Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘seeds

Ditch diving

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A recent post played up the advantage that plants in ditches get from the moisture the soil retains there. That’s how it was in a ditch on Main St. in the rural community of Thorndale on April 10th. The seed columns of anemones (Anemone berlandieri) vary a lot in length, with the one shown here coming from the long end of the range. Spiderworts (Tradescantia sp.) graciously provided the purple in the background. The second portrait shows the ditch-happy spiderworts in their own right.

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman



Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 26, 2022 at 4:33 AM

Dry jimsonweed seed capsules

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On a sunny March 10th we drove 90 miles down to San Antonio for the first time since before the pandemic and headed over to Phil Hardberger Park. There we intended to see the year-old Robert L.B. Tobin Land Bridge over Wurzbach Parkway. We saw it. Close to the bridge we found a dried-out jimsonweed plant (Datura wrightii) with the remains of several seed capsules on it. You’re looking at two of them that are different enough that I don’t mind showing them at the same time.


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Hooray! On February 25th a Federal district court ruled against an unconstitutional racial-balancing scheme that had been put into practice at Thomas Jefferson High School in Fairfax County, Virginia.

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman



Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 17, 2022 at 4:35 AM

Posted in nature photography

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Three takes on bushy bluestem

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At Chalk Ridge Falls Park in the outskirts of Belton on January 17th I did several takes on the native grass known as bushy bluestem, Andropogon tenuispatheus. Above, you see a stand of it on the opposite bank from where we walked along the Lampasas River. Soon afterward I had a chance to get close to some on our side of the river.

Elsewhere I worked quickly to record a bushy bluestem plant while it was still backlit. A few minutes later
and the moving sun—actually of course the moving earth—would have deprived me of the chance.

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Last week I finished reading the 2015 book Galileo’s Middle Finger: Heretics, Activists, and One Scholar’s Search for Justice. My personality normally sets me at odds with activists, many of whom I see increasingly pushing ideologies despite objective reality contradicting those ideologies. Yet this activist, Alice Dreger, is also a historian, and she upholds historians’ traditional ethics: do the research and document the truth, whether it matches your preconceptions or not.

Here are a few people’s recommendations for Galileo’s Middle Finger:

Elizabeth Loftus, Distinguished Professor, University of California, Irvine
Galileo’s Middle Finger is a brilliant exposé of people that want to kill scientific messengers who challenge cherished beliefs. Dreger’s stunning research into the conflicts between activists and scholars, and her revelations about the consequences for their lives (including hers), is deeply profound and downright captivating. I couldn’t put this book down!”

Steven Pinker, Johnstone Professor of Psychology, Harvard University; author of The Blank SlateEnlightenment Now, The Better Angels of Our Nature, and Rationality:
“In activism as in war, truth is the first casualty. Alice Dreger, herself a truthful activist, exposes some of the shameful campaigns of defamation and harassment that have been directed against scientists whose ideas have offended the sensibilities of politicized interest groups. But this book is more than an exposé. Though Dreger is passionate about ideas and principle, she writes with a light and witty touch, and she is a gifted explainer and storyteller.”

Jared Diamond, author of Guns, Germs, and Steel and The World until Yesterday: 
“Alice Dreger would win a prize for this year’s most gripping novel, except for one thing: her stories are true, and this isn’t a novel. Instead, it’s an exciting account of complicated good guys and bad guys, and the pursuit of justice.”

Edward O. Wilson, University Research Professor, Emeritus, Harvard University (who died this past December 26th): 
“In this important work, Dreger reveals the shocking extent to which some disciplines have been infested by mountebanks, poseurs, and even worse, political activists who put ideology ahead of science.”


I’ll give more information about Galileo’s Middle Finger in a follow-up commentary.


© 2022 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 4, 2022 at 4:32 AM

Zilker Nature Preserve

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In the Zilker Nature Preserve on January 13th I spotted the pod of a milkweed vine releasing its seeds. While no leaves remained to suggest what species it was, the most common vine in that family here is pearl milkweed, Matelea reticulata, so that’ll have to do as a tentative identification. Regardless of species, milkweed pods produce a chaos of silk and seeds that a nature photographer who prizes abstraction welcomes. Later we re-crossed the dry bed of Eanes Creek. The picture below shows the lower strata in a hundred-foot tall cliff carved over aeons by rushing water.



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True virtue is life under the direction of reason.

[M]en who are governed by reason—who seek what is useful to them in accordance with reason—desire for themselves nothing that they do not also desire for the rest of humanity, and consequently are just, faithful, and honorable in their conduct.

