Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘pods

Growing rampant

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Growing rampant on some of the Virginia saltmarsh mallows, Kosteletzkya pentacarpos or virginica, which you saw in the last post on the gulf side of Galveston Island State Park on September 19th, were a bunch of hairypod cowpea vines, Vigna luteola, as shown above. Next, have a look at one of the cowpea flowers from down low, where I’m wont to go:


And here’s one in isolation that’s even more sculptural:





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On the theme of “Do as I say, not as I do,” the other day I happened across an article by Emily Smith from November 1, 2021, that began like this:

There is outrage after Jeff Bezos’ $65 million Gulf Stream jet led a 400-strong stream of private planes into Scottish environmental summit COP26.

World leaders and dignitaries from all over the globe, including Prince Albert of Monaco and a host of “green” CEOs landed in Glasgow and Edinburgh over the weekend, creating what one Scottish news outlet described as “an extraordinary traffic jam [which] forced empty planes to fly 30 miles to find space to park.” 

The article went on to quote Matt Finch, of the UK’s Transport and Environment campaign group:

The average private jet… emits two tons of CO2 for every hour in flight. It can’t be stressed enough how bad private jets are for the environment, it is the worst way to travel by miles. Our research has found that most journeys could easily be completed on scheduled flights.

Private jets are very prestigious but it is difficult to avoid the hypocrisy of using one while claiming to be fighting climate change…. To put it in context, the total carbon footprint of an ordinary citizen — including everywhere they travel and everything they consume — is around eight tons a year. So an executive or politician taking one long-haul private flight will burn more CO2 than several normal people do in a year [italics added].

Of course those 400 private jets converged at a “climate summit” for the sake of “saving the planet,” so it must have been okay.


© 2022 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 5, 2022 at 4:27 AM

Mesquite pods with added interest

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While out on the Blackland Prairie in far northeast Austin on the first day of August I came upon a mesquite tree (Prosopis glandulosa) with plenty of long, well-developed pods on it. Whether the species name glandulosa accounts for the two resinous drops on one of these pods, I don’t know. I do know that the drops attracted me as a photographer. Not till after I got home and looked at the pictures on my computer screen did I notice the tiny spider close to the larger of the two drops. From a different frame taken at a different angle, here’s a closer look at the tiny spider and the larger resin drop:



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On Monday I saw a photograph showing a 2018 demonstration outside Minnesota’s Capitol. Prominent in the photograph was a handwritten placard that began: “Hammer[s,] screwdrivers and knives kill more people than rifles.” You know me: I immediately wondered if the claim is true. To try to find facts to confirm or refute it, I did an Internet search and turned up an article from the Joslyn Law Firm. Here’s how it starts:

With the renewed push by the federal government for an assault weapons ban, we couldn’t help but wonder, just how often are assault rifles really to blame for crimes? More specifically, how often are they used as murder weapons when compared to all of the other types of weapons available?

Using FBI homicide statistics from the 2019 Crime in the United States report, the insights team at the Joslyn Law Firm charted out how often different types of weapons were used in homicides in the U.S. Of the 16,425 homicides that occurred in 2019, the FBI was able to collect supplemental data for 13,922 of them, which is what our data is based on. The weapon types are broken down into the different types of firearms: handguns, rifles, shotguns, and a category for homicides in which the type of firearm was unknown. It also compares the number of homicides that were committed by non-firearm weapons such as knives or cutting instruments as well as bodily weapons, which include people’s hands, fists, and feet. Non-firearm weapons were used for one-quarter of all homicides in the United States.

You can look through the resulting chart (click on it to enlarge it). Of the 13,922 homicides in 2019, rifles accounted for a mere 364 (2.6%). If you want to interpret “rifle” loosely as “long gun” and therefore include shotguns, you can add another 200 (1.4%). In contrast, there were 1476 (10.6%) homicides using knives or other cutting instruments, so already the claim on the demonstrator’s placard seems correct. Because the placard also included hammers and screwdrivers, the outweighing of rifles is even greater.

One possible objection is that 3326 (23.9%) of the homicides involved firearms of an undetermined type. Might enough of those have been rifles to increase the rifle total of 364 to more than the 1476 incidents involving knives and other cutting instruments? While that’s theoretically possible, it’s extremely unlikely, given that among the firearms that have been identified in homicides, rifles account for only 5.25%. We have no reason to suppose the distribution of undetermined gun types is overwhelmingly different from the distribution of determined gun types.

The current push among certain activists is to ban so-called assault rifles, which are a subset of rifles in general, and therefore account for even less than the 2.6% of all the rifles known to have been used in homicides.

