Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘seeds

Anemone seed cores

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At the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center on March 31st, when I got in close to look at a ten-petal anemone seed core (Anemone berlandieri) I noticed a spider that had stretched itself out there. And from our back yard on April 2nd, here’s how a seed core comes undone.




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If you’d been reading the New York Post on April 1st you might at first have thought that this story was an April Fool’s joke. 

A Manhattan parking garage attendant who was shot twice while confronting an alleged thief — then wrestled the gun away and opened fire on the suspect — has been charged with attempted murder, police said.

Hmmm. You could understand why the suspected thief who shot the parking garage attendant would be charged with attempted murder, but why the man who was attacked and defended himself? The story continues:

The overnight worker, identified by cops as Moussa* Diarra, 57, was also hit with assault and criminal possession of a weapon charge in the Saturday incident, which unfolded around 5:30 a.m. as the attendant saw a man peering into cars on the second floor of the West 31st Street garage, the sources said.

Believing the man was stealing, the attendant brought him outside and asked what was inside his bag.

Instead of cooperating, the man pulled out a gun, the sources said.

Diarra tried to grab for the weapon, and it went off — leaving him shot in the stomach and grazed in the ear by a bullet before he turned the firearm on the would-be thief and shot him in the chest, sources said.

The suspected thief, identified as Charles Rhodie, 59, was also charged with attempted murder, assault and criminal possession of a weapon, as well as burglary, police said late Saturday.

While police hit Diarra with attempted murder, it wasn’t immediately clear if prosecutors would follow through with the charge.

The initial charges against Diarra sparked outrage — and recalled the case of Manhattan bodega clerk Jose Alba, who was charged with murder after a fatal July 1 confrontation in his store with an angry customer who came behind his counter and accosted him.

Family friend Mariame Diarra, who is not related to the attendant, slammed the decision to hit the married dad of two with charges.

“That’s self-defense. The guy tried to rob his business,” she told The Post. “He’s there for security. That’s literally his job, to defend his business. … He takes his job seriously. … Attempted murder charge has no place there. He [robber] came to find him at his job with his gun, he [Diarra] has to defend himself.”

An individual who works nearby the garage, which is across from Moynihan Train Station, was also incredulous.

“You are kidding. That’s an April Fool Day joke, right?” the worker asked of the charges against Diarra, adding, “How can a hardworking man get arrested for defending himself?”

The answer, unfortunately, is that this took place in Manhattan, where a district attorney named Alvin Bragg refuses to prosecute many criminals, has reduced 52% of felony charges to misdemeanors, and who charged the aforementioned José Alba with murder for defending himself against a criminal.

On April 2nd the New York Post ran a follow-up:

The Manhattan parking-garage worker who was initially hit with an attempted-murder rap for shooting an armed would-be thief wept as he lay handcuffed to his hospital bed Sunday, stunned at his fate.

“I got bullets in me, and I’m chained to a hospital bed, but I didn’t do anything wrong,” Moussa Diarra, 57, lamented, according to Meyers Parking’s Chief Operating Officer Michael Carolan, who spoke to The Post.

Finally came another follow-up on the incident:

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg will not prosecute the parking-garage attendant who shot a suspected thief after getting wounded himself, the DA’s office told The Post on Sunday.

Moussa Diarra, 57, was shot twice by alleged thief Charles Rhodie, 59, early Saturday before turning the tables on the suspect and pumping a bullet into him with the accused criminal’s handgun, authorities said.

Yet cops charged Diarra with attempted murder, assault and gun possession in the case, while Rhodie was slapped with those three raps as well as burglary.

But Bragg — who is already under fire for indicting former President Donald Trump last week in a fraud-related case — will dismiss the case against Diarra “pending further investigation,” his office said.

The raps remain against Rhodie, who police sources say has at least 20 prior arrests, mostly for petit larceny, with the most recent one occurring in 2018. Diarra has no priors, sources said.


* Moussa is a French spelling of Mūsā, the Arabic form of the name Moses.


© 2023 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 4, 2023 at 4:33 AM

Posted in nature photography

Tagged with , , , ,

Texas groundsel seed head

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In the last post you saw a group of Texas groundsel, Senecio ampullaceus, with bright yellow flowers. Also from March 19th in western Bastrop County comes this much closer view of a Texas groundsel seed head.



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“Bills like this make schools more hostile, and make no mistake, it results in hate, bigotry, and yes, sometimes even death of our students in schools.”

“When we talk about progressive values, I can say what my progressive value is, and that’s freedom over fascism.”

