Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘wildflower

Bluebell time

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Two years ago, during the first months of the pandemic, I brought you a picture of probably the densest and most expansive colony of bluebells (Eustoma sp.) I’ve ever seen. It sprawled across a field on the south side of San Gabriel Blvd. in Leander, a rapidly growing suburb north of Austin. Unfortunately that rapid growth meant the field soon became a construction site and the great bluebell colony was destroyed before another spring came around. This year a post in the Texas Flora group announced that some bluebells had come up on the north side of San Gabriel Blvd, presumably the progeny of plants from the now-gone colony. On June 14th I went up there and, sure enough, I found some bluebells flowering, mostly in a ditch.

For the portrait above, I lay on the ground and aimed toward a patch of bright sky. (If I remember correctly, this is the first picture with a white background I’ve posted since a winecup in December 2021, and that was the first since a rain lily in March 2020.) The portrait below shows some bluebell buds beginning to open.

 

As I was finishing up my photography in Leander, I noticed a crew of mowers getting closer and closer to the wildflower-filled ditch. When a guy with a weed-whacker approached the far end of the ditch, I went over and talked to him in Spanish, asking him not to cut down the beautiful wildflowers. He asked me if I was the encargado—the person in charge—of the property. I said no, but as a citizen it was important to me to preserve the wildflowers. He pointed to a guy on a tractor who he said was the head of the ground crew, so I walked over and talked to him. He turned out to speak good English. He said the crew mowed on a schedule, and he didn’t seem at all concerned about cutting down the flowers. I asked who at his company I could talk to. He pointed to the company truck, which had a phone number on it. I walked close enough to the truck to read the phone number, called it, and got a message saying that number was out of service. It didn’t seem there was any more I could do, so I drove home.

Two days later I went back to see what had happened. To my pleasant surprise, I found that the guys in the crew had mowed a narrow strip along the top edges of the ditch but had left everything lower down alone. It seems my plea had done some good after all. Below, strictly for documentary purposes, is how a portion of the ditch looked when I returned there. Other than the bluebells, prominent flowers were horsemints (Monarda citriodora) and firewheels (Gaillardia pulchella), visible in the upper left, and two others that I’ll show in a separate post.

 

After I told this story in the Texas Flora group a couple of days ago, florally named Rose Thomas commented that the incident reminded her of Robert Frost’s poem “The Tuft of Flowers.” I didn’t know that poem, so I looked it up and found a version in which Robert Frost himself reads it as the lines of verse scroll to keep pace. I also replied to Rose: “In addition to the bluebells at the bottom of the ditch, the mowers had spared one that was flowering up high, at the level of the adjacent field, next to a culvert. Substitute the culvert for a brook, and that bluebell could have been the tall tuft of flowers in the poem.” (That will make sense if you check out the poem.)

 

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 19, 2022 at 4:34 AM

Red and green at Inks Lake State Park

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One reason I headed out to Inks Lake State Park on May 6th was that some of the prickly pear cactus flowers there in other springtimes have displayed more red than I see in their Austin counterparts. The top picture shows that was true this year, too. In contrast to that red, look at all the placid green around one inlet.

  

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Did you hear about how the imaging technique of photogrammetry has revealed details of cave art in Alabama from about 2000 years ago? “The motifs, which depict human forms and animals, are some of the largest known cave images found in North America and may represent spirits of the underworld.” Check it out.

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 15, 2022 at 4:27 AM

Lace cactus

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Yesterday I found flowers on several adjacent lace cacti (Echinocereus reichenbachii ssp. reichenbachii) in my hilly northwest part of Austin. Today’s picture of one is the first I’ve ever shown here. Great saturated colors, don’t you think?

 

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For decades I’ve criticized the American education system. In the 15 years since I last taught, not only have the old problems persisted and worsened, but new problems have arisen. Here’s how Shane Trotter describes one of them in his Quillette article “Hidden in Plain Sight: Putting Tech Before Teaching.”

In its desire to embrace technology, our school district failed to recognize the social devolution that was taking hold of society. The iPad Initiative [which he’d just described in detail] came right as smartphones became virtually ubiquitous among American teens and adults. Teens began spending over seven hours per day consuming entertainment media. Twelfth-graders in 2015 were going out less often than eight graders Adolescent mental disorders skyrocketed. And at this crucial juncture, we decided to begin allowing students to use smartphones throughout the school day. These students would not know how to set boundaries for how they used their phones. They’d have no understanding of the psychological vulnerabilities that tech companies exploited—no training in how to use their phone without it using them. Most of all, they’d have no environment where they could be free from the incessant psychic drain that had come to define their world. Oblivious to any responsibility to help students or their families adapt better, our schools helped facilitate the community’s descent into becoming screen-addicted, constantly distracted people whose cognitive skills and attention spans were being chipped away rather than cultivated.

You’re welcome to read the full article.

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 29, 2022 at 4:38 AM

Time again for prairie celestials

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During the first week of April native plantophile Robert Kamper kept me apprised of how the prairie celestials, Nemastylis geminiflora, were coming along in the greenbelt right behind his house in Round Rock. Early in the afternoon on April 11th I went out there and was pleased to find over half a dozen of the flowers scattered about, including the one shown here.

