Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘seeds

Two quite different takes

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On May 15th in Allen Park I found a nice group of silverpuff plants (Chaptalia texana) with prominent seed heads. I took the top picture by natural light, of which there wasn’t a lot, so the resulting broad aperture of f/2.8 led to a dreamy portrait with little in focus. For the closer view below I used my ring flash and an aperture of f/13 so I could keep a lot more details sharp. Fireworks, anyone?

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 13, 2021 at 4:36 AM

It doesn’t take long for chaos to ensue

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Milkweed seeds are packed quite neatly into their pods. Once a pod opens, however, the fluff attached to the seeds readily yields to the wind and chaos soon sets in. That’s what you see in this antelope horns milkweed (Asclepias asperula) across the street from the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center on May 26th.

On the same day that these seeds were “migrating” out of their pod, thousands of people were illegally “immigrating” to the United States. With that abrupt turn, let me pause to tell you a little about my background. My father and his brother and parents escaped from the Soviet Union in the 1920s and came to the United States to get away from communism, corruption, and antisemitism. My mother’s father was also an immigrant. One of my nephews is married to an immigrant. I’ve had two brothers-in-law who were immigrants. I have friends who are immigrants. I’m married to an immigrant of a different race from the other side of the earth. Immigration has greatly contributed to the development of this country. I wouldn’t exist without it.

At the same time, I value fairness and order. The United States has set up a system in which people from other countries can apply to move here. Approximately a million people were allowed to do that in 2019. Some say that the number is too low and we should let in two million people a year. That might be okay. As needs change, Americans can decide on an appropriate yearly number that wouldn’t overwhelm the country’s resources.

What many Americans don’t find appropriate is people from other countries circumventing our immigration system and coming here illegally. I’ve heard projections that as many as two million people will have crossed into the United States illegally in 2021 alone. That number is plausible, given a report on National Public Radio that “More than 170,000 migrants were taken into custody at the Southwest border in March, the highest monthly total since at least 2006, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials who have been briefed on the preliminary numbers but are not authorized to speak publicly.” To that must be added the unknown number of people that the overworked Border Patrol didn’t manage to apprehend. Another indication of a huge increase in illegal immigration comes from a June 1st news story in the Epoch Times: “Border Patrol in the Del Rio [Texas] Sector has apprehended 95 sex offenders this fiscal year, compared to six during the same period in fiscal 2020. Apprehension of criminals has topped 813 compared to 161 in the same period in fiscal 2020.”

Those figures are evidence that for the most part our southern border is open. (A cynic would say the way we know the southern border is open is that the current administration tells us it’s closed.) Our government is letting many—perhaps the majority—of the people who enter illegally stay. Whereas applicants for legal immigration are screened in their country of origin to verify who they are, to ensure they’ll have a means of support, and to keep out criminals and people with infectious diseases, we have almost no way to determine the identities of those coming here illegally, what state of health they’re in, or whether they’ve been involved in crime—especially of the many who evade the Border Patrol entirely. During a worldwide pandemic our government is paying large amounts of money to send illegal immigrants into the interior of the country by bus and plane, sometimes without even testing for Covid-19.

People who don’t want any limits on immigration purposely and deceptively use the word immigrant to include those who come here illegally. That’s not fair, just as it wouldn’t be fair to describe someone who broke into your house as a resident. Advocates of unrestricted entry into the country hurl the epithet racist at anyone who distinguishes between legal and illegal immigration. That’s not fair. What’s fair is to establish an orderly immigration policy and to have the government enforce it, not flout it.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 3, 2021 at 4:20 AM

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Red: unexpected and expected

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The unexpected red* was on the stalk of the rain-lily (Zephyranthes drummondii) in the foreground that had already produced a seed capsule. The expected red was in the center of the firewheels (Gaillardia pulchella) beyond. I understand the latter but not the former. This picture is from Allen Park on May 15th. That session also yielded the darker and artsier take below that portrays the same two species.

* After this post appeared, Herschel Hobotz identified the red on the rain-lily as Stagonospora curtisii, a fungal disease sometimes called red blotch, red leaf spot or red fire.

© Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 30, 2021 at 4:30 AM

When is a dandelion not a dandelion?

