Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘vine

Hardly the only grabber

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Yesterday’s post showed how mustang grape vines (Vitis mustangensis) are great grabbers of other plants. So are Texas bindweeds, Convolvulus equitans, one of which you see here had twined its way around a fiewheel, Gaillardia pulchella, on the same roadside strip along FM 2222 as the mustang grape on May 10th. Curiously, most of the Texas bindweed flowers there had their petals bent back in an atypical way, as shown below.

  

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It would be funny, if it weren’t so sad, to see how many Americans of high school and college age know so little about so many basic things. Here’s a 4-minute video full of examples. And here’s a 5-minute one. Some of the questions that stumped people were: “What’s Obama’s last name?” “How much is 3 x 3 x 3?” “How many eggs are in a dozen?” “What’s the capital of the United States?” “What does Y-E-S spell?” Even worse than not knowing, some of the people gave crazy answers, like the United States gained its independence from Korea. Or take the question: “If you drive 60 miles an hour for one hour, how far do you travel?” One person said, I don’t know, I’m not good at math,” and her friend answered “Two hours” (presumably because the question contained the word “hour” two times).

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 23, 2022 at 4:36 AM

Grabbing grape

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The most common native grapevine in Austin is the mustang grape, Vitis mustangensis. Last year I showed how a prolific one on the side of FM (Farm-to-Market) 2222 just west of the Capital of Texas Highway covered a tree. On May 10th of this year I went back to the same highwayside and focused on young mustang grape tendrils. In the top picture you see how some had latched on to a couple of Mexican hats, Ratibida columnifera. Even when nothing external is available, mustang grape tendrils can live out their innate impulse by curling around themselves, as seen below.

 

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The fight against mis- and dis-information—a worthy goal—is often based on two flawed assumptions. The first is that definitive answers are known to the disputed points. The second, related to the first, is that the right people to provide those answers can be identified and agreed upon. Both assumptions are themselves often steeped in the Certainty Trap—a resolute unwillingness to recognize the possibility that we might not be right in our beliefs and claims.

To understand the implications of the mis- and dis-information labeling, we need only consider instances like the initial response to claims around Hunter Biden’s laptop or the source of COVID-19. In 2020, several major media outlets dismissed as mis- or dis-information (see here and here for examples) the possibility that a laptop of incriminating emails belonged to Hunter Biden. The certainty with which this position was held led to the silencing of anyone who publicly questioned it—so much so that it has been called “the most severe case of pre-election censorship in modern American political history.” Recent evidence, however, has forced the same outlets who invoked those labels to acknowledge the laptop’s authenticity. Similarly, in early 2020, the suggestion that COVID-19 might have originated in a lab in China was dismissed as groundless fodder for racism and xenophobia. The certainty that led to this reflexive dismissal was walked back just over a year later, but the judgment of the once dissenting voices shouldn’t be forgotten.

 

That’s a passage from a May 9th article in Tablet titled “The Certainty Trap,” by Ilana Redstone, which you’re welcome to read. On March 21st Tablet had run the related article “Invasion of the Fact-Checkers,” by Jacob Siegel, which I also invite you to read. Its title reminds me of a line from the Latin poet Juvenal’s Satires: “Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?” “Who will watch those watchers?” Now we’re forced to ask who’s going to fact-check the fact-checkers.

 

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 22, 2022 at 4:31 AM

Leaf and tendril

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The prostrate vine that botanists call Cucurbita foetidissima has as probably its two most common common names buffalo gourd and stinking gourd, with the latter referring to the plant’s unpleasant (to people) smell. Odor aside, the fuzzy young leaves and tendrils offer themselves up for photographic abstractions like this one from April 16th along the northernmost stretch of Spicewood Springs Rd. across from the library.

 

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“If freedom of speech is taken away, then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.”

That sentence appears online in various places as a quotation from George Washington. The sentiment is indeed his, but the wording isn’t exact. I found out that Washington addressed the Continental Congress on March 11, 1783, at which time he referred to a certain anonymous document and criticized it:

With respect to the advice given by the author, to suspect the man who shall recommend moderate measures and longer forbearance, I spurn it, as every man who regards that liberty and reveres that justice for which we contend, undoubtedly must; for, if men are to be precluded from offering their sentiments on a matter which may involve the most serious and alarming consequences that can invite the consideration of mankind, reason is of no use to us. The freedom of speech may be taken away, and, dumb and silent, we may be led, like sheep, to the slaughter.

