Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘prairie

Maximilian sunflowers in far north Austin

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On October 12th, four weeks after returning from Alberta, I finally went out onto the prairie side of Austin in search of fall wildflowers. I found them. Maximilian sunflowers (Helianthus maximiliani) seemed to be at their peak. If you could use a blast of yellow today, you’ve got it.

© 2017 Steven Schwartzman

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Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 14, 2017 at 4:51 AM

Scott’s Bluff in the morning

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At the top of Scott’s Bluff on May 28th, the late-afternoon wind had taken to blowing so hard that we drove back down to get away from it, resolving to come again the following day before continuing north through Nebraska to South Dakota. Here’s the prairie view that greeted us that next morning as we looked west from the western fringe of the town. Don’t you wish you had one of these 800-foot-tall geological fortresses conveniently sitting at the edge of your town so you could play on and around it whenever you wanted to?

© 2017 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 1, 2017 at 4:51 AM

The demise of an ant on a snail

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As you heard and saw last time, on the Blackland Prairie in Pflugerville on April 30th I stopped to photograph some dodder (Cuscuta spp.). In one place a small snail had climbed up on a plant that the dodder was attacking. Snails often climb plants here, so that’s not unusual, but when I got close I noticed something I don’t remember ever seeing before: an ant had died on the snail, perhaps caught up and immobilized in the snail’s slime.

© 2017 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 26, 2017 at 4:50 AM

Dodder on the prairie

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On the Blackland Prairie in Pflugerville on April 30th I stopped in several places to photograph dodder (Cuscuta spp.), a parasitic plant that sucks the life out of other plants. Victims in the downward-looking photograph above include square-bud primroses (Calylophus berlandieri), firewheels (Gaillardia pulchella), and antelope-horns milkweed (Asclepias asperula). Here’s a much closer view from the side showing dodder attacking a square-bud primrose:

Parasites repel people, and that’s understandable, but dodder’s yellow-orange-angelhair-pasta-like tangles offer a visual complexity it’s hard for a nature photographer—at least this one—to pass up.

If you want to know more, come read an article of mine about dodder that the Native Plant Society of Texas just published.

© 2017 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 24, 2017 at 4:55 AM

Prairie parsley on the Blackland Prairie

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A couple of posts back you saw an Eastern black swallowtail caterpillar that I found on a prairie parsley plant (Polytaenia nuttallii) when I visited the Blackland Prairie west of Heatherwilde Blvd. in Pflugerville on April 30th. After I went back the next day and explored a different part of the parcel, I came across a great stand of prairie parsley flowering away, as shown above. How’s that for density? The mostly red flowers mixed in, by the way, are Gaillardia pulchella, known as firewheels and Indian blankets.

The closer and more downward-looking view below reveals that some of the prairie parsley plants had begun going to seed. The purple flower heads are Texas thistles (Cirsium texanum).

© 2017 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 10, 2017 at 4:22 AM

Black swallowtail caterpillar

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When I wandered out onto a piece of the Blackland Prairie on the west side of Heatherwilde Blvd. in Pflugerville on April 30th, I noticed that one of the prairie parsley plants (Polytaenia nuttallii) was host to the caterpillar of an Eastern black swallowtail butterfly (Papilio polyxenes). You can learn more about this species in a Wikipedia article.

© 2017 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 8, 2017 at 5:01 AM

Wind on the Blackland Prairie

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Yesterday morning I went back to the west side of Heatherwilde Blvd. in Pflugerville, back to a piece of the Blackland Prairie that I’d found in full flower the day before. With the wind gusting to perhaps 25 mph (40 km/hr), I took many pictures at a high shutter speed to stop the plants’ movements. The photograph in this post came into being at 1/1000 of a second.

The yellow flowers are square-bud primroses, Calylophus berlandieri. The clusters of much smaller yellow flowers atop tall plants are prairie parsley, Polytaenia nuttallii. The yellow-fringed red flower heads are Gaillardia pulchella, known as firewheels and Indian blankets. The blowing grass is purple three-awn, Aristida purpurea, which arcs over even without any wind and still suggests it’s being blown sideways.

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 2, 2017 at 5:02 AM

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