To fill out the broader picture, notice that there were 600 (4.3%) murders involving “hands, fists, feet, etc.” (I wonder about that “etc.”: is there homicide by knee or elbow?) That number is also greater in its own right than the known number of homicides committed with rifles. Blunt objects, poison, explosives, fire, narcotics, and other agents accounted for 1591 (11.4%) of murders—again a lot more than the number using rifles. People committed by far the greatest number of homicides with handguns: 6365, or 45.7%. For that reason activists who want to ban “assault” rifles work to make it hard for people to legally get handguns, too. (Of course criminals, by the very fact of being criminals, abide by no prohibitions on guns.) In any case, short of repealing or tortuously reinterpreting the Second Amendment to the Constitution, which guarantees the right of the people to keep and bear arms, the complete prohibition of guns in the United States can’t happen.

In summary, based on the FBI’s 2019 statistics, the claim that hammers, screwdrivers, and knives kill more people in the United States than rifles turns out to be true, and by a convincingly large margin. If that doesn’t seem right, it’s probably because whenever a mass shooting involving a rifle like an AK-47 or an AR-15 occurs, it immediately makes the news and stays there for days. Meanwhile, we hardly ever hear about most of the much greater number of people who are killed individually by other means every single day of the year. Psychologists refer to that as the availability bias or availability heuristic: what you’re frequently exposed to looms much larger in your view of the world than what you’re seldom exposed to.

It’s important to have all the relevant facts and statistics when evaluating something.


© 2022 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 11, 2022 at 4:41 AM

Two atypical bluebonnet views

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It’s well past the season for bluebonnets now, but back on April 19th we were still hunting for colonies of Lupinus texensis. As part of our search we checked out a new place, Shaffer Bend Recreation Area, which borders the Colorado River a little east of Marble Falls in Burnet County. Drought* had dropped the river low enough that some bluebonnets came up in sand which I assume would normally have lain underwater. You see one of those bluebonnets in the top picture.

I was reminded of bluebonnets more recently when, as I walked through a temporarily remaining** piece of the Blackland Prairie in the southern fringe of Pflugerville on May 23rd, I noticed a couple of straggly stray bluebonnets barely still flowering. Much more common at the site were brown bluebonnet pods well on their way to drying out. Some even formed little radiating clusters: compare the one below to the green clusters above.


* For some strange reason, just about every occurrence of the word drought these days is in the phrase drought conditions. I have news for writers and people who speak on television: a drought is a condition. There’s no need to tack on the extra noun conditions—any more than there is to speak of inflation conditions, poverty conditions, or hunger conditions. People suffer financially during periods of inflation, not inflation conditions. They try to rise from poverty, not poverty conditions. If they fail, they may die of hunger, not hunger conditions.

** This is the property on Heatherwilde Blvd. where I was so sorry to see construction begin in 2021 and put an end to the dense wildflowers there each May. A rear portion of the property hasn’t yet been torn up, so I was able to enjoy it for at least one more spring, even if drought has kept the floral count well below average. (It could at least have suppressed the chiggers, but unfortunately it didn’t.)


© 2022 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 26, 2022 at 4:30 AM

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Light and shadow, and light

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Central Texas is home to several species of Sesbania, including the Sesbania vesicaria that botanists have now reclassified as Glottidium vesicarium, known as bladderpod sesbania or bagpod sesbania for the shape of its pods. In Bastrop State Park on September 23rd I played with the light and shadows on some of the many pods in evidence there that morning. I also took advantage of bright sunlight to portray a gray hairstreak butterfly (Strymon melinus) on the flowers of what I take to be tall bush clover (Lespedeza stuevei), a species I’d never photographed before and that is therefore making its debut here today.

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Here’s more from Xi Van Fleet, a woman who escaped from the depredations of Mao’s [Anti-]Cultural Revolution and who sees worrisome parallels in the increasing repression and censorship in the United States. (I have a personal connection to such stories because my father and his parents and brother managed to escape from the terror of the Soviet Union in the 1920s.)

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 19, 2021 at 4:26 AM

Sensitive briar seed pods

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A week ago you saw an August 22nd view of a sensitive briar flower globe (Mimosa roemeriana) in the northeast quadrant of Mopac and US 183. Now from that same photo foray you get a look at some prickle-covered sensitive briar pods in front of one of those flower globes.

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“Systemic racism”?

I deplore the practice of labeling every little thing “racist.” If everything is “racist,” then nothing is, and the word has no meaning. Similarly, we often hear the claim that America is “systemically racist.” Of course that was once true, most notably during slavery and then during the century of so-called Jim Crow that followed. While there are—and, given human nature, presumably always will be—individual people of one race who bear ill will toward people of another race, it’s no longer true that institutions in the United States are systemically biased against the groups they used to discriminate against.