 

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 7, 2022 at 4:33 AM

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A metallic charm

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The young leaf of a greenbrier vine (Smilax bona-nox) in Great Hills Park on April 15th came out looking like a metallic charm when I photographed it using flash and a tiny aperture of f/25. I took pictures of a different young leaf on the vine using natural light and a broad aperture of f/3.2 for a dreamy look with little in focus. Compare and contrast, say teachers.

 

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“Anyone can do evil acts, regardless of their color.” That’s a line from a video in which Ndona Muboyayi talks about how her children’s schoolteachers were promoting the notions of “white supremacy” and “white privilege” while conveniently not mentioning that in the Rwandan genocide all the victims and all the murderers were black. You’re welcome to watch the 6-minute video, which includes Ndona Muboyayi’s belief that “The envelope doesn’t mean anything, ’cause eventually it’s going to go away. It’s what’s inside that matters, and that’s what we need to teach children.”

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 3, 2022 at 4:32 AM

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Virginia creeper and Victorian verse

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The Victorian British poet Arthur Hugh Clough is probably best remembered now for his inspirational 1849 poem that begins: “Say not the struggle nought availeth.” That thought came to mind on April 20th after I looked out at the deck behind our house and saw that some Virginia creeper vines (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) had climbed the wooden railing. In particular, I noticed some of the vines’ tendrils were questing upward into empty air, where they stood no chance of finding anything to latch on to. Of course the tendrils didn’t know that; all they “knew” was to quest and climb. That reality also reminded me of a line from the 1855 dramatic monologue “Andrea del Sarto,” by British poet Robert Browning. In that poem he had the Italian painter named in the title say: “A man’s reach should exceed his grasp / or what’s a heaven for?”

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 30, 2022 at 4:27 AM

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Two kinds of curls

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In Robert Kamper’s side yard in Round Rock on April 11th two kinds of curls made themselves known to me. The more obvious even had the word in their common name: blue curls (Phacelia congesta). The other curls—smaller, much more tightly wound, and harder to see—were tendrils of a Passiflora species, either incarnata or lutea; further development will reveal which one.

 

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The most obvious and unarguable source of black innocence is the victimization that blacks endured for centuries at the hands of a race that insisted on black inferiority as a means to its own innocence and power. Like all victims, what blacks lost in power they gained in innocence—innocence that, in turn, entitled them to pursue power. This was the innocence that fueled the civil rights movement of the ’60s, and that gave blacks their first real power in American life—victimization metamorphosed into power via innocence. But this formula carries a drawback that I believe is virtually as devastating to blacks today as victimization once was. It is a formula that binds the victim to his victimization by linking his power to his status as a victim. And this, I’m convinced, is the tragedy of black power in America today. It is primarily a victim’s power, grounded too deeply in the entitlement derived from past injustice and in the innocence that Western/Christian tradition has always associated with poverty.

Whatever gains this power brings in the short run through political action, it undermines in the long run. Social victims may be collectively entitled, but they are all too often individually demoralized. Since the social victim has been oppressed by society, he comes to feel that his individual life will be improved more by changes in society than by his own initiative. Without realizing it, he makes society rather than himself the agent of change. The power he finds in his victimization may lead him to collective action against society, but it also encourages passivity within the sphere of his personal life.

That passage is as pertinent today as when Shelby Steele wrote it in 1988—actually even more pertinent because it’s 34 years later and many people still haven’t gotten his message. You’re welcome to read the full Harper’s article, “I’m Black, You’re White, Who’s Innocent? Race and power in an era of blame.”

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 20, 2022 at 4:27 AM

Zilker Nature Preserve

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In the Zilker Nature Preserve on January 13th I spotted the pod of a milkweed vine releasing its seeds. While no leaves remained to suggest what species it was, the most common vine in that family here is pearl milkweed, Matelea reticulata, so that’ll have to do as a tentative identification. Regardless of species, milkweed pods produce a chaos of silk and seeds that a nature photographer who prizes abstraction welcomes. Later we re-crossed the dry bed of Eanes Creek. The picture below shows the lower strata in a hundred-foot tall cliff carved over aeons by rushing water.

 

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True virtue is life under the direction of reason.

[M]en who are governed by reason—who seek what is useful to them in accordance with reason—desire for themselves nothing that they do not also desire for the rest of humanity, and consequently are just, faithful, and honorable in their conduct.

The most tyrannical governments are those which make crimes of opinions, for everyone has an inalienable right to his thoughts.

Freedom is absolutely necessary for progress in science and the liberal arts.

Baruch Spinoza (1632–1677); Ethics, 1677.

