Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘vine

Maximilian sunflower plants subdued

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As much as we love to see the bright yellow of Maximilian sunflowers (Helianthus maximiliani) in the fall, something else loves those plants, too, although not in a benign way. That something is dodder (Cuscuta sp.), a parasitic vine whose densely twining yellow-orange strands people have often likened to a tangle of angel hair pasta (also known as capellini), which is the slenderest type. The second photograph shows you that this vine’s tiny white flowers sometimes rival the strands’ density.

I took these pictures and hundreds more at the Wildhorse Ranch subdivision in Manor on October 4th.


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I recommend Bari Weiss’s latest essay, “Some Thoughts About Courage.”
It includes links to plenty of other worthy articles.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 22, 2021 at 4:35 AM

Climbing hempvine on cattails

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At the Riata Trace Pond on September 15th I found that several climbing hempvines (Mikania scandens) had indeed twined their way up on the dry leaves of some cattails (Typha domingensis). Below you get a closer look at a flower globe produced by one of the vines. It’s not a coincidence that those flowers somewhat resemble the ones you recently saw on a boneset plant in my yard: both species belong to the Eupatoriae tribe within the very large sunflower family.


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Lie of the Day

Government officials lie so routinely and so blatantly that I can’t claim I need to do diligent research to uncover their lies, any more than I’d deserve credit for noticing that the sky is blue and the sun yellow. Even so, I figured I’d post this lie of the day because it’s a follow-up to my September 18th commentary about the chaos, degradation, and lawlessness at the Texas border in Del Rio.

While watching television news on Tuesday I saw a video clip of Department of Homeland Security chief Alejandro Mayorkas declaiming categorically: “If you come to the United States illegally, you will be returned, your journey will not succeed, and you will be endangering your life and your family’s life.” As he said that, the government was busy processing and releasing into the United States thousands of Haitians who had walked across the Rio Grande River illegally a few days earlier. The current administration is letting those illegal immigrants go into the interior of our country by bus and airplane. They’re not being systematically tested for COVID-10 or being required to get vaccinated.

The next day I saw an interview with Brandon Judd, president of the National Border Patrol Council, who said that in the past eight months the number of people who’d illegally come into the country yet were allowed to stay here anyhow was well over half a million.

Have you ever noticed that the sky is blue and the sun is yellow?

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 23, 2021 at 4:32 AM

Prairie parsley seeds by purple bindweed flowers

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From August 22nd in the northeast quadrant of Mopac and US 183 comes a portrait of prairie parsley seeds (Polytaenia sp.) in front of several purple bindweed flowers (Ipomoea cordatotriloba). I don’t remember taking a picture like this one before, so here’s to novelty. Pitchforks, anyone?


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Another Recent Case of Media Censorship
(I could probably post a new example every day.)

Facebook Suspends Instagram Account of Gold Star Mother Who Criticized Biden.

Facebook’s later admission that the account was “incorrectly deleted” is technically true but doesn’t
change the fact that once again an employee or a politically biased algorithm did delete an account.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 2, 2021 at 4:35 AM

Another colony

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It wasn’t only a colony of partridge pea plants I found along Wells Branch Parkway at Strathaven Pass on August 13th. The first colony I found there that morning was purple bindweed, Ipomoea cordatotriloba. In today’s pictures you see them happily flowering away in the summer heat as they twined and vined themselves over other plants, including some common sunflowers, Helianthus annuus. In the first shot, which is an overview looking somewhat downward, it’s hard to appreciate the rings and arcs that the vines formed on the sunflowers. The closer picture that follows, which I took from near the ground looking upward, reveals those rings and arcs.


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Hypocrisy of the Day

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) maintains an online map showing the current status of Covid-19 infections for every county in the United States. Almost all counties are currently colored red, indicating the highest rate of infection. The CDC recommends that in those counties even fully vaccinated people should wear masks in indoor gatherings, as well as outdoors in crowds where social distancing can’t be maintained. For the past year and a half, Democrats have strongly urged Americans to follow the CDC’s guidelines and have villanized people who question those guidelines.

