Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘seeds

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

Gulf muhly on a breezy day

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On October 29th, when I drove up to the adjacent Austin suburb of Cedar Park looking for poverty weed at its fluffy best, I also came across some gulf muhly (Muhlenbergia capillaris) that looked good enough for me to get on the ground and aim up toward the clear blue sky. The top left portion of the photograph confirms the breeze I had to contend with that morning. Note the moon.


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The technical definition of a word sometimes differs from the common one. For example, most English speakers use the word bug to refer to insects in general or even other little critters like spiders. In contrast, etymologists use the term bug only for members of a certain order of insects, the Hemiptera; some sources say true bug to indicate the restricted scope.

That kind of difference between a technical definition and a common one came up recently in reference to some incidents this past week that you may have heard about in which organized “smash and grab” groups in the San Francisco Bay area stole lots of merchandise from high-end stores. In connection with that, I came across a report from station KABC with the headline “Experts caution use of ‘looting’ in describing rash of Bay Area smash and grabs.” The report notes that “The [California] penal code defines looting as ‘theft or burglary…during a ‘state of emergency’, ‘local emergency’, or ‘evacuation order’ resulting from an earthquake, fire, flood, riot or other natural or manmade disaster.” Because authorities hadn’t declared any state of emergency or issued any evacuation orders before the thefts, the argument goes, the stealing at the high-end stores shouldn’t be called looting.

Some would say that that’s just quibbling. It got me wondering how the average person uses the verb loot, so I checked a few online dictionaries:

Merriam-Webster:

1a: to plunder or sack in war
b: to rob especially on a large scale and usually by violence or corruption
2: to seize and carry away by force especially in war

Oxford Dictionaries:

Steal goods from (a place), typically during a war or riot. ‘desperate residents looted shops for food and water’
1.1 Steal (goods) in a war, riot, etc.

American Heritage Dictionary:

1. To take goods from (a place) by force or without right, especially in time of war or lawlessness; plunder: The rebels looted the city. Rioters looted the downtown stores.
2. To take by force or without right; steal: broke into the tomb and looted the grave goods.
v.intr. To take goods by force or through lawless behavior.

So yes, the verb has a historical connection to war and rioting and natural disasters. At the same time, definition 1b in Merriam-Webster and definition 2 in the American Heritage Dictionary show that people have also been using loot more loosely. It’s a truism of linguistics that words often change, both in how they’re pronounced and what they mean.

In looking up loot, I found that the word came into English from Hindi, presumably as a result of British colonialism in India. For a list of other English words borrowed from languages spoken in India, you can check out a Wikipedia article. You may be surprised that some very common English words make the list.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 27, 2021 at 4:28 AM

Posted in nature photography

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Rain-lily seed capsules and clouds

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By the time I found a group of particularly tall rain lilies (Zephyranthes chlorosolen) in Great Hills Park on October 23rd, the flowers had given way to seed capsules. At least the height of the capsules made it easier for me to get on the ground below them and aim partly upward to include clouds as a backdrop, as you see here. Change the scale of the top picture, use a hefty dose of imagination, and you might be looking at the Tower of the Americas 90 miles to the southwest.


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“The miracle is how robust free expression and liberal science have proved to be, despite unremitting attacks from every direction over hundreds of years. The idea that obnoxious, misguided, seditious, blasphemous, and bigoted expressions deserve not only to be tolerated but, of all things, protected is the single most counterintuitive social principle in all of human history. Every human instinct cries out against it, and every generation discovers fresh reasons to oppose it. It is saved from the scrapheap of self-evident absurdity only by the fact that it is also the single most successful social principle in all human history. Those of us who favor it, and also our children, and also their children and their children, will need to get up every morning and explain and defend our counterintuitive social principle from scratch, and so we might as well embrace the task and perform it cheerfully.” — Jonathan Rauch, The Constitution of Knowledge (2021)

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 14, 2021 at 4:35 AM

Posted in nature photography

Tagged with , , , , ,

Sunflowers from behind

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You could say I’m behind in my pictures of Helianthus annuus, the common sunflower. From the Arbor Walk Pond on October 8th, here are photographs from behind showing sunflowers in two phases. The views resonate with me, so to speak, and a sticky drop confirms that the flower head and the seed head “resinate.”