  

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

  

  

  

  

  

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 24, 2022 at 4:33 AM

After Lost Maples

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You’ve heard that on November 10th we spent a couple of hours at Lost Maples, disappointed that the fall foliage this year fell far short of what we’d seen there in 2014. Our route home took us along TX 39 by the Guadalupe River, which also proved not as fall-ful as in 2014. Finally, coming northeast from Kerrville along TX 16, Eve spotted something off to the side that I as the driver with my eyes glued to the road in front of me had missed: three strands of brightly reddened Virginia creeper vines (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) climbing diagonal branches of a live oak tree. I made a U-turn and went back to do my photographic thing. Later I thought about wordplayfully labeling the view “Red-olent of fall.”


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UPDATE. After yesterday’s commentary appeared, I was made aware of a Newsweek opinion piece entitled “I’m a Black Ex-Felon. I’m Glad Kyle Rittenhouse Is Free.”


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It’s not unusual on intelligence tests to see a question like this: What’s the next number in the sequence 2, 4, 6, …? All such questions are inherently invalid because they incorrectly assume there’s only one right next number or even one “most likely” next number. A better question would be: Give a possible next number in the sequence and a reason to justify it. For instance, if you say the next number is 8, a reason would be that you’re continuing with the consecutive even integers. If you say the next number is 9, you could be following the rule that each new number has to be larger than the one before it. If you say the next number is 6, you could be following the rule that each new number has to be at least as large as the one before it. If you say the next number is 1, a reason could be that every number in the sequence has to be a positive integer. If you say the next number is 50, a reason could be that the English-language word for every number in the sequence has to begin with a consonant. If you say the next number is 7, you could be alternating between numerals that have a curve in them and numerals that are written entirely with straight strokes.

One* lesson to take from this is that many possible explanations exist for an occurrence. If it’s important to know how or why something happened—as for example in a legal trial—then we have to investigate and try to find the actual explanation for the occurrence. Jumping to a conclusion without enough evidence can and does lead to mistakes and to injustices.

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* I started to write “The lesson to take from this” but I realized I’d be making the very mistake I’m cautioning against because more than one lesson could be drawn from this discussion. One obvious point is the one I suggested at the outset: people who design tests should stop asking what the next number in a sequence is. Another lesson I could go on to elaborate—and used to when I taught high school math but will spare you the details of here—is that if you tell me what you want the fourth number to be, within a few minutes I can come up with an algebraic formula such that when you put 1 into the formula it produces the value 2; when you put 2 into the formula it produces the value 4; when you put 3 into the formula it produces the value 6; and when you put 4 into the formula it produces the value you wanted for the fourth number. In fact I can come up with as many formulas as I like that will produce the same four values—a reality that reconfirms the important idea that there can be more than one explanation for something.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 24, 2021 at 4:22 AM

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Pearl milkweed vine, old and young

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A common vine in my northwest Austin neighborhood is Matelea reticulata, known as pearl milkweed for the lustrous protuberance at the center of each small flower. The top picture shows the remains of a pod, and the bottom one a new tendril and leaves. Both minimalist views are from Morado Circle on October 23rd.


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“Stand your ground, but also stand corrected. Check your facts, not your privilege. Stay civil and speak up. You will be surprised by your power.” — Jonathan Rauch, The Constitution of Knowledge (2021). Those exhortations make cogent aphorisms, don’t you think?

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 15, 2021 at 4:24 AM

Two sources of fall color together

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Leaves of the mustang grape vine (Vitis mustangensis) tend to turn yellow or even orange, as you see here from FM 2222 just west of Loop 360 a year ago today. That the mustang grape above chose to change colors on one of our most red-turning species, prairie flameleaf sumac (Rhus lanceolata), was a happy coincidence for this photographer. The second picture, taken near by, shows that mustang grape vines can climb high enough to cover a tree.

Individual mustang grape leaves sometimes turn yellow at other times of the year, as the one below
did on August 25, 2020; backlighting enhanced the colors and brought out details in the venation.


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“You need to understand history because history is all about you.” That was one memorable comment by Jordan Peterson in a nearly two-hour discussion with Heather MacDonald, hosted by Stephen Blackwood, that took place in February 2020 on the topic of higher education, and specifically about what the ‘higher’ of ‘higher education’ means.

If you have the time, I recommend that passionate conversation, which takes place at a high plane yet remains comprehensible and rewarding. (Jordan Peterson’s first answer is long, from about 5:00 to about 17:00 in the video, so if your time is limited you may want to skip that section.)

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 8, 2021 at 3:28 AM

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