Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘purple

Non-blue bluebonnets

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Above, from our first 2021 visit to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center on March 25th comes a bluebonnet displaying a purple as richly saturated as I think I’ve ever seen in Lupinus texensis. No extra charge for the tiny green nymph of a katydid or grasshopper. And below are two white bluebonnets scattered in the large colony we saw in Dubina on March 29th.

A theme I’ve been pursuing here for some days now is that it’s common to hear politicians and activists bandy about the phrase “common sense,” which is a loaded and misleading term because some or even many things that a majority of people believe to be common sense can be shown not to be true.

Take taxes. Many say it’s only “common sense” that if a jurisdiction raises a tax rate it will bring in more revenue. The truth is that sometimes it will and sometimes it won’t. For example, if a tax rate goes from 10% to 11%, the increase is small enough that the higher rate won’t be enough to cause people to take an easier job with a lower salary to avoid the higher tax, so revenue will increase. On the other hand, if a tax rate goes from 10% to 50%, a lot of people will lower their earning and spending because the higher rate is just too burdensome, and as a result the government may well end up taking in less than before. And, to take an easy-to-understand extreme, if a government imposed a 90% tax on earnings, many people would stop working altogether, go on welfare, and the government would have no income of theirs to tax. There’s a good example of that kind of work avoidance in the current pandemic: the American government has given out such high supplemental unemployment benefits during the pandemic that some people find they make more money by not working than by going to a job. As a result, some owners of small business have been having a hard time finding workers.

Another consideration is that if one jurisdiction raises its tax rates to be significantly higher than the rates in other jurisdictions, people and companies have an incentive to go elsewhere. That’s happening now as people and companies from high-tax states like New York and California move to lower-tax states like Florida and Texas, so New York and California will lose all the money they used to get by taxing those people and companies. If federal corporate tax rates are raised to the point that they’re significantly higher than corporate tax rates in other countries, some companies will relocate a portion or even all of their operations to foreign countries with lower tax rates, and the United States will lose the revenue it used to get. As a historical example, in Britain by the end of the 1960s the upper tax rates were so high that the Rolling Stones moved to the south of France and John Lennon moved to the United States.

In the opposite direction, sometimes lowering tax rates ends up bringing in more revenue by encouraging people to spend more now that they have more. Lowering corporate tax rates can induce American companies to repatriate earnings they’ve kept in foreign countries to avoid excessively high tax rates at home.

In short, it’s not always true that raising tax rates brings in more revenue. The sweet spot depends on many factors, and finding it seems more magic than science.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 13, 2021 at 4:46 AM

Spiderwort flowers in the shade

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Heavy shade behind the entrance building at McKinney Falls State Park on March 15th
led to this soft portrait of spiderwort flowers (Tradescantia sp.).

The vernal equinox for 2021 occurs today, so happy official beginning of spring to you. That English name for the season is the same word as the spring that means ‘jump up,’ because this new season is the time when plants spring up from the ground as the cold of winter fades. (That may sound like folk etymology, which is to say false etymology, but in this case it’s true.) English had earlier called the season lencten, the time when the days lengthen; the modern form of that word, Lent, became specialized as the name of the time in the spring that leads up to the Christian holiday of Easter. Spanish, Portuguese, Catalan, and Italian call the spring primavera, and Romanian primăvară, literally ‘first spring,’ which is to say ‘early spring,’ from the Latin name of the season, vēr, and that’s why today is the vernal equinox. French calls spring printemps, literally ‘first time,’ and it is indeed a prime time for wildflowers. The Polish ophthalmologist L.L. Zamenhof, in creating the artificial language Esperanto, borrowed the French word in the form printempo. German calls spring Frühling, based on the früh that means ‘early.’ The Scandinavian languages call the season vår, a native cognate of Latin vēr. Now that you know all these words, there’s no excuse for not having some spring in your step today.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 20, 2021 at 4:39 AM

Gayfeather fresh, gayfeather gone to seed

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On October 23rd we visited the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center for the first time in 2020. While some gayfeather (Liatris punctata var. mucronata) was still flowering, as shown above, most had already gone to seed. The yellow flowers mixed in were partridge pea (Chamaecrista fasciculata).

And here’s an unrelated quotation for today: “Innovation is the child of freedom and the parent of prosperity.” — Matt Ridley in How Innovation Works, 2020.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 18, 2020 at 4:36 AM

Standing cypress out of season

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From May through June is when we normally expect the bright red flowers of Ipomopsis rubra, known as standing cypress and Texas plume. Yet there it was flowering away on October 23rd at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. The purple in the background came from prairie verbena, Glandularia bipinnatifida, a species I see blooming here for much of the year.

And here’s a related quotation for today:

Life moves out of a red flare of dreams
Into a common light of common hours,
Until old age brings the red flare again.
—William Butler Yeats, The Land of Heart’s Desire, 1894.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 14, 2020 at 4:36 AM

Little bluestem in front of gayfeather flowers

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You’ve already had two posts from September 15th along FM 2769 in far northwest Austin showing Liatris punctata, known as gayfeather and blazing-star. In one you saw normal purple flowers, and in the other white flowers. In today’s photograph the gayfeather plays a supporting role (though colorfully a dominant one) behind a stalk of little bluestem grass, Schizachyrium scoparium, a part of which had turned brown in anticipation of approaching autumn.

