Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘prairie

More from the July 29th outing on the Blackland Prairie

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Let me continue with the July 29th photo session near a pond on the Blackland Prairie in far northeast Austin that produced the torchlike Clematis drummondii picture you saw here last time. On another of those vines I noticed that some of its silky strands had been pulled together; by getting close I made a soft portrait that included the spider that had done the pulling together. Click the excerpt below if you’d like a closer look at the spinner (which is what spider means).

I also made a pretty pastel picture of marsh fleabane buds (Pluchea odorata).
It’s been five years since that species last appeared in these pages.

And here’s an unrelated quotation for today: “If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein.” — U.S. Supreme Court, “West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette, 319 U.S. 624 (1943).

UPDATE: In yesterday’s post I’ve added a link below Emma Lazarus’s sonnet so you can hear the famous part set to music by a famous immigrant to the United States.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 22, 2020 at 4:45 AM

Bluebell bud and flower

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Way back on June 8th I went to a little pond I know on the Blackland Prairie in far northeast Austin because in some previous years I’d found good amounts of bluebells (Eustoma sp.) there. No luck then, but I did better when I returned on July 29th. Well, only slightly better: I found exactly three scattered bluebells, and all of them had been partly eaten (by what, I don’t know). By getting on the ground and aiming judiciously, I managed to make this portrait of a bluebell bud rising in front of a non-nibbled part of one of the flowers.

In our Ancient History Department, the magazine Archaeology reports in its July/August 2020 issue the discovery at Abri du Maras in France of the earliest known piece of cord. It dates back 46,000 years and was made, surprisingly, by Neanderthals. The article says that the “cord was made of three separate strands of fiber taken from the inner bark of a coniferous tree… The strands were then twisted in a clockwise direction to hold the fibers together, after which they were twisted together in a counterclockwise motion to make the cord.” That led archaeologist Bruce Hardy of Kenyon College “to believe that Neanderthals shared a cognitive capacity for mathematics with modern humans.” You can read more about this find in a Science News story.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 19, 2020 at 4:46 AM

A pond as a pleasant background, twice

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Pink evening primroses reach their peak here in the spring, when large colonies of Oenothera speciosa sometimes form. Even so, individual plants are often found flowering through the summer and fall, like this one that I photographed on July 24th at the edge of a pond off Naruna Way on the Blackland Prairie. I also coaxed the pond to pose behind a spiderwebbed Texas thistle seed head, Cirsium texanum.

And here’s an unrelated but relevant quotation for today: “So we must beware of a tyranny of opinion which tries to make only one side of a question the one which may be heard. Everyone is in favour of free speech. Hardly a day passes without its being extolled, but some people’s idea of it is that they are free to say what they like, but if anyone says anything back, that is an outrage.” — Winston Churchill in the U.K. Parliament on October 13, 1943.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 8, 2020 at 4:38 AM

A good sunflower colony

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Click to enlarge.

A recent post focused on two sunflowers in a large colony. Now here’s a panorama showing how wild sunflowers (Helianthus annuus) can take over a field. I found this bright yellow colony on the Blackland Prairie along Gregg-Manor Rd. east of TX 130 on June 10th. Texas knows how to do wildflowers, yes indeed.

I’m tempted to say the way I cropped this photograph shows the influence of my Indian friend Pano Rama, but I would never say such a thing.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 15, 2020 at 7:45 AM

Sunflower, king of the prairie

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Okay, so the title that actually popped into my head when I was on the prairie two days ago was “Sunflower, king of the universe.” As much as I liked it, it struck me as maybe a little hyperbolic, so I toned it down. This was the field of sunflowers I’d headed out to find when I stumbled across the one that brightened up the background in yesterday’s picture. A member of the Texas Wildflowers group on Facebook had shown a few pictures of this large colony, which turned out to be in the northwest quadrant of E. Howard Lane and Harris Branch Parkway way out on the Blackland Prairie in Austin’s full-purpose annexation zone.

Note: this is Helianthus annuus, the anything-but-common “common” sunflower.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 12, 2020 at 4:47 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

Nine years

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Click to enlarge.

Nine years ago today I put up this blog’s first post, which featured a basket-flower (Plectocephalus americanus) with a soft cloud beyond it. On May 10th of this year I drove to the site in Round Rock where I made that important portrait in 2000 and was relieved to find basket-flowers and others still flourishing there on the Blackland Prairie. Then I drove a quarter-mile east to a site that had later become my favorite for basket-flowers, given the expanse and density of the basket-flower colonies that I found there in most years. Alas, the entire site had been razed in preparation for development! Today’s picture shows how things looked there in the spring of 2014, and how I’ll always remember the place.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman


Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 4, 2020 at 4:24 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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