Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘purple

Bluebonnet flowering in December!

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A week or so back we were heading north on the Mopac access road when the Lady Eve spied a bluebonnet (Lupinus texensis) flowering. Bluebonnets typically reach their peak in April and fade away by May, so while it’s not unusual in December for this species to put out basal rosettes of leaves in preparation for the following spring, it’s highly unusual for a bluebonnet to flower now.

Because of the rarity, yesterday morning I went back with my camera gear, parked adjacent to the stretch of Mopac where Eve had glimpsed the bluebonnet (but I as the driver hadn’t), and walked along the highway embankment to see if I could find the plant—and find it I did. The fact that we haven’t even had any frost yet must have helped produce and maintain this prodigy. Even as the inflorescence shown above was beginning to show its age, a fresh one was opening:

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 10, 2021 at 4:35 AM

Portraits from our yard: episode 14

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We have an American beautyberry bush (Callicarpa americana) growing in three places around our house. On October 6th I stood on a stepladder to aim mostly downward at this fruiting branch. The one yellow leaf is the first fall foliage you’ve seen here for 2021—ironic, given that afternoon high temperatures stayed in the 90s for at least a week after I took the picture.


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For at least five years, some astute social observers have been classifying Wokeness as a secular religion, complete with unquestionable dogma, proselytizing zeal, priests, and a prohibition against blasphemy. For a good explanation of the phenomenon, you can watch a remote talk that John McWhorter gave to the International Literature Festival in Berlin on September 9th.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 18, 2021 at 4:29 AM

To Bastrop we did go

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For the first time since the spring, on September 23rd we drove 45 miles southeast to Bastrop State Park. One reason for going there at this time of year was the expected flowering of several plants that don’t grow in Austin. Among them are two species of Liatris, including the Liatris aspera, rough blazing-star, shown here. Below is a closeup of one flower cluster.

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I recommend Jonathan Haidt’s new essay about how monomania makes groups illiberal and stupid.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 4, 2021 at 4:31 AM

Prairie agalinis time again

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For the past month I’ve been seeing prairie agalinis flowers (Agalinis heterophylla) around central Texas. Above is a portrait from the Riata Trace Pond on September 14th. Four days earlier I’d taken some pictures along the eastern fringe of the Blackland Prairie in Elgin showing how the plant grows:


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Two Tokens of Our Times, or
There’s a Their There*

1) A website offering information about many artists says this about one of them: “Anders Petersen is a Swedish photographer who was born in 1944. Their work was featured in numerous exhibitions at key galleries and museums….” Anders Petersen is a man. One man. His photographs are plural; he isn’t.

2) Last week marked one year since the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. To commemorate the anniversary, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) quoted the justice’s words:

“The decision whether or not to bear a child is central to a woman’s life, to her well-being and dignity… When the government controls that decision for a woman, she is being treated as less than a fully adult human responsible for her own choices.”

Except the ACLU bowdlerized the quotation: “The decision whether or not to bear a child is central to a [person’s] life, to [their] well-being and dignity… When the government controls that decision for [people], [they are] being treated as less than a fully adult human responsible for [their] own choices.”

You can find out more about this in an article in The Daily Mail.

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* I’m playing off one of Gertrude Stein’s most often quoted lines: “There is no there there.”

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 30, 2021 at 4:37 AM

Purple prairie clover young and old

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It’s not often I’ve shown you purple prairie clover, Dalea purpurea. Here are two contrasting takes from the northeast quadrant of Mopac and US 183 on August 22nd. First you have a limited-focus view of fresh flowers, then a decaying seed head in front of some sunflowers, Helianthus annuus.


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Diversity? What diversity?

One of the three* sacraments in the Holy Trinity of the Critical Social Justice religion is Diversity. (The other two, in case you’ve just arrived from Pluto and aren’t au courant, are Equity and Inclusion.) Anyone not a true believer soon recognizes that the diversity in question refers only to group characteristics like skin color. It certainly doesn’t include diversity of thought. On the contrary, in the spirit of Orwell’s “Freedom is slavery,” the sacrament of Diversity requires waging a crusade against ideological diversity.