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One answer to the question in today’s title is when it’s silverpuff, Chaptalia texana. As similar as its seed head is to that of a dandelion, nobody would ever confuse the two species’ flower heads, as you see from the silverpuff flower head below. Both of these photographs come from a wooded area in my neighborhood on April 28th. Because the woods were so shady, for once I used flash. That had two fringe benefits: good depth of field for my subjects and darkness beyond them.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 9, 2021 at 4:32 AM

Channeling my inner Rembrandt—or not

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On December 23, 2020, I found myself out on the Blackland Prairie in far northeast Austin waiting for the sun to come up, which it must have done, only the sky was so overcast I never did see the solar disk. In the gloom I channeled my inner Rembrandt and made a somber portrait of goldenrod (Solidago sp.) seed head remains. In contrast, on November 11th at the Riata Trace Pond I’d made a much brighter portrait:

And from January 10th of this year, here’s another vaguely
Rembrandtesque view, this time of some ground-bound goldenrod:

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 26, 2021 at 4:30 AM

An ice cap is a nice cap

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Behold a cap of sleet on the seed head remains of a horsemint
(Monarda citriodora) in Great Hills Park on January 10th.

And here’s a quotation relevant to the current freezing out by some large technology companies of opinions and even facts that they don’t like: “He who knows only his own side of the case, knows little of that. His reasons may be good, and no one may have been able to refute them. But if he is equally unable to refute the reasons on the opposite side; if he does not so much as know what they are, he has no ground for preferring either opinion.” — John Stuart Mill, “On Liberty,” 1859.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 24, 2021 at 4:35 AM

New headware for Mexican hats

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Last year provided me with more, and more different, portraits of Mexican hats (Ratibida columnifera) than ever before. Just 10 days into 2021 I had the chance for yet another new take, this time of dormant plants forming arcs beneath the weight of wet snow, as shown above. The second picture give a broader view of the landscape as it looked in the northeast quadrant of Mopac and US 183 that afternoon. Because of the snow covering I couldn’t always tell which plants were which, but the distinctive seed head remains of Mexican hats made identification easy in this case. You see them in these pictures as elongated dark dots.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 15, 2021 at 4:36 PM

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When they signed up to be Maximilian sunflowers, did they sign up for this?

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The post’s title is the curious thought about Helianthus maximiliani that came into my head while I wandered in the northeast quadrant of Mopac and US 183 as the snow continued into the afternoon on January 10th.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 12, 2021 at 4:32 AM

Late takes on Clematis drummondii

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I didn’t expect to be photographing one of my favorite subjects so late in the year: Clematis drummondii, a vine known endearingly as old man’s beard. The last times I’d taken pictures of any were late July and early August. In the first week of December I noticed a fluffy colony on the west-side embankment of US 183 just south of Braker Lane, a corner I often drive past as I leave my neighborhood. After telling myself several times that I should check out the Clematis, I finally did on December 10th. The first picture gives you an overview of the colony. You’ll be forgiven if a first glance made you think you were seeing a black and white photograph.

The backlighting that made the colony stand out in the first photograph also served me in the second, a macro view in which you’re seeing a span of maybe 2 inches. In the third picture I took a softer and less contrasty approach. Don’t you love the chaos in the two close views?

And speaking of chaos, did you know that it gave rise to the new word gas? Here’s the explanation in The Online Etymology Dictionary:

1650s, from Dutch gas, probably from Greek khaos “empty space”… The sound of Dutch “g” is roughly equivalent to that of Greek “kh.” First used by Flemish chemist J.B. van Helmont (1577-1644), probably influenced by Paracelsus, who used khaos in an occult sense of “proper elements of spirits” or “ultra-rarified water,” which was van Helmont’s definition of gas.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 24, 2020 at 4:44 AM

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Ambushed bushy bluestem

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On November 15th, while wandering through the field in Manor adorned with myriad fluffy seed heads of bushy bluestem (Andropogon glomeratus) and goldenrod (Solidago sp.) that you saw in a post last month, I spied something that looked unusual and that I couldn’t initially identify. After I got closer I could tell that a plant had gotten wrapped up, presumably by a spider, but in a way I hadn’t seen before. Then I noticed the green lynx spider (Peucetia viridans) that must have done the deed. Eventually I realized that what the spider had wrapped up into a nest was a bushy bluestem seed head. Notice the spiderlings, of which there were plenty more than shown in this picture. You get a closer view of the green lynx in the following picture:

As relevant quotations for today, you can listen to Rudy Francisco reading his poem “Mercy,
which he indicates is after Nikki Giovanni’s “Allowables.”

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 22, 2020 at 4:22 AM

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