Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘wildflower

Two takes on buffalo bur

with 20 comments

I see buffalo bur (Solanum rostratum) fairly often in Austin, yet I haven’t shown any pictures of it here since 2015. Today’s post puts an end to the five-year hiatus. You may notice the flower’s similarity in shape, but not color, to that of its genus-mate silverleaf nightshade, which appeared here recently. The picture below, also from west of Morado Circle on July 5th, shows you the prickly seed capsules that put the bur in buffalo bur, and caution in people who get close. The flowers in the background were two-leaf senna.

Would you like to know what the British conductor Sir Thomas Beecham had to say about the harpsichord?
Sure you would. He said it “sounds like two skeletons copulating on a corrugated tin roof.”

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 9, 2020 at 4:27 AM

A pond as a pleasant background, twice

with 18 comments

Pink evening primroses reach their peak here in the spring, when large colonies of Oenothera speciosa sometimes form. Even so, individual plants are often found flowering through the summer and fall, like this one that I photographed on July 24th at the edge of a pond off Naruna Way on the Blackland Prairie. I also coaxed the pond to pose behind a spiderwebbed Texas thistle seed head, Cirsium texanum.

And here’s an unrelated but relevant quotation for today: “So we must beware of a tyranny of opinion which tries to make only one side of a question the one which may be heard. Everyone is in favour of free speech. Hardly a day passes without its being extolled, but some people’s idea of it is that they are free to say what they like, but if anyone says anything back, that is an outrage.” — Winston Churchill in the U.K. Parliament on October 13, 1943.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 8, 2020 at 4:38 AM

Low wild petunia

with 46 comments

From Vaught Ranch Road on June 13th come two views of a native wildflower
I’d never photographed before: Ruellia humilis, known as low wild petunia.

Here’s an unrelated little mathematical diversion: the four numbers 1, 1.2, 2, and 3 have the interesting property that whether you add all of them or multiply all of them you get the same result (in this case 7.2). Are they the only foursome like that? Hardly. For example, whether you add -2, -1, 0, and 3 or multiply -2, -1, 0, and 3, you get the same result (in this case 0). Would you believe that infinitely many sets of four numbers exist that also have the property that adding the four numbers gives the same result as multiplying them? That turns out to be the truth of the matter. Are you surprised?

The second example suggests a template for generating as many more sets of numbers as you like that have the desired property. Let the first of the four numbers be 0. Now pick any two different negative numbers you like (say for example –4 and –6). Finally, add the two negative numbers and make the sum positive (in this case 10). You’ll now have four numbers with the desired property (–4, –6, 0, 10). This works because 0 times any other number is 0, and you’ve rigged the addition in such a way that the positive number cancels out the two negative numbers. In fact you can extend the pattern to as many numbers as you like. For instance, here are six numbers such that adding them gives the same result as multiplying them: 0, -3, -7, -10, -15, 35.

As a quotation for today, let me quote myself: Zero may be nothing, but not for nothing is zero special.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 4, 2020 at 4:37 AM

Two takes on square-bud primrose flowers

with 44 comments

Along the Capital of Texas Highway on June 13th I found some bright yellow flowers of Oenothera berlandieri, known descriptively as square-bud primroses and poetically as sundrops. How could I not get down low and make abstract portraits of such sunny wildflowers? The first picture shown here plays up the idea of “a light shining in the darkness.” In the second, I was intrigued by the way one of the plant’s leaves curled into a spiral and turned reddish-brown as it dried out. A spider had been intrigued enough to hang out inside the spiral.

Unrelated proverb for today: You can’t unring a bell.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 30, 2020 at 4:41 AM

Clematis drummondii flower viewed edge-on

with 34 comments

I made this portrait on June 25th in Great Hills Park.
You saw a later stage in this vine’s development a week ago.

Related quotation for today: “There is that in the glance of a flower
which may at times control the greatest of creation’s braggart lords.”
— John Muir in A Thousand-Mile Walk to the Gulf, 1916.

News flash (July 22, 2020): Sierra Club denounces founder John Muir; statues of him to be removed.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 24, 2020 at 4:43 AM

Two riders on velvetleaf mallow

with 40 comments

On July 5th west of Morado Circle I photographed some velvetleaf mallow plants (Allowisadula holosericea) that were beginning to flower, as you see in the first picture. I didn’t notice the little dark insect until I looked at the picture on my computer screen days later. In contrast, I couldn’t help but notice the colorful critter that the second picture shows you on the underside of one of the mallow’s leaves. Don’t you think parts of its body look like they’re riveted together? Val Bugh tells me it’s an immature Niesthrea louisianica. That species is in the family Rhopalidae, whose members are known collectively as scentless plant bugs, though this one apparently lacks a common name (like the Calocoris barberi that you saw here not long ago).

An unrelated saying for today: “Worry is interest paid on trouble before it falls due.”
That thought appeared in William Meade Pegram’s 1909 book Past-Times,
which included a section that offered up various proverbs.
Where the quoted one originated isn’t clear, but I won’t worry about it.
Here’s another along similar lines:
“Anxiety and Ennui are the pencils that Time uses to draw wrinkles.”

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 23, 2020 at 4:42 AM

Svelte

with 20 comments

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

A golden basket and a wheel of fire

with 34 comments

A post yesterday in “The World According to Dina” began with a quotation by Cézanne: “La couleur est le lieu où notre cerveau et l’univers se rencontrent,” “Color is the place where our mind and the universe meet.” What a great poetic idea, don’t you think? The post included three of Dina’s photographic experiments in color created by moving the camera while the shutter remained open. Go have a look.

As you know, I’ve also been pursuing color abstraction this year. For me the points of entry have been the colors and shapes of Austin’s wildflowers. The title of today’s post alludes to two of them: the basket-flower, Plectocephalus americanus, and the firewheel, Gaillardia pulchella. The one “basket” and the two firewheels portrayed here were growing in the dedicated wildflower area at the Floral Park Drive entrance to Great Hills Park on July 8th. If you’re burning to read more into the image, the little structures on the basket could be stylized flames.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 11, 2020 at 4:41 AM

A confirmation on upper Bull Creek

with 16 comments

Yesterday you saw two views of a tiny wildflower that got identified for me as Samolus ebracteatus var. cuneatus, known as limewater brookweed and limestone brook-pimpernel. Later it occurred to me that I might have spotted the species last year at the base of a limestone overhang a few miles away along the upper reaches of Bull Creek, so on July 1st I went back to the spot to find out. Sure enough, that was it. The picture above shows you a few of those plants practically lost among some healthy southern maidenhair ferns (Adiantum capillus-veneris) and inland sea oats (Chasmanthium latifolium).

If you could float back maybe 30 feet from this ferny nook and look to your left, you’d get the view shown below of the scalloped limestone cliffs along this scenic stretch of Bull Creek. Notice the dead trees hanging upside; that phenomenon was the focus of a post in 2016.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 10, 2020 at 4:42 AM

Limewater brookweed

with 31 comments

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

%d bloggers like this: