Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘purple

First spiderworts for 2023

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I didn’t have to go farther than our side yard on March 2nd
for this picture of spiderwort flowers (Tradescantia sp.)


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Some have called mathematics the universal language. Others have called it the language of the universe. Still others, unfortunately, are working to turn mathematics into the language of wokeness. A controversy has arisen in Pennsylvania, where some members of the school board in the Littlestown Area School District are urging the adoption of an elementary school math curriculum that integrates “social and emotional learning” (SEL). Like “equity” and “cultural competence,” “social and emotional learning” is another of the numerous euphemisms behind which wokeness has been masquerading.

In the Pennsylvania school district, activists want to adopt McGraw Hill’s “Reveal Math” program. I looked at the program’s overview and confirmed that it does indeed push wokeness at the expense of mathematics. My involvement in the American school system as a teacher beginning in the 1970s quickly taught me this truth: for educationists, to speak is to speak in jargon. They just can’t help themselves. Here are a few examples from the “Reveal Math” overview.

The program “Tailors classroom activities to student need through insightful assessment and purposeful, multi-modal differentiation.” Adjectives abound in educationese. Notice “insightful,” “purposeful,” and “multi-modal” all in one sentence. The next time Target has purposeful, multi-modal differentiation on sale, you should get yourself a bunch.

The “Reveal Math” program provides “access to rigorous instruction with embedded teacher supports and scaffolds.” And you thought scaffolds were restricted to the building trades. Note also the alliterative chaining together of “supports and scaffolds.” What words the gods of education have joined together, let no mere mortal split asunder.

The program will see to it that “all students can take ownership of their personal learning journey.” If you’ve ever encountered any kindergartners who’ve taken ownership of more than a doll or a toy or a teddy bear or an ice cream cone, much less of their personal learning journey, please let us know immediately.

Similarly, in the Assessment bullet point, “Students complete a short exit ticket and reflect on their learning.” Hate to say it, but students will be much more interested in making an exit—even without a ticket—than in reflecting on their learning.

Students also will “develop a voice and choice in their classroom environment.” Notice the rhyming “voice and choice,” like the “drill and kill” with which activists for decades have been disparaging memorization and sustained practice as effective methods of mastering material.

“Sense-Making Routines launch every lesson, creating an equitable classroom culture where all ideas are welcome and respected.” Well, no. Take the case of a student who has to add 1/7 + 1/7 and, to be “equitable,” adds across the top and then also across the bottom, to get a “sum” of 2/14 (in fact I’ve encountered incoming college students who’ve made that very mistake). Any student who thinks 1/7 + 1/7 = 2/14 is to be corrected, not respected. But being “equitable” overrules being right.

Another clue to the real agenda in “Reveal Math” is revealed in the document’s bullet point on Social and Emotional Learning: “Competencies [there’s that loaded word again] to support academically and socially engaged classroom members.” The point is to begin turning little kids into future social activists.


© 2023 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 12, 2023 at 4:33 AM

Posted in nature photography

Tagged with , , ,

Texas mountain laurel

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From February 26th in our part of Austin comes a flowering Dermatophyllum secundiflorum, known colloquially as Texas mountain laurel. That common name often leads the uninitiated astray. Let’s start with the last of the three words: true laurels are plants in the botanical family Lauraceae. The Texas mountain laurel isn’t in that family. Neither is the mountain laurel, a shrub that grows in the eastern United States and that belongs to the heath family, Ericaceae.

Texas mountain laurel differs from both of those; it’s in Fabaceae, the botanical family that includes peas and beans. Therefore it’s false to drop the first word and claim that this tree is a mountain laurel, and likewise false to drop the first two words and claim that this tree is a laurel. The first two words are required qualifiers; dropping them distorts reality.




Let’s see how the principle of required qualifiers applies to a news story in The Guardian on February 22nd: 


Soy, oat, almond and other drinks that bill themselves as milk can keep using the term, according to draft federal rules released on Wednesday.

Food and Drug Administration (FDA) officials issued guidance that says plant-based beverages do not pretend to be from dairy animals — and that US consumers aren’t confused by the difference.