 

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So yesterday morning I went to Sprouts to buy some produce. While walking around the store I noticed in the dairy section that there was a Manager’s Special on the house brand of cream cheese, whose current regular price is $1.79 each. The sale sign told customers they’d get $2.58 off if they bought two packages. How could I pass up a good deal like that? I put four packages of cream cheese into my cart.

A little later, as the cashier was tallying my items, I noticed that each package of cream cheese was ringing up on the register at the regular price of $1.79. I pointed out to the cashier that the cream cheese was on sale, and I asked if the discount would show up at the end (some stores—do you hear me, Central Market?—annoyingly do it that way rather than showing the discount right after each item appears on the screen). The cashier seemed not to know the item was on sale. After a little back and forth, she finally asked whether I was talking about a Manager’s Special. Yes, I told her, that’s what it was. Her answer was that, oh, Manager’s Specials typically only last one day, and because of that they don’t get entered into the store’s computer and therefore don’t show up at the register. She asked me what the sale price was, but I didn’t remember exactly how much of a discount I was supposed to get, so she had to run all the way to the dairy section in the most distant part of the store to read the sign, do the calculations, and then come back and manually ring up each cream cheese for 50¢ rather than $1.79.

What kind of a way to run a business is that? Is each customer required to announce at the register that an item is a Manager’s Special? There was nothing on the sale sign that said I had to do that. Think about all the people who get enticed into buying Manager’s Specials and don’t notice at the register that they’ve been charged the regular price after all. A cynical shopper couldn’t be blamed for saying that that’s the whole point. What do you think, shoppers?

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 18, 2022 at 3:42 AM

Unexpected Missouri violets

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For whatever reason, I practically never come across Missouri violets (Viola missouriensis). The only time I showed a picture of one here was in 2016. Imagine my surprise, then, on April 1st when I discovered two little clumps of Missouri violets that had sprung up between bricks in a walkway behind our house. We’ve called this place home for almost 18 years, and these were the first Missouri violets I’d ever seen in our yard. To give you a sense of scale, let me add that a Missouri violet flower is at most 3/4 of an inch across.

 

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Welcome to New Discourses! We like to think of this place as a home for the politically homeless, especially for those who feel like they’ve been displaced from their political homes because of the movement sometimes called “Critical Social Justice” and the myriad negative effects it has had on our political environments, both on the left and on the right. If that’s you, welcome, and make yourself at home.

New Discourses is, by design, meant to be apolitical in the usual sense. That means it is not interested in conservative, progressive, left, right, center, or any other particular political stances. It is, in this regard, only broadly liberal in the philosophical and ethical stance. In that case, whether you’re a progressive left-liberal or a conservative right-liberal, traditional or classical in any case, you’re likely to find what we’re doing refreshing. (And if you don’t, we can talk about it! That’s the point!)

That’s from the About page of a website I recently came across (I don’t remember how). If those words resonate with you, check out New Discourses.

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 15, 2022 at 4:36 AM

Calderón de la Barca comes to Austin

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When I walked in our untended back and side yard on April Fool’s Day I wasn’t fooled: I recognized a good half-dozen native species that had come up on their own, including this Carolina geranium (Geranium corolinianum). Apropos the foliage supporting that flower, look at this passage from Pedro Calderón de la Barca‘s 1632 play La Banda y la Flor (The Scarf and the Flower):

La verde es color primera
Del mundo, y en quien consiste
Su hermosura, pues se viste
De verde la primavera.
La vista más lisonjera
Es aquel verde ornamento,
Pues sin voz y con aliento
Nacen de varios colores
En cuna verde las flores
Que son estrellas del viento.

Green is the primary color
Of the world, and the reason
For its beauty is that
Spring dresses in green.
That green ornamentation
Is the most flattering view,
Because without voice but with breath
A green cradle gives birth to flowers,
Which are the wind’s stars.

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 11, 2022 at 4:31 AM

Scrambled eggs from cage-free plants

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On March 18 at McKinney Roughs Nature Park in Bastrop County I photographed some scrambled eggs, which is what people have taken to calling some species in the genus Corydalis based on their flowers’ appearance. The stiff breeze that afternoon led me to use flash, which accounts for the unnaturally dark sky.

 

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I recently read Woke Racism: How a New Religion Has Betrayed Black America, by John McWhorter, who’s a linguistics professor at my no longer alma-ing mater,* Columbia University. His preferred term for the people that others most often call “woke” is “the Elect.” (I assume the publisher insisted on Woke in the title so potential readers would recognize what the book is about.) Here’s one passage:

 

… We must ask whether the Elect approach actually shows signs of making any difference in the lives of black people, other than by making educated white people infantilize them. While purportedly “dismantling racist structures,” the Elect religion is actually harming the people living in those structures. It is a terrifyingly damaging business. Here is how Elect ideology does not genuinely care about the welfare of black people.

You are to turn a blind eye to black kids getting jumped by other ones in school.

