Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘vine

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

A new take on pearl milkweed flowers

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If it’s a colorful and detailed take on the flowers of the pearl milkweed vine that you’re after, I’ve already shown Matelea reticulata that way. On April 25th in my neighborhood the low-angle glancing sunlight was such that I went for the unconventional view you see here, with its high contrast, minimalism, and abstraction. The little spectrum-like line segments at the lower right came from spider silk refracting the light.

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“Reformers used to look for the next wrong to right. Now activists look for the next right thing to make wrong.” — S.S.

Illiberal ideologues in my country have been increasingly pushing the crazy notion that objectivity is a tool of white supremacy. Those obsessed activists include mathematics in the objectivity they despise, and they claim it’s not really important for students to get right answers in mathematics. That’s the same mathematics that allows us to deliver electricity to homes and businesses to run appliances and machines; that lets researchers determine whether a new medicine is effective; that lets companies build computers and smart phones and bridges and cars and planes; that lets engineers calculate the orbits of the satellites that enable global navigation and communication; and on and on and on. While the American educational establishment is busy making sure students here don’t learn much of anything except secular religious dogma, Chinese leaders continue relentlessly forward in their plan for ever greater hegemony.

The Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) measures the international scholastic performance of 15-year-olds in mathematics, science, and reading. You can see the 2018 results for 77 or 78 countries. In all three subjects China was #1. The United States came in 13th in reading, 18th in science, and a dismal 37th in mathematics. I guess our innumerate ideologues don’t know enough arithmetic to understand that when it comes to rankings, larger numbers aren’t better than smaller ones—either that, or those zealots are happy that American kids are showing their anti-racism by refusing to internalize as inherently white supremacist a subject as mathematics.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 3, 2021 at 4:42 AM

Greenbrier green, greenbrier dead

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Smilax bona-nox; Great Hills Park; January 12th.

And here’s an ever-relevant quotation: “The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge.” — Daniel J. Boorstin, 1962. Boorstin also coined the term pseudo-event.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 3, 2021 at 4:43 AM

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Two views of snow-covered greenbrier leaves

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Smilax bona-nox; Great Hills Park; January 10.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 16, 2021 at 4:32 AM

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Like an alien moon in the coldness of space

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Buffalo gourd, Cucurbita foetidissima, along Lost Horizon Drive on December 29, 2020.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 8, 2021 at 4:37 AM

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Late takes on Clematis drummondii

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I didn’t expect to be photographing one of my favorite subjects so late in the year: Clematis drummondii, a vine known endearingly as old man’s beard. The last times I’d taken pictures of any were late July and early August. In the first week of December I noticed a fluffy colony on the west-side embankment of US 183 just south of Braker Lane, a corner I often drive past as I leave my neighborhood. After telling myself several times that I should check out the Clematis, I finally did on December 10th. The first picture gives you an overview of the colony. You’ll be forgiven if a first glance made you think you were seeing a black and white photograph.

The backlighting that made the colony stand out in the first photograph also served me in the second, a macro view in which you’re seeing a span of maybe 2 inches. In the third picture I took a softer and less contrasty approach. Don’t you love the chaos in the two close views?

And speaking of chaos, did you know that it gave rise to the new word gas? Here’s the explanation in The Online Etymology Dictionary:

1650s, from Dutch gas, probably from Greek khaos “empty space”… The sound of Dutch “g” is roughly equivalent to that of Greek “kh.” First used by Flemish chemist J.B. van Helmont (1577-1644), probably influenced by Paracelsus, who used khaos in an occult sense of “proper elements of spirits” or “ultra-rarified water,” which was van Helmont’s definition of gas.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 24, 2020 at 4:44 AM

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Peppervine turning colors

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As another example of fall foliage in Austin, above is a view from the afternoon of November 10th showing a peppervine (Nekemias arborea) turning colors on a black willow tree (Salix nigra) that it had climbed at the Riata Trace Pond. The next morning I went back and took pictures by different light of another peppervine that had turned even more colorful, as shown below. About halfway up the left edge of the second picture you may notice some of the vine’s little fruits that had darkened as they ripened. Peppervine, which some people mistake for poison ivy, grows in the southeastern United States. If you’d like a closer look at the vine’s leaves, you can check out a post from the first months of this blog.

And here’s an unrelated quotation for today: “Without Freedom of Thought, there can be no such Thing as Wisdom; and no such Thing as publick Liberty, without Freedom of Speech; which is the Right of every Man, as far as by it, he does not hurt or controul the Right of another: and this is the only Check it ought to suffer, and the only Bounds it ought to know. / This sacred Privilege is so essential to free Governments, that the Security of Property, and the Freedom of Speech always go together; and in those wretched Countries where a man cannot call his Tongue his own, he can scarce call any Thing else his own. Whoever would overthrow the liberty of a nation must begin by subduing the freeness of speech.” — Benjamin Franklin (synthesizing other people’s thoughts), 1722.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 22, 2020 at 4:38 AM

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White: familiar and unfamiliar

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On August 18th I spent time at Raab Park in Round Rock and photographed several things that were white. A very familiar one was Clematis drummondii, whose feathery strands you see above. (You may remember that I also made portraits of some actual feathers there.) Near the end of my stay I noticed a little group of low plants I wasn’t familiar with. I took pictures and hoped that later on I could figure out what I’d photographed. Thanks to a timely post in the Texas Wildflowers Facebook group, I’ll say that the plants seem to have been Nealley’s globe amaranth, Gomphrena nealleyi. Other species I’ve seen online do have a more globe-like inflorescence than this one. The scientific name of this species pays tribute to Greenleaf Cilley Nealley (1846-1896), a Texan botanist—and look how appropriate his first name was for the profession he pursued.

Nealley’s globe amaranth normally grows in south Texas, so perhaps it’s expanding its range. Botanist Bill Carr says it’s rare in Travis County, and the USDA map doesn’t have it marked for Williamson County, which is where I found my specimens. And speaking of globe amaranth, here’s a quotation for today:

“When we contemplate the whole globe as one great dewdrop, striped and dotted with continents and islands, flying through space with other stars all singing and shining together as one, the whole universe appears as an infinite storm of beauty.” — John Muir, Travels in Alaska  (1915).

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 26, 2020 at 4:38 AM

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