature of Euphorbia bicolor and Euphorbia marginata. And now that I’ve brought up those other red stems, I guess I’ll have to show you one. Below is a minimalist view of a snow-on-the-mountain stalk against blue sky at Tejas Camp in Williamson County on September 25.


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© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 14, 2021 at 4:35 AM

Pyramidflower

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Making its debut here now is Melochia pyramidata, known as pyramidflower, a species I’d never photographed till yesterday. Mark Alexandre of the Texas Flora group on Facebook had showed a picture of it on October 6th, and the place he mentioned finding it is the Arbor Walk Pond, just a few miles from where I live. I asked him for the specific location, and armed with that information I found a few of these plants there yesterday morning. It took some careful looking because at 8:30 in the morning the flowers hadn’t fully opened, and even if they had they’d have measured only about half an inch across.

One curiosity is that although field guides say the flowers of this species have five petals—and almost all online photographs show five petals—my specimens had only four. I asked about that yesterday in the Texas Flora group, and Michelle Wong replied with a link to an iNaturalist photograph from this year showing a pyramidflower in Austin with four petals. What percent of the time that variant occurs, I don’t know. I do know that in 2018 I found four petals instead of the customary five in a silverleaf nightshade flower.

Making its debut here today simultaneously with Melochia pyramidata is the botanical family Sterculiaceae, of which Melochia pyramidata is the only native representative in my county (or the rest of Texas, from what I can tell). Probably the most familiar member of that family is cacao, from which we get chocolate. As tasty as most people find chocolate, the botanical family name betrays a different sensibility: the Latin word stercus meant ‘dung, the excrement of domestic animals,’ and the Romans had even created Sterculus (a.k.a. Sterculinus and Stercutus), as the deity who was supposed to have invented the valuable agricultural practice of manuring. Apparently the smell of one or more plants in Sterculiaceae reminded people of dung. (It was my familiarity with the Spanish word estiércol, which means ‘fertilizer, manure, dung,’ that put me on the scent of Sterculiaceae‘s Latin origins.)

And while we’re on the subject of names, let me add that pyramidflower is misleading: it’s not the plant’s flowers but its tiny fruits that fancifully look like little pyramids.

Also now misleading is my reference to the botanical family Sterculiaceae, which botanists recently tilled into the soil of the mallow family, Malvaceae.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 11, 2021 at 4:28 AM

Portraits from our yard: episode 8

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In a comment on an earlier post showing a Turk’s cap flower (Malvaviscus arboreus var. drummondii) in our yard on July 15th, Gallivanta asked whether the characteristic long central column is always upright. The fact is that while most of those columns do grow straight, some curve and some eventually fall off or get broken off. Today’s post shows you those two situations.


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There’s no “official” name for the beliefs that constitute a large part of current leftist ideology. Some people use the term “wokeism,” others “illiberalism,” and still others “critical race theory” (CRT). By whatever name you care to call that ideology, the American educational establishment is increasingly pushing it into our public schools. When opponents of that indoctrination call out the educational establishment for their illiberal beliefs and practices, some of the people in charge have resorted to the sophistic defense that what they’re promoting is not CRT. That’s what the head of the second-largest teachers union, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), did on July 6th: “Let’s be clear: Critical race theory is not taught in elementary schools or high schools. It’s a method of examination taught in law school and college that helps analyze whether systemic racism exists.” But as Shakespeare reminded us in Hamlet: “The lady doth protest too much, methinks.” The lady in question is named Weingarten.

Shakespeare also wrote, this time in Romeo and Juliet: “That which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet”—only in this case, that which teachers unions refuse to call critical race theory, by any other name would be as foul. When we consider recent utterances by people in the teachers unions, as well as recent documents they’ve produced, it’s clear that they are pushing transgressive beliefs. (You’re welcome to read a student’s confirmation.) The largest American teachers union is the National Education Association (NEA). Look at this New Business Item from the period June 30–July 3, 2021:

The NEA will, with guidance on implementation from the NEA president and chairs of the Ethnic Minority Affairs Caucuses:

A. Share and publicize, through existing channels, information already available on critical race theory (CRT) — what it is and what it is not; have a team of staffers for members who want to learn more and fight back against anti-CRT rhetoric; and share information with other NEA members as well as their community members.

B. Provide an already-created, in-depth, study that critiques empire, white supremacy, anti-Blackness, anti-Indigeneity, racism, patriarchy, cisheteropatriarchy, capitalism, ableism, anthropocentrism, and other forms of power and oppression at the intersections of our society, and that we oppose attempts to ban critical race theory and/or The 1619 Project.

Aside from the jargony crock pot of crackpot shibboleths enumerated in the last paragraph, notice the irony in the largest teachers union wanting to “fight back against anti-CRT” and to “oppose attempts to ban critical race theory”—the very thing they claim they’re not teaching!

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 9, 2021 at 4:43 AM

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