I recently learned that one ray of enlightenment has broken through, and it’s right here at the University of Texas (UT) in Austin. “The University of Texas has worked with private donors and Lt. Governor Dan Patrick to establish a new think tank to promote conservative ideas on campus.” Now, you might argue that a state university has no business promoting conservative ideology. All things being equal, I’d agree with you. But in this case things are very far from equal. As a Campus Reform article notes: “In total, UT employees donated $642,693.43 from 2017-2018. Of that amount, 94.7 percent went to Democrat politicians or Democrat organizations, while just 5.3 percent of the donations were made to Republican politicians or Republican organizations.” With such an enormous ideological imbalance already existing, it would be hypocritical to begrudge establishing one little program on the other side of the political spectrum. But of course leftist activists will rail against it anyway—all in the name of Diversity.

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* Never content for long with the status quo, no matter how radical, the Critical Social Justice religion seems to be in the process of adding a fourth sacrament: Belonging. Once Belonging gets officially inducted into the pantheon, a fifth sacrament should soon be a-borning. What will it be? Safety? Solidarity? Openness (which will of course mean ‘closed to evidence that contradicts it’)? Tolerance (which won’t tolerate dissent)?

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 13, 2021 at 4:32 AM

Another colony

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It wasn’t only a colony of partridge pea plants I found along Wells Branch Parkway at Strathaven Pass on August 13th. The first colony I found there that morning was purple bindweed, Ipomoea cordatotriloba. In today’s pictures you see them happily flowering away in the summer heat as they twined and vined themselves over other plants, including some common sunflowers, Helianthus annuus. In the first shot, which is an overview looking somewhat downward, it’s hard to appreciate the rings and arcs that the vines formed on the sunflowers. The closer picture that follows, which I took from near the ground looking upward, reveals those rings and arcs.


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Hypocrisy of the Day

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) maintains an online map showing the current status of Covid-19 infections for every county in the United States. Almost all counties are currently colored red, indicating the highest rate of infection. The CDC recommends that in those counties even fully vaccinated people should wear masks in indoor gatherings, as well as outdoors in crowds where social distancing can’t be maintained. For the past year and a half, Democrats have strongly urged Americans to follow the CDC’s guidelines and have villanized people who question those guidelines.

This past weekend in California’s Napa Valley, which is marked red on the CDC map, Nancy Pelosi hosted a fundraiser for the Democratic Party. The event was held outdoors, but a video taken there has revealed that the attendees were packed together side by side down both sides of several long tables. Not one attendee was seen to be wearing a mask. The only masks in evidence were on the faces of the waitstaff. It’s also true that Democrats have touted their advocacy for “diversity,” yet most of the attendees appear to have been old white folks. There were more non-whites among the small group of servers than among the large group of attendees.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 24, 2021 at 4:31 AM

Portraits from our yard: episode 2

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From July 23rd, look at the flowers and buds of western ironweed, Vernonia baldwinii. I’ve often found that species difficult to photograph because the parts of its inflorescence don’t generally fall close to a single plane, so I was happy to get as much in focus as I did with this portrait. Using flash was the key; it let me stop down to f/16.


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One of the principles of the scientific method is falsifiability. It means that the scientific community won’t even consider a conjecture unless the conjecture is capable of being disproved. For example, Aristotle believed that heavy objects fall faster than light objects. On its face, that might be true or it might be false, and there’s a way to find out. Surprisingly (or not), only a millennium and a half later did someone put Aristotle’s claim to a real test. In the late 1500s Galileo simultaneously dropped (or is said to have dropped) two dense objects of different weights from the Tower of Pisa and found that they hit the ground at the same time, thereby falsifying Aristotle’s long-believed claim. (To give some credit to Aristotle, his notion had seemed true because of air resistance, which makes a feather and a leaf drop much more slowly than a rock.)

In contrast to that checkable conjecture about falling objects, suppose someone claims the existence of a substance having the property that whenever you try to detect it it becomes undetectable. Do you see that by its very nature a proposal like that can’t ever be disproved? As a result, it lies outside the realm of science.