The most tyrannical governments are those which make crimes of opinions, for everyone has an inalienable right to his thoughts.

Freedom is absolutely necessary for progress in science and the liberal arts.

Baruch Spinoza (1632–1677); Ethics, 1677.


© 2022 Steven Schwartzman






Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 24, 2022 at 4:33 AM

White sky for a change

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As a change from the many pictures with dark backgrounds I’ve shown for the past two years, here’s a view showing two graceful goldenrod seed heads (Solidago sp.) against a white sky. This simple portrait comes from the northeast quadrant of Mopac and US 183 on January 11th.

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Back on December 12th I reported on how the people in charge of the Centers for Disease control were continuing to put forward a false conclusion about the effectiveness of masks on students in public schools. The conclusion was false because it was based on a multiply flawed study of Arizona schoolchildren. Flaws included comparing schools that were open for different lengths of time; including several dozen non-existent schools (they were actually programs within schools); and failing to take into account background rates of infection in the different communities. You can read about the study’s defects in a December article by David Zweig in The Atlantic.

I bring this up again now because Rochelle Walensky, the director of the Centers for Disease Control, still keeps touting the unwarranted conclusion of that scientifically improper study even after people have pointed out to her the things that make the study invalid. She did so as recently as January 11th in front of the United States Senate. You can watch a new Megyn Kelly interview about this with David Zweig; it takes up the first 22 minutes of her January 13th show.

I, and presumably you, have no vested interest in which way the science comes out. If students wearing masks really fare better than students without them—assuming all other factors are equal—then so be it. And if they don’t, so be it. And if it turns out that masks protect students in some circumstances but not others, so be it. What matters is the truth. But when an administration keeps insisting on the false conclusion of a study long after its multiple defects have been pointed out, we the people lose faith in our government. A Latin motto that has become an adage in our legal system is “Falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus,” or “False in one thing, false in all.” If government officials knowingly tell us something false about masks on schoolchildren, then we have to assume officials will lie to us about other things, too.

Along similar lines, you may also want to read an article by J. Scott Turner published yesterday entitled “The White House Is Undermining Science, Not Defending It.”

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 19, 2022 at 4:36 AM

Posted in nature photography

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with 31 comments

Buffalo bur (Solanum rostratum) produces heavily armed seed capsules, as this picture from December 16, 2021, in my neighborhood confirms. What the capsules lack in size, they make up for in skin-puncture power.

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…[N]egative information is attention-grabbing—it is literally processed differently in our brains—whereas… progress is mostly gradual and incremental. We’re not nearly as adept at spotting these trends as sudden and eye-catching disasters. Max Roser from the University of Oxford points out that newspapers could legitimately have run the headline ‘Number of people in extreme poverty fell by 137,000 since yesterday’ every day for the last twenty-five years. But, as we’ve seen from academics’ detailed analysis of news values and criteria, the predictable isn’t newsworthy, because that’s how our brains work: we get the media we deserve and, to some extent, crave.

So wrote Bobby Duffy in Why We’re Wrong About Nearly Everything. In addition to reading that book, you’ll find lots of interesting information at the Ipsos website that documents people’s misperceptions about many things. (Professor Duffy used to be the managing director of the Ipsos MORI Social Research Institute and global director of the Ipsos Social Research Institute.)

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 12, 2022 at 4:31 AM

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Old and new at the same time

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Most of the Maximilian sunflowers (Helianthus maximiliani) we saw in Buda on December 20 in what is now last year had already dried out, as shown below. Even so, the top photograph confirms that some fresh plants were coming up and even producing flowers so late in the year, presumably thanks to the warmest December on record in Austin and the state of Texas as a whole.

If you’re an avid arachnid fan, click the thumbnail below for a much closer view of the peppered jumper spider, Pelegrina galathea, whose genus name traces back to the Latin pergrinus that meant ‘coming from foreign lands’ and that has given us, via Old French, the word pilgrim. Nevertheless, Pelegrina galathea is native in Texas and other parts of North America. The species name galathea seems to be fashioned from Greek galatea, meaning ‘white as milk,’ which this spider isn’t. And that reminds me of how I used to keep a straight face while quipping to my algebra students that we use the letter m to represent the slope of a line because the word slope doesn’t have an m in it.

