Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘white

Smartweed from pond to pond and insect to insect

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I think the first time this year I photographed smartweed (Polygonum or Persicaria sp.) was on July 7th at the Riata Trace Pond, as shown above. Note what seems to be the segmented tan larva of an insect sitting inconspicuously in the middle of the inflorescence at the right.

The two main colors in the top photograph warrant a different observation, a surprising one that I’ve repeated here from time to time: as recently as the first half of the 20th century people in the United States took pink to be the appropriate color for boys and blue the appropriate color for girls. Let that be a reminder or how quickly and arbitrarily fashions often change.

The most recent time I photographed smartweed was at the Arbor Walk Pond on October 8th, as shown below with a leaffooted bug (Leptoglossus sp.) as the rider. Flash let me stop down the aperture to f/22 for good depth of field; that combination also gave me a very dark background, all the better to isolate my subjects.


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I commend the National Association of Scholars for its stance against gender ideology.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 20, 2021 at 4:44 PM

From croton to cotton

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Speaking of woolly croton (Croton capitatus), as I did the other day, in Bastrop State Park on September 23rd I found a large stand of it that blended nicely into an even larger colony of snake cotton (Froelichia gracilis). In the picture above, the croton predominates toward the left, the snake cotton toward the right. The second picture gets a little closer to the snake cotton colony in its own right.

As you’ve already seen a closeup of woolly croton, so below I’ve given you one of snake cotton. (Due to what seems a WordPress quirk, the last photograph looks blurry in my preview of today’s post, but when I click it I get the original version with normal sharpness. If the bottom picture looks out of focus to you, see if clicking it solves the problem.)


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“It is wrong and ultimately self-defeating for a nation of immigrants to permit the kind of abuse of our immigration laws we have seen in recent years. — Bill Clinton; January 24, 1995.

“We simply cannot allow people to pour into the United States undetected, undocumented, unchecked, and circumventing the line of people who are waiting patiently, diligently, and lawfully to become immigrants in this country.” — Barack Obama; December 15, 2005.

“Let me tell you something, folks, people are driving across that border with tons, tons—hear me, tons—of everything from byproducts from methamphetamine to cocaine to heroine, and it’s all coming up through corrupt Mexico.” — Joe Biden, 2006.

“You can’t continue to have open borders. And you’ve got to put more technology and personnel along the borders to make sure we know who know who is coming into our country and prevent people from entering illegally.” — Hillary Clinton; November 6, 2007.

“Illegal immigration is wrong, plain and simple…. People who enter the United States without permission are illegal aliens and illegal aliens should not be treated the same as people who enter the U.S. legally.” — Chuck Schumer; June 24, 2009.

“We’re a nation-state. We have borders. The idea that we can just have open borders is something that … as a practical matter, is unsustainable.” — Barack Obama, September 2021.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 13, 2021 at 4:37 AM

Two quite different portraits of the same rain-lily

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The last few days of September gave my northwestern part of Austin some 5 inches of rain, so it’s not surprising that on October 2nd in Great Hills Park I found some rain-lilies (Zephyranthes drummondii) budding and even flowering. The very different looks in these two portraits of the same rain-lily are due to the fact that in the top one I used flash and an aperture of f/22, which led to a black background, while in the view at the bottom I went with natural light and a broad aperture of f/5 for a softer effect. The three bands in the second picture’s background also served that portrait well; the middle band came from a sunlit area.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 9, 2021 at 4:31 AM

Pink-tinged snow

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On September 25 I drove approximately that many miles north to Tejas Camp in Williamson County. I went there not only to check out the river primroses but also to search for some good snow-on-the-mountain plants (Euphorbia marginata) to balance the snow-on-the-prairie I’d already documented for this year. I succeeded in both quests. While snow-on-the-mountain is poetically named for its prominently white-margined bracts, they occasionally show a pink tinge, as parts of the plants in both of today’s photographs confirm. I noticed that in some of the inflorescences the little elliptical structures called nectar glands that start out a pale olive green had turned tan or even conspicuously red. And it’s time for a reminder that the plant’s actual flowers are restricted to the small rough areas that those nectar glands surround.


