Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘Travis County

Maybe autumn’s big five

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I recently referred to the “big four” native plants that are prominent in central Texas in the fall. The number is arbitrary, and even when I said four I was thinking that I could well add asters as a fifth. With that in mind, here’s a picture of one of our native asters, Symphyotrichum subulatum, known colloquially as eastern annual saltmarsh aster, baby’s breath aster, slender aster, annual aster, and blackland aster. Some in Texas call it hierba del marrano (hierba is pronounced the same as its alternate spelling yerba); translated loosely, the Spanish name means pigweed, but I think most people find the flowers as attractive as pigs are alleged to do. Notice the endearing way the tips of the ray florets curl under.

The picture above comes from October 4th at Cypress Creek Park (where I photographed a snail on a valley redstem and also a late-season bluebell flower). Fortunately the aster was growing close to another plant (I’m not sure what it was) whose leaves had turned pleasantly red and yellow, and those colors made a good out-of-focus background to set off the aster. And from August 13th on the Blackland Prairie, here’s a view showing one of these flower heads from below:

The ancient Greek word astēr had the same meaning as its native English cognate star. The Greeks extended the word to designate a daisy-like flower that they saw as a stylized star, and we’ve continued the tradition. Greek asteroeidēs, which meant ‘resembling a star,’ has become our asteroid. Similarly, we call the typographical character * an asterisk, literally ‘a little star.’ And “there you are, little star.”

And if it’s a famous quotation you’re after, try Ralph Waldo Emerson’s exhortation to “Hitch your wagon to a star.” Or, with a floral reference, take these lines from Longfellow’s Evangeline:

“Silently, one by one, in the infinite meadows of heaven,
Blossomed the lovely stars, the forget-me-nots of the angels.”

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 16, 2020 at 4:37 AM

The often seen and the seldom seen

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In several posts this year you’ve seen little snails that have climbed onto plants in central Texas. The plant that this snail found its way onto is one I’ve encountered only a couple of times in my two decades of nature photography. I couldn’t even remember its name, and had to go searching. Botanists call it Ammannia coccinea, whose species name is Latin for ‘scarlet.’ Colloquially descriptive names are scarlet tooth-cup and valley redstem. I found this specimen not in a valley but at Cypress Creek Park out by Lake Travis on October 4th. Turns out the species has a pretty wide distribution across a large part of the country.

And speaking of things seldom seen, I don’t believe I’ve ever come across a bluebell (Eustoma sp.) as late in the season as October 4th, but that’s what happened when I was calling it a day after photographing the little snail and already heading back toward my car. This was the one and only bluebell I saw there.

 © 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 11, 2020 at 4:35 AM

Mesquite pod and dry leaflets by pond

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While I was avoiding hikers near the boardwalk pond in River Place on August 10th, I made some portraits of honey mesquite pods (Prosopis glandulosa). The dark-looking water and otherwise black background in today’s photograph might make you think I used flash. I didn’t. The sunlit pod was bright enough to make the background dark by comparison, and in my processing of the image I played up that difference. (If clicking the photograph in your browser brings up a black page around the image, as Chrome does, so much the better; the picture, in particular the blue-indigo of the water, looks more vivid that way.)

While we’re on the subject of mesquite, you may remember I photographed what I called a zebra mesquite thorn back in June. I’m sorry to say that within weeks of my taking that picture the site was razed for construction. That’s at least the fourth loss in 2020 of a place where I’d taken nature photographs.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 30, 2020 at 4:40 AM

Powdery alligator flag

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On August 10th I drove out to the boardwalk pond in River Place for the first time this year. With many people still not going to work, the nature trail that wraps around two sides of the pond before following a creek through the woods turned out to be too well traveled for me to take it, as I’d planned. Instead I kept to myself on a non-trail side of the pond and still found plenty to keep me photographically busy.

What I thought were giant bulrushes seem actually to have been powdery alligator flags (Thalia dealbata), a fact I’m grateful to Linda at Lagniappe for pointing out. Here are views of a looser and a denser inflorescence. Along with the purple, who would expect those touches of bright red on the sheath that once enclosed the would-be flowers?

Here’s an unrelated quotation for today: “Le coeur a ses raisons que la raison ne connaît point,” “The heart has its reasons that reason knows nothing about.” — Blaise Pascal, Pensées (Thoughts), 1670.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 14, 2020 at 4:35 AM

A good sunflower colony

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Click to enlarge.

A recent post focused on two sunflowers in a large colony. Now here’s a panorama showing how wild sunflowers (Helianthus annuus) can take over a field. I found this bright yellow colony on the Blackland Prairie along Gregg-Manor Rd. east of TX 130 on June 10th. Texas knows how to do wildflowers, yes indeed.

I’m tempted to say the way I cropped this photograph shows the influence of my Indian friend Pano Rama, but I would never say such a thing.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 15, 2020 at 7:45 AM

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