Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘weird

D. D.

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Dense Dodder on Annual Sumpweed 1811

The D.D. in the title stands for dense dodder, but you don’t have to be dense to wonder what sort of strange thing dodder is: it’s the common name for any of various species that make up the genus Cuscuta in the morning-glory family. Like better-known morning-glories, dodder is a vine, but unlike its family-mates dodder is parasitic, and that difference until recently had botanists putting dodder into a family of its own, Cuscutaceae. Dodder’s parasitic nature explains why the only greenery you see close to the ground in these tangled mounds of yellow-orange capellini (angel-hair pasta) belongs to the plants being parasitized, in this case annual sumpweed, Iva annua.

I found and photographed these plants two days ago at Meadow Lake Park on the Blackland Prairie in eastern Round Rock, where from inside my car I spotted the conspicuous dodder tangles hundreds of feet away and waded through a sea of sumpweed to take this and various other pictures.

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 25, 2015 at 5:21 AM

From 2012

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Crawfish Claw on Dry Algae 3666A

Click for greater size and clarity.

On April 30, 2012, I wandered in the relatively wild southern part of Great Hills Park and came across a tangle of dried algae in the bed of the main creek there. Lying on the algae was the tiny disembodied claw of what I take to have been a crawfish. Strange and a bit creepy, don’t you think?

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 7, 2015 at 4:32 AM

New Zealand: Fierce lancewood

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Fierce Lancewood Trees 5552

At Otari-Wilton’s Bush in Wellington on February 20th I saw specimens of fierce lancewood, Pseudopanax ferox (as in ferocious). According to a sign there: “When the lancewood reaches a certain height, it changes shape and turns into a small branching tree. The leaves change too and become shorter, softer and lose their fierce hooks.” Here’s that later stage, which I certainly wouldn’t have suspected to be the same kind of tree:

Mature Fierce Lancewood Tree 5564

For more information, you can visit plantlust.com, which describes fierce lancewood in a way that I can’t top: “One of those cool dinosaur plants found down Kiwi way that catches the eye and triggers the lust gene in plant geeks and adventurous gardeners.”

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 11, 2015 at 5:15 AM

A piscine prickly pear

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Prickly Pear Pad Like a Flounder 5587

From February 21, 2004, at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, how about this prickly pear pad that looked to me like a flounder?


I’m still a long way from home. You’re welcome to leave comments, but please understand if I’m slow in responding.

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 12, 2015 at 5:46 AM

The other fasciated species I saw in the Southwest

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Fishhook Barrel Cactus with Fasciated Flowers 3038

After the fasciated saguaro you recently saw and the fasciated spectacle pod you’d seen last fall, I’m finishing up that theme by showing you the other fasciated species I encountered in the Southwest: Ferocactus wislizeni, known as a fishhook barrel cactus. Normally its flowers are (approximately) round, but you can see that the two prominent ones on this specimen were stretched out. (If you’d like, you can compare the similar elongation in a prairie verbena flower head that appeared here in 2013.)

I took this picture near the visitor center for Sabino Canyon in northeast Tucson on October 2, 2014, shortly before I came across a fasciated saguaro close by (different from the one I found the following day that you’ve already seen.)

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 25, 2015 at 5:30 AM

Frostweed ice thrice

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Frostweed Ice on Two Stalks 2411

Last month you saw a picture of frostweed ice for the second time this season. That photograph was from December 29, but when we had a morning about as cold two days later, I checked the patch of Verbesina virginica plants in Great Hills Park again and found not a single bit of ice. I figured that might be it for this winter, but on the colder morning of January 5th I discovered ice emerging from more of the plants than in either of my two previous sessions. Duty-bound by the nature photographer’s oath never to pass up a chance for good pictures, I put on several layers of clothing and my hip-high waterproof boots, then went back and ended up spending 75 minutes kneeling and even lying on the cold ground. Ah yes, dedication.

The first picture of frostweed ice you saw this season was taken with a flash. The second was not, and in fact none of the photographs from that session included flash. On this third and last occasion I took every picture with my ring flash. When photographing frostweed ice I usually go for close and abstract images, and I almost always aim horizontally or even somewhat upward to avoid the clutter on the ground around the base of the stalks. It occurred to me, though, that for a change I should show you an in situ image of the phenomenon, so here it is, clutter and all. At least this picture has the virtue of including two “frost flowers,” and the ice is more horizontally expansive and ribbony than in the other pictures you’ve seen here recently.

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 21, 2015 at 5:10 AM

Fasciated saguaro

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Fasciated and Backlit Saguaro 3652

In a post last October that showed a fasciated spectacle pod plant in Albuquerque, I mentioned that it was one of four such specimens I saw on my Southwest trip. I promised you’d see more, so here’s one of two fasciated saguaros (Carnegiea gigantea) that I saw in Arizona. The photograph is from October 3, 2014, in the Rincon Mountain District of Saguaro National Park on the east side of Tucson.