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Free speech has increasingly been coming under attack in the United States and the Western world in general. If that troubles you, as it does me, I invite you to watch a good 76-minute discussion of the topic by free-speech supporters Matt Taibbi, Nadine Strossen, Amna Khalid, and Nico Perrino.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 3, 2021 at 4:35 AM

More looking up

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As you’ve already seen, at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center on September 11th I lifted my telephoto zoom lens to photograph a neon skimmer dragonfly. Earlier in our visit I’d lain on a mat on the ground to aim up with my macro lens at something much lower: the jimsonweed flower you see here, Datura wrightii. I rarely convert to black and white, but in this series of pictures I was having trouble getting the sky to look a natural blue. Out of curiosity, I tried monochrome on one frame, as shown below.


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I’ve already read and recommended two books that treat climate change as real but nothing to get hysterical about, as so many activists and politicians have unfortunately done:

Unsettled: What Climate Science Tells Us, What It Doesn’t, and Why it Matters, by Steven E. Koonin.

Apocalypse Never: Why Environmental Alarmism Hurts Us All, by Michael Shellenberger.

Now I’ve become aware of a third book that also treats the subject rationally: False Alarm: How Climate Change Panic Costs Us Trillions, Hurts the Poor, and Fails to Fix the Planet, by Bjørn Lomborg.

In addition to or instead of reading Lomborg’s book, you can watch a one-hour interview with him about climate change.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 27, 2021 at 4:33 AM

Low on the prairie for snow-on-the-prairie

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I got down low on the prairie
For this snow-on-the-prairie.

Make that Euphorbia bicolor on September 10th in Elgin, some 25 miles east of Austin.

In the same field, slated to soon be part of a quickly growing subdivision,
I noticed some goldenrod plants (Solidago sp.) beginning to put out buds.


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What’s fair?

Of course people disagree about what’s fair in any given situation. One commonly heard claim is that “The rich don’t pay their fair share of taxes.” With that in mind, you may want to check out an article by Adam Michel. Of the many statistics about income and taxes cited in the article for the United States in 2018 based on data from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), here are two:

The top 1% or earners (people who made at least $540,000 that year) earned 21% of all the income in the country yet paid 40% of all federal income taxes.

The bottom 50% of earners (people who made no more than $43,600 that year) earned 12% of all the income in the country but paid only 3% of all federal income taxes.

It seems that paying “a fair share” would require the ultra-rich to have their taxes cut roughly in half (21%/40%), while the lower half of the country’s earners would need to have their taxes quadrupled (12%/3%).

As Adam Michel’s article also notes: “Looking at all federal taxes, the Congressional Budget Office shows that the top 1% pay an average federal tax rate of 32%. The data show tax rates decline with income, and the poorest 20% of the population pay an average tax rate of just 1%. The left-leaning Tax Policy Center found similar results.”

Apparently the big disparity in federal tax rates between 32% and 1% isn’t unfair enough for activists to consider it fair.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 21, 2021 at 4:37 AM

Where else to find snow-on-the-prairie but on the prairie?

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On the morning of September 10th I headed east from Austin in search of snow-on-the-prairie, Euphorbia bicolor, whose flowering time was at hand. I found some good stands close to and in Elgin, a town about 25 miles east of Austin whose name is pronounced with a hard g, as in give. To take my first snow-on-the-prairie pictures, I leaned my upper body over a barbed wire fence along US 290 west of Elgin, looked through the camera’s viewfinder, and composed pictures of the field you see here. For a few of my photographs I held the camera as high over my head as possible and guess-aimed somewhat downward to get a better angle and increased depth of field. I don’t know if the picture above was one of those, but it might well have been. The snow in the plant’s common name refers to the white-margined bracts that become so prominent leading up to the plant’s flowering. The actual flowers are small and inconspicuous.


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I strive for accuracy. Even so, it’s human nature to make mistakes. If you’re aware of anything in my commentaries that’s not factually correct, please point it out, along with a link to legitimate evidence of the truth, and I’ll make corrections.


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The current American administration’s blatant dereliction of duty and collusion to flout the law

According to the official website whitehouse.gov, “The power of the Executive Branch is vested in the President of the United States, who also acts as head of state and Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces. The President is responsible for implementing and enforcing the laws written by Congress.” [I’ve italicized the second sentence for emphasis.]