You are to turn a blind eye to black undergraduates cast into schools where they are in over their heads, and into law schools incapable of adjusting to their level of preparation in a way that will allow them to pass the bar exam.

You are to turn a blind eye to the willful dimness of condemning dead people for moral lapses normal in their time, as if they were still alive.

You are to turn a blind eye to the folly in the idea of black “identity” as all about what whites think rather than about what black people themselves think.

You are to turn a blind eye to lapses in black intellectuals’ work, because black people lack white privilege.

You are to turn a blind eye to the fact that social history is complex, and instead pretend that those who tell you that all racial discrepancies are a result of racism are evidencing brilliance.

You are to turn a blind eye to innocent children taught to think in these ways practically before they can hold a pencil.

 

Check out Woke Racism, either literally from a library or by buying it.

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* Latin alma means ‘nourishing, nurturing.’ Latin mater means the same as mother, which is its native English cognate [see definition 2].

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 24, 2022 at 4:31 AM

First bluebonnet for 2022

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At the nature area along Kulmbacher Dr. on March 9th I found exactly one bluebonnet (Lupinus texensis) flowering. It was low, and even while lying on the ground I had a hard time getting a decent picture from the side. This limited-focus view from the top at least has abstraction going for it.

 

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Check out this 5-minute video by American concert pianist Ruth Slenczynska, who is still in her prime at age 97 (which is a prime number, after all) and who is putting out a new album on the Decca label.

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 13, 2022 at 4:31 AM

First wildflower for 2022

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Yesterday I went to an undeveloped lot on Balcones Woods Dr. where I’m accustomed to photographing ten-petal anemones (Anemone berlandieri) at this time of year. I found a smattering of those flowers, and on one of them I also found a tiny spider; it might have been a quarter of an inch (6mm) long.

For a closer look at the spider, click the thumbnail below.

UPDATE: Bugguide.net has identified the subject as a lynx spider in the genus Oxyopes.

Anemones typically rise only inches above the earth, so my normal photographic posture when portraying them is to lie on a mat on the ground and aim upward as much as possible. I took advantage of a dark area in the distance to “cap” the flower. Fortunately the closer distracting stuff on the ground stayed out of focus.

 

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Garry Kasparov is arguably the greatest chess player in our lifetime. “From 1984 until his retirement in 2005, Kasparov was ranked world No. 1 for a record 255 months overall for his career, a record that outstrips all other previous and current players.”

Garry Kasparov is also a Russian advocate for freedom and democracy, and currently chairman of the Human Rights Foundation. His years of experience give him better insights into Russian dictator Putin and the depredations now taking place in Ukraine than most Americans could ever have. You can profit from those insights by listening to yesterday’s interview with him on the Megyn Kelly Show. The interview takes up the show’s first two segments and lasts a total of 39 minutes.

 

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 2, 2022 at 4:11 AM

Posted in nature photography

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Grasshopper central

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While at Tejas Camp in Williamson County on September 25th I though of calling the place “grasshopper central” for the many insects of that kind I saw ensconced on plants and jumping about. Here are two portraits of grasshoppers on river primrose plants (Oenothera jamesii).


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Yesterday I outlined a proposed Constitutional amendment of mine that would require legislators to read and understand bills before being allowed to vote on them. Actually that would be part of a larger amendment dealing with legislative bills. Here’s more of what I’d like to see included.

1. A legislative bill shall deal with only one subject.

2. The first line of the bill must state what that subject is, and it must conform to the general understanding among the public of what that subject includes.

3. For each pending Congressional bill, every sentence shall be identified by the name and position of the person or persons who wrote the sentence. If the writer(s) acted on behalf of or at the behest of some other person(s) or organization(s), those identifications must also be included.

4. Unless Congress by a three-quarter majority in each house separately declares a national emergency, the complete text of a bill must be released to the public and made readily available online at least 14 days before a bill is brought to a vote.

5. A non-partisan commission created by Congress shall thoroughly examine every final bill and remove all parts of it that don’t conform to points 1–3 above. The commission is also empowered to prevent, and must prevent, voting on any bill whose final form the public has not had easy access to for 14 days.

Point 1 is intended to eliminate the monstrous bills we now get that run to hundreds or even thousands of pages and that include a slew of unrelated things. Politicians too easily hide pet projects and controversial proposals in the welter of such “omnibus” bills. My idea is to have the legislature vote separately on each proposal or small group of related proposals. That would let the public know which legislators support which things.

Point 2 is intended to head off concept creep and gross semantic inflation. For example, the current administration has been referring to anything under the sun as “infrastructure,” e.g. “human infrastructure” and “family infrastructure,” whereas the normal use of the term “infrastructure” includes only physical structures like roads, bridges, airports, dams, power lines, railroads, ports, canals, and the like.

Point 3 is intended to reveal who is actually inserting provisions into a bill. As things stand now, the real promoters are often hidden from the public.

Point 4 is intended to give the public and the press a reasonable amount of time to find out what’s in a bill before it gets voted on.

Point 5 creates a neutral external body to enforce the provisions that members of Congress may be too pusillanimous to adhere to.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 2, 2021 at 4:32 AM

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