Dairy producers for years have called for the FDA to crack down on plant-based drinks and other products that they say masquerade as animal-based foods and cloud the real meaning of the term “milk”.


The dairy producers’ argument is disingenuous, a ploy to keep up sales of milk. If companies selling soy milk dropped the word soy and labeled the drink as just plain milk, then the dairy folks could legitimately claim fraud because soy milk isn’t actual milk. But no seller of soy milk drops the word soy; when I buy that product—which I do—the package always conspicuously lets me know I’m getting a beverage that comes from soybeans, not from a cow, and which therefore isn’t real milk. Once again, the qualifying word soy makes all the difference.

And that’s why, if we segue from botany and beverages to the culture wars, the slogan “trans women are women” is false. To drop the qualifier trans is to commit a biological fraud. I’m free to enjoy soy milk, but not to claim that it’s actual milk. Trans women are free to live as if they were women, but they aren’t actual women and don’t have the right to claim they are.



© 2023 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 3, 2023 at 4:29 AM

Posted in nature photography

Tagged with , , ,

Forked bluecurls

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A year ago today in Bastrop State Park I had my first encounter with Trichostema dichotomum, a member of the mint family known by the quaintly descriptive common name forked bluecurls (except that I see the color as purple). Does the curving part of the flower at the upper left remind anyone else of Hokusai’s “The Great Wave off Kanagawa“?


We’re out of Texas for the first time since the pandemic. Sorry if I’m slow replying to comments.



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What would you think if an American university posted an opening for an engineering professor and concluded the announcement with a euphemistic statement to the effect that African American women need not apply? I take it you’d be outraged. After all, this is 2022, not 1822. And you’d be justified in your outrage because our country has evolved and has passed many laws prohibiting such discrimination. Nevertheless, American universities today do issue such job announcements, the only difference being that the group excluded a priori consists of white men, and sometimes Asian men too. Sad to say, such blatant bigotry has become commonplace, no matter what our laws say to the contrary.

As an example take Texas A&M University, whose Department of Finance recently opened up a position. As Louis K. Bonham reported in a September 12th “Minding the Campus” article: “The head of the recruiting committee confirmed in writing that the position was indeed ‘reserved’ for non-white, non-Asian candidates.” And now one person has done something about it. Finance professor Richard Lowery, of the University of Texas, has filed the lawsuit  Lowery v. Texas A&M University System. Bonham’s article quotes three paragraphs from the lawsuit:

8. The Texas A&M University System, along with nearly every university in the United States, discriminates on account of race and sex when hiring its faculty, by giving discriminatory preferences to female or non-Asian minorities at the expense of white and Asian men. This practice, popularly known as “affirmative action,” has led universities to hire and promote inferior faculty candidates over individuals with better scholarship, better credentials, and better teaching ability.

9. These race and sex preferences are patently illegal under Title VI and Title IX, which prohibit all forms of race and sex discrimination at universities that receive federal funds. But university administrators think they can flout these federal statutes with impunity because no one ever sues them over their discriminatory faculty-hiring practices and the Department of Education looks the other way.

10. These discriminatory, illegal, and anti-meritocratic practices have been egged on by woke ideologues who populate the so-called diversity, equity, and inclusion offices at public and private universities throughout the United States. The existence of these offices is subverting meritocracy and encouraging wholesale violations of civil-rights laws throughout our nation’s university system.

“The lawsuit also has another twist: it seeks certification as a class action, for the benefit of all white and Asian candidates who have been discriminated against by Texas A&M’s DEI [diversity, equity, inclusion] employment initiatives.”

You’re welcome to read the full article for more information.


© 2022 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 11, 2022 at 4:30 AM

Back to the Gulf

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The first time we made it back to the Gulf of Mexico since the pandemic was at the beginning of June, when we spent a few days in Corpus Christi and Port Aransas. The second time was on September 19th, when we drove-and-stopped our way southwest from downtown Galveston to the far end of the island. The next bunch of posts will document that day in nature.

