Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘red

Portraits from our yard: episode 3

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In our yard we have three stands of Turk’s cap bushes, Malvaviscus arboreus var. drummondii. I don’t know if someone planted them before we moved in 17 years ago or if they sprang up on their own. I’ve found Turk’s cap growing wild in the woods in our neighborhood, so both possibilities are plausible.

The top portrait reveals the interesting “architecture” surrounding a bud. The second photograph shows the characteristic rich red of a Turk’s cap flower beginning to emerge from a bud.


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I recently came across the April 19th article “America’s Smug Elite Is Harming Our Kids,” by Rutgers professors Jacob Hale Russell and Dennis Patterson. Here are two paragraphs that will give you a feel for the tenor and contents of the article. (Links within the quoted passages were in the original.)

This disdain for healthy skepticism, a normal part of functioning science and democracy, is corrosive to public trust and impedes the accumulation of knowledge. A climate of overconfidence makes it both more likely that we will adopt bad policy and harder to fix our missteps. Reversals of conventional wisdom are, for better or worse, inevitable in science. We have had many reversals of official positions on COVID-19—from the usefulness of masks to which medications work to guidance about school openings—and will likely see more as evidence continues to come in. The problem is that our current climate locks us into polarized mindsets, which makes it harder to recategorize “misinformation” that winds up being correct….

While it is tempting—especially in the wake of a presidency that showed a keen disregard for facts—to suggest that elite culture is simply tamping down misinformation, this is a self-serving myth. Most who study scientific communication have found that admitting uncertainty doesn’t harm public trust. When we and others express alarm at the overlabeling of misinformation, we are not defending those who do things like deny the existence of COVID-19 or spread falsehoods about vaccine side effects. Over the course of the pandemic, we have also seen the misinformation label regularly applied to mainstream scientists speaking in their field of expertise. The suppression of doubt can be subtle, such as the kind of bandwagoning and overconfidence that drown out debate, or it can be obvious—from outright censorship to misuse of the phrase “fact check” when applied to disagreeable opinions. This approach not only hampers discourse, but ultimately undermines public trust in science and the credibility of the very elites who claim its mantle.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 1, 2021 at 4:37 AM

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Beyond its accustomed time

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Indian paintbrush (Castilleja indivisa) is an early-spring wildflower in central Texas. Individual plants don’t always know that, as evidenced by today’s portrait from June 14th along Capital of Texas Highway. In case you’re not familiar with paintbrushes of the floral kind, let me point out that the bright red elements are not petals but bracts, which is to say modified leaves. The actual flowers in this genus are pale and small, and therefore inconspicuous.

As with other recent pictures you’ve seen here, this one shows the effects of a ring flash and a small aperture (f/18), one consequence of which is the darker-than-life sky color.


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Did you hear about the appropriately named Zaila Avant-garde, who was indeed the avant-garde, i.e. winner, in this year’s Scripps National Spelling Bee? In the linked video she describes being interested in getting an education as a gate-opener. Good for her for saying so!

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 12, 2021 at 4:38 AM

It wasn’t Ezekiel who saw this wheel way up in the middle of the air

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Like the silverleaf nightshade you saw a picture of the other day, this firewheel (Gaillardia pulchella) was also growing along the Capital of Texas Highway on June 14th. As in that other photograph, because I used my ring flash and a small aperture (this time f/18), the bright sky came out in an unnatural way, but one I find pleasant. You can decide whether the tiny spider is a pleasant addition.

The title of today’s post is a reference to an African-American spiritual based on the Book of Ezekiel in the Jewish Bible.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 8, 2021 at 4:21 AM

July 4, 2021

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Today being July 4th, here’s a vintage red-white-and-blue picture of Ipomopsis rubra, known as standing cypress and Texas plume. The sky was filled with plumes of its own in Williamson County on that long-ago day (May 20, 2009), so I included both kinds of plumes in the portraits I made.

