Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘Round Rock

Red admiral on basket-flower

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From May 7th on the Blackland Prairie in southern Round Rock, here’s a red admiral butterfly (Vanessa atalanta) on a basket-flower (Plectocephalus americanus). According to a Wikipedia article, Johan Christian Fabricius gave the name Vanessa to this genus of butterflies in 1807. The name itself has an interesting origin: “It was invented by the Anglo-Irish writer Jonathan Swift for Esther Vanhomrigh, whom Swift had met in 1708 and whom he tutored. The name was created by taking ‘Van’ from Vanhomrigh’s last name and adding ‘Essa’, a pet form of Esther.” Speaking of the author best known for writing Gulliver’s Travels, I’ll add that the English adjective swift meant ‘moving quickly’ before it got applied to and became the name of a bird that moves quickly. And because I moved so quickly from nature to words, let me come back to our basket-flower and point out that the genus name Plectocephalus (which recently got changed from Centaurea) is made up of Greek elements meaning ‘plait’ and ‘head,’ because the flower heads of this species remind people of little woven baskets.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 10, 2021 at 4:34 AM

Centering

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Nature photographers have a field day with basket-flowers (Plectocephalus americanus), which offer themselves up as subjects in so many ways. In this photograph from May 7th on the Blackland Prairie in southern Round Rock I closed in on the center of an open flower head to increase the portrait’s abstraction.

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This reminds me that one of the latest bits of jargon from ideologues and malcontents—but I repeat myself—is center used as a verb. For example, one website describes an activity “to create a visceral learning experience that centers racism in our bodies.” Ugh. I’ll stick to centering wildflowers, thank you.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 8, 2021 at 3:00 AM

National Prairie Day for 2021

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Today is National Prairie Day. Unfortunately almost all of America’s prairies have been plowed, ranched, or built on. The picture above from May 10, 2020, shows that I could still see wildflowers covering a piece of the Blackland Prairie on Meister Place in southern Round Rock. Basket-flowers (Plectocephalus americanus) played a main role in that view. The numerous yellow flowers farther back are known as sundrops or square-bud primroses (Oenothera capillifolia). The white flowers in the distance were prairie bishop (Bifora americana). Below is a view from a different vantage point in which the square-bud primroses and prairie bishop predominated; the mostly red flowers were firewheels (Gaillardia pulchella).

This spring, three days short of one year later, I returned to the site and found that construction had claimed most of it. No great colonies of wildflowers were to be seen.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 5, 2021 at 4:41 AM

A temporary strip of prairie resurgence

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By the spring of 2020 a construction site in southern Round Rock had already replaced a swath of prairie along Meister Lane on the east side of Schultz Lane. Last year I posted a commemorative picture about it. The construction site is still there, and yet when I drove by on the sunny morning of May 7th this year I found to my delight that many prairie plants at the edge of the road, away from where the work is taking place, had come back up. Hooray for them! By next year the strip will probably be paved over or planted with a closely mowed lawn of non-native grass, but at least for now I had another chance to portray some wildflowers there in the way I used to. The picture above shows a developing basket-flower (Plectocephalus americanus) in front of some clasping-leaf coneflowers (Dracopis amplexicaulis). Below, you have a gaura inflorescence (Oenothera sp.) in front of some firewheels (Gaillardia pulchella).

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In yesterday’s post I provided information about an American government plan to spend large amounts of money implementing critical race theory in the schools. While that is still a proposal, the current administration has already begun discriminating against some people based on their race. A recently set-up program to provide debt relief to farmers is not open to farmers who happen to be white. Not surprisingly, some of those discriminated-against farmers are suing the government for violating their equal-treatment rights under the 14th Amendment to the Constitution.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 16, 2021 at 4:37 AM

Radial arrangements

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It occurred to me that two of the plants I photographed on April 11th in Round Rock display radial arrangements. The picture above shows the top of a lace cactus, Echinocereus reichenbachii. In the other view the radial (and always five-fold) arrangement characterizes the flowers of the most common milkweed in my area, Asclepias asperula, called antelope horns. You also get to see a butterfly that I take to be Callophrys gryneus, known as the olive or juniper hairstreak, though this individual didn’t show much green.