So what hateful, fascistic, and sometimes even deadly thing were those two members of the House of Representatives referring to this week? It was a bill that passed the House by a narrow margin, known as the Parents Bill of Rights. And what were some of the bill’s hateful, fascistic, and occasionally even deadly provisions? Oh, you know, detestable things like:

the right of parents to know what’s in a school’s curriculum;

the right to meet at least twice a year with a child’s teacher;

the right to review a school’s budget to find out what taxpayers’ money is being spent on;

the right to find out what books are in a school’s library and to inspect those books if desired;

the right to find out about all the schools in which parents can enroll their child;

the right to address the school board;

the right to information about violent activity in their child’s school;

the right to information about any plans to eliminate gifted and talented programs in the child’s school;

the right to review any professional development materials used to train teachers;

the right to know if their child is not grade-level proficient in reading or language arts at the end of the third grade;

the right to know if a school employee or contractor acts to change a minor child’s gender markers, pronouns, or preferred name, or to allow a child to change the child’s sex-based accommodations, including locker rooms or bathrooms;

the right to know if a school employee or contractor acts to treat, advise, or address the cyberbullying of a student; treat, advise, or address the bullying or hazing of a student; treat, advise, or address a student’s mental health, suicidal ideation, or instances of self-harm; treat, advise, or address a specific threat to the safety of a student; treat, advise, or address the possession or use of drugs and other controlled substances; or treat, advise, or address an eating disorder; or if a child brings a weapon to school.


In short, parents have the right to know what’s going on with their kids at school. Hardly sounds like fascism to me.


One member of the House said “Extreme MAGA Republicans don’t want the children of America to learn about the Holocaust.” You have to assume that House member never even bothered to read the bill he voted against. If he had read it, he would have seen the following in Title VI: “It is the sense of Congress that all public elementary school and secondary school students should have opportunities to learn the history of the Holocaust and anti-Semitism.” The representative had lied and claimed the opposite.

As I recently pointed out, politicians lie, often blatantly, as here. Some things never change.


© 2023 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 26, 2023 at 4:29 AM

Posted in nature photography

Tagged with , ,

Sunflower decay

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The seed heads of the common sunflower, Helianthus annuus, usually linger well into the following year, gradually drying out and decaying as the months pass. I found this one on February 26th.


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“Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?” and “GIGO”


The first part of the title is a Latin line from the Satires of the Roman poet Juvenal. English translations include “Who will watch the watchers?”, “Who will guard the guardians?”, and “Who will police the police?” The questions behind the question are: how do we know whether the people in charge of setting and enforcing standards are themselves biased, hypocritical, or corrupt, and if they are, what can we do about it?

GIGO is an acronym from the world of computer programming that stands for “Garbage in, garbage out.” If you put inaccurate, incomplete, or biased data into a computer program, then of course the results that come out of the program can’t be trusted.

Those two concepts come together in the February 21st Quillette article “Artificially Intelligent Offense?,” in which theoretical physicist Lawrence M. Krauss looks at ChatGPT, an artificial intelligence (AI) program that’s made a lot of news lately. AI has advanced to the point that people can query ChatGPT and get back answers in fluent, normal English that’s indistinguishable from what a real person might say. To be able to do that, the program has been trained on huge amounts of facts and human interactions.

But how do we know that the programmers who wrote the code and carried out the training did so in an accurate and unbiased way?

A sizable part of Krauss’s article reproduces a “dialogue” that York University neuroscience student Greg Giovanni held with ChatGPT. Here’s the opening interchange:


Are there any conceptual issues with identifying as neither male nor female?


There are no inherent conceptual issues with identifying as neither male nor female. Gender identity is a deeply personal and individual experience, and everyone has the right to define their own gender identity in a way that feels authentic and meaningful to them.

For some individuals, the traditional binary categorization of gender as either male or female does not accurately reflect their experience of gender, and they may identify as neither male nor female, as a blend of both, or as something else entirely. This is a valid and coherent way of experiencing gender for these individuals.

It is important to respect and support individuals in their self-identified gender, regardless of whether they identify as male, female, non-binary, or any other gender identity. Using gender-inclusive language and avoiding assumptions about someone’s gender can help create a supportive and inclusive environment for individuals of all gender identities.

In summary, there are no inherent conceptual issues with identifying as neither male nor female, and it is a valid and coherent way of experiencing gender for some individuals.


And here’s the follow-up to that:


How do you know there are no inherent conceptual issues with identifying as neither male nor female? What is your source?