Speaking of language, there was a time in your life when you didn’t know that the ti in English words ending in -tion, like lotion and contribution and vacation, gets pronounced sh. Years later, if you took high school chemistry, you learned that that rule doesn’t always apply, and that unlike the cation in vacation, cation as a word on its own gets pronounced in three syllables, as if it were cat-eye-on. Why these thoughts occurred to me a couple of mornings ago, I have no idea. But then a good question to start the new year off with is why so many of our thoughts come to us seemingly unbidden.

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 1, 2022 at 4:35 AM

We bade* goodbye to fall

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On the last full day of fall, December 20, we drove down to Buda, a rapidly growing suburb south of Austin. A year earlier at around the same time we visited the expanding Sunfield subdivision there, where we watched a strangely somnolent squirrel. This year along an edge of the still-expanding subdivision on the conveniently named Eve’s Necklace Drive I renewed my acquaintance with a great colony of bushy bluestem (Andropogon tenuispatheus). The top photograph shows how the bushy bluestem sits in an expanse of dry broomweed (Amphiachyris dracunculoides), which you see in front of and beyond the fluffy grass. The on-the-ground vantage point shown in the view below swapped out the broomweed for an expanse of clear blue sky and turned the bushy bluestem plants into towers.

* The verb bid has two past tenses. A lot of folks now say bid for the past, the same as the present-tense form. The other past tense is bade, pronounced to rhyme with had. Because many people are no longer familiar with bade, when they do come across it in writing they pronounce it the way the spelling suggests, as if it rhymes with made. In summary, bid has two past tenses, and one of those past tenses has two pronunciations. But wait: that’s not the end of the dualism. Turns out that our modern verb bid came about as the merger of two similar sounding but etymologically unrelated Old English verbs: bidden, which meant ‘to ask, to command,’ and bēodan, which meant ‘to offer, to proclaim.’

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Here’s a bit of humor for today in the form of a comment that rightfully ended up in my spam folder.

I have always been a very spiritual person; I believe that the universe has a way of guiding us forward through our lives with the help of spirits and angels. I was blessed with the gift of being able to connect with the outside world, and love having the opportunity to connect my clients with their universal current. My focus is to bring forth awareness and healing through love and to teach others how to open up their spiritual potential.

Love Spells
Attraction spells
Beauty Spells
Marriage Spells
Stop Divorce Spell
Lost Love Spells
Marriage Spell
Bewitching Spell
Save My Marriage Spell
Reverse A Curse Spell
Aura Cleansing Spell
Casino Spell
Success Spell
Protection Spell
Remove Marriage Problems

I like the rhyming phrase “reverse a curse.” Someone should trademark it.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 29, 2021 at 4:34 AM

Posted in nature photography

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Non-minimalist and minimalist fall color

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I think you’ll agree that the top picture, which shows backlit leaflets of flameleaf sumac
(Rhus lanceolata) against a blue sky, exhibits non-minimalist fall color.

Mature grasses offer up fall color on a small scale. That was the case with this hairy grama (Bouteloua hirsuta) seed head that I photographed on a redder-than-usual stalk. I also noticed a single spike of gayfeather (Liatris punctata var. mucronata) that had turned fluffy and that the sun lit up.

All three pictures are from November 22nd on the same property
that provided the pictures you recently saw of ladies’ tresses orchids.


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Free expression keeps meeting suppression. Canada seems to be as bad as the United States.

Toronto School Board cancels Yazidi Nobel Peace Prize winner because
her account of being a sex slave at the hands of ISIS ‘would foster Islamophobia’

The Toronto School Board also canceled high-profile criminal defense lawyer Marie Hunein.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 12, 2021 at 4:28 AM

More dew, dew, dew

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Native grasses are a small-scale source of fall color in central Texas. Above, you’re looking at a sideways-leaning stalk of bushy bluestem (Andropogon tenuispatheus*) that had gathered lots of dewdrops at the Riata Trace Pond on the morning of November 9th. Fewer and smaller dewdrops coalesced on a nearby bushy bluestem seed head that had kept its normal upright stance; the pond provided the grey background.

* Just yesterday morning I (but not James Taylor) had to glom on to the reality that the members of the bushy bluestem complex have been reclassified, and that most of the plants in Texas have become Andropogon tenuispatheus and are no longer A. glomeratus. From now on, wordsmiths will have to play up the tenuous connections this grass has to other things.

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I think you’ll probably be appalled to learn the extent to which ideologues in some American schools are intruding into the private lives of even their elementary school students. Contrast that with a sentence I remember from the one year of German I took in college in 1966: Die Universität Deutschlands kümmert sich nicht um das Privatleben der Studenten. Universities in Germany don’t care about students’ private lives.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 1, 2021 at 4:28 AM

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