If you’re new to fasciation, also known as cristation, or if you’d like a refresher, you can read an introductory article that coincidentally includes a picture from Saguaro National Park, although it’s the part of the park on the other side of Tucson from the one that provided today’s photograph.

This gigantic fasciation marks the conclusion of the saguaro miniseries that’s been fascinating you for several days.

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 16, 2015 at 5:18 AM

A fourth year of search engine fun

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My three previous New Year’s Day posts presented curious search-engine strings that brought people to Portraits of Wildflowers in the preceding year. Here’s the latest installment in that January 1 tradition. Indented under each search string is my response to it.

I invite you to follow at least some of the 30 links to posts, the majority of which many of you won’t have seen before. They’ll give you more than enough visual stimulation for an otherwise pictureless day here.

If any of you crave above-and-beyond-the-call stimulation, you’re welcome to look back at the corresponding search-engine posts from New Year’s Day in 2012, 2013, and 2014.


bubttonbush or similar

It seems that search engines have lost none of their prowess in deciphering misspellings. In this case the searcher was after a buttonbush.

purple flower that looks like a pinnample

That led to a post about eryngo, which looks like a small purple pineapple, if not a pinnample.

texas wild flowers old mans bread

Old men, even bearded ones, don’t live by bread alone.

pretty poison meanung

That query led to a post called “Pretty poison, differently grown and differently hued,” but I doubt it had much meanung for the searcher.

bindvee purple flower pictures

That took the searcher to purple bindweed.

najvaho wld flowers

Now that’s a novel (but confused) spelling of Navajo. The search led to the wildflower colloquially called Navajo tea.

whine rock letus

Make that white rock lettuce, and let us not whine about it.

land bur imsge

I have no idea what this person intended with “land bur,” but the search engine led to an image that included some buffalo bur plants as a minor element in a landscape.

how does frostweed get the icecycles?

It rides wintry bicycles.

homeless man falls to death austin tx march 27 2014

By a strange coincidence, that led to my post from March 27, 2014, entitled Do the homeless appreciate wildflowers?

vines in mallorca purple flower

In the summer of 1985 I spent three weeks on the island of Mallorca. Is that enough of a connection to Mallorca for the search engine to have brought someone to my blog about nature in Texas almost three decades later?

gallus est divisio in tres partes

The literal translation of this bad Latin is: “The rooster is division into three parts.” I’d used the correct Latin quotation as the title of a post about a gall in an oak tree.

sex mania
sex maniya

This search string has come up multiple times every year, but only in 2014 with the maniya spelling. The post that the search engine led the undoubtedly let-down men (I assume) to shows a wildflower called zexmenia, which native plantophiles jokingly call sex mania.

scientific name of sexmania

Mania sexualis.

native plant vexmania

That’s a new variant this year, but I don’t feel maniacally vexed by it.

bill flower

I’ve got a billfold and birds have bills, but while I’ve posted pictures of flowers and birds’ bills, I’ve never used the word billflower. I have, however, shown a wildflower called stork’s bill.

yoon sung hyun

Turns out Yoon Sang-Hyun ia a Korean singer, but why a search engine would have routed someone looking for that singer to my blog is an inscrutable mystery of the Far East.

honduras so am flowers and fauna

At first I read so am as if it were the English words so and am, but then I realized the searcher meant South America. The only problem is that Honduras isn’t in South America. That reminds me of the story, perhaps apocryphal, of the guy who applied to the Peace Corps. Eventually he got a letter of acceptance that indicated his group would be sent to Honduras. “That’s great,” said the guy, “I’ve always wanted to go to Africa.”

how to plant four four nerve daisies

It might be simpler to plant one sixteen-nerve daisy.

what grass has purple zebra head

Beats me: I don’t even understand the question.

if you saw a flower with no petals would it still be a flower

If a tree falls in a forest and there’s no one around, does it still make a sound?

kool aid tree, image

I guess that would be a Texas mountain laurel.



spiderwort doesnt flower

Oh yes it does!

wildflowers don’t have buds

Oh yes they do!

purple wildflowers of western new york

Central Texas, western New York: we’re all one big happy family, right?

fascination deformed flower

Make that fasciation.

what is the fascination with robert plant.

I don’t know, but the searcher was taken to a post about a fasciated plant.

snow on a mountain flower

That led not to a picture of snow on a flower in the mountains but to snow-on-the-mountain flowers.

free to use photo buckeye butterfly

The search engine may think my picture of a buckeye butterfly is free for other people to use, but I beg to differ.

engelmannia peristenia ice cream plant

No, the Engelmann daisy doesn’t secrete ice cream nor does it look like any kind of ice cream I’ve ever seen. Apparently cows and other livestock find this species so tasty that people have referred to it as an ice cream plant, based on the human liking for ice cream.

in the month of may, where can i go in the texas hill country to view photographs about life in america for latinos?

