Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘Pflugerville

Making inroads

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Here are two more pictures from May 9th showing the great wildpflower pfield in Pflugerville that you saw in a previous post. Most of the flowers are firewheels (Gaillardia pulchella) and greenthreads (Thelesperma filifolium). In the top picture there had been real motion, namely of a vehicle whose tracks became no-grow zones for the wildflowers. In the second view there’s an implied motion radiating up and out from the bottom center of the frame, a floral big bang. I think what accounts for that sense of movement was my vantage point as I stood on a stepladder. Having the camera up so high let me aim down at a greater angle, which in turn made it easier to keep all the plants in focus; that’s why I’d brought the stepladder with me.

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For an editorial about the value of free speech in a free society, and especially on college campuses, I recommend “Beliefs Aren’t Facts,” by Gary Saul Morson and Morton Schapiro, both of Northwestern University. Here’s one of the editorial’s seventeen paragraphs:

But if we discount the practice of learning through meaningful exchange, we not only default on our obligations as citizens, we place democracy itself in peril. Democracy demands we recognize our beliefs as opinions, and opinions sometimes prove false. If we could be certain they wouldn’t, there would be no reason to embrace democracy over a dictatorship of the virtuous.

And here’s another excerpt:

Those who acquiesce to violence and intimidation because it is invoked in the name of justice in fact invite it. Actions inconceivable one year become fringe the next, and soon they’re mainstream. Once the intelligentsia condones such excesses, the slide begins. The cancellers are soon canceled.  There is no limit to how far that process can go.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 24, 2021 at 5:36 AM

Two surviving colonies

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In my April 22nd post I sadly reported this year’s loss to development of a great piece of Blackland Prairie in Pflugerville. I still held out hope of seeing good wildflowers, as I had in the spring of 2020, on the adjacent piece of land that hasn’t yet become a construction site. When I did check out that remnant on May 9th it disappointed me, as the wildflowers there were much less expansive than last spring. Oh well, such are the vagaries of nature. Even so, I found one happy group of clasping-leaf coneflowers, Dracopis amplexicaulis, as you see above, near the larger red-and-yellowful stand of firewheels, Gaillardia pulchella, shown below.

Here’s an entry for the “Why can’t they get this figured out once and for all?” category. So you call a company to pay a bill, as I did yesterday. (I’d tried to pay online, had entered all my information, and then the company’s website generated a system error, as it had on other occasions.) The person on the phone asked for the account number and the name on that account. Fine. Then the person asked for the birthday and last four digits of the account holder’s Social Security card. Fine. Then the person asked me for my name and my relationship to the account holder. Okay. Then the person asked for the address, and I gave our house number and street and said it’s in Austin, Texas. This was getting tedious. Then the person wouldn’t go further unless I also gave my ZIP code. I explained that anyone who knows a street address can easily look up the ZIP code online, so the ZIP code provides no additional confirmatory information. The person on the phone was nice and understood what I was saying but explained that management makes her ask for the ZIP code every time anyhow. I told her my opinion of a management that can’t get a website to work properly and that asks customers for unnecessary information, and she and I had some laughs together. At least for her and me this wasn’t one of those wasted days mentioned yesterday in a quotation by Chamfort.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 20, 2021 at 4:31 AM

Little white snail on an opening firewheel

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Where 2020 proved an out-and-out snailfest on the prairie, the prolonged freeze in February of 2021 may explain the dearth of snails I’ve seen this spring. On May 9th I did finally see one on the Blackland Prairie in Pflugerville. That little white snail had found its way onto the developing flower head of a firewheel, Gaillardia pulchella, which insisted on opening despite its extra load.

And here’s an unrelated quotation for today: “La plus perdue de toutes les journées est celle où l’on n’a pas ri.” “The most wasted of all our days is the one when we haven’t laughed.” — Sébastien-Roch Nicolas de Chamfort (1741–1794). Plenty of Internet sites attribute the wording “The most wasted of all days is one without laughter” to e.e. cummings, who liked to write his name in lower case and who wasn’t even born till a hundred years after Chamfort died. Perhaps cummings quoted Chamfort and somebody then mistakenly believed the saying was cummings’s own. Or else someone attributed it to cummings for no good reason at all, and others then copied that without verifying it. Cummings is worth quoting—as long as it’s done correctly. For example, take this assertion: “So far as I am concerned, poetry and every other art was, is, and forever will be strictly and distinctly a question of individuality.” No groupthink for him.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 19, 2021 at 4:31 AM

Dense wildpflowers

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Now that it’s already the middle of May, if you thought I was done showing vast colonies of wildflowers this spring, think again. Above from May 9th in Pflugerville (hence the spelling of wildpflowers in the title) is a densely flowering colony of Gaillardia pulchella, called firewheels, Indian blankets, and blanketflowers. The yellow flowers mixed in are greenthread (Thelesperma filifolium), and the leaves forming a green mound belong to compass plants (Silphium albiflora).

In the picture below, the cream-colored flower at the bottom is a kind of foxglove (Penstemon cobaea). A few of the bright yellow spots further right are square-bud primroses (Oenothera berlandieri). The trees are Ashe junipers (Juniperus ashei). The clouds are clouds. I’m me.

