Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘Trans-Pecos

Ancient Egypt visits the Big Bend

with 33 comments

Sandstone Formation Looking Like a Sphinx 0518

Last week Steve Gingold commented that some rock formations in Study Butte reminded him of a Sphinx. That in turn reminded me that after I’d started the long trek home to Austin on November 23rd I stopped one last time in Big Bend National Park to do a little wandering and picture-taking. Among the things I photographed were the ocotillo you saw last time and this sandstone formation that looked to me like a Sphinx, although in this view it seemed to be having a bad hair day. The structure also looks to me now like the front end of a streamlined locomotive from the mid-20th century.

With those fanciful visions we bid adieu to the scenic Trans-Pecos desert of west Texas. Tomorrow I’ll begin to catch you up on some of the things that have been going on in nature close to home for the past month.

© 2016 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 3, 2016 at 4:52 AM

Ocotillo turning orange

with 21 comments

Ocotillo Turning Orange 0538

Many desert plants are opportunistic, and that includes ocotillo (Fouquieria splendens), which you’ve seen here in several recent posts. When there’s rain, which isn’t often, ocotillo quickly puts out leaves along its slender (but thorny) branches to do some fast photosynthesizing. Once the leaves’ work is done, they soon dry out in the way you see them orangefully* doing here in Big Bend National Park on November 23, 2015.


* I may be able to lay claim to this adverb. When I searched for orangefully on Google I got asked if I meant orangebelly, orange funny, orangeville, or orange lily. No, I didn’t mean any of those things; I meant orangefully, for which I got no hits. I did, however, separately get some hits for orangeful.

© 2016 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 2, 2016 at 4:53 AM

“Always deal with it up,” or “I will try to get the cling oof it!”—Quaint spam comes my way

with 58 comments

For four New Year’s Days in a row I posted a compilation of strange search engine terms that had brought people to my blog during the preceding year. WordPress’s reporting of search-engine terms has largely dried up, but there’s never an end to spam, so this year for your “edification” I’ll give you a sample of some of the strange spam I’ve received. The grammar, spelling, and punctuation are just as they appeared.

So as not to have a pictureless post, at the end I’ve added a landscape photograph from the Chisos Mountains in Big Bend National Park on November 22. No penalty for skipping down to the scenery and ignoring the babble.

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Chisos Mountains Scenery 0027

© 2016 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 1, 2016 at 5:15 AM

Day’s end, year’s end

with 51 comments

Ocotillo Silhouetted Against Sunset in Big Bend National Park 0190

Let’s end 2015 with a photograph taken as the last light of the day I spent in Big Bend National Park on November 22 silhouetted some stalks of ocotillo, Fouquieria splendens.

May the coming year find you in your prime, even if 2016 = 2 • 2 • 2 • 2 • 2 • 3 • 3 • 7 and is therefore far from prime.

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 31, 2015 at 5:16 AM

Broom snakeweed

with 23 comments

Broom Snakeweed 0123

On November 22nd I noticed this densely flowering plant in a wash* not far from Santa Elena Canyon in Big Bend National Park, so I pulled over at the first opportunity and walked back to take pictures. I sent one of them to Dr. Michael Powell at Sul Ross State University in Alpine, who suggested three species the plant might be. With those possibilities in mind, I looked closely at some of my other photographs and concluded this was probably broom snakeweed, Gutierrezia sarothrae. Later, while preparing today’s post, I realized that I’d seen broom snakeweed in New Mexico last fall. This is clearly a plant that thrives in arid places.


* In the western United States, a wash is the dry bed of a creek or stream.

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 30, 2015 at 4:38 AM

Study Butte

with 34 comments

Terlingua Formations 9769

There’s a little settlement just west of Big Bend National Park called Study Butte, whose first word is pronounced as if it were Stoody. On November 22nd I took this view of the geological formations there, whose strata now remind me a little of the Pancake Rocks in New Zealand.

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 29, 2015 at 5:21 AM

Hot off the presses, so to speak, genetically speaking

with 21 comments

Skeletonleaf Goldeneye Flowering by Ocotillo 0014

The plant shown prettily flowering away here in Big Bend National Park on November 22, skeletonleaf goldeneye, used to be classified as Viguiera stenoloba, making it a genus-mate of the sunflower goldeneye, Viguiera dentata, that you saw recently. However, Prof. Michael Powell of Sul Ross State University in Alpine, who identified this flowering bush for me, pointed out that molecular research has recently caused botanists to reclassify skeletonleaf goldeneye as Stanleya tenuifolia. According to a 2011 article, all that seems to remain in the genus Viguiera is V. dentata, while four newly described genera—Dendroviguiera, Gonzalezia, Heiseria, and Sidneya—have been created to hold the other species formerly included in Viguiera. Welcome to a new world of botany in which the common name for a species is sometimes more stable than the scientific name.

The scraggly plants behind the skeletonleaf goldeneye are ocotillo, Fouquieria spelendens.

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 28, 2015 at 4:43 AM

Look the other way

with 25 comments

Mountain Across from Cerro Castellan 0086

“To look the other way” often means ‘to purposely not pay attention to something,’ but when I stopped to photograph Cerro Castellan in Big Bend National Park on November 22, as you saw last time, I looked the other way and was rewarded with this view across the road. In a few other photographs I took of this formation I zoomed in closer, but here I wanted the mountains farther away at the lower right to serve as a counterbalance.

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 27, 2015 at 5:08 AM

Cerro Castellan

with 9 comments

Cerro Castellan and Prickly Pear 0091

One natural landmark in Big Bend National Park is Cerro Castellan, which you can read about in The Handbook of Texas Online. You can also gaze upon it in this picture from November 22. The cactus in the foreground looks like it could be Opuntia rufida, known as blind prickly pear, which mostly lacks the long spines common to almost all of its genus-mates.

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 26, 2015 at 4:46 AM

A different red and green

with 35 comments

Guayacan with Fruit 0038

Many of you may be seeing or thinking about the red and green of holly today, but here’s a different bearer of those colors, a diminutive evergreen tree called guayacán, Guaiacum angustifolium. I’d seen the species on previous visits to arid west Texas but never at a time of year when it had bright red seeds on it the way it did in Big Bend National Park on November 22.

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 25, 2015 at 5:00 AM

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