Beats me.

texas thistle cirsium botanical art

Hooray! The search engine found that my picture of a Texas thistle is art.

predilected flower

That led to a post entitled Predilections, which mentioned the tendency in the Engelmann daisy of the ray flowers to curl under.

rattan fryit

You go ahead and fry it, but I think the rattan vine, being woody, is too tough for me to eat.

sad miss youpichers

I guess the searcher was looking for “pichers” (pictures) to illustrate the theme “I’m sad and I miss you,” but none of my posts that had been accessed that morning matched that theme.

luke middleton dewlap

Is Luke Middleton an anole?

vulture on tree ligying

I’ve seen and even photographed vultures on trees, but none of them were ligying. I guess vultures don’t like to ligy. I’ll bet most of you don’t like to ligy either.

what are 30 different kind of wild flowers in texas

We have to wonder why the searcher wanted 30. There are hundreds of native species of wildflowers in Texas.

 лишайники на деревьях москва

The Russian translates as “lichens on trees Moscow.” I’ve showed lichens on trees in Austin, but as far as I know, even though Russia annexed Crimea in 2014, it still hasn’t taken over Texas.

funnel of death

That certainly sounds ominous. I have no idea what the searcher was after, but one of my posts offered up a spider in a funnel web, which is death for insects that come too close.

+identify bardness of the hair

Even if you grant that h is close to b on the keyboard, it’s hard to know if the person was really looking for “hardness of the hair.” Or maybe an East Asian was looking for “baldness of the hair.” In any case, I write some verses from time to time, so I guess my bardness is intact.

the buds begin to open

Which buds? Any old buds? Couldn’t you be a little more specific?

firewheel fun facts

The post that this led to mentioned that while photographing a firewheel I got my first two fire ant bites of the year. Was that supposed to be a fun fact?

rare goldfish breeds

The word goldfish has never appeared in any of my posts, nor would it be likely to, because goldfish are native to Asia, not Texas.

austin’s butterfly

Gee, I thought we have more than one butterfly in Austin.

blue eyed grass not doing well

But the picture that the seeker was led to shows blue-eyed grass thriving.

blubonnet photos by richard reynolds

Richard Reynolds is an excellent nature photographer, and he’s photographed bluebonnets, but this isn’t his blog.

can i see a picture of a cactus flower with yellow blue bonnet

I’ve often thought bluebonnet flowers look purple, but that’s a far cry from yellow.

how many brown eyed susans flowers are there in georgia

You expect someone to have gone out and counted them?

word sort of rainbow

Did the person mean a weird sort of rainbow? I have no idea, but the search led to a different sort of rainbow.

where canibuymexicanwildtophatflower

I don’t know, but the next time Walmart has a sale on spaces, I hope you stock up on a bunch so you can separate your words properly.

what kind of flower or plant leaves a skeleton like cockus


portraiys of white squirrels

Yes, I did “portraiy” a white squirrel.

downy guara daves

How about downy gaura Steve’s?

scwartzman the photographer
steve scwartzmman, photo

That which we call a photographer, by any other spelling would be as good.

photography blog of austin steven

Maybe this person didn’t know how to spell my last name. In any case, when I tried that search string with Google on the morning of December 10, the day it appeared, my blog was the seventh hit. Yay, me!

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman in Austin

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 1, 2015 at 1:35 AM

Cold enough once again

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Frostweed Ice 1225

The outside thermometer yesterday morning read 37°F (3°C), and because a few nearby roofs were white I thought I’d make myself an honorary northerner for a change and try to photograph some frost. Instead, and to my surprise, I found once again that a couple of dozen frostweed plants (Verbesina virginica) in Great Hills Park had done their overnight ice trick, and that’s what I ended up taking pictures of. The photograph I posted in November showed the ice against a blue sky, so I’ve chosen a different sort of view for today’s post; this one, unlike the last, was taken in natural light rather than with a flash.

If you’re unfamiliar with this strange phenomenon, you can go back to a post from 2011 that explained it.

© 2014 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 30, 2014 at 5:16 AM

Cold enough

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When I checked the outside temperature around 8 o’clock in the morning on November 17th, I saw that it was 34° F (1° C). Had the overnight temperature dipped below freezing, and had any frostweed (Verbesina virginica) done its magic ice trick? An easy way to find out was to check the frostweed plants in a portion of Great Hills Park just half a mile downhill from my home. When I got there I saw that most of them were untouched, but about a dozen stalks showed the characteristic curls of ice I was hoping to find, and that I then spent a good while photographing. Here’s one of them:

Frostweed Ice Scrolls 7165

If you’re unfamiliar with frostweed’s ice trick, one of the strangest and most beguiling phenomena in nature, you can check out the explanations and photographs in posts from this season over the last three years:




© 2014 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 20, 2014 at 5:33 AM

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