And speaking of me, be aware that my pronouns are the exalted one and Mr. Wonderful.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 12, 2021 at 4:38 AM

The temperature dropped 15° in as many minutes

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There I was lying on the ground at the edge of Lake Pflugerville on December 30th last year to photograph this bare bald cypress tree (Taxodium distichum) against menacing clouds when suddenly the wind picked up and the temperature dropped, both noticeably, as the predicted cold front came through. Adding some brightness to the bleak sky and dark branches were the colorful lichens on the tree’s trunk:

Unrelated thought for today:  “Credulity is always greatest in times of calamity.” — Charles MacKay,
Memoirs of Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds, first published in 1841.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 10, 2021 at 4:39 AM

A new source of fall color for me

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Driving about on the Blackland Prairie on November 11th, we came upon a pond that was new to us. Located along Kingston Lacy Blvd. in Pflugerville, a plaque identified it as Mirror Lake. Some of the usual water-loving species were growing around the edge of the pond, including Iva annua, known as annual sumpweed or annual marsh elder. On one of those plants I noticed a leaf that caught my attention for two reasons: it was bright yellow, and it stayed pressed to the stem from which it grew. As I’d never seen a sumpweed leaf like that, it was a welcome new source of fall color.

The Romans had a saying, Nihil sub sole novum, which Wiktionary says was borrowed from the Hebrew אֵין כָּל חָדָשׁ תַּחַת הַשָּׁמֶשׁ‎ (en kol chadásh táchat hashámesh), “There’s nothing new under the sun.” Sorry, proverb, but this sunny leaf was new to me.

And speaking of old and new, the Illinois Wildflowers page for this species tells us that “Sumpweed has an interesting archaeological history because its seeds were used by early Amerindians as a source of food prior to the arrival of the squash-bean-corn complex from Mexico. The primary region of use was the lower to middle Mississippi region and the lower Midwest along the Ohio River. A cultivated variety of Sumpweed, Iva annua macrocarpa, was used for this purpose, as its seeds were about twice as long and wide in size (about 7 mm. in length and 4.5 mm. across) as the seeds of the wild varieties of Iva annua. Unfortunately, this cultivated variety of Sumpweed is now extinct with non-viable seeds existing only at archaeological sites or inside caves….”

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 3, 2020 at 4:37 AM

Can you see it?

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On November 15th north of Spring Heath Rd. in Pflugerville I photographed a possumhaw tree (Ilex decidua) with bright red fruit on it. Hidden in the tree was something else: take a look and see if you can pick it out. If you’re not sure, click the excerpt below for a closer look.

If you still aren’t sure, click the final thumbnail for a view of the mystery subject when it was in the open.

(If the subject’s identification eluded you in the URL for that last image, here it is more directly.)

And following up on this post’s title, “Can you see it?”, can you figure out what all the following English words have in common beyond the fact that in each one a vowel letter and a consonant letter alternate?

HIS, SORE, AMEN, PAN, AWE, EMIT, SON, TOWER, HAS, LAX, TOMATO, FAT, SOME, DONOR.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 27, 2020 at 4:35 AM

Posted in nature photography

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Thankfully some Maximilian sunflowers are still flowering

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“Linger,” said the warm weather to the Maximilian sunflowers, and they listened. You’re looking at Helianthus maximiliani along Impact Way in Pflugerville on November 20th.

A happy dose of sunshiny yellow to you all.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 26, 2020 at 4:45 AM

Another of autumn’s big four

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I tend to think that when autumn comes to central Texas we have a botanical “big four” here. I could even split them into two groups of two according to color: yellow Maximilian sunflowers and goldenrod, plus white snow-on-the-prairie (or -mountain) and poverty weed. It’s the last of those, Baccharis neglecta, that you see above in a September 30th photograph from Pflugerville. (The small yellow fruits in the foreground are silverleaf nightshade, Solanum elaeagnifolium.) The zillions of little white flower heads that from a distance make this delicate tree seem frosted are quite an insect magnet, as you see in the closeup below showing a hoverfly (Toxomerus sp.) and a spotted cucumber beetle (Diabrotica undecimpunctata).

And here’s an unrelated quotation for today. “For every one pupil who needs to be guarded from a weak excess of sensibility there are three who need to be awakened from the slumber of cold vulgarity. The task of the modern educator is not to cut down jungles but to irrigate deserts. The right defence against false sentiments is to inculcate just sentiments. By starving the sensibility of our pupils we only make them easier prey to the propagandist when he comes. For famished nature will be avenged and a hard heart is no infallible protection against a soft head.” — C.S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 13, 2020 at 4:23 AM

Blowing in the wind, and not

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What I saw blowing in the wind along Pflugerville Parkway on September 19th was goldenrod (Solidago sp.). A couple of plants had already fully flowered on an undeveloped property but were close to the road and to some election billboards—illegally placed, of course—that made getting a decent background difficult. Thanks to my mat for letting me lie down in a briar patch to strain for good photographic angles. I’d had an easier time in Bastrop 13 days earlier when I photographed my first goldenrod flowers of the season:

The illegally placed election billboards I mentioned provide a lead-in to a thought for today. Suppose you’re trying to determine how prevalent a certain thing is in a given population. The science of statistics requires that you get a sample that’s random and also large enough to greatly reduce the likelihood of being unrepresentative (which occasionally happens just by chance, like being dealt a straight flush in poker). Unfortunately, many in the news media violate those principles by choosing to present only occurrences that support a certain ideology, while purposely not reporting occurrences, often much greater in number, that contradict that ideology.

Let’s concoct an example. Suppose I’m a member of the Green Eyes Party, and I claim that adults with green eyes are rich. I go out searching until I eventually find four wealthy people who happen to have green eyes, and I produce a lavish documentary about them. At the end I say: “See, it’s clear that adults with green eyes are wealthy.” In so doing, I violated the axioms of statistics—and fairness!—because I included only green-eyed adults who are rich; I didn’t include many of them; and I didn’t take into account the much larger number of green-eyed adults who aren’t rich.

So when you hear on the news or elsewhere that X is a common occurrence, or that there’s an “epidemic” of X, do your best to find out whether large-scale, properly gathered statistics show that X really is common. In unfortunately many cases you’ll discover that X is actually rare but seems common only because certain interests are heavily promoting it.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 28, 2020 at 4:34 AM

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