I bring up falsifiability in science because it reminds me of something going on in the world of the “woke,” where apostles and acolytes of that new religion accuse white people, especially white men, and even more especially old white men, of having “white privilege.” If a white person answers “No, I don’t have any such privilege,” then the true believers snap back and say, “The fact that you deny having white privilege shows your ‘white fragility’ and it proves that you do have white privilege.” Honest, some of them really “think” that way. By that kind of “reasoning,” whenever anyone accused of a crime goes into court and pleads not guilty, the judge would have to find the defendant guilty by virtue of having pled not guilty! It’s downright Kafkaesque.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 31, 2021 at 4:33 AM

A snapdragon vine flower

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It’s not often I come across a snapdragon vine, Maurandella antirrhiniflora, so when I did in my neighborhood on July 11th I made sure to take a bunch of pictures. These are small flowers, averaging about 3/4 of an inch across (18mm). I don’t know about you, but whenever I see snapdragon vine flowers I always think I’m looking at a mouth with prominent lower teeth. The fact that they would be hairy teeth doesn’t dissuade my imagination.


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Yesterday I mentioned a partisan who went on a television talk show and kept repeating a claim that the moderator of the show had shown wasn’t true. Alas, that wasn’t an isolated aberration. It’s not hard to find activists and partisan groups that repeat—sometimes for years on end—assertions which have been proven false. Consider the “Hands up, don’t shoot!” meme that has been around since 2014. It came from an incident that took place on August 9 of that year in the town of Ferguson, Missouri, outside Saint Louis. It began after an 18-year-old African American named Michael Brown grabbed some $50 worth of cigarillos from behind the counter of the Ferguson Market and pushed a worker who confronted him as he left the convenience store. A little later, as Brown and another person were walking down the middle of a street, a white police officer named Darren Wilson saw them and told them they should be walking on the sidewalk instead of in the middle of the street. An altercation ensued, during which Wilson ended up shooting and killing Brown. A rumor quickly spread that Brown had had his hands up and was trying to surrender when Wilson shot him. That rumor led, beginning the next day, to rioting, looting, arson, and the destruction of businesses. By August 16 the governor of Missouri had to declare a state of emergency and impose a curfew. When that didn’t quell the rioting, the governor canceled the ineffective curfew and called in the National Guard.

Things eventually quieted down. Later, on November 24, a grand jury that had examined all the evidence decided there were not grounds to indict Officer Darren Wilson. That led to another round of rioting in which at least a dozen buildings and multiple police cars were burned. To this day there are groups that claim that Michael Brown didn’t receive justice. The problem for those who say they want justice for Mike Brown is that the U.S. Justice Department, headed by Eric Holder, a friend of Barack Obama’s who is also black, did do a thorough investigation of the incident. The investigation showed that the narrative of Brown being an innocent victim wasn’t true. If you want to, you can read the full report on the Michael Brown incident, issued by the U.S. Justice Department headed by Eric Holder. Here are two relevant paragraphs from the end of the report (I’ve put some key statements in bold type):

In addition, even assuming that Wilson definitively knew that Brown was not armed, Wilson was aware that Brown had already assaulted him once and attempted to gain control of his gun. Wilson could thus present evidence that he reasonably feared that, if left unimpeded, Brown would again assault Wilson, again attempt to overpower him, and again attempt to take his gun. Under the law, Wilson has a strong argument that he was justified in firing his weapon at Brown as he continued to advance toward him and refuse commands to stop, and the law does not require Wilson to wait until Brown was close enough to physically assault Wilson. Even if, with hindsight, Wilson could have done something other than shoot Brown, the Fourth Amendment does not second-guess a law enforcement officer’s decision on how to respond to an advancing threat. The law gives great deference to officers for their necessarily split-second judgments, especially in incidents such as this one that unfold over a span of less than two minutes. ‘Thus, under Graham, we must avoid substituting our personal notions of proper police procedure for the instantaneous decision of the officer at the scene. We must never allow the theoretical, sanitized world of our imagination to replace the dangerous and complex world that policemen face every day.