Congress has passed immigration laws that set up the legal process by which people are allowed to immigrate to the United States. Nevertheless, for eight months now members of the Executive Branch, including the President of the United States, have worked strenuously to thwart the immigration laws Congress has put in place. Back on August 6th I reported that our government was letting some 40,000 people per week come across the southwestern border illegally. Customs and Border Protection reported approximately 210,000 encounters with illegal border crossers in July. (Some of those were people who had crossed illegally more than once that month.) The other day authorities released the figures for August: “208,887 encounters along the Southwest Border,” of which 156,641 were unique (the difference between those numbers being people encountered more than once that month). The July and August figures were 20-year highs. And remember that the official figures only include people who were apprehended; unknown tens of thousands each month managed to enter illegally and evade authorities.

So many people have walked unimpeded across the Rio Grande River into Del Rio, Texas, in the past few days that federal and local authorities are completely overwhelmed and can’t cope with it. The border there is wide open. Word has gone out around the world that anyone who can make it to Ciudad Acuña, the town on the Mexican side of the Rio Grande, is free to wade across the Rio Grande River into Del Rio, Texas. And people around the world have heard the news and have come.

On September 15th, an estimated 4000 illegal immigrants who had walked across the river were taking refuge under the International Bridge in Del Rio. By September 16th the number of people under or adjacent to the bridge was estimated to have doubled. You can read about it and see photographs in an article by Adam Shaw and Bill Melugin. Representative Tony Gonzales, whose House of Representatives district includes Del Rio, is quoted in the article: “When you see the amount of people and how chaotic it is and how there is literally no border, folks are coming to and from Mexico with ease, it’s gut wrenching and it’s dangerous.” If you want, you can read/watch other stories about the situation.

On September 17th I heard an estimate on television that the number of people under and close to the bridge had grown to 10,500. Later that day I read that the estimate had risen to 12,000. I watched live television showing a steady stream of people walking across a low dam from Ciudad Acuña into Del Rio. The television reporter said this has been going on non-stop for days, and that thousands more people were reported heading up to the border from nearby places in Mexico. According to Del Rio’s mayor, Bruno Lozano, “There’s people having babies down there [under the bridge], there’s people collapsing out of the heat. They’re pretty aggressive, rightly so — they’ve been in the heat day after day after day.”

The situation is dire. Remember that this is summer, and afternoon high temperatures in that part of southern Texas have been running around 100°F (38°–39°C). The video that I watched showed rows of portable toilets, the insides of which must be horrendous. Food and drinking water are in short supply. The sun beats down from dawn to dusk. Thousands more people keep coming every day.

And let’s not forget that we’re still in the Covid-19 pandemic. Last week the current administration issued an edict—most likely beyond its legal authority, but that’s nothing new—according to which many American citizens who aren’t willing to get vaccinated or be tested every week will lose their jobs. Of course the hundreds of thousands of non-citizens who have been illegally pouring across the border, including the thousands now crowded together in Del Rio, often without masks, are exempt from the edict—despite the fact that a majority come from countries where few people have been vaccinated. Unlike American citizens, these people that our government is letting enter illegally don’t have to get tested. They don’t have to get vaccinated. Many of them will be allowed to come into the country illegally anyway, and our government will even pay their way into the interior.

If this isn’t lawlessness, then nothing is.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 18, 2021 at 4:38 AM

Halberdleaf rosemallow flower backlit

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Near the end of my foray through the land in the northeast quadrant of Mopac and US 183 on August 22nd I noticed a halberdleaf rosemallow plant (Hibiscus laevis) some distance away and in a place that was hard to get to. I used my long zoom lens at its maximum 400mm focal length to make this portrait of a backlit flower.


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Here’s a good but sad and disturbing article offering yet another confirmation that many American universities have become indoctrination camps with no tolerance for dissent from woke orthodoxy.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 17, 2021 at 4:45 AM

Tiny bee on a rain-lily

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On August 20th at the Hanna Springs Sculpture Garden in Lampasas
I found this tiny bee on a rain-lily, Zephyranthes chlorosolen.



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The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is making like it’s the Centers for Language Control. Yup, that branch of the American government earns the George Orwell Newspeak Award for its latest pronouncements in the world of reality spinning or outright denial. Here are some lowlights.

You shouldn’t say “genetically male” or “genetically female” but rather “assigned” or “designated” “male/female at birth.” This supposedly scientific branch of the government is okay with canceling the science of genetics.

