Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘native plants

New Zealand: pīngao

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On February 13th we visited the Puheke Reserve on the northern shore of the Karikari Peninsula in the Northland region of New Zealand. My attention was soon drawn to a plant that on the whole grew toward the sea even as individual tufts tended to curl back in the opposite direction. The best I can tell, the plant is pīngao, a sedge that botanists classify as Ficinia spiralis. It’s endemic to New Zealand but animal grazing and the spread of a non-native grass have continued to curtail this sedge’s historical range.

© 2017 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 23, 2017 at 4:43 AM

Old plainsman buds opening

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Again from the strip of land between Arboretum Blvd. and Loop 360 on March 14th, here are some opening buds of old plainsman (Hymenopappus scabiosaeus). Don’t you find them sculptural?

As with the previous image, I had to lie down to take this photograph, given that the small buds were little more than a foot (0.3m) above the ground. Unlike the Indian paintbrush and bluebonnet shown in the last post, old plainsman is a native plant that few people pay attention to, much less appreciate. On the contrary, I suspect many consider it a weed. Not I.

© 2017 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 17, 2017 at 4:50 AM

Pickleweed

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Click to enlarge.

In the wetlands of California’s Martinez Regional Shoreline on November 2nd of last year I came across the strange-looking (to me) plant shown here. I had no idea what it was, but when we were walking back to the car I noticed a woman coming toward us carrying a bunch of plastic buckets. On impulse I asked: “Are you a native plant person?” She said she wasn’t specifically, but it turned out she was indeed a biologist and knew a fair amount about the native species there. She identified my mystery plant as pickleweed. She added that its genus had changed and she couldn’t remember which of the two names that came into her mind is the current one. I looked it up later and found that the latest name is Sarcocornia pacifica (changed from Salicornia). I also learned that other common names for the plant are sea asparagus; perennial saltwort; American glasswort; and Pacific samphire, along with a folk-etymologized version of that, Pacific swampfire.

If pickleweed seems a strange name, I found the explanation for it in an article on a website from British Columbia: “Sea asparagus is edible and is sold in some stores, particularly seafood, local food, or specialty stores. It is picked wild and often pickled. It has a salty taste, and can be cooked in a variety of ways.” The Watershed Nursery website adds: “Pickleweed is a halophytic (tolerant of salty conditions)…. Salicornia species are being tested as a biofuel crop as it is composed of 32% oil and being a halophyte can be irrigated with salt water.”

Also strange is the disjoint distribution of this plant, which includes Long Island, where I grew up on the other side of the country from California.

Below is a closeup showing why this plant has traditionally been put in the goosefoot family (botanists now classify it as a member of the amaranth family).

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Click to enlarge a bunch.

© 2017 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 6, 2017 at 4:45 AM

Wright’s buckwheat

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While great clouds made the day on November 9, 2016, above Hueco Tanks State Park in far west Texas, this subtly colorful stand of Wright‘s buckwheat (Eriogonum wrightii) caught my fancy there as well.

© 2017 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 19, 2017 at 5:00 AM

Verdant Volo views, vertical and horizontal

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Swamp Loosestrife Flowering 7283

The vertical picture shows Lysimachia thyrsiflora, known as tufted loosestrife or swamp loosestrife,

Brown Leaf Fallen into Duckweed 7241A

The horizontal picture shows a curlingly dry leaf fallen onto the duckweed-covered surface of some water in the Volo Bog State Natural Area in Lake County, Illinois, on June 7. The first photograph comes from the same session.

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 20, 2016 at 4:50 AM

Horsetail detail

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Horsetail Detail 7461

From the Volo Bog State Natural Area in Lake County, Illinois, on June 7th comes this elongated closeup of a horsetail (Equisetum spp.).

Of the more than two thousand photographs that have appeared here over the past five years, this may be the one with the greatest height-to-width ratio.

© 2016 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 19, 2016 at 4:44 AM

Why is it called prairie smoke?

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Okay, you say, I get the prairie, but why the smoke? Here’s why:

Prairie Smoke Plumes 7183

After the flowers of Geum triflorum get fertilized, they produce tufts of wispy strands that from a distance and with some imagination look like puffs of smoke. Another vernacular name, old man’s whiskers, comes very close to the old man’s beard I’m so familiar with in Austin. Despite the striking resemblance in the two flowers’ latter stages, these plants aren’t even in the same botanical family. Yet another plant that ends up like this is the Apache plume I saw in New Mexico two years ago.

Today’s picture, like yesterday’s, is from the Volo Bog State Natural Area in Lake County, Illinois, on June 7th.

© 2016 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 18, 2016 at 5:00 AM

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