Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘Pflugerville

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

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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

Spiral spirit

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Recent pictures of one snail on a fresh basket-flower, another on an opening firewheel, and a foursome on a dry plant have pleased some of you, so here are three more photographs from the limaciferous* Blackland Prairie in Pflugerville during the week of May 4th.

These snails are equal-opportunity climbers. In the top picture, the plant is greenthread, Thelesperma filifolium. The climbed-upon in the middle photograph is blazing star, Liatris mucronata.  Finally you have a square-bud primrose, Oenothera capillifolia.

* I coined limaciferous from the roots of Latin limax ‘snail’ and ferre ‘to bear.’
The choice was between that and the English-Latin hybrid snailferous.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 7, 2020 at 4:34 AM

National Prairie Day

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Click to enlarge.

Today is National Prairie Day. As my salute to it, here are more views of the flowerful Blackland Prairie remnant along Heatherwilde Blvd. in Pflugerville. I made my fifth visit in a week to that site, and perhaps my last for 2020, on May 11. In the top picture, the tall plants topped with yellow flowers in the foreground are Texas parsley, Polytaenia texana. The mostly red flowers are Indian blankets, Gaillardia pulchella, and the white ones are prairie bishop, Bifora americana. Additionally in the second picture the different red flowers are Indian paintbrushes, Castilleja indivisa. The yellows are square-bud primroses, Oenothera capillifolia, and the yellow-orange ones are greenthread, Thelesperma filifolium.

Click to enlarge.

And below from the same site on May 6th is a flower I don’t often see, white rosinweed, Silphium albiflorum. You can tell how rough the leaves are, and I’ll add that they’re quite stiff as well.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 6, 2020 at 4:38 AM

Fiery skipper on Texas thistle

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You’re looking at a fiery skipper (Hylephila phyleus) on a Texas thistle (Cirsium texanum). Square-bud primroses (Oenothera capillifolia) in the background lit up the Blackland Prairie in Pflugerville on May 11th.

By the way, Texas thistle flowers have a pleasant scent for people as well as butterflies and other insects. If you’re in an area where these grow and haven’t ever sniffed one, give it a shot while some are still around.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 3, 2020 at 4:04 AM

Three approaches to portraying basket-flower “baskets”

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On the Blackland Prairie in Pflugerville on May 7th I tried various approaches to photographing basket-flower “baskets” in a search for new ways to portray the familiar species Plectocephalus americanus (even if the new genus name isn’t yet familiar). For the first picture, I cast my shadow on the subject to create soft lighting while a wide aperture of f/3.5 kept the background well out of focus. I also had no aversion to a version in which f/8 let a background basket-flower reveal more of its shape:

For the third portrait I used the familiar technique of aiming toward a deeply shaded area:

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 31, 2020 at 4:29 AM

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