Speaking of radial arrangements, the word that that adjective comes from is Latin radius, which originally meant ‘a staff, a rod.’ The Romans later put the word to work metaphorically to designate ‘a beam or ray of any shining object.’ In a less radiant way, geometers came to use the word abstractly for ‘any line segment connecting a circle’s center to the circle itself.’ We also find that notion of ‘going out from a central point’ in Old-French-derived ray and the Latin-based verb radiate. And then there’s rayon, which appears to have been borrowed unchanged (except for pronunciation) from the modern French word for ‘ray’; the connection is that rayon has a somewhat radiant surface.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 26, 2021 at 4:41 AM

Prairie celestials

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Tipped off by native plant aficionado Bob Kamper about a goodly number of prairie celestials (Nemastylis geminiflora) in the greenbelt beyond his back fence in Round Rock, a suburb that borders Austin on the north, I went there on April 11th and took pictures of those flowers—many pictures, in fact, because I rarely come across that species. Most of the celestials were in the shade, and so the majority of my portraits were soft, like the one above. Occasionally I found a celestial with at least some direct sunlight on it, and then I was able to make a more contrasty portrait like the one below.

Anything but celestial are the ways in which increasingly many American schools are indoctrinating their students. You’re welcome to read a parent’s testimonial that classical liberal Bari Weiss recently disseminated.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 23, 2021 at 4:37 AM

Sycamore Saturday

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The late afternoon of December 2nd found us wandering the south bank of Brushy Creek just west of the eponymous round rock in Round Rock. There I photographed some sycamore trees (Platanus occidentalis) with leaves turning yellow and even orange. Backlighting enhanced the colors in the top portrait, while ripples on the surface of the creek made the reflections of another sycamore quite abstract.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 5, 2020 at 4:30 AM

White: familiar and unfamiliar

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On August 18th I spent time at Raab Park in Round Rock and photographed several things that were white. A very familiar one was Clematis drummondii, whose feathery strands you see above. (You may remember that I also made portraits of some actual feathers there.) Near the end of my stay I noticed a little group of low plants I wasn’t familiar with. I took pictures and hoped that later on I could figure out what I’d photographed. Thanks to a timely post in the Texas Wildflowers Facebook group, I’ll say that the plants seem to have been Nealley’s globe amaranth, Gomphrena nealleyi. Other species I’ve seen online do have a more globe-like inflorescence than this one. The scientific name of this species pays tribute to Greenleaf Cilley Nealley (1846-1896), a Texan botanist—and look how appropriate his first name was for the profession he pursued.

Nealley’s globe amaranth normally grows in south Texas, so perhaps it’s expanding its range. Botanist Bill Carr says it’s rare in Travis County, and the USDA map doesn’t have it marked for Williamson County, which is where I found my specimens. And speaking of globe amaranth, here’s a quotation for today:

“When we contemplate the whole globe as one great dewdrop, striped and dotted with continents and islands, flying through space with other stars all singing and shining together as one, the whole universe appears as an infinite storm of beauty.” — John Muir, Travels in Alaska  (1915).

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 26, 2020 at 4:38 AM

Two kinds of feathers

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At Raab Park in Round Rock on August 18th I noticed quite a bunch of small feathers on the ground that seemed to tell the story of a bird having met its demise there. Because the feathers were so small and light, a few of them had gotten caught on nearby plants, including the firewheel seed head (Gaillardia pulchella) above and the camphorweed seed head (Heterotheca subaxillaris) below.

Eventually I noticed a much larger feather near by, which I picked up and photographed. I began to wonder if it came from a raptor that had killed the bird that all the small feathers belonged to. If an avian maven among you can shed light on these feathers, please fly to our rescue.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 18, 2020 at 4:39 AM

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A bitterweed bud and bloom and beyond and a bee

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It’s been a couple of years since I showed you the common wildflower known as yellow bitterweed, Helenium amarum var. amarum. The native-bee-bedecked portrait above is from August 18th in Round Rock. At the same time I took what I believe are my first pictures ever of a bud in this species, so here’s one of those:

Toward the opposite end of the development cycle, here’s what a seed head looks like when it’s decomposing:

Many parts of the United States are experiencing a summer drought now. People longing for cooler and wetter times may find the following cold-weather fact welcome, and probably also surprising: if a lake has a solid covering of ice 12 inches deep, an 8-ton truck can drive on it. If you want to know how much weight other thicknesses of ice can bear, check out this chart. Notice that the relationship isn’t linear: doubling the thickness allows the ice to bear a lot more than twice the weight.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 26, 2020 at 4:38 AM

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