Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘native plants

New Zealand: Orokonui

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A year ago today we spent several hours at the Orokonui Ecosanctuary north of Dunedin. At the entrance we gazed upon the broad and healthily handsome cabbage tree (Cordyline australis) shown below. In the foreground you see a stand of the ubiquitous plant known as flax in New Zealand English, harakeke in Māori, and Phormium tenax in botanese.

Among the kinds of native plants inside the reserve we saw one with clusters of white flowers. It turned out to be Ozothamnus vauvilliersii, known as tauhinu and mountain cottonwood.

Tauhinu belongs to a tribe of the sunflower family that I don’t remember having heard of, Gnaphaleae, though I see now that the tribe includes a genus that’s common in Austin. One clue that mountain cottonwood is in the sunflower family is the way its seed heads turn fluffy as they age:

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman


Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 27, 2018 at 4:42 AM

The ice storm of 2007 — the second day

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As you heard and saw last time, on January 17, 2007, Austin had an ice storm. The next morning, 11 years ago today, the land remained frozen. The roads were a little better, so I ventured beyond my neighborhood and ended up at a property on the northeast corner of Burnet Rd. and Wells Branch Parkway.* There I spent some three hours suffering in the cold for the rare chance in such a warm climate as ours to record plants transformed by ice. The photograph above shows a southern dewberry, Rubus trivialis. Below is a colony of bushy bluestem, Andropogon glomeratus.

Look at the patterns on the ice in this close view of a bushy bluestem seed head bent sideways:

And there were branching jeweled abstractions of ice and light and lens:



* That property, where I went photographing in the years before and after the ice storm, finally got built on, I think in 2015. I’ll always see it wild, as it was when I roamed there.

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 18, 2018 at 5:00 AM

The frostweed, yes.

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I don’t know if Carl Sandburg knew about frostweed’s magic ice trick, but those of you who’ve been coming here for a while sure do. When the Austin temperature dropped to 26°F (–3°C) on New Year’s Eve, I knew there was a strong likelihood for frostweed ice on January 1st. When morning came, I dressed warmly and headed for a stand of Verbesina virginica I know in Great Hills Park, there to spend two hours in the cold taking scads of pictures.

If you’re not familiar with the frostweed ice phenomenon, you can read more about it in an early post.

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 2, 2018 at 4:33 AM

Speaking of poison ivy

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The previous post, which showed a lush Virginia creeper vine (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) with richly red leaves, engendered a few comments about poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans). That’s understandable because some or perhaps many people confuse the two vines, even though Virginia creeper normally has five leaflets and poison ivy three (but check out a post from 2015 showing a rare exception).

So far in 2017 I’ve come across several instances of poison ivy turning colors and have taken a few pictures, none of which rival my best ones because the plants themselves this season haven’t been as attractive as in certain other years. For that reason I’ve chosen to show you a photograph from November 27, 2006, when I went to north-central Austin’s Allen Park and found stands of poison ivy that remain the most colorful I’ve ever seen.

© 2017 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 18, 2017 at 4:45 AM

Virginia creeper creeping colorfully upward

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Long-time readers have heard me say, and central Texans don’t need me to tell them, that this area doesn’t have a lot of appealing fall foliage. One exception is Parthenocissus quinquefolia, a climbing vine known as Virginia creeper or, to keep the glory from going to another state, five-leaf creeper. On December 1st I was driving south on US 183 in Cedar Park, an adjacent suburb north of Austin, when I glimpsed a vertical band of red ahead and to my right. I knew right away that it had to be Virginia creeper, and I made sure to stop and photograph this unusually good display of it.

As is almost always the case along a main road in a populated area, I had to work at getting myself into positions—typically low ones—where I could exclude poles, power lines, stores, signs, vehicles, non-native trees, and other unwanted things from my pictures.

© 2017 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 16, 2017 at 4:49 PM


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Only once every so many years does Austin get a little snow. The night from December 7th into December 8th was one of those onces. Yesterday morning I headed down to Great Hills Park, thinking the frostweed plants (Verbesina virginica) at the edge of the woods on the south side of Floral Park Dr. might have done their ice trick. They hadn’t. Nevertheless, their large leaves were appealingly covered with snow, and so were the narrower leaves of the inland sea oats (Chasmanthium latifolium) that formed a colony around the frostweed.

Clematis drummondi, a vine that has no qualms about covering other plants, found itself covered for a change.

Not everything appeared so subdued in color. The fruits of the yaupon tree (Ilex vomitoria) were hard to miss.

I made my first picture at 7:25. By around 9:00, the sun had gotten high enough in a clear sky that warming patches of light increasingly reached the snow.

Within a few hours, all but the most recondite snow had melted.

© 2017 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 9, 2017 at 4:42 AM

Ladies’ tresses and queen’s delight

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Yesterday morning I got my annual wake-up call in the form of an e-mail from Meg Inglis alerting me that the Great Plains ladies’ tresses orchids (Spiranthes magnicamporum) in her area to the west of Austin were flowering. Within a couple of hours I went to a place in my part of town that has been reliable for that species, and sure enough, I found some orchids that were doing their thing. In other years I’ve shown you ladies’ tresses in isolation, so this year for variety I’m giving you a picture of an orchid I found yesterday touching a plant called queen’s delight (Stillingia texana).

© 2017 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 22, 2017 at 4:56 AM

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