Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘orchid

A scarcity of ladies’ tresses

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On November 17th I hunted for Great Plains ladies’ tresses orchids (Spiranthes magnicamporum) on a property in northwest Austin where I count on finding that species each fall. After 20 minutes of looking in likely spots and not finding any of those flowers, I sat down to photograph an ironweed; when I next looked up, I noticed a single orchid a few feet away. The inflorescence wasn’t very long and its lower flowers were already beginning to turn brown, but at least I found one. This year’s drought may be responsible for the fact that the orchid had no kin accompanying it.


(Pictures from our time in New Mexico will resume in the next post.)




“Before enlightenment: chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment: chop wood, carry water.”
— a Zen Buddhist saying.


© 2022 Steven Schwartzman





Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 9, 2022 at 4:25 AM

Corallorhiza wisteriana

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On March 18 a new species came my way: Corallorhiza wisteriana, known as spring coral root. I found it at McKinney Roughs Nature Park in Bastrop County, which we hadn’t visited in years. Here’s how the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center describes this plant: “The orchids of genus Corallorhiza have no chlorophyll and are mycoheterotrophic; that is, they utilize fungi to parasitize the roots of other plants. The stem is 15-18 inches tall, and the flowers are scattered along the top third. Flowers have 3 sepals and 3 petals, much alike; the lip is white, heavily spotted with purplish-brown, and curved sharply downward.” The specimen I photographed was only about half the maximum height, so lying on the ground was the way to go.


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Been a while since I reminded you of the continuing crisis on America’s border with Mexico. Just because most news outlets refuse to mention it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist and isn’t a crisis. Here are the numbers of encounters with illegal crossers of the southern border that U.S. Customs and Border Protection has documented for this fiscal year so far:

  • October 2021: 164,841.
  • November 2021: 174,870
  • December 2021: 179,256
  • January 2022: 154,745
  • February 2022: 164,973

Remember that those figures do not include the tens of thousands of illegal entrants each month who manage to evade the overworked and outnumbered border agents.

Looks like the situation is about to get worse. As a March 17 article in Axios reported:

U.S. intelligence officials are privately bracing for a massive influx of more than 170,000 migrants at the Mexico border if COVID-era policies that allow instant expulsions during the public health emergency are ended, sources with direct knowledge of the discussions tell Axios.

The response under way includes a newly created — and previously unreported — Southwest Border Coordination Center (SBCC), essentially a war room to coordinate an interagency response.

Why it matters: Border officials have used Title 42 more than 1 million times to rapidly expel migrants at the southern border without hearing asylum claims. But the Trump-era order wasn’t set up to be permanent, and senior Biden officials are preparing for its end as the virus is brought under control.

Department of Homeland Security intelligence estimates that perhaps 25,000 migrants already are waiting in Mexican shelters just south of the border for Title 42 to end.

On Wednesday, DHS Deputy Secretary John Tien asked employees “to consider stepping forward to support the DHS Volunteer Force,” citing large numbers of migrants at the southwest border, according to an email seen by Axios. The email seeks general support for U.S. Customs and Border Protection and help with data entry.

Last year newsman Chris Wallace interviewed Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas about the problem with throngs of people illegally coming across the southern border. After various questions, Chris Wallace finally asked Alejandro Mayorkas point-blank: “Why don’t you stop them?” Mayorkas spoke words that didn’t answer the question. The American government could largely solve the problem by calling up tens of thousands of soldiers from the National Guard or the military and stationing them along the southern border with orders not to let anyone come in illegally. Of course the current administration is as likely to do that as you are to swim across the Atlantic Ocean.

And look at this act of throw-it-in-their-faces hypocrisy that the current American administration perpetrates on its own citizens and others who legally reside here whenever they fly back into the United States after traveling in a foreign country: “you will need to get a COVID-19 viral test (regardless of vaccination status or citizenship) no more than 1 day before you travel by air into the United States. You must show your negative result to the airline before you board your flight.” What makes the policy hypocritical is that there is no such requirement for the two million people who have been coming across the southern border illegally each year, many of whom have not been vaccinated against Covid-19.

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman



Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 20, 2022 at 4:36 AM

Great Plains ladies’ tresses orchids revisited

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Last month you heard how on November 1st I went in search of Great Plains ladies’ tresses orchids (Spiranthes magnicamporum) on a property in my part of town that I rely on for those flowers yet found only a few. Exactly three weeks later I returned and after much wandering about managed to find a few more orchids that I’d missed the first time around. One of those is shown above in a soft approach. In contrast, I made the portrait below when a shaft of light coming through the canopy of trees briefly lit up one of the orchids.


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“I would like to see CNN evolve back to the kind of journalism that it started with, and… actually have journalists, which would be unique and refreshing.” — John Malone in a CNBC interview on November 19, 2021. Malone is the top shareholder of Discovery, which is poised to take over CNN. For a long time now I’ve lamented the devolution of CNN, which I remember from the 1990s, when you could tune in even at 3 AM and get news of the world.

And how ’bout this for a strange story? “A dentist in Italy faces possible criminal charges after trying to receive a coronavirus vaccine in a fake arm made of silicone.”

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 6, 2021 at 4:34 AM

Not many ladies’ tresses orchids this year

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On October 22nd I checked out a site a few miles from home where I look for ladies’ tresses orchids (Spiranthes magnicamporum) in the fall. I didn’t find any. On November 17th at Wild Basin I located exactly two and photographed exactly one. What an exacting fellow I am.

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 8, 2018 at 4:38 AM

Details, details

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In a comment an hour ago on this morning’s post about a Great Plains ladies’ tresses orchid (Spiranthes magnicamporum), Dianne requested a closeup. Okay, I’m easy. Here’s a zoomed-in look at a picture I took yesterday of one of these orchids alone. Actually not alone, as I discovered when I looked at the enlargement: in the upper left corner of the picture you’ll find a crab spider whose body probably wasn’t more than one-eighth of an inch (3mm) long.

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 22, 2017 at 11:40 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

A vertebral orchid

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Great Plains Ladies' Tresses Orchid 8416

Not long ago you saw a developing Great Plains ladies’ tresses orchid (Spiranthes magnicamporum). Now here’s a fully developed and decidedly vertebral specimen that I found on October 31st near the intersection of Old Spicewood Springs Rd. and Spicewood Springs Rd. before I continued a few hundred feet downhill to photograph the maximally flowing waterfall on a tributary of Bull Creek. At a different scale, note the drops of rain on this orchid.

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 10, 2015 at 5:20 AM

A developing orchid

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Great Plains Ladies' Tresses Orchid Opening 8332

When I was at the Wild Basin Wilderness Preserve on October 27th I saw exactly one Great Plains ladies’ tresses orchid (Spiranthes magnicamporum), and it was at the stage where its flowers were just coming out.

Don’t you like the way the arc of grass in the background frames the upper part of the orchid? Now if we could just get someone down by the river in St. Louis to build a huge sculpture in the shape of one of these orchids….

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 2, 2015 at 4:53 AM

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