And here’s a quotation that relates to July 4th:

may it be to the world, what I believe it will be, (to some parts sooner, to others later, but finally to all,) the Signal of arousing men to burst the chains, under which monkish ignorance and superstition had persuaded them to bind themselves, and to assume the blessings & security of self-government. that form which we have substituted, restores the free right to the unbounded exercise of reason and freedom of opinion. all eyes are opened, or opening, to the rights of man. the general spread of the light of science has already laid open to every view. the palpable truth, that the mass of mankind has not been born with saddles on their backs, nor a favored few booted and spurred, ready to ride them legitimately, by the grace of god. these are grounds of hope for others. for ourselves, let the annual return of this day forever refresh our recollections of these rights, and an undiminished devotion to them.

That’s from a letter Thomas Jefferson wrote to Roger Weightman on June 24, 1826. (I’ve preserved the idiosyncratic punctuation and capitalization of the original.) It was the last letter Jefferson ever wrote. He died on July 4, 1826, as did John Adams. The story (perhaps slightly embellished) has come down to us that Adams’s last words were “Thomas Jefferson lives”; unbeknownst to Adams, however, Jefferson had died hours earlier in Virginia. Was any other simultaneous death ever as symbolic as that of the second and third presidents of the United States, both of whom were deeply involved in creating the Declaration of Independence and seeing it adopted exactly 50 years before the day they died?

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman (whose age today and for a year to come will match the Spirit of ’76).

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 4, 2021 at 4:45 AM

Waterfall Wednesday #3

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You’ll forgive me if I’ve let the definition of waterfall spill over into unaccustomed semantic territory. After recent rain, on June 4th along Bull Creek there was indeed water falling from a cliff. Down it came in many narrow streams, some over moss-covered rocks, others over maidenhair ferns, Adiantum capillus-veneris. It seems botanists have done a bit of semantic boundary-pushing, too: the species name for these maidenhair ferns means ‘hair of Venus,’ yet from what I’ve read of Roman mythology, Venus was no modest maiden.

In “Thoughts in a Garden” English poet Andrew Marvell wrote:

No white nor red was ever seen
So amorous as this lovely green.

Today’s pictures don’t show a garden, yet the greens they deliver to your eyes are a marvel.
(Related English words that also trace back to Latin are miracle, mirage, mirror, and admire.)

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 23, 2021 at 4:32 AM

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Thryallis Thursday

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Galphimia angustifolia, a member of the botanical family Malpighiaceae, is a slender little native plant I seldom come across. After I saw a stand of it near the Upper Bull Creek Greenbelt Trail on June 13th I went back the next morning to take photographic advantage of my find. Vernacular names for this species are thryallis (apparently a Greek word meaning ‘wick’) and narrowleaf goldshower. Notice how the flowers express a fiveness, with the petals starting out very slender and abruptly widening farther out. Each flower is red, orange, or yellow, and sometimes all three kinds appear on the same plant. Flower diameter is no more than 3/8 of an inch (9mm), so this picture is much larger than life.

On the technical side, I used a ring flash and chose a shutter speed of 1/400 and an aperture of f/20 for good depth of field. That small an aperture also rendered the bright sky a dark blue.


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Yesterday I linked to the testimony of Xi Van Fleet, a woman who managed to escape the terror of the Chinese Communist regime, only to find years later that her school district in northern Virginia has been indoctrinating its students. I also recently learned about Yeonmi Park, who had a harrowing escape from North Korea in 2007 at the age of 13. After making her way to America, she eventually enrolled at Columbia University, my alma mater (alas), where she had a reaction similar to Xi Van Fleet’s. You can hear Yeonmi Park’s story in an online article that includes a video.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 17, 2021 at 4:33 AM

Wildflower carpets continuing into June

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Here from Mourning Dove Lane and US 183 in Leander is a field that was still wonderfully flowerful on June 7th. Dominating everything else was Gaillardia pulchella, known as firewheels, Indian blankets, and blanketflowers. The two kinds of white flowers toward the back were bull nettle (Cnidoscolus texanus) and white prickly poppies (Argemone albiflora).