As discussed above, Darren Wilson has stated his intent in shooting Michael Brown was in response to a perceived deadly threat. The only possible basis for prosecuting Wilson under section 242 would therefore be if the government could prove that his account is not true – i.e., that Brown never assaulted Wilson at the SUV, never attempted to gain control of Wilson’s gun, and thereafter clearly surrendered in a way that no reasonable officer could have failed to perceive. Given that Wilson’s account is corroborated by physical evidence and that his perception of a threat posed by Brown is corroborated by other eyewitnesses, to include aspects of the testimony of Witness 101, there is no credible evidence that Wilson willfully shot Brown as he was attempting to surrender or was otherwise not posing a threat. Even if Wilson was mistaken in his interpretation of Brown’s conduct, the fact that others interpreted that conduct the same way as Wilson precludes a determination that he acted with a bad purpose to disobey the law. The same is true even if Wilson could be said to have acted with poor judgment in the manner in which he first interacted with Brown, or in pursuing Brown after the incident at the SUV. These are matters of policy and procedure that do not rise to the level of a Constitutional violation and thus cannot support a criminal prosecution. Cf. Gardner v. Howard, 109 F.3d 427, 430–31 (8th Cir. 1997) (violation of internal policies and procedures does not in and of itself rise to violation of Constitution). Because Wilson did not act with the requisite criminal intent, it cannot be proven beyond reasonable doubt to a jury that he violated 18 U.S.C.§ 242 when he fired his weapon at Brown. VI. Conclusion For the reasons set forth above, this matter lacks prosecutive merit and should be closed.

So if you hear someone still chanting “Hands up, don’t shoot!” and saying that Michael Brown didn’t receive justice, or if you come across a website making that claim, or if that’s what you yourself have been led to believe, now you know it isn’t true.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 22, 2021 at 4:32 AM

A bluebell flower

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On a sunny June 18th I photographed some bluebells (Eustoma sp.) that were coming up in Cypress Creek Park. Sixteen days ago you saw a distinctively shaped bud of this species, and now from the same session here are two portraits showing an opening flower. As I’ve said a zillion times, bluebells are purple.


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I recently read the book Unsettled: What Climate Science Tells Us, What It Doesn’t, and Why it Matters. The author, physicist Steven E. Koonin, was Undersecretary for Science in the U.S. Department of Energy during the Obama administration, so is in no way a “climate denier,” meaning a person who denies that the climate is changing. The book’s title, however, indicates that Koonin takes issue with the widely bruited-about notion that climate change is “settled science.” Basing his book entirely on data gathered by the American government and the United Nations, he offers a rational assessment of the current climate situation, free from the hysteria and catastrophism that characterize so many activists and politicians.

As Koonin wrote in a Wall Street Journal essay in 2014: “Policy makers and the public may wish for the comfort of certainty in their climate science. But I fear that rigidly promulgating the idea that climate science is ‘settled’ (or is a ‘hoax’) demeans and chills the scientific enterprise, retarding its progress in these important matters. Uncertainty is a prime mover and motivator of science and must be faced head-on. It should not be confined to hushed sidebar conversations at academic conferences.” (Apropos of that, just last week someone who has worked for decades in a technical field at the University of Texas told me the atmosphere there has become so oppressive that an employee dare not even bring up the subject of climate change.)

I’m attentive to language, so I appreciate one point Koonin makes in Unsettled: some people, especially environmental activists, use “climate change” to mean only that portion of the change in climate attributable to human activity. That usage is misleading because it excludes the not-insignificant changes in climate attributable to natural causes such as volcanic eruptions, the wobble in the earth’s axis, and the varying intensity of the sun’s radiation reaching the earth. Distinguishing between natural causes and human causes of climate change turns out to be a difficult problem. Failing to consider the natural and perhaps quite large component of climate change that is natural ends up making the human-caused component seem disproportionately influential and urgent to deal with—which of course is what activists want.

In April I recommended environmentalist Michael Shellenberger’s rational book about climate change, Apocalypse Never: Why Environmental Alarmism Hurts Us All. Now that Unsettled: What Climate Science Tells Us, What It Doesn’t, and Why it Matters is out, I recommend it, too.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 16, 2021 at 4:42 AM

Different horsemint portraits

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In contrast to last time’s sharp portrait at f/18, the pictures in today’s post represent a limited-focus approach (f/2.8 and f/3.2) to photographing a horsemint, Monarda citriodora. The yellow behind the subject came from a Mexican hat, Ratibida columnifera. To show how much an image depends on the way it gets processed, compare the portrait below, which I took about a minute later than the first one, and which I processed with a darker tonality. Remember that neither view accords with that you’d have seen with your eyes and brain if you’d been there in person.

These pictures date from June 2nd at the Junior League of Austin,
which was looking good but not as fabulously floriferous as in the spring of 2020.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 10, 2021 at 4:36 AM

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