Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘unusual

Goldenrod flowering in March

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When I saw a bit of goldenrod flowering in Austin on February 27th I was surprised, and when I found some more in the Southwest Greenway at the old Mueller Airport on March 14th I was surprised again. That’s because normally the earliest we’d expect any Solidago species to flower here is late summer, with the peak coming in the fall. Coincidentally, when I saw the goldenrod flowering in February it was on the same outing that brought you the way-out-of-season Maximilian sunflowers that appeared here earlier this month.

© 2019 Steven Schwartzman

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Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 26, 2019 at 4:37 AM

What is that?

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That’s what we wondered at the Doeskin Ranch on November 24th after Eve spotted this strange thing and waited for me to catch up from my picture-taking so she could point it out. I’d read about insects that cover themselves with objects to act as camouflage, and that’s what appeared to have happened here. To learn the specifics, I turned to local expert Val Bugh, who identified this as “a bagworm moth case (Psychidae). Our big species here is Oiketicus abbotii (if I’m correct in estimating your example is about 2 inches long [she was correct] — the small species are less than half as big). This bag is empty and the exuviae is sticking out the bottom, indicating a male eclosed and flew off. The females never leave their sac.”

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 29, 2018 at 4:39 AM

An unusually open Turk’s cap

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We have Turk’s cap (Malvaviscus arboreus var. arboreus) growing in several places in our yard. On September 30th Eve looked out a back window and saw a flower that she first thought wasn’t a Turk’s cap but that turned out to be one when she went out to investigate. Turk’s cap flowers normally stay closed like a pinwheel, so why this one had come apart so much remains a mystery.

To make this picture I used my ring flash so I could stop down to f/18 and get all the nearer parts of the flower in focus. Another consequence of flash with such a small aperture is that the background went black.

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 15, 2018 at 4:48 AM

Fasciation comes to a black-eyed susan

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Near the end of my visit to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center on September 26th I photographed some seed head remains of black-eyed susans, Rudbeckia hirta. Here’s one of them, in which you can confirm the usual thimble shape:

Then I spotted an obviously fasciated specimen, with a flattened stem and a bunch of seed heads glommed together into an irregular bundle:

Click the “fasciation” tag below if you’d like to learn more about the phenomenon and see other examples I’ve shown over the years.

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 13, 2018 at 4:50 AM

When five is four

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Five is the normal number of petals for the flowers of Solanum elaeagnifolium, known as silverleaf nightshade. Five is what every field guide I’ve looked at says. Five is how many petals I’ve always seen in the two decades I’ve known this common Texas wildflower.

Nevertheless, on September 2 at a property along Lost Horizon Dr. that’s getting houses built on portions of it, I found a silverleaf nightshade flower with just four petals. Because of the way adjacent petals in this kind of flower are fused at their edges, it doesn’t seem possible that the specimen started out with five petals and then lost one. Below is a slightly downward view from the other side of the flower that once again clearly shows four 90° angles rather than the expected five 72° angles.

For comparison, here’s the back of a regular silverleaf nightshade flower at the same location.

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 5, 2018 at 4:28 AM

The Bay of Fundy

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The Bay of Fundy, which lies between New Brunswick and western Nova Scotia, is famous for having the world’s greatest difference in sea level between low tide and high tide, as much as 50 ft. With such rapid rising and falling every day, the water can get pretty muddy. That’s apparent in the first photograph, a view looking out from Hopewell Rocks, New Brunswick, a few minutes before noon on June 7. By then the fog over the land across an arm of the Bay was rapidly lifting; soon the clouds had dissipated.

The next morning, in Saint John, New Brunswick, we witnessed a strange phenomenon. People describe rivers as flowing downstream, with the down meaning literally from a higher elevation to a lower one, due to gravity. The Saint John River also flows from greater elevation to lower elevation, but as high tide approaches, the water surging in from the Bay of Fundy rises so much that the river reverses and the water temporarily flows in the direction we would normally call upstream. That’s what you see in the second photograph, where the river was flowing from the left, which is conventionally downstream, to the right, which is conventionally upstream.

Here’s a plaque that tells more about the strange and occasionally deadly phenomenon:

On a lighter note, I can’t resist saying that, photographically speaking, the Bay of Fundy makes for a bay of fun day.

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 2, 2018 at 4:33 AM

A double-headed Mexican hat

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I’d been keeping my eye on a stretch of median in Morado Circle in the Great Hills neighborhood of Austin where I live. At some point the median had been mowed, but now in the spring the vegetation was reasserting itself. A week ago I noticed some Mexican hat plants (Ratibida columnifera) coming up, and when I drove by on March 26th I saw that several were already flowering. The next day I went and sat myself down with them. The flower head shown here caught my attention and I took some pictures of it. Only when I went to look from the opposite side did I discover another central column jutting out at roughly a right angle to the one shown here. In other words, this was an unusual flower head, a twin. While I was still there I didn’t get the impression of fasciation, but in this photograph the stem does seem a little wide and flattened, so perhaps fasciation explains the doubling-up after all.

The two adjacent sets of ray flowers formed a broad collar that isolated one central column from the other. I looked from various angles but couldn’t find a good way to photograph the two columns together. In the end, just for the sake of documentation, I took the picture below.

© 2017 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 29, 2017 at 4:13 AM

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