The CDC is big on converting a simple word into a string of words. “Smokers” should be “people who smoke.” Was anyone so in danger of assuming that smokers might include squirrels or vultures that we need to specify that smokers are actually people? Similarly “the uninsured” should be “people who are uninsured,” which thankfully rules out bumblebees, potatoes, and walruses. “Koreans” should be “Korean persons,” I guess so that we don’t mistakenly include any of the Koreans’ pets.

“The homeless” should be “people experiencing homelessness.” Though not in the list, “the clueless” should presumably be called “people experiencing cluelessness.” Actually it’s shorter to replace that with “the CDC.”

But brevity is clearly not the goal in the new suggestions. Anti-brevity is, and therefore the CDC has done at best a middling job. Think about all the missed opportunities for expansionism. “White” could have been “people characterized by having a low melanistic pigmentation and therefore capable of being noticed in dark rooms more easily than people belonging to certain other ethnoracial groups with greater melanistic pigmentation.”

Some of the CDC’s advice does get anti-brief. For example:

“People/communities of color” is a frequently used term, but should only be used if included groups are defined upon first use; be mindful to refer to a specific racial/ethnic group(s) instead of this collective term when the experience is different across groups. Some groups consider the term “people of color” as an unnecessary and binary option (people of color vs. White people), and some people do not identify with the term “people of color”.

“Although the term “LGBTQIA2” is recommended, no explanation is given for what all the letters and the one number mean. The CDC’s new guidelines also missed the chance to announce a contest to determine what the next change to that ever-lengthening alphanumeric string should be. Will the “2” gradually go up to “3” and “4” and so on, in the same way the leading digit on California license plates has done over the past several decades? Or should the string get longer, for instance “LGBTQIA2VM6YR7”? Maybe not, as people might confuse it with a car’s VIN (Vehicle Identification Number). Or, like online passwords, maybe at least one special character should be required, e.g. “LGB#TQIA2V%M6YR7.” No hacker’s ever gonna crack that.

A cynic might say that all the CDC’s changes and complexities will be used to justify hiring a cadre of language consultants to interpret the new terms and rules to hapless bureaucrats (forgive my redundancy). Those language consultants will swell the ranks in the army of diversity, equity, and inclusion consultants already on the dole, thereby revealing the true goal of an ever larger government whose minions regulate all aspects of our lives.

But hey, what do I know? I’m just a person who engages in thinking—formerly known as a thinker.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 4, 2021 at 4:34 AM

Līmax in the sky with branches: both sides now

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From July 27th along John Henry Faulk Dr. you’re seeing both sides
of a little white snail (for which one Latin word was līmax).

In the title of today’s post, readers of a certain age will likely catch
the references to two songs from half a century ago.


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Ever since elementary school I’ve been interested in the phenomenon of language. George Orwell’s novels 1984 and Animal Farm, which I read in high school, and later his essay “Politics and the English Language,” which you can read online, made me aware of the ways in which propagandists distort words for ideological purposes. For example, in the appendix to 1984, Orwell explained that newspeak, the language that the dictatorship imposed on people, allowed the word free to be used only in the sense that a dog can be free from fleas, but not in the sense that a person has free thought and freedom to act independently.

The other day I came across a recent example of language distortion (and also of pusillanimous groveling):

During a recent endocrinology course at a top medical school in the University of California system, a professor stopped mid-lecture to apologize for something he’d said at the beginning of class.

“I don’t want you to think that I am in any way trying to imply anything, and if you can summon some generosity to forgive me, I would really appreciate it,” the physician says in a recording provided by a student in the class…. “Again, I’m very sorry for that. It was certainly not my intention to offend anyone. The worst thing that I can do as a human being is be offensive.” 

His offense: using the term “pregnant women.” 

“I said ‘when a woman is pregnant,’ which implies that only women can get pregnant and I most sincerely apologize to all of you.”

I invite you to read the article by Katie Herzog about that incident. Illiberal activists like to impugn people they disagree with by calling them x-phobic, where x represents some favored cause or group. I’m now proposing the alliterative term fact-phobic to describe people who deny reality, including the biological reality that anyone who becomes pregnant is a woman. Refusing to deny reality isn’t offensive. Denying reality is.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 18, 2021 at 4:27 AM

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