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Good news from Austin!

Right here in Austin, Texas, some high-minded people devoted to
the pursuit of truth are taking the first steps to found a new university:

  • We’re reclaiming a place in higher education for freedom of inquiry and civil discourse. Our students and faculty will confront the most vexing questions of human life and civil society. We will create a community of conversation grounded in intellectual humility that respects the dignity of each individual and cultivates a passion for truth.
  • The University of Austin is a liberal arts university committed to freedom of inquiry, freedom of conscience, and civil discourse. To maintain these principles, the university is fiercely independent—financially, intellectually, and politically.

You’re welcome to read more. And scroll down to see the well-qualified board of advisors.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 10, 2021 at 4:32 AM

From croton to cotton

with 25 comments

Speaking of woolly croton (Croton capitatus), as I did the other day, in Bastrop State Park on September 23rd I found a large stand of it that blended nicely into an even larger colony of snake cotton (Froelichia gracilis). In the picture above, the croton predominates toward the left, the snake cotton toward the right. The second picture gets a little closer to the snake cotton colony in its own right.

As you’ve already seen a closeup of woolly croton, so below I’ve given you one of snake cotton. (Due to what seems a WordPress quirk, the last photograph looks blurry in my preview of today’s post, but when I click it I get the original version with normal sharpness. If the bottom picture looks out of focus to you, see if clicking it solves the problem.)


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“It is wrong and ultimately self-defeating for a nation of immigrants to permit the kind of abuse of our immigration laws we have seen in recent years. — Bill Clinton; January 24, 1995.

“We simply cannot allow people to pour into the United States undetected, undocumented, unchecked, and circumventing the line of people who are waiting patiently, diligently, and lawfully to become immigrants in this country.” — Barack Obama; December 15, 2005.

“Let me tell you something, folks, people are driving across that border with tons, tons—hear me, tons—of everything from byproducts from methamphetamine to cocaine to heroine, and it’s all coming up through corrupt Mexico.” — Joe Biden, 2006.

“You can’t continue to have open borders. And you’ve got to put more technology and personnel along the borders to make sure we know who know who is coming into our country and prevent people from entering illegally.” — Hillary Clinton; November 6, 2007.

“Illegal immigration is wrong, plain and simple…. People who enter the United States without permission are illegal aliens and illegal aliens should not be treated the same as people who enter the U.S. legally.” — Chuck Schumer; June 24, 2009.

“We’re a nation-state. We have borders. The idea that we can just have open borders is something that … as a practical matter, is unsustainable.” — Barack Obama, September 2021.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 13, 2021 at 4:37 AM

Pyramidflower

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Making its debut here now is Melochia pyramidata, known as pyramidflower, a species I’d never photographed till yesterday. Mark Alexandre of the Texas Flora group on Facebook had showed a picture of it on October 6th, and the place he mentioned finding it is the Arbor Walk Pond, just a few miles from where I live. I asked him for the specific location, and armed with that information I found a few of these plants there yesterday morning. It took some careful looking because at 8:30 in the morning the flowers hadn’t fully opened, and even if they had they’d have measured only about half an inch across.

One curiosity is that although field guides say the flowers of this species have five petals—and almost all online photographs show five petals—my specimens had only four. I asked about that yesterday in the Texas Flora group, and Michelle Wong replied with a link to an iNaturalist photograph from this year showing a pyramidflower in Austin with four petals. What percent of the time that variant occurs, I don’t know. I do know that in 2018 I found four petals instead of the customary five in a silverleaf nightshade flower.

Making its debut here today simultaneously with Melochia pyramidata is the botanical family Sterculiaceae, of which Melochia pyramidata is the only native representative in my county (or the rest of Texas, from what I can tell). Probably the most familiar member of that family is cacao, from which we get chocolate. As tasty as most people find chocolate, the botanical family name betrays a different sensibility: the Latin word stercus meant ‘dung, the excrement of domestic animals,’ and the Romans had even created Sterculus (a.k.a. Sterculinus and Stercutus), as the deity who was supposed to have invented the valuable agricultural practice of manuring. Apparently the smell of one or more plants in Sterculiaceae reminded people of dung. (It was my familiarity with the Spanish word estiércol, which means ‘fertilizer, manure, dung,’ that put me on the scent of Sterculiaceae‘s Latin origins.)

And while we’re on the subject of names, let me add that pyramidflower is misleading: it’s not the plant’s flowers but its tiny fruits that fancifully look like little pyramids.

Also now misleading is my reference to the botanical family Sterculiaceae, which botanists recently tilled into the soil of the mallow family, Malvaceae.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 11, 2021 at 4:28 AM

Sensitive briar seed pods

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A week ago you saw an August 22nd view of a sensitive briar flower globe (Mimosa roemeriana) in the northeast quadrant of Mopac and US 183. Now from that same photo foray you get a look at some prickle-covered sensitive briar pods in front of one of those flower globes.


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“Systemic racism”?

I deplore the practice of labeling every little thing “racist.” If everything is “racist,” then nothing is, and the word has no meaning. Similarly, we often hear the claim that America is “systemically racist.” Of course that was once true, most notably during slavery and then during the century of so-called Jim Crow that followed. While there are—and, given human nature, presumably always will be—individual people of one race who bear ill will toward people of another race, it’s no longer true that institutions in the United States are systemically biased against the groups they used to discriminate against.

Except in education. The American education bureaucracy has done and keeps doing an amazingly efficient job of making sure black and brown kids don’t get a decent education, even as educationists hypocritically decry the racist treatment of those groups.

For decades the National Center for Education Statistics (NAEP) has gathered data about how “well” American students of various ages perform academically. The results are sorted into three categories:

Basic “denotes partial mastery of prerequisite knowledge and skills fundamental for proficient work at each grade.” [As a math teacher I’ll add that having only a partial mastery of the prerequisites for the new material being taught makes it very difficult for a student to understand the new material.]

Proficient “represents solid academic performance for each grade assessed. Students reaching this level have demonstrated competency over challenging subject matter, including subject-matter knowledge, applications of such knowledge to real world situations, and analytical skills appropriate to the subject matter.”

Advanced “signifies superior performance beyond proficient.”

The other day I looked at the NAEP’s chart for the 2019 performance in grade-12 mathematics [go to page 9 in that document]. The results were predictably and persistently appalling for historical minorities.

A scandalous 66% of black 12th-graders fell below even the basic level in mathematics! Only 26% scored at the basic level, and 8% at the proficient level. Add those three numbers together and you get 100%. That’s right: so very few black 12th graders reached the advanced level that their numbers rounded to 0% for the top category.

Hispanics did only a little better. 54% of Hispanic 12th-graders fell below even the basic level in mathematics. Only 35% scored at the basic level, and 10% at the proficient level. Just 1% of Hispanics made it into the advanced category.

Did you have any idea how very bad the situation is?

What’s to be done? Come back next time and I’ll offer a suggestion.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 14, 2021 at 4:32 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

A different camphorweed stage

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In yesterday’s post you saw that the ray florets in a camphorweed (Heterotheca subaxillaris) flower head sometimes curl like little ribbons. Now the same stand of plants in the northeast quadrant of Mopac and US 183 on August 22nd lets you see the remains of a camphorweed seed head. The bright and pretty yellow in the background came from some “common” sunflowers (Helianthus annuus).


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Yesterday’s post also dealt with the early and continuing politicization of the Covid-19 pandemic. On July 3rd I mentioned that some countries were using the drug ivermectin as a therapeutic in treating Covid-19, while at the same time some authorities continued saying the drug is ineffective for that purpose. Regardless of the truth of ivermectin’s effectiveness, which of course as a layman I was (and still am) in no position to know, I lamented the fact that large online sites like Facebook and Twitter were banning people, some of them highly qualified, from even discussing the matter. That’s not in the tradition of a country that thinks so highly of free speech that it’s mentioned in our Constitution’s Bill of Rights.

Since my July 3rd post there have been new developments about ivermectin. Before I go into them, let me tell you what ivermectin is. “In 2015, the Nobel Committee for Physiology or Medicine, in its only award for treatments of infectious diseases since six decades prior, honoured the discovery of ivermectin (IVM)…. IVM as deployed worldwide since 1987 has made major inroads against two devastating tropical diseases, onchocerciasis and lymphatic filariasis.” It’s also the case that “Ivermectin is FDA-approved for use in animals for prevention of heartworm disease in some small animal species, and for treatment of certain internal and external parasites in various animal species.”

Now for the recent developments.

A rural Oklahoma doctor said patients who are taking the horse de-wormer medication, ivermectin, to fight COVID-19 are causing emergency room and ambulance back ups.

“There’s a reason you have to have a doctor to get a prescription for this stuff, because it can be dangerous,” said Dr. Jason McElyea.

Dr. McElyea said patients are packing his eastern and southeastern Oklahoma hospitals after taking ivermectin doses meant for a full-sized horse, because they believed false claims the horse de-wormer could fight COVID-19.

“The ERs are so backed up that gunshot victims were having hard times getting to facilities where they can get definitive care and be treated,” he said.

That’s something McElyea said is now backing up ambulance systems as well.

“All of their ambulances are stuck at the hospital waiting for a bed to open so they can take the patient in and they don’t have any, that’s it,” said Dr. McElyea. “If there’s no ambulance to take the call, there’s no ambulance to come to the call.”

Rolling Stone Magazine picked up the story, as did MSNBC and various other outlets. Some of them put a decidedly “look at those stupid hicks swallowing horse paste” spin on their telling of it, conveniently failing to even mention that ivermectin does have approved human uses and that some other countries have been administering it for Covid-19.

One little problem: the story was untrue. An MSN article details the things that were wrong with it.

  • Here’s the second development. In August, a doctor who favors the use of ivermectin in treating Covid-19 wrote a remote prescription for a patient in an Ohio hospital’s intensive care unit. After the hospital refused to administer the drug because it’s not approved for that purpose in the United States, the patient’s family went to court. On August 23rd a judge ordered the hospital to administer the prescribed ivermectin. Then on September 6th another judge reversed the first judge’s order, siding with the hospital’s stance that government agencies in the United States haven’t approved ivermectin for Covid-19. The second judge noted that “This Court is not determining if ivermectin will ever be effective and useful as a treatment for COVID-19.”
  • In the third and most important development, the September 2021 issue of the medical journal New Microbes and New Infections reports the following:

Since March 2020, when IVM (ivermectin) was first used against a new global scourge, COVID-19, more than 20 randomized clinical trials (RCTs) have tracked such inpatient and outpatient treatments. Six of seven meta-analyses of IVM treatment RCTs reporting in 2021 found notable reductions in COVID-19 fatalities, with a mean 31% relative risk of mortality vs. controls. During mass IVM treatments in Peru, excess deaths fell by a mean of 74% over 30 days in its ten states with the most extensive treatments. Reductions in deaths correlated with the extent of IVM distributions in all 25 states with p < 0.002. Sharp reductions in morbidity using IVM were also observed in two animal models, of SARS-CoV-2 and a related betacoronavirus. The indicated biological mechanism of IVM, competitive binding with SARS-CoV-2 spike protein, is likely non-epitope specific, possibly yielding full efficacy against emerging viral mutant strains.

If you wish, you can read the full article.

So it seems the evidence is now coming down in favor of ivermectin’s effectiveness in treating Covid-19. We’ll see if future research keeps supporting that conclusion. We’ll follow the science.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 11, 2021 at 5:10 AM

Prairie parsley seeds by purple bindweed flowers

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From August 22nd in the northeast quadrant of Mopac and US 183 comes a portrait of prairie parsley seeds (Polytaenia sp.) in front of several purple bindweed flowers (Ipomoea cordatotriloba). I don’t remember taking a picture like this one before, so here’s to novelty. Pitchforks, anyone?


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Another Recent Case of Media Censorship
(I could probably post a new example every day.)

Facebook Suspends Instagram Account of Gold Star Mother Who Criticized Biden.

Facebook’s later admission that the account was “incorrectly deleted” is technically true but doesn’t
change the fact that once again an employee or a politically biased algorithm did delete an account.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 2, 2021 at 4:35 AM

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