Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘seeds

Firewheel seed head on a sinuous stalk

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Today’s portrait of a firewheel seed head (Gaillardia pulchella) comes from June 17th near the northeast corner of Mopac and Braker Lane. If you count the color on the curiously bent and re-bent stalk as red, then the picture provides the requisite red, white, and blue that have come to symbolize Independence Day in the United States, those being the three colors of the American flag. The firewheel’s sinuous stem when viewed sideways, whether left or right, conveniently traces out the first letter in both names of the photographer, whose birthday has never failed to coincide with the national holiday.

Perhaps because of that coincidence in dates, and certainly because of my nature, I’ve always felt a connection to the founding period in this country’s history. The story goes that when the delegates to the Constitutional Convention finally emerged from their Philadelphia meeting room in 1787, a woman stopped Benjamin Franklin and asked him what form of government they’d given the country. His famous two-part reply, first factual and then oracular, was: “A republic, if you can keep it.” Now here we are 233 years later, and recent events make it seem more and more likely we won’t be able to keep it. I hope we can.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 4, 2020 at 4:40 AM

Texas thistle decomposing

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As much as I like Texas thistles (Cirsium texanum) when they’re colorfully fresh and fragrant, I also enjoy the chaos into which each flower head falls as it goes to seed. You’re looking at one such as it appeared along Rain Creek Parkway on June 6th. The flowers in the background were Mexican hats (Ratibida columnifera).

If you’re interested in the art and craft of photography, points 1, 2, 4, 6, and 7 in About My Techniques are relevant to today’s portrait.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 23, 2020 at 4:44 AM

Green milkweed pod releasing its seeds

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After I took pictures of a large sunflower colony along Gregg-Manor Rd. east of TX 130 on June 10th, I noticed on the other side of the road a green milkweed plant (Asclepias viridis) with a split-open pod whose seeds and silk the breeze was freeing. As is my common practice, I got close to the ground so I could aim upward to position the seeds and silk against the morning’s blue sky. And as has occurred from time to time over the years that I’ve been doing nature photography, a good Samaritan stopped—right in the road, with a few cars behind her—to see whether I was ailing and needed help. After I stood up and turned around she saw my camera and realized what I’d been doing. And now that we’re back on Gregg-Manor Rd., I might as well add another view of the yellowlicious sunflower colony that caused me to pull over there in the first place, and without which I probably wouldn’t have caught sight of the opened milkweed pod.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 21, 2020 at 4:37 AM

Two takes on gulf muhly

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The decorative grass classified botanically as Muhlenbergia capillaris goes by the common names gulf muhly, pink muhly, and hair grass. The last time it appeared in these pages was four years ago. Because 4 is 2 times 2 as well as 2 plus 2 and also 2 to the power 2, and because mathematics is abstract, here are two abstract views of gulf muhly taken outside the Cedar Park Recreation Center on November 18th. The plant in the second, though still, appears to be blowing; thus did the genie in my camera make the static dynamic.

Muhly is short for Muhlenbergia, whose origin the website of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center explains this way: “The genus of this plant is named for Gotthilf Heinrich Ernst Muhlenberg (1753-1815), also Heinrich Ludwig Muehlenberg, or Henry Muhlenberg, who was a German-educated Lutheran minister and the first president of Franklin College, now Franklin and Marshall College, Pennsylvania. He is most famous due to his work in the field of botany. An accomplished botanist, chemist, and mineralogist, Henry is credited with classifying and naming 150 species of plants in his 1785 work Index Flora Lancastriensis. Muhlenberg’s work and collaboration with European botanists led to great advances in the study of plants and earned him the distinction as America’s first outstanding botanist.”

© 2019 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 28, 2019 at 4:42 AM

Two stages on the same date

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On November 11 we visited the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. By that date the wildflower known as gayfeather and blazing star (Liatris punctata var. mucronata) has normally long since gone to seed and turned fluffy, as shown above. The plant below apparently didn’t get the word, because it was freshly flowering.

© 2019 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 19, 2019 at 4:48 AM

Riata Trace Pond in autumn

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On November 15th the Riata Trace Pond in northwest Austin had taken on an autumnal look. Above you see the feathery stage of poverty weed (Baccharis neglecta), and below the fluffy stage of goldenrod (Solidago sp.).

© 2019 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 13, 2019 at 4:34 AM

Front- and backlit Lindheimer’s senna pods

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The first photo highlights the outside of a pod; the second, like an x-ray, reveals what’s inside.
These views of Senna lindheimeriana come from October 22 west of Morado Circle.

© 2019 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 19, 2019 at 4:40 AM

Giant bristlegrass

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Near where we first parked at the Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge on October 6th was some giant bristlegrass, Setaria magna. I scrunched and strained to get into a position from which I could play the seed head off against the cumulus clouds overhead. The result shown here strikes me as an emblem—of what, I can’t say, though the cloud nebulously recalls the shape of Antarctica.

© 2019 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 1, 2019 at 4:50 AM

More from the Kelly Hamby Nature Trail

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The previous post showed you six of the things we saw on October 6th at the Kelly Hamby Nature Trail on the south shore of the peninsula that’s across the bridge from the west end of Galveston Island. Now here are another half-dozen finds.

Trailing fuzzybean, Strophostyles helvola

Drying pod of a trailing fuzzybean, Strophostyles helvola

American oystercatcher, Haematopus palliatus

Purple beach morning glory bud, Ipomoea pes-caprae

Purple beach morning glory flower, Ipomoea pes-caprae

Barnacle shells on a larger shell

While that last picture may not be entirely “natural,” holding the shell up against the clouds seemed like a natural enough thing to do for the sake of a good portrait. Magritte or another Surrealist painter could’ve shown the entire shell floating in the clouds.

© 2019 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 21, 2019 at 4:42 AM

Beards and webs

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The vine that botanists know as Clematis drummondii has earned the colloquial name old man’s beard because its fertilized flowers give rise to filaments that turn into an increasingly dingy fluff as they mature. (Notwithstanding the beard metaphor, those are of course female flowers.) Below from Great Hills Park on August 29th is a nice expanse of “beards,” along with seed heads of Mexican hats, Ratibida columnifera.

In contrast, a nearby Clematis drummondii plant (presumably male) was cobwebbed rather than bearded.

© 2019 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 23, 2019 at 3:53 AM

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