And here’s an unrelated quotation for today: “When a theory really has got your brain in its grip, contradictory evidence—even evidence you already know—sometimes becomes invisible.” — Jordan Ellenberg, How Not to Be Wrong.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 7, 2020 at 4:44 AM

Gayfeather

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While driving along FM 2769 in far northwest Austin on September 15th I caught a glimpse of some telltale purple flowers spikes off to the side and quickly pulled over so I could walk back and take my first pictures for 2020 of Liatris punctata, known as gayfeather and blazing-star. (You recently saw L. elegans and L. aspera in Bastrop.) In this portrait I played up the linear leaves of another gayfeather plant close behind my subject.

As an accompanying quotation, here’s the ending of Wordsworth’s “Ode on Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood”:

   Thanks to the human heart by which we live,
   Thanks to its tenderness, its joys, and fears,
   To me the meanest flower that blows* can give
   Thoughts that do often lie too deep for tears.

* English has two unrelated verbs to blow. The common one means ‘to move or cause to move in a current of air.’ The other blow, now at best archaic and unknown to most people, is the one Wordsworth intended; it means ‘to bloom’ (in fact bloom and blossom are related to this blow as well as to Latin-derived words like floral, florid, flourish, Florida, and flower). I could have used both kinds of blow for the first goldenrod in yesterday’s post.

UPDATE: I just found out that full-blown comes from the archaic blow, which makes sense: full-blown is ‘fully flowered.’ Isn’t it funny how we can use a phrase for our whole life and never realize what it’s actually saying? I guess I’d always assumed the expression referred to an object like a balloon that someone had blown up to its maximum size.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 29, 2020 at 4:00 AM

From river primrose to eryngo

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In the previous post I showed you the flowers of a native plant that was new to me, river primrose (Oenothera jamesii), bunches of which I found along the north fork of the San Gabriel River in Williamson County on September 16th. The yellow flowers are large, so you won’t be surprised to see, as you do above, that the plant’s buds are also sizable, maybe 4 inches long in this case. But what, you ask, is that rich purple in the background? It’s eryngo (Eryngium leavenworthii), whose inflorescences some people liken to little purple pineapples, and others to thistles, given how spiny the plant is. Strangely, though, eryngo turns out to be in the same botanical family, Apiaceae, as parsley, dill, anise, cumin, and celery. Because I’ve teased you with eryngo as a background glow, I guess I’ll have to show you one in its own right.

In an unrelated fact for today, see if you can get your arms around the fact that embracery is a legal term meaning ‘an attempt to influence a court, jury, etc., corruptly, by promises, entreaties, money, entertainments, threats, or other improper inducements.’

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 27, 2020 at 4:34 AM

Low wild petunia

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From Vaught Ranch Road on June 13th come two views of a native wildflower
I’d never photographed before: Ruellia humilis, known as low wild petunia.

Here’s an unrelated little mathematical diversion: the four numbers 1, 1.2, 2, and 3 have the interesting property that whether you add all of them or multiply all of them you get the same result (in this case 7.2). Are they the only foursome like that? Hardly. For example, whether you add -2, -1, 0, and 3 or multiply -2, -1, 0, and 3, you get the same result (in this case 0). Would you believe that infinitely many sets of four numbers exist that also have the property that adding the four numbers gives the same result as multiplying them? That turns out to be the truth of the matter. Are you surprised?

The second example suggests a template for generating as many more sets of numbers as you like that have the desired property. Let the first of the four numbers be 0. Now pick any two different negative numbers you like (say for example –4 and –6). Finally, add the two negative numbers and make the sum positive (in this case 10). You’ll now have four numbers with the desired property (–4, –6, 0, 10). This works because 0 times any other number is 0, and you’ve rigged the addition in such a way that the positive number cancels out the two negative numbers. In fact you can extend the pattern to as many numbers as you like. For instance, here are six numbers such that adding them gives the same result as multiplying them: 0, -3, -7, -10, -15, 35.

As a quotation for today, let me quote myself: Zero may be nothing, but not for nothing is zero special.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 4, 2020 at 4:37 AM

Horsemint asterisk*

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By July 6th the season for horsemints (Monarda citriodora) was well past its peak. Nevertheless, on that day I still found several fresh plants near Yaupon Drive. One horsemint flower tower had a rather flat top, so I took advantage of the opportunity by leaning over it and aiming straight down. One virtue of that viewpoint is that it reveals the fine white hairs at the flowers’ tips.

* I can’t resist using an asterisk to point out the word asterisk as at risk of being mispronounced asterick. There’s nothing icky about an asterisk.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 21, 2020 at 4:33 AM

Turnabout is fair play

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On June 23rd I took pictures, for only the second time ever, at the end of Vaught Ranch Rd. Not surprisingly, I saw mostly the same species of wildflowers there as I had the year before. The two shown in today’s post are Lygodesmia texana, known as the Texas the skeleton plant, and Wedelia acapulcensis var. hispida, called zexmenia (or as many a local botanist or native plant person likes to joke, sex mania). They say that turnabout is fair play, so you get to see each flower head as both subject and background glow. Notice that zexmenia has more orange in its flowers than most of the other DYCs (darn yellow composites) in central Texas.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 14, 2020 at 4:43 AM

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