Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘strange

Flourishing fasciation

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The heavily fasciated tall gayfeather (Liatris aspera) that we saw in Bastrop was only budding on August 23rd, so back we went on September 6th to find out what the flowers would look like once they emerged on this distorted plant. Even after two more weeks of development, the flowers were just barely beginning to come out, so I figured we might have to wait a week or two longer and make the 95-mile round trip yet again. Fortunately, as we began heading home we spotted another fasciated specimen about a mile away, and it was fully flowering. In the picture above, the flower stalk in the distance lets you compare a normal specimen to the fasciated one in the foreground. The picture below gives you a closer look at the heart of the strangeness.

For more information about fasciation, you can read this article or this other one. The phenomenon could even serve as a reminder of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s iconoclastic statement in “Self-Reliance“:

“Whoso would be a man, must be a nonconformist.”

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 19, 2020 at 4:41 AM

Carstopper

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While driving on Park Road 1C in Bastrop County on August 23rd I spied a plant standing right at the edge of the pavement that was so unusual it made me pull over as soon as I could. It turned out to be the same Liatris aspera, known as tall gayfeather and tall blazing-star, that you recently saw here (do have a look back at the second picture in that post for comparison), but fasciation had greatly distorted the upper part of this budding specimen. The closer view below, which shows the plant rotated about 90° from its orientation when I took the first picture, reveals details of the super-duper wide flattened stalk, along with other irregularities. Call it strange and you’ll get no argument from me.

I chose to post these pictures today to coincide with Wonderful Weirdos Day, even if the creators of that celebration, being people, had their own kind in mind. All I can say is fasciated plants are my kind of people.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 9, 2020 at 4:40 AM

One strange Mexican hat

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On July 20th near the Taylor Draper entrance to Great Hills Park I came across one strange dude of a Mexican hat (Ratibida columnifera). It had way more ray florets than a Mexican hat is supposed to have, and for once fasciation didn’t seem to account for it. Oh well, we take our weirdnesses wherever and however we find them.

I’m thankful to Dr. George Yatskievych at the University of Texas for providing an explanation: “Replacement of flowers is a bit different process [than fasciation].  Each meristematic cell on the receptacle produces a set of cells with the potentiality to become either a ray or disc floret.  Regulatory developmental genes in more than one gene family determine the outcome of the differentiation…. This accounts for ‘rayless’ mutants, as well as heads in which part of the disc has become replaced with rays.  This includes so-called ‘doubled’ heads in groups like zinnias and dahlias that have extra cycles of rays toward the periphery of the disc, as well as odder mutants with rays appearing in an atypical locations, such as the center of a disc.  In some cases, this switch to a different floral morphology is caused by something that disrupts normal development of the head (such as insects or micro-organisms), but in other cases there is a genetic mutation (in which case the plants will tend to pass the mutation to at least part of the next generation).  One of the more interesting mutations that I have seen pops up occasionally in Gaillardia, in which the marginal florets have corollas that are enlarged, but are still basically shaped like a disc floret at their tips. The bottom line is that there can be more than one cause, but it always comes down to the expression of regulatory genes during floral development.”

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 5, 2020 at 4:45 AM

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

Fasciated double Mexican hat

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My first instance of fasciation for 2020 came on May 16th along Lost Horizon Drive. Mexican hats (Ratibida columnifera) in my neighborhood were approaching their peak around then, so I made plenty of portraits, individually and in small groups. (That’s also where I photographed a beetle on a buffalo gourd flower.) On the way back to my car after working for a couple of hours I noticed the double Mexican hat shown here. The fact that the flower stem was a little flattened suggested that fasciation was at work. What I find unusual, even for that phenomenon, is that the flower head on the right was so much more developed than the one on the left. If you’d like to see other instances of fasciation, you can scroll through some.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 18, 2020 at 4:40 AM

Mexican hat on a strangely curving stalk

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From a “vacant” lot in northwest Austin on May 19th comes this Mexican hat (Ratibida columnifera) on a stalk that had curved so far it left the developing flower head upside down. The saturated reds and yellows of the greenthread (Thelesperma filifolium) and Indian blanket (Gaillardia pulchella) in the background make this picture as much about color as form.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 1, 2020 at 4:39 AM

More bending

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Following in the tradition of the right-angled rain-lily and the retro-tipped pink evening primrose bud you’ve recently seen in these pages, here’s a Mexican hat (Ratibida columnifera) with a bent central column that I found by the pond at the south end of the Arbor Walk on April 15th. The blue is water, not sky.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 27, 2020 at 4:40 AM

Sometimes a right angle is the right angle

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How about this curiously flexed rain-lily (Cooperia drummondii) that I found at the Doeskin Ranch on April 8th? And before anyone gets all bent out of shape by the flower in the picture not quite living up to the post’s title, yes, I realize that the angle here is a little less than 90°. I claim geometricopoetic license.

I also claim—and I think you’ll agree—that this is quite a different take on a rain-lily from the March 26th one that appeared here not so long ago.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 20, 2020 at 4:40 PM

What is it?

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Oh, do not ask, “What is it?”
Let us go and make our visit.

In spite of T.S. Eliot’s admonition, I will ask “What is it?” On January 18th I noticed this little thing, maybe an inch across, on a local Ashe juniper tree (Juniperus ashei) and I don’t know what it is. Could it be something as mundane as a narrow strip of fabric that the preceding rain turned into a sodden clump (though it didn’t seem to have the texture of anything woven)? Might it be a fungus? Do any of you have other suggestions?

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 13, 2020 at 4:35 AM

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The change from Tuesday morning to Wednesday morning

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From Monday’s weather forecast I learned that the overnight temperature into Tuesday morning would drop a few degrees below freezing. Sure enough, when I checked the thermometer early Tuesday morning it read 29°. Equally sure enough, that meant I had to dress warmly and go out into the cold for the season’s first possible pictures of frostweed ice. I drove the half-mile to my usual stand of plants (Verbesina virginica) in Great Hills Park and found—nada. Despite the freeze, not a single frostweed plant had produced ice.

On Wednesday morning the thermometer read 32° and I gave the project a second try. This time a couple of dozen frostweed plants had woken up and remembered what they’re supposed to do when the temperature drops to freezing, and they did it, as these two photographs confirm. The second image is more abstract, which I consider a good thing in my quest for different ways to photograph a familiar subject.

If the frostweed ice phenomenon is new to you, you’re welcome to look back at previous posts to learn more.

© 2019 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 14, 2019 at 4:41 AM

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