While Corpus Christi had offered up plenty of purple beach morning glory flowers, Ipomoea pes-caprae, the plants in Galveston put on a greater show of spreading their runners across the beach sand, as you see above. Another great spread that we saw in many places was sunflowers, which formed good-sized colonies right on the beach and in “vacant” lots in town. Local informant Linda suggests we saw beach sunflowers, Helianthus debilis. Look how dense they were:



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On Wednesday Florida suffered devastating damage from Hurricane Ian. It took only two days for our vice president to racialize the suffering by announcing that the federal government would prioritize aid to hurricane victims based on their race:

It is our lowest income communities and our communities of color that are most impacted by these extreme conditions and impacted by issues that are not of their own making. And so we have to address this in a way that is about giving resources based on equity, understanding that we fight for equality, but we also need to fight for equity, understanding not everyone starts out at the same place, and if we want people to be in an equal place sometimes we have to take into account those disparities and do that work.

For the uninitiated, let me explain that “communities of color” is a euphemism for “everybody except white people.” “Equity” is code for “discrimination according to race, sex, or other personal attributes.” The word sounds like “equality” but means the opposite. “Do the work” is racialist jargon that means confessing that white people are the “root cause” of the country’s troubles and therefore it’s okay to discriminate against them. If that sounds blunt, it’s because race essentialism is blunt.

It’s also illegal: prioritizing aid to hurricane victims based on their race would violate the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, the 1964 Civil Rights Act, and many other laws. If the government follows through and starts to distribute aid based on race, courts will strike that down as illegal, just as they struck down racially based programs the current administration tried to put into effect during the pandemic. No matter how many times citizens and the courts tell government officials they can’t discriminate based on race, they keep trying to do it. That’s not only illegal, it’s immoral.

You’re welcome to read more about this in a September 30th Washington Examiner story by Maria Leaf.


© 2022 Steven Schwartzman





Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 1, 2022 at 4:25 AM

A reward

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Our house had a conventional lawn when we moved here in 2004 and path-of-least-resistance me has never done anything to change it. As a result I do have to mow every so often. The most recent time was September 7th, by which date rain had finally caused the grass to come up noticeably from its drought-induced dormancy of the summer. Near the end of my chore I noticed a single wood sorrel flower (Oxalis drummondii) and carefully mowed around it. A little later I came back to get my photographic reward.

I took some of my pictures with flash and a small aperture to keep most of the flower’s details sharp. In this shot, however, I went with natural light, which in turn dictated a broad aperture and shallow depth of field.


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In 2007, the U.S. Congress mandated the blending of biofuels such as corn-based ethanol into gasoline. One of the top goals: reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

But today, the nation’s ethanol plants produce more than double the climate-damaging pollution, per gallon of fuel production capacity, than the nation’s oil refineries, according to a Reuters analysis of federal data….

The ethanol plants’ high emissions result in part from a history of industry-friendly federal regulation that has allowed almost all processors to sidestep the key environmental requirement of the 2007 law, the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), according to academics who have studied ethanol pollution and regulatory documents examined by Reuters….

That’s the shocking lead in a September 8th Reuters article by Leah Douglas. You can learn more by reading the full article. I’ll add that I’ve been against the ethanol boondoggle ever since Congress enacted it. One big reason is that converting so much corn to ethanol drives up the price of corn, which people around the world depend on as a primary food. Remember Mexico’s 2007 tortilla crisis?


© 2022 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 17, 2022 at 4:31 AM

Hanging out at/on trumpets

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The at was me. The on was ants. The date was August 14. The place was the northeast quadrant of Mopac and US 183. The bud above was about to open. Its species was Campsis radicans. Its common name is trumpet vine. If I were an ant I’d probably have stuck my head in there too. The “trumpet” below with seven sisters on it is purple bindweed, Ipomoea cordatotriloba.


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In recent months WordPress has been appending a grid of ads to our posts. Two days ago one of the ads looked interesting, so I clicked on it and got taken to a site called USAFacts. Here’s how it describes itself:

USAFacts provides a data-driven portrait of the American population, US governments’ finances, and governments’ impact on society. We are a nonpartisan, not-for-profit civic initiative without a political agenda. We provide vital spending, revenue, demographic, and performance information as a free public service and are committed to maintaining and expanding our available data in the future.