This past weekend in California’s Napa Valley, which is marked red on the CDC map, Nancy Pelosi hosted a fundraiser for the Democratic Party. The event was held outdoors, but a video taken there has revealed that the attendees were packed together side by side down both sides of several long tables. Not one attendee was seen to be wearing a mask. The only masks in evidence were on the faces of the waitstaff. It’s also true that Democrats have touted their advocacy for “diversity,” yet most of the attendees appear to have been old white folks. There were more non-whites among the small group of servers than among the large group of attendees.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 24, 2021 at 4:31 AM

Walking on feathery “ground”

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This spring I reported that the great piece of prairie on the west side of Heatherwilde Blvd. slightly north of Wells Branch Parkway in Pflugerville had become a construction zone. I held out hope that the southern end of that site, separated from the main part by some woods, might survive for another spring. Alas, when I visited on August 13th I found early signs of construction on that parcel, too, though most of it was still intact. At one point I took some pictures of a Clematis drummondii vine that had reached its fluffy stage. I was about to leave when a bit of movement on the feathery strands caught my attention. It was the walking stick you see in today’s portrait. A couple of days later on the Internet I saw a similar-looking walking stick in Austin identified as Pseudosermyle strigata, so maybe that’s what this one was.


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Here’s a good quotation for the censorious times we’re living through (and hopefully will come out the other side of): “I would rather have questions that can’t be answered than answers that can’t be questioned.” It’s not clear who first said that. Many websites attribute it to physicist Richard Feynman, but always without any further details, like when or where he supposedly said it. That lack of specificity usually means a quotation has been misattributed. I found comments about the origin of this quotation in a discussion group on the history of science and math. One related thing Feynman did say—and you can watch a video of him saying it—is: “I think it’s much more interesting to live not knowing than to have answers which might be wrong.”

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 23, 2021 at 4:53 AM

“Clouds” of Clematis

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Look at the great fluffy mounds of Clematis drummondii I found at the southeast corner of FM 1325 and Shoreline Dr. in far north Austin on July 31st. This is a later and more feathery stage than what you saw in a July 28th post, which was later than the flowering stage shown the day before.


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Yesterday was a shameful day for the United States government. Through the gross negligence of pulling too many American soldiers out of Afghanistan too quickly, it allowed the situation there to collapse. For days we’d been hearing that the American government was processing papers for thousands of Afghanis who’d served as translators or done other work, so that they could move to safety in the United States. Why the sudden nitpicking over paperwork, when in the single month of July the American government allowed some 212,000 people to illegally come across the southern border as “undocumented immigrants.” All the government had to do in Afghanistan was start a round-the-clock airlift, get as many of those Afghanis out as quickly as possible, and deal with the paperwork later. Any Afghanis who helped the United States that get left behind can expect the Taliban to behead them. Nice going, current American administration.

And it’s a shameful day, week, month, year, decade for the United Nations for not intervening to put a stop once and for all to the barbaric medieval fanaticism of the Taliban. With that group back in control, any gains that Afghani women made in the past 20 years are immediately wiped out. Word has already gone out that all women must wear burqas. Afghani girls, say goodbye to school; the Taliban thinks your purpose is to grow up and breed, so why do you need an education? Nice going, United Nations.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 16, 2021 at 12:37 AM

Posted in nature photography

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Portraits from our yard: episode 7

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Ashe juniper trees (Juniperus ashei) grow on all four sides of our house. What appealed to me about the one in our back yard shown above on July 22nd was the way two Virginia creeper vines (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) have flanked the trunk this year. That let me make a vertical “sandwich” of green-brown-green that thoroughly filled the frame. On the technical side, let me add that I took the picture from a distance and used my macro lens as a regular 100mm lens for a change. Below is an Ashe juniper in our front yard whose corrugated trunk always gets my attention. It, too, nicely fills a frame, with the corrugations offering countervailing horizontal elements to the predominant verticality of the image.


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And speaking of verticality, we hear a lot from activists about “white privilege,” but those ideologues are whitewashing the real problem: it’s not white privilege but height privilege. Tall people can reach things from high shelves without needing a stepladder. Tall people can see over the heads of others in crowds and theaters and stadiums. Tall people get to be on basketball teams. Getting the short end of the stick are non-tall men. According to an article on more.com,”a study… published in the Journal of Applied Psychology revealed that in the U.S., a six-foot-tall man makes an average of $790 more per year than his shorter peers do.” Women on average have a preference for taller men. Psychology Today reported on a study showing that “Men were most satisfied with women slightly shorter than them (about 3 in.), but women were most satisfied when they were much shorter than their male partners (about 8 in.)” On and on it goes, and it’s a real downer.