Except in education. The American education bureaucracy has done and keeps doing an amazingly efficient job of making sure black and brown kids don’t get a decent education, even as educationists hypocritically decry the racist treatment of those groups.

For decades the National Center for Education Statistics (NAEP) has gathered data about how “well” American students of various ages perform academically. The results are sorted into three categories:

Basic “denotes partial mastery of prerequisite knowledge and skills fundamental for proficient work at each grade.” [As a math teacher I’ll add that having only a partial mastery of the prerequisites for the new material being taught makes it very difficult for a student to understand the new material.]

Proficient “represents solid academic performance for each grade assessed. Students reaching this level have demonstrated competency over challenging subject matter, including subject-matter knowledge, applications of such knowledge to real world situations, and analytical skills appropriate to the subject matter.”

Advanced “signifies superior performance beyond proficient.”

The other day I looked at the NAEP’s chart for the 2019 performance in grade-12 mathematics [go to page 9 in that document]. The results were predictably and persistently appalling for historical minorities.

A scandalous 66% of black 12th-graders fell below even the basic level in mathematics! Only 26% scored at the basic level, and 8% at the proficient level. Add those three numbers together and you get 100%. That’s right: so very few black 12th graders reached the advanced level that their numbers rounded to 0% for the top category.

Hispanics did only a little better. 54% of Hispanic 12th-graders fell below even the basic level in mathematics. Only 35% scored at the basic level, and 10% at the proficient level. Just 1% of Hispanics made it into the advanced category.

Did you have any idea how very bad the situation is?

What’s to be done? Come back next time and I’ll offer a suggestion.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 14, 2021 at 4:32 AM

Slenderpod sesbania

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I made this more-is-more portrait of drying-out Sesbania herbacea plants in the northeast quadrant of Mopac and US 183 on November 1st. Because this species grows in many places, it has accumulated a bunch of common names: slenderpod sesbania, hemp sesbania, coffee-bean, danglepod, coffeeweed, Colorado River-hemp, and peatree sesbania. The photograph confirms that the first of those names is accurate; the pods really are slender, measuring 10–20 cm in length but only 3–4 mm in width.

One of the plants was conspicuously fasciated, as you see in the second picture.
You might also say it was having a bad-hair day.


And here’s an unrelated thought for today (with the original spelling and capitalization): “we have spent the prime of our lives in procuring them the precious blessing of liberty. let them spend theirs in shewing that it is the great parent of science & of virtue; and that a nation will be great in both always in proportion as it is free.” — Thomas Jefferson, letter to Joseph Willard, 1789.


© 2020 Steven Schwartzman



Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 16, 2020 at 4:40 AM

Paloverde parts

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From August 25th at Mopac and US 183, here are the ever cheery flowers of a paloverde tree (Parkinsonia aculeata). I also did a closeup of one of the tree’s drying pods.

Below is a minimalist view of a paloverde leaf whose curling tip had turned reddish.

And here’s an unrelated quotation for today:
“Sensible people don’t grieve over what they don’t have but rejoice in what they do have.”
Epictetus, Fragments.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 23, 2020 at 4:41 AM

Green milkweed flowers and pods

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From May 29th at the Benbrook Ranch Park in Leander you’re seeing the flowers and pods of green milkweed, Asclepias viridis. And how about those great clouds? Because I took these pictures only three minutes apart, the clouds hadn’t changed that much, so if you compare you can still match some of them up.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 16, 2020 at 4:40 AM

Mesquite pods

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While on the Blackland Prairie in northeast Austin on August 24th I spent time at a mesquite tree, Prosopis glandulosa, whose many pods caught my attention. Indian tribes in what is now Mexico and the southwestern United States used to grind the pods to make a sweet flour. In fact many places sell mesquite flour today. There’s even a Texas mesquite group on Instagram. And it isn’t just people who like mesquite: I noticed plenty of ants attracted to the pods, presumably due to their sweetness.

© 2019 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 3, 2019 at 4:42 AM

Another insect

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Texas Bow-Legged Bug on Mesquite Pod 1510

Near the end of my foray through the field at the corner of Metric Blvd. and Howard Ln. on the morning of October 9th, I stopped to photograph some pods on a honey mesquite tree, Prosopis glandulosa. On one pod I found a type of insect I don’t think I’d ever seen before, the Texas bow-legged bug, Hyalymenus tarsatus (which is truly a bug). This photograph introduces the insect and the pod but not the mesquite tree itself to these pages.

© 2013 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 11, 2013 at 5:59 AM

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