The understanding that there are no inherent conceptual issues with identifying as neither male nor female is based on the insights and perspectives of experts and professionals in fields such as gender and sexuality studies, psychology, sociology, and human rights. These experts and professionals recognize that gender identity is a complex and multi-faceted aspect of identity that cannot be solely defined by the binary categories of male or female.

Additionally, this understanding is supported by a growing body of research and anecdotal evidence from individuals who identify as non-binary. These individuals report feeling a greater sense of authenticity and wellbeing when they are able to define their own gender identity in a way that feels true to their experience, regardless of whether this falls within the traditional binary categorization of gender.

In summary, the understanding that there are no inherent conceptual issues with identifying as neither male nor female is based on a growing body of expert perspectives, research, and anecdotal evidence from individuals who identify as non-binary.

Who are some experts that see non-binary gender identity as problematic?

I don’t have a specific list of experts who see non-binary gender identity as problematic. However, there are some individuals and groups who argue that gender identity is binary and based on biological sex, and that the concept of non-binary gender is a recent cultural phenomenon that lacks scientific basis. It’s important to note that these views are not widely accepted in the scientific community, and that the vast majority of experts in the fields of psychology, sociology, and gender studies recognize that gender is a complex, multifaceted construct that can be experienced and expressed in many different ways, including as non-binary.


By now you probably see where this is going, especially when you hear that ChatGPS was able to give a list of specific people who support the existence of non-binary gender identity. Might ChatGPS be biased on this controversial subject? Might it be asserting that something is true when in fact we’re trying to determine whether that thing is true?

Another main thread in the article is the admission by ChatGPS that, either on its own or via content moderation by humans, it avoids saying certain things that some people might find offensive—even if those things are true. In other words, the program sometimes presents an untrue view of reality for the sake of certain people’s feelings. In response to that I’ll quote Ben Shapiro: “Facts don’t care about your feelings.” I’ll take reality, thank you.


You’re welcome to read Lawrence M. Krauss’s full article.


© 2023 Steven Schwartzman







Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 13, 2023 at 4:29 AM

Posted in nature photography

Tagged with , ,

Black and white versions

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In a comment on this morning’s post Alessandra Chaves suggested the image of tall goldenrod seed head remains (Solidago altissima) against wispy clouds would look good in black and white. Of the infinitely many ways to convert a given color photograph to monochrome, here are two.



You can compare these to the original color photograph.


© 2023 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 24, 2023 at 10:53 AM

Solidago sentinel

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At the pond by the Costco in suburban Cedar Park on the morning of January 11th wispy clouds enhanced the remains of what I take to be tall goldenrod, Solidago altissima. Though these plants’ yellow to yellow-orange flowers brighten up our autumns, the dried-out seed heads stand as sentinels far into the year that follows. Up wasn’t the only direction I could look at goldenrod seed heads to see blue; down worked as well, and it brought me a different shade of that color:




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Disconcertingly many measures that supporters claim will help disadvantaged groups actually end up harming them. You can read about that with respect to school discipline in a January 17th editorial by Jason L. Riley.


© 2023 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 24, 2023 at 4:33 AM

Posted in nature photography

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What I found in the drizzle

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Forward into the new year, which you’ll be thrilled to know is very seveny because 7 x 17 x 17 = 2023.
The most recent year to be a prime number was 2017 and the next one will be 2027. Once again, seveny.


Let’s begin the year with a little look-back at the misty morning of December 12th at the Riata Trace Pond, where I found some luscious bushy bluestem seed heads (Andropogon tenuispatheus) covered in drizzle droplets. In the background you see brief traces of some falling droplets.

I also photographed a bird that I later learned is a white-throated sparrow, Zonotrichia albicollis.



And how could I resist a few drizzle-dropped flowers of gulf vervain, Verbena xutha?



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Speaking of sevens, I’ve been aware of the name Loren Eiseley for most of my life but until last month had never read anything by that naturalist who lived from 1907 to 1977 and who wrote prose with a sensibility more poetic than that of many people who identify themselves as poets today. Take an essay called “The Slit,” in which he describes working his way through a narrow slit in some sandstone and coming face to face with an embedded skull:

It was not, of course, human. I was deep, deep below the time of man in a remote age near the beginning of the reign of mammals. I squatted on my heels in the narrow ravine, and we stared a little blankly at each other, the skull and I. There were marks of generalized primitiveness in that low, pinched brain case and grinning jaw that marked it as lying far back along those converging roads where… cat and man and weasel must leap into a single shape.