Because I show pictures here at a size of about half a megapixel, you often miss details apparent in the full 50-megapixel photographs my camera takes. The image below is a strip across the bottom of the photograph above. Click the strip to enlarge it and see more details. The white flower at the left is Texas bindweed (Convovulus equitans). Near the middle of the strip is the pod of a milkweed, probably antelope horns milkweed (Asclepias asperula). The purple inflorescence a little farther right is a horsemint (Monarda citriodora). Notice how many of the firewheels had already become seed heads.


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“The Cultural Revolution, formally the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, was a violent sociopolitical purge movement in China from 1966 until 1976.” So begins the Wikipedia article about what I choose to call the Anti-Cultural Revolution because it destroyed culture and killed people. “Estimates of the death toll from the [Anti-]Cultural Revolution, including civilians and Red Guards, vary greatly, ranging from hundreds of thousands to 20 million.”

Elements of that horrific movement have now come to America, where crazed mobs, both in person and online, persecute people for having said or done something that the fanatics don’t like, even if the thing was decades ago and the people weren’t yet adults. As in the North Korean dictatorship today, a supposed offender’s family, friends, and associates also are deemed worthy of punishment. Thankfully, some Americans are speaking out against such destructive fanaticism. If you’d like to learn more about a recent incident, you can listen to Bari Weiss‘s half-hour podcast “America’s Cultural Revolution.”

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 15, 2021 at 4:32 AM

Red: unexpected and expected

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The unexpected red* was on the stalk of the rain-lily (Zephyranthes drummondii) in the foreground that had already produced a seed capsule. The expected red was in the center of the firewheels (Gaillardia pulchella) beyond. I understand the latter but not the former. This picture is from Allen Park on May 15th. That session also yielded the darker and artsier take below that portrays the same two species.

* After this post appeared, Herschel Hobotz identified the red on the rain-lily as Stagonospora curtisii, a fungal disease sometimes called red blotch, red leaf spot or red fire.

© Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 30, 2021 at 4:30 AM

Eupithecia miserulata

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The scientific name in this post’s title is a mouthful, and the common name “common eupithecia” is hardly common outside of lepidopteran groups and entomological websites. The good folks at bugguide.net identified this moth larva for me. At least I knew that the flower head it was on at the entrance to Great Hills Park on May 18th was a firewheel, Gaillardia pulchella, also called Indian blanket and blanketflower. For a closer look at the little green eating machine, click the thumbnail below to zoom in.

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Here’s an item for the Fiction Rivals Reality department. On March 30, 1981, when recently inaugurated President Ronald Reagan was shot in an assassination attempt, he seemed initially unharmed. Secret Service agent Jerry Parr then noticed a little foamy blood on Reagan’s mouth, realized he’d been hit after all, and saw to it that he was rushed to a hospital. According to an editorial in the Wall Street Journal that refers to the book Zero Fail, by reporter Carol Leonnig: “When Parr was a kid he saw a 1939 movie, ‘Code of the Secret Service,’ which made him want to be an agent. The central character, fearless agent Brass Bancroft, was played by Ronald Reagan, whose life Parr saved some four decades later. Life is full of strange, unseen circularities.”

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 25, 2021 at 4:38 AM

Field of white, May delight

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From along US 183 in Burnet County’s tiny town of Briggs on May 12th, get a load of this dense prairie bishop colony, Bifora americana, with some firewheels, Gaillardia pulchella, as accessorizing bits of eye-catching red. Three days earlier I’d gone to a prairie parcel in Pflugerville where prairie bishop looked this good in 2020, only to find it paltry there this year. It’s another example showing the vagaries of nature.

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Imagine a couple born one day apart celebrating their 100th birthdays and 76th wedding anniversary.
You needn’t just imagine it.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 22, 2021 at 4:36 AM

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