As an American man only 5’5″ tall, I get short shrift every minute of my life from a society poisoned by systemic heightism and toxic tallicity. According to an online height percentile calculator, I’m in the 8th percentile of American men, so I should have to pay only 8% of all the taxes I’m subject to. It’s also clear that reparations are owed me. I don’t want to seem vengeful, so it could be something as modest as $1,000,000 for each year I’ve endured the degradation of being short. More generally, every public institution should have a safe space with a low entrance and a low ceiling where no tall people are allowed to enter. A “bigger warning” should be posted everywhere I’m likely to encounter tall people. Whenever I’m waiting in line, all taller people ahead of me should have to relinquish their places and go to the end of the line (Get thee behind me, Satan!). Tall people who sell short on the stock market are committing altitudinal appropriation; only short people should be allowed to sell stock that way. People who use the s-word in saying horrific things like “I’m short on cash” or “When I was asked for an answer I came up short” or “I suffer from shortness of breath” should immediately lose their jobs, be banned from all social media, and have to abase themselves by undergoing height-sensitivity training on their hands and knees. It’s high time society stops selling short people short!

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 7, 2021 at 4:37 AM

The silky strands are better known than the flowers

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When it comes to the Clematis drummondii vine, the swirls of silky strands that spring from its fertilized flowers garner much more attention than the flowers themselves. I sure paid plenty of attention to the lustrous strands I found in the northwest quadrant of Howard Lane and Heatherwilde Blvd. on July 17th. Click to enlarge.


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In a survey by the Cato Institute a year ago, about 62% of respondents confirmed that “the political climate these days prevents them from saying things they believe because others might find them offensive. The share of Americans who self‐​censor has risen several points since 2017 when 58% of Americans agreed with this statement.” While the latest survey included respondents across the political spectrum, conservatives were half again as likely (77%) to feel intimidated as people on the political left (52%). Given all the turbulence over the 12 months since last year’s survey, I imagine the numbers would be even higher today. It’s a shame that in a supposedly free country any people should have to worry about speaking their mind.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 28, 2021 at 4:37 AM

Our Clematis was still there

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In the northeastern quadrant of Mopac and US 183 on July 10th I photographed my first Clematis drummondii flowers for this year, so the post’s title should really be “Our Clematis was already there.” I put still because when I took this picture and other similar ones, I was reminded of fireworks going off, and then in processing the photograph the line from “The Star-Spangled Banner” came to me about “the rockets’ red glare” that “gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.” Fanciful? Perhaps, but that’s how my mind works.


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You may have heard that a bunch of right-wing extremists were arrested in the fall of 2020 for conspiring to kidnap Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer. Last week BuzzFeed.News broke a story that included the following:

The government has documented at least 12 confidential informants who assisted the sprawling investigation. The trove of evidence they helped gather provides an unprecedented view into American extremism, laying out in often stunning detail the ways that anti-government groups network with each other and, in some cases, discuss violent actions.

An examination of the case by BuzzFeed News also reveals that some of those informants, acting under the direction of the FBI, played a far larger role than has previously been reported. Working in secret, they did more than just passively observe and report on the actions of the suspects. Instead, they had a hand in nearly every aspect of the alleged plot, starting with its inception. The extent of their involvement raises questions as to whether there would have even been a conspiracy without them.

That gives the defendants an opportunity to plead entrapment. As BuzzFeed.News noted:

To date, one defendant has formally accused the government of entrapment, arguing that the FBI assembled the key plotters, encouraged the group’s anti-government feelings, and even gave its members military-style training. Additional defendants have said they plan to make similar claims when the cases, divided between federal and state court, go to trial starting as soon as October…. Last week, the lawyer for one defendant filed a motion that included texts from an FBI agent to a key informant, the Iraq War veteran, directing him to draw specific people into the conspiracy — potential evidence of entrapment that he said the government “inadvertently disclosed.” 

The defendants may well be guilty, but if government informants are found to have entrapped them, then guilty people could get to go free. If you want to know more about the fine line between legitimate undercover work and entrapment, you can read an article by UCLA law professor Paul Bergman.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 27, 2021 at 4:35 AM

A snapdragon vine flower

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It’s not often I come across a snapdragon vine, Maurandella antirrhiniflora, so when I did in my neighborhood on July 11th I made sure to take a bunch of pictures. These are small flowers, averaging about 3/4 of an inch across (18mm). I don’t know about you, but whenever I see snapdragon vine flowers I always think I’m looking at a mouth with prominent lower teeth. The fact that they would be hairy teeth doesn’t dissuade my imagination.