… The skull lay tilted in such a manner that it stared, sightless, up at me as though I, too, were already caught a few feet above him in the strata and, in my turn, were staring upward at that strip of sky which the ages were carrying farther away from me beneath the tumbling debris of falling mountains. The creature had never lived to see a man, and I, what was it I was never going to see? …

I restrained a panicky impulse to hurry upward after that receding sky that was outlined above the Slit. Probably, I thought, as I patiently began the task of chiseling into the stone around the skull, I would never again excavate a fossil under conditions which led to so vivid an impression that I was already one myself. The truth is that we are all potential fossils still carrying within our bodies the crudities of former existences, the marks of a world in which living creatures flow with little more consistency than clouds from age to age.


For wonderful prose and insights into nature and evolution you can turn to The Loren Eiseley Reader and also The Immense Journey, a collection of his essays from the 1940s and ’50s.



© 2023 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 1, 2023 at 4:32 AM


with 18 comments


For the many times over the past decade that I visited a flowerful piece of prairie on the west side of Heatherwilde Boulevard north of Wells Branch Parkway in Pflugerville you could call me a veteran of that field. I went there most recently on Veterans Day, November 11, and discovered that development had expanded since my previous visit. More of the portion that had until recently hung on was now scraped of vegetation, with only a fringe in the back still left. That’s where I found things to photograph on that overcast and about-to-rain morning. Probably most conspicuous were many scattered tufts of Clematis drummondii that had turned feathery, one of which you see above. I also noticed some seed head remains of common sunflowers, Helianthus annuus; on one I encountered a shield-backed bug (family Scutelleridae), seemingly Sphyrocoris obliquus. In spite of the bug’s species name, its “here’s looking at you” gaze was anything but oblique.



(Pictures from the New Mexico trip will resume tomorrow.)



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The basics of great education have been around for thousands of years; it simply doesn’t take tremendous amounts of money to teach well. In an English classroom, we rarely need more than a pen and paper and a book or an essay to get the job done. Small class sizes, high expectations for student academic performance and behavior, and diligent, invested, highly respected educators backed up by an administration who supports teachers over parents and students would fix so many of these problems. But until it starts getting better, fewer and fewer ambitious and competent youngsters will see teaching as an attractive profession. And so the teacher shortage problem is going to continue to get worse.

That’s the conclusion of Elizabeth Emery’s January 2020 article “The Public School Teacher Attrition Crisis.” Schools have indeed worsened since then, in part because of the pandemic but still primarily because of the terrible attitudes and practices of administrators that Elizabeth Emery detailed in her article, and that caused her to quit teaching in a public school after just one full semester. You’re welcome to read the full article.


© 2022 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 1, 2022 at 4:29 AM

Wand blackroot

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A year ago in Bastrop State Park I chanced upon some tall, slender, and erect plants that were new to me: Pterocaulon virgatum, a member of the sunflower family known as wand blackroot. I caught the plants past their flowering peak, as you see above, when seed heads were already coming undone. The genus name means ‘winged stem’ (think of pterodactyl, the winged dinosaur), which we can see in the top photograph. Below, I noticed that the plant’s drying leaves were turning into corkscrews.


When I chanced upon this species again on September 17th in Houston’s Memorial Park, the plants looked so different that I never drew any connection to what I’d seen in Bastrop until someone in the Texas Flora group identified the Houston specimens as wand blackroot:



In fact my first glance made me suspect I was seeing a decomposing cattail, but it was a wand blackroot.


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Every language has its quirks in vocabulary. English, with more words than any other language, certainly has plenty of quirks. Take verbs with prefixes, for example.

You can consume, presume, and resume but you can’t just plain sume.

You can conspire, inspire, perspire, and even respire, but you can’t just plain spire.

You can conceive, deceive, perceive, receive, and even transceive, but you can’t just plain ceive.

You can eject, inject, deject, project, reject, object, and subject but you can’t just plain ject.

You can abstract, distract, detract, contract, protract, extract, and retract but you can’t just plain tract.

You can induce, produce, reduce, deduce, transduce, and even conduce and abduce and educe, but you can’t just plain duce.

If you’re up for an experiment (or down with one, as young people say, having turned the expression 180° for no obvious reason), try using sume, spire, ceive, ject, tract, and duce on their own as verbs in your conversations or writings and see how people react.


© 2022 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 14, 2022 at 4:24 AM

Nelumbo lutea

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At 40 Acre Lake in Brazos Bend State Park southwest of Houston on the morning of September 18th I zoomed my telephoto lens to 400mm to photograph both flowers and seed heads of the American lotus, Nelumbo lutea. I’d have thought water lilies and this lotus are in the same botanical family, and in fact both used to be included in Nymphaeaceae. Now, however, botanists have found evidence to move the lotus into its own family, Nelumbonaceae, whose only extant genus is Nelumbo.



