Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘shrub

Texas mountain laurel buds

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On March 18 at McKinney Roughs Nature Park in Bastrop County the buds of a Texas mountain laurel bush were opening. The familiar scientific name Sophora secundiflora has given way to Dermatophyllum secundiflorum.

 

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People claim lots of things, some seemingly more far-fetched than others. When Copernicus in the 1500s and then other scientists in the 1600s claimed that the earth goes around the sun, rather than the other way around, many people didn’t believe it. It seemed counter to the daily experience of watching the sun move in an arc through the sky above a seemingly immobile earth. Evidence, particularly after telescopes got perfected, eventually showed that the strange claim was true.

In October of 2020, shortly before that year’s presidential election in the United States, the New York Post broke a story saying that Hunter Biden, the son of then-presidential candidate Joe Biden, had brought a laptop computer to a repair shop in Delaware but had never returned to pick it up. As happens in such cases, the unclaimed laptop then became the property of the repair shop’s owner. The laptop per se wasn’t especially valuable, but the data on it was. The laptop’s hard drive contained many photographs showing Hunter Biden doing drugs and cavorting with prostitutes. More importantly, the hard drive also contained e-mails implying that Hunter Biden was getting lots of money from foreign sources in the expectation of access to or influence with Joe Biden.

Given that the main American elections take place early in November, the story could plausibly have been what people have come to call an “October surprise”: condemnatory “information” that a partisan reveals to the public shortly before the election in an attempt to influence people not to vote for the candidate that the partisan opposes. For example, one month before Election Day in 2016 came the release of the Access Hollywood videotape in which candidate Donald Trump was seen speaking lewdly about women. The tape was real, not a fake, and it probably did influence some people not to vote for Trump.

Now let’s return to the 2020 Hunter Biden laptop story. The first question a responsible person would ask is whether the story was true. Might anti-Biden partisans have made it up in an attempt to discredit candidate Biden? Such fakery does sometimes happen, after all, so initially we can’t rule out that possibility—politics is hardly known for its nobility, is it?

Unfortunately, people at many traditional news outlets immediately claimed that the Hunter Biden laptop story was “Russian disinformation,” yet they never brought forth any evidence to prove that it was Russian disinformation. Worse, the social media platforms Facebook and Twitter suppressed even any discussion of the claim, with Twitter going so far as to completely lock the account of the New York Post, the oldest American newspaper still in print.

As becomes an ethical news organization, the New York Post had offered plenty of evidence that the Hunter Biden story was true. The mainstream media not only refused to consider it, but claimed with no evidence that the story was false. That was unethical.

And then there were the 51 former “intelligence” officials who signed a letter saying the Hunter Biden laptop story “has the classic earmarks of a Russian information operation.” They admitted they had no evidence that that’s what it was but kept pushing the disinformation conjecture anyhow. With all their connections, couldn’t they at least have asked around among their current counterparts to find out what they knew about the story and what they were doing to check its authenticity? Actually the letter writers didn’t even have to do that: soon after the letter appeared, the DNI (Director of National Intelligence) and the FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) announced that the Hunter Biden laptop story was not Russian disinformation. That made no difference to the many people pushing the “Russian disinformation” narrative.

This past week the New York Times unexpectedly ran a story about Hunter Biden. As the Wall Street Journal Editorial Board put put it on March 18: “The Times waddled in this week with a story on the ‘tax affairs’ of the President’s son, including this gem in the 24th paragraph: ‘Those emails were obtained by The New York Times from a cache of files that appears to have come from a laptop abandoned by Mr. Biden in a Delaware repair shop. The email and others in the cache were authenticated by people familiar with them and with the investigation.” Notice that the admission occurred only in the 24th paragraph of that story. Talk about burying the lead. Apparently the Times figured that that confirmation just barely qualified as part of “all the news that’s fit to print.”

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 21, 2022 at 4:30 AM

Another native species flowering in Austin in January

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It’s not unusual to see the shrubby boneset plants (Ageratina havanensis) in northwest Austin flowering in January as a continuation of the bloom season that began in the fall. The bushes of that species along Floral Park Drive in my neighborhood were still putting out new buds and flowers on January 18th, as you see here.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 23, 2020 at 4:17 PM

Dark and light

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On June 12, 2018, at Garden in the Woods in Framingham, Massachusetts, I photographed the buds of black cohosh (Actaea racemosa). The only other place I’d ever seen black cohosh was in Arkansas in 2016.

The dense pentagonal flowers of mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia) remain a highlight of my visit to Garden in the Woods. They’re quite different from those of the similarly named but botanically unrelated Texas mountain laurel that you’ve seen in these pages several times.

© 2019 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 12, 2019 at 4:34 AM

Elderberry

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How about this young elderberry bush (Sambucus nigra subsp. canadensis) that I found flourishing at McKinney Falls State Park on June 3rd? Individual blossoms are tiny, measuring just 1/8–1/4 of an inch across (3–6mm). As attractive as elderberry flowers are, somehow they’ve never appeared in these pages till today. And look at what a wide North American distribution this shrub has.

© 2019 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 6, 2019 at 4:45 AM

Small rhododendron

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At Garden in the Woods in Framingham, Massachusetts, on June 12th, I saw budding and flowering specimens of the shrub known scientifically as Rhododendron minus and in common English as small rhododendron.

All parts of the plant are poisonous, so if you encounter it in person, look but don’t taste.

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 26, 2018 at 4:44 AM

Texas mountain laurel

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The Texas mountain laurels (Sophora secundiflora) have been fragrantly—and some would say flagrantly—flowering all around Austin.

I took pictures of this Texas mountain laurel on March 13th along Shoal Creek Blvd. in north-central Austin. One of the tree’s branches rose well above the others:

The next day I visited the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, where I got close and photographed a Texas mountain laurel flower opening:

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 16, 2018 at 4:55 AM

Do you see it?

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Here from my neighborhood on October 21st are some buds and flowers of Ageratina havanensis, known as shrubby boneset, white mistflower, and Havana snakeroot.

Did you notice the little visitor?

© 2017 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 25, 2017 at 4:43 AM

New Zealand: Koromiko flowering

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Another plant we saw at the Orokonui Ecosanctuary northeast of Dunedin on February 27th was this flowering koromiko bush (Veronica salicifolia, formerly Hebe salicifolia). A raised walkway let me look straight down onto the top of this attractive shrub. Thanks to Sue Hensley, head guide at the Orokonui Ecosanctuary, for identifying the species.

If you’d like a closer look at a flower spike from another Hebe species, you can check out a photograph from our first visit to New Zealand.

© 2017 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 16, 2017 at 4:47 AM

Half a year out of sync

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It had happened before. Still it startled me, as if an April Fool’s Day trick. The field guides say that Ageratina havanensis (a bush known as shrubby boneset, Havana snakeroot, white mistflower, white shrub mistflower, and just plain mistflower) blooms in the fall. Nevertheless, here it was putting out flowers in my neighborhood on April 1, half a year out of sync.

My encounter came late in the afternoon, with the sky heavily overcast and the wind blowing. Like it or not, that combination called for flash.

© 2017 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 3, 2017 at 5:02 AM

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New Zealand: kohurangi

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You can find old pictures of people with outstretched arms encircling the base of Tāne Mahuta but that’s no longer possible. Out of concern that the roots were getting trampled, the tree’s caretakers have planted vegetation around it to act as a shield (and also to restore native species to the area). Here in front of Tāne Mahuta you see the flowers of what the Māori call kohurangi and English speakers know as a tree daisy; botanists have yet another name, Brachyglottis kirkii.

© 2017 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 15, 2017 at 4:52 AM

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