Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘white

Time again for ladies’ tresses orchids

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Last fall I found exactly zero Great Plains ladies’ tresses orchids (Spiranthes magnicamporum) at a site in northwest Austin that I’ve been going to for over a decade to photograph them. This year, tipped off by Meg Inglis on October 19th that the ladies’ tresses in her area a little west of Austin had already been coming out for a while, I went to “my” property on October 24th and soon located a dozen or so, even though it was unusually early in the season for me to expect any there. I photographed several of the orchids from the side, which is “normal,” but I also had the urge to do some limited-focus portraits looking down from above for a change. The brown around the spike of spiraling flowers came from drying leaves on the ground.

UPDATE. It occurred to me that you may not know what a ladies’ tresses orchid looks like, so here’s a conventional view taken at the same site six years ago. Within that post is a link to a more esthetic view from the side.

And here’s a relevant quotation for today: “To me, photography is an art of observation. It’s about finding something interesting in an ordinary place… I’ve found it has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them.” — Elliott Erwitt.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 30, 2020 at 4:26 AM

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

Apache plume in northern Arizona

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The flowers of Apache plume (Fallugia paradoxa) reveal the plant’s membership in the rose family.

In its late stage, Apache plume is quite similar to the prairie smoke (Geum triflorum, likewise in the rose family) that I observed in Illinois four years ago, and also to the old man’s beard (Clematis drummondii, in a different botanical family) that you’ve so often seen from central Texas.

Because the closest to Austin that Apache plume grows is far west Texas, I don’t often get the chance to photograph this species, so when I came across a few of these plants in northern Arizona four years ago today, I wasn’t about to pass up my chance to portray them.

Oh yeah, at the same site there was also a minor attraction that I took a few pictures of.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 19, 2020 at 3:49 AM

Dew-covered rain-lilies

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From September 25th in Springfield Park in southeast Austin, here’s a dew-covered rain-lily (Zephyranthes chlorosolen). The pink tinges in the white tepals’ tips at the top foretell the stage to come so soon; that magenta tale is brightly told below.

Today’s related quotation is in the form of a poem, “The Noble Nature,” by Ben Jonson.

It is not growing like a tree
In bulk, doth make man better be;
Or standing long an oak, three hundred year,
To fall a log at last, dry, bald, and sere:
A lily of a day
Is fairer far in May,
Although it fall and die that night—
It was the plant and flower of Light.
In small proportions we just beauties see;
And in short measures life may perfect be.

 

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 14, 2020 at 4:29 AM

Another of autumn’s big four

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I tend to think that when autumn comes to central Texas we have a botanical “big four” here. I could even split them into two groups of two according to color: yellow Maximilian sunflowers and goldenrod, plus white snow-on-the-prairie (or -mountain) and poverty weed. It’s the last of those, Baccharis neglecta, that you see above in a September 30th photograph from Pflugerville. (The small yellow fruits in the foreground are silverleaf nightshade, Solanum elaeagnifolium.) The zillions of little white flower heads that from a distance make this delicate tree seem frosted are quite an insect magnet, as you see in the closeup below showing a hoverfly (Toxomerus sp.) and a spotted cucumber beetle (Diabrotica undecimpunctata).

And here’s an unrelated quotation for today. “For every one pupil who needs to be guarded from a weak excess of sensibility there are three who need to be awakened from the slumber of cold vulgarity. The task of the modern educator is not to cut down jungles but to irrigate deserts. The right defence against false sentiments is to inculcate just sentiments. By starving the sensibility of our pupils we only make them easier prey to the propagandist when he comes. For famished nature will be avenged and a hard heart is no infallible protection against a soft head.” — C.S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 13, 2020 at 4:23 AM

White where you’d expect purple

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I’ve observed that purple wildflowers sometimes have natural white variants. When I stopped along FM 2769 in far northwest Austin on September 15th to photograph some purple flower spikes of Liatris punctata, known as gayfeather and blazing-star, I noticed that one plant had white flowers, probably the first I’d ever found in this species. The stamens, however, were purple.

And here’s a thought for today: “A house is no home unless it contain food and fire for the mind as well as for the body.” — Margaret Fuller Ossoli.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 4, 2020 at 4:46 AM

It’s snow-on-the-prairie time

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Went out onto the Blackland Prairie in Manor on September 19th.
Saw snow-on-the-prairie (Euphorbia bicolor) in several places.
Couldn’t decide which view to show, so am showing two.

If you’re interested in the art of photography, points 6 and 15 in About My Techniques are relevant.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 25, 2020 at 4:30 AM

Austin’s still snailiferous

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Now well past May’s peak of limaciferousness in central Texas, the land beneath our baking sun has continued to host many a snail. Whether the small creatures I’ve found were living or dead has been mostly beyond my ability to say. They haven’t, however, been beyond my ability to photograph. I found the one above on August 6th near the tip of a Mexican hat seed head (Ratibida columnifera), and the one below on a bed of dry fallen Ashe juniper leaves (Juniperus ashei). In that portrait, taken on July 10th, I’d gone for a shallow-depth-of-field approach, with little more than the apex of the spiral in focus.

The last image, from June 15th in Great Hills Park when things were still more colorful,
shows a snail on a living Ashe juniper with a firewheel (Gaillardia pulchella) beyond it.

And here’s a quotation about photography:

“Sometimes I do get to places just when God’s ready to have somebody click the shutter.”
Ansel Adams in American Way, October 1974.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 23, 2020 at 4:33 AM

Svelte

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Whatever created the white enclosure on this Mexican hat seed head, the undeniable fact is that the structure is svelte. I asked local expert Val Bugh if she could tell what made it. “This webbing looks most like a spider. The egg sacs of some corinnids are covered with a very smooth layer that, once it ages just a little, looks sort of metallic to me. Also, the way the silk is so well attached to the substrate looks more the work of a spider than a moth. However, I’ve sometimes found some very odd moth cocoons that look simply like a bulge on a stem. Whatever it is, the silk is probably shiny because of weathering but it can’t be very old as the stem is still green.” Thanks, Val.

This portrait from west of Morado Circle in my neighborhood on July 5th continues celebrating what I’ve dubbed the Year of the Mexican Hat. More images of that species will appear in the weeks ahead.

Unrelated thought for today: “Reality is what refuses to go away when you do not believe in it….” — Steven Pinker in “Groups and Genes.”

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 22, 2020 at 4:29 AM

Limewater brookweed

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Along the Capital of Texas Highway on June 27th I noticed a plant with tiny white flowers of a distinctive shape. I didn’t recognize the wildflower, but thanks to Casey Williams of the Texas Flora group on Facebook I learned that it’s Samolus ebracteatus ssp. cuneatus, known as limewater brookweed and limestone brook-pimpernel. It was my first identified new species for 2020. While Austin has plenty of plants in the evening primrose family, this is one of the few in the actual primrose family, Primulaceae. Botanist Bill Carr says of the species that it’s “frequent in moist clayey soil around springs and on seepage slopes, often at the base of limestone cliffs.” Sure enough, I found the plant at the base of a limestone cliff that was seeping water. Below is a view looking into one of the flowers, which was only about a quarter of an inch (6mm) across.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 9, 2020 at 4:46 AM

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