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From Mark Twain in London to ice sheets in Antarctica


As Emily Petsko reported in a 2018 article in Mental Floss:

“In 1897, an English journalist from the New York Journal contacted Twain to inquire whether the rumors that he was gravely ill or already dead were indeed true. Twain wrote a response, part of which made it into the article that ran in the Journal on June 2, 1897:”

Mark Twain was undecided whether to be more amused or annoyed when a Journal representative informed him today of the report in New York that he was dying in poverty in London … The great humorist, while not perhaps very robust, is in the best of health. He said: ‘I can understand perfectly how the report of my illness got about, I have even heard on good authority that I was dead. James Ross Clemens, a cousin of mine, was seriously ill two or three weeks ago in London, but is well now. The report of my illness grew out of his illness. The report of my death was an exaggeration.’

People later exaggerated Twain’s last sentence into “The report of my death was a great exaggeration, and now we unfortunately find the incorrect version quoted much more often than the historical one.

I bring that up—and I’m not exaggerating—because a lot of people in the media and in government have been exaggerating, sometimes greatly, the dangers from the world’s changing climate. Physicist* Steven Koonin wrote about that in the September 19th Wall Street Journal. His editorial bears the title “Don’t Believe the Hype About Antarctica’s Melting Glaciers” and the subhead “Two studies carefully explore the factors at play, but the headlines are only meant to raise alarm.” Here’s how Koonin’s editorial begins:

Alarming reports that the Antarctic ice sheet is shrinking misrepresent the science under way to understand a very complex situation. Antarctica has been ice-covered for at least 30 million years. The ice sheet holds about 26.5 million gigatons of water (a gigaton is a billion metric tons, or about 2.2 trillion pounds). If it were to melt completely, sea levels would rise 190 feet. Such a change is many millennia in the future, if it comes at all.

Much more modest ice loss is normal in Antarctica. Each year, some 2,200 gigatons (or 0.01%) of the ice is discharged in the form of melt and icebergs, while snowfall adds almost the same amount. The difference between the discharge and addition each year is the ice sheet’s annual loss. That figure has been increasing in recent decades, from 40 gigatons a year in the 1980s to 250 gigatons a year in the 2010s.

But the increase is a small change in a complex and highly variable process. For example, Greenland’s annual loss has fluctuated significantly over the past century. And while the Antarctic losses seem stupendously large, the recent annual losses amount to 0.001% of the total ice and, if they continued at that rate, would raise sea level by only 3 inches over 100 years.


You’re welcome to read the rest of Koonin’s editorial.



* Some climate alarmist activists have made the ad hominem “argument” that because Koonin is a physicist he has no right to say anything about the climate. Of course someone as steeped in data evaluation and the scientific method as a physicist can spend time studying a situation in another field and draw valid conclusions. In fact Koonin has done enough recent research to write an entire book: Unsettled: What Climate Science Tells Us, What It Doesn’t, and Why it Matters. You can read a December 2021 discussion he had on the subject.


© 2022 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 29, 2022 at 4:30 AM

Three rather different takes on cattail fluff

with 18 comments

Raising the ante on yesterday’s “two rather different takes” theme,
here you have three views of cattails (Typha sp.) shedding fluff.

The most advanced stage is at the top, the least advanced in the middle.
All three pictures come from Round Rock’s Meadow Lake Park on August 23rd.



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Over the past year and a half I’ve reported on various illegal moves to treat people with different racial and ethnic characteristics differently. The other day I became aware of yet another one. Here’s the introductory paragraph in a class action lawsuit filed against Amazon on July 20:

Amazon.com enters into contracts with “delivery service partners” to bring packages to its patrons. It also engages it patently unlawful racial discrimination by providing a $10,000 bonus to “Black, Latinx, and Native American entrepreneurs” who act as its delivery service partners, while withholding this stipend from Asian-Americans and whites who deliver Amazon packages. Plaintiff Crystal Bolduc brings suit to enjoin Amazon.com from continuing these racially discriminatory practices, and to recover classwide damages on behalf of everyone who has suffered unlawful racial discrimination on account of this program.

It took my country hundreds of years to finally adopt laws that put an end to racial and ethnic discrimination. It pains me to learn there are still Americans who want to flout those laws and go back to discriminating against people based on their immutable physical characteristics. It’s barbaric.


© 2022 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 5, 2022 at 4:27 AM

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