USAFacts believes that facts deserve to be heard. Democracy is only successful when it’s grounded in truth. We’re here to provide that grounding with trusted government data that’s both easy to access and understand. We standardize data straight from government agencies and present it in plain language with helpful visualizations so you can understand the history of programs and policies. Americans deserve unbiased facts straight from the government to have serious, reasoned, and informed debate.

As the largest source for standardized US government data, USAFacts offers something unique. We exclusively use publicly available government data presenting a vast array of reports on US spending, revenue, population and demographics, and policy outcomes. We don’t make judgments or prescribe policies. Whether government money is spent wisely or not, whether the quality of life is improving or getting worse — that’s for you to decide.


Here are a few facts I gleaned from browsing USAFacts.

  • Between 2010 and 2021, Texas had the largest growth [of any state] with 4.3 million more residents. Illinois had the largest decline with 169,076 fewer people. Among counties, Maricopa County, Arizona had the largest growth with 671,405 more people. Baltimore city, Maryland had the largest decline with 44,444 fewer residents. (Look at those five 4’s in a row.)
  • Obesity hasn’t doubled. It’s nearly tripled in the United States over the last fifty years…. The trend in obesity is not evenly distributed throughout American demographics. Low-income Americans were more likely than higher earners to experience obesity in 2017. Roughly 36 percent of those earning less than $15,000 a year fit the CDC definition compared to 26 percent of those with incomes greater than $75,000 per year. A similar pattern holds for those with less than a high school education (36 percent). While Asians are the least likely to be obese (11 percent), non-Hispanic blacks and American Indians are the most likely to experience obesity (39 percent for both).
  • Funding for the nation’s education system comes primarily from state and local governments. Federal, state, and local governments spent a combined $997 billion on education in 2019, the most recent year for which data is complete. Spending per student has increased 21% since the 2000–2001 academic year, after adjusting for inflation. 


Don’t delay delving into data delights at USAFacts.


© 2022 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 20, 2022 at 4:25 AM

Posted in nature photography

Tagged with , , , , , ,

Two species, three prominent colors

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Plenty of native species have been planted around the pond at the intersection of Gault Lane and Burnet Road. On the morning of July 7th I made this group portrait that includes a pavonia mallow flower (Pavonia lasiopetala), several purple bindweed flowers (Ipomoea cordatotriloba), and a yellowed leaf on the bindweed vine. The cordato in the species name means heart-shaped, and that wavily fits the bright leaf.


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I’ve mentioned a few times that a group of people who believe in the traditional purpose of a university—the pursuit of knowledge, whatever facts and truths that may lead to—are busy founding the University of Austin (UATX) right here where I live. An inaugural summer session was held in Dallas, and I invite you to read the talk that Bari Weiss gave to the first class of UATX students. It’s called “The New Founders America Needs.”



© 2022 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 15, 2022 at 4:33 AM

Bluebell time

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Two years ago, during the first months of the pandemic, I brought you a picture of probably the densest and most expansive colony of bluebells (Eustoma sp.) I’ve ever seen. It sprawled across a field on the south side of San Gabriel Blvd. in Leander, a rapidly growing suburb north of Austin. Unfortunately that rapid growth meant the field soon became a construction site and the great bluebell colony was destroyed before another spring came around. This year a post in the Texas Flora group announced that some bluebells had come up on the north side of San Gabriel Blvd, presumably the progeny of plants from the now-gone colony. On June 14th I went up there and, sure enough, I found some bluebells flowering, mostly in a ditch.

For the portrait above, I lay on the ground and aimed toward a patch of bright sky. (If I remember correctly, this is the first picture with a white background I’ve posted since a winecup in December 2021, and that was the first since a rain lily in March 2020.) The portrait below shows some bluebell buds beginning to open.