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Yesterday I mentioned a partisan who went on a television talk show and kept repeating a claim that the moderator of the show had shown wasn’t true. Alas, that wasn’t an isolated aberration. It’s not hard to find activists and partisan groups that repeat—sometimes for years on end—assertions which have been proven false. Consider the “Hands up, don’t shoot!” meme that has been around since 2014. It came from an incident that took place on August 9 of that year in the town of Ferguson, Missouri, outside Saint Louis. It began after an 18-year-old African American named Michael Brown grabbed some $50 worth of cigarillos from behind the counter of the Ferguson Market and pushed a worker who confronted him as he left the convenience store. A little later, as Brown and another person were walking down the middle of a street, a white police officer named Darren Wilson saw them and told them they should be walking on the sidewalk instead of in the middle of the street. An altercation ensued, during which Wilson ended up shooting and killing Brown. A rumor quickly spread that Brown had had his hands up and was trying to surrender when Wilson shot him. That rumor led, beginning the next day, to rioting, looting, arson, and the destruction of businesses. By August 16 the governor of Missouri had to declare a state of emergency and impose a curfew. When that didn’t quell the rioting, the governor canceled the ineffective curfew and called in the National Guard.

Things eventually quieted down. Later, on November 24, a grand jury that had examined all the evidence decided there were not grounds to indict Officer Darren Wilson. That led to another round of rioting in which at least a dozen buildings and multiple police cars were burned. To this day there are groups that claim that Michael Brown didn’t receive justice. The problem for those who say they want justice for Mike Brown is that the U.S. Justice Department, headed by Eric Holder, a friend of Barack Obama’s who is also black, did do a thorough investigation of the incident. The investigation showed that the narrative of Brown being an innocent victim wasn’t true. If you want to, you can read the full report on the Michael Brown incident, issued by the U.S. Justice Department headed by Eric Holder. Here are two relevant paragraphs from the end of the report (I’ve put some key statements in bold type):

In addition, even assuming that Wilson definitively knew that Brown was not armed, Wilson was aware that Brown had already assaulted him once and attempted to gain control of his gun. Wilson could thus present evidence that he reasonably feared that, if left unimpeded, Brown would again assault Wilson, again attempt to overpower him, and again attempt to take his gun. Under the law, Wilson has a strong argument that he was justified in firing his weapon at Brown as he continued to advance toward him and refuse commands to stop, and the law does not require Wilson to wait until Brown was close enough to physically assault Wilson. Even if, with hindsight, Wilson could have done something other than shoot Brown, the Fourth Amendment does not second-guess a law enforcement officer’s decision on how to respond to an advancing threat. The law gives great deference to officers for their necessarily split-second judgments, especially in incidents such as this one that unfold over a span of less than two minutes. ‘Thus, under Graham, we must avoid substituting our personal notions of proper police procedure for the instantaneous decision of the officer at the scene. We must never allow the theoretical, sanitized world of our imagination to replace the dangerous and complex world that policemen face every day.

As discussed above, Darren Wilson has stated his intent in shooting Michael Brown was in response to a perceived deadly threat. The only possible basis for prosecuting Wilson under section 242 would therefore be if the government could prove that his account is not true – i.e., that Brown never assaulted Wilson at the SUV, never attempted to gain control of Wilson’s gun, and thereafter clearly surrendered in a way that no reasonable officer could have failed to perceive. Given that Wilson’s account is corroborated by physical evidence and that his perception of a threat posed by Brown is corroborated by other eyewitnesses, to include aspects of the testimony of Witness 101, there is no credible evidence that Wilson willfully shot Brown as he was attempting to surrender or was otherwise not posing a threat. Even if Wilson was mistaken in his interpretation of Brown’s conduct, the fact that others interpreted that conduct the same way as Wilson precludes a determination that he acted with a bad purpose to disobey the law. The same is true even if Wilson could be said to have acted with poor judgment in the manner in which he first interacted with Brown, or in pursuing Brown after the incident at the SUV. These are matters of policy and procedure that do not rise to the level of a Constitutional violation and thus cannot support a criminal prosecution. Cf. Gardner v. Howard, 109 F.3d 427, 430–31 (8th Cir. 1997) (violation of internal policies and procedures does not in and of itself rise to violation of Constitution). Because Wilson did not act with the requisite criminal intent, it cannot be proven beyond reasonable doubt to a jury that he violated 18 U.S.C.§ 242 when he fired his weapon at Brown. VI. Conclusion For the reasons set forth above, this matter lacks prosecutive merit and should be closed.

So if you hear someone still chanting “Hands up, don’t shoot!” and saying that Michael Brown didn’t receive justice, or if you come across a website making that claim, or if that’s what you yourself have been led to believe, now you know it isn’t true.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 22, 2021 at 4:32 AM

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