As I was finishing up my photography in Leander, I noticed a crew of mowers getting closer and closer to the wildflower-filled ditch. When a guy with a weed-whacker approached the far end of the ditch, I went over and talked to him in Spanish, asking him not to cut down the beautiful wildflowers. He asked me if I was the encargado—the person in charge—of the property. I said no, but as a citizen it was important to me to preserve the wildflowers. He pointed to a guy on a tractor who he said was the head of the ground crew, so I walked over and talked to him. He turned out to speak good English. He said the crew mowed on a schedule, and he didn’t seem at all concerned about cutting down the flowers. I asked who at his company I could talk to. He pointed to the company truck, which had a phone number on it. I walked close enough to the truck to read the phone number, called it, and got a message saying that number was out of service. It didn’t seem there was any more I could do, so I drove home.

Two days later I went back to see what had happened. To my pleasant surprise, I found that the guys in the crew had mowed a narrow strip along the top edges of the ditch but had left everything lower down alone. It seems my plea had done some good after all. Below, strictly for documentary purposes, is how a portion of the ditch looked when I returned there. Other than the bluebells, prominent flowers were horsemints (Monarda citriodora) and firewheels (Gaillardia pulchella), visible in the upper left, and two others that I’ll show in a separate post.


After I told this story in the Texas Flora group a couple of days ago, florally named Rose Thomas commented that the incident reminded her of Robert Frost’s poem “The Tuft of Flowers.” I didn’t know that poem, so I looked it up and found a version in which Robert Frost himself reads it as the lines of verse scroll to keep pace. I also replied to Rose: “In addition to the bluebells at the bottom of the ditch, the mowers had spared one that was flowering up high, at the level of the adjacent field, next to a culvert. Substitute the culvert for a brook, and that bluebell could have been the tall tuft of flowers in the poem.” (That will make sense if you check out the poem.)


© 2022 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 19, 2022 at 4:34 AM

Horsemint stages

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A native wildflower that typically begins to make itself seen here by mid-May is the horsemint, Monarda citriodora. The species was on schedule in Great Hills Park on May 15th when I took these pictures showing a formative and a more developed stage.



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Last year I mentioned that the incidents of institutions clamping down on freedom of expression have become so common in what used to pride itself as “The Land of the Free” that I could probably report a new suppression-of-thought incident every single day. I’m beginning to wonder if I was too modest: I might well be able to report two a day now.

I recently read about an incident in the Minding the Campus article “Free Speech Under Fire at St. Vincent College,” by Mike Sabo. If you read it, you’ll see it’s yet another instance of the DIE gang (diversity, inclusion, equity) working to kill off opinions they don’t like—hence the acronym DIE.

I studied a lot of linguistics in college and graduate school, along with a bunch of specific languages in varying degrees, from years down to several months. With that kind of language background, I figured I should do a little translating for you from Religion into English. “Diversity” means uniformity of ideas. “Inclusion” means exclusion of any person with an idea that contradicts current dogma. “Equity” means forced sameness of results, regardless of the competence or efforts of the people involved. Another way to say it is that “equity” means treating people unequally, with some getting favored treatment based on immutable characteristics like skin color or ethnic heritage and others being penalized for those immutable characteristics. Still another way to put it is that equity means inequality before the law.


© 2022 Steven Schwartzman






Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 3, 2022 at 4:26 AM

Crab spider on prairie paintbrush

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One of the flowers I expected to see at the Doeskin Ranch on April 27th was prairie paintbrush, Castilleja purpurea var. lindheimeri, based on what I found there last year (though a month earlier in the season, when things were on a normal schedule rather than the delayed one we had this spring). As I got close to one prairie paintbrush I noticed a little crab spider on it, as you see here. The plant bumping up against the paintbrush was white milkwort, Polygala alba, which was out in force at the Doeskin Ranch. Below is a somewhat dreamy view of white milkwort near a few sensitive briar flower globes, Mimosa roemeriana.


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“Once a government is committed to the principle of silencing the voice of opposition, it has only one way to go, and that is down the path of increasingly repressive measures, until it becomes a source of terror to all its citizens and creates a country where everyone lives in fear.”

— President Harry S. Truman
Special Message to the Congress on the Internal Security of the United States. August 8, 1950.

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman






Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 8, 2022 at 4:31 AM

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