Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘wildflowers

Paloverde parts

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From August 25th at Mopac and US 183, here are the ever cheery flowers of a paloverde tree (Parkinsonia aculeata). I also did a closeup of one of the tree’s drying pods.

Below is a minimalist view of a paloverde leaf whose curling tip had turned reddish.

And here’s an unrelated quotation for today:
“Sensible people don’t grieve over what they don’t have but rejoice in what they do have.”
Epictetus, Fragments.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 23, 2020 at 4:41 AM

Non-linear mealy blue sage

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The stalks of mealy blue sage (Salvia farinacea) are known to depart from straight lines.

These pictures from August 25th at the intersection of Mopac and US 183 confirm that.

The stalk in the third picture loops us around into a quaint little article called “Dangerous Amusement” that appeared in The Philadelphia Medical Journal on August 10, 1901:

“Loop-the-Loop” is the name of a new entertainment which goes further in the way of tempting Providence than anything yet invented. The “Loop” is an immense circle of track in the air. A car on a mimic railway shoots down a very steep incline, and is impelled around the inner side of this loop. Part of this journey, of course, is made “heads down,” the people in the car retaining their places by the great centrifugal force. The authorities at Coney Island are said to have prohibited “looping-the-loop” because women break their corset strings in their efforts to catch their breath as they sweep down the incline, and moreover, a young man is reported to have ruptured a blood vessel in his liver. We predict other accidents from this contrivance yet. No person with a weak heart or bad arteries should try it.

Loop the Loop opened in 1901 and was discontinued in 1910.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 22, 2020 at 4:08 AM

Flourishing fasciation

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The heavily fasciated tall gayfeather (Liatris aspera) that we saw in Bastrop was only budding on August 23rd, so back we went on September 6th to find out what the flowers would look like once they emerged on this distorted plant. Even after two more weeks of development, the flowers were just barely beginning to come out, so I figured we might have to wait a week or two longer and make the 95-mile round trip yet again. Fortunately, as we began heading home we spotted another fasciated specimen about a mile away, and it was fully flowering. In the picture above, the flower stalk in the distance lets you compare a normal specimen to the fasciated one in the foreground. The picture below gives you a closer look at the heart of the strangeness.

For more information about fasciation, you can read this article or this other one. The phenomenon could even serve as a reminder of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s iconoclastic statement in “Self-Reliance“:

“Whoso would be a man, must be a nonconformist.”

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 19, 2020 at 4:41 AM

An epitome of red

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Yesterday Steve G. posted a picture of cardinal flowers (Lobelia cardinalis). It’s a species that Texas shares with Massachusetts, so I figured if his were flowering ours might well be too. I went to check a stretch of Bull Creek where I found cardinal flowers last September; sure enough, I found plenty again. Of my many new pictures I decided to show this portrait taken at f/2.8, which for such a wide aperture somehow managed to keep the frontmost flowers in focus while also doing what you’d expect and creating a soft feel overall.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 13, 2020 at 3:36 AM

A colorful revisiting of Emerald Lake

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Hard to believe today marks three years since we stood at the edge of Emerald Lake in British Columbia’s Yoho National Park. Smoke from forest fires obscured the lake’s far shore but the turquoise color still came through to set off the slender red seed capsules of the fireweed (Chamaenerion angustifolium) in the first photograph. On a different fireweed plant there I found the caterpillar of a bedstraw hawkmoth, Hyles gallii.

Although it was only a week into September,
so far north some foliage was already beginning to turn colors.

I was attracted to a bush with small white fruits and reddening leaves
that I take to be common snowberry, Symphoricarpos albus.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 7, 2020 at 5:00 AM

Tall

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When we visited the Bastrop forest on August 14th in search of Liatris elegans, which we happily found, we also noticed many conspicuously tall, erect plants of a different species, Liatris aspera, known appropriately as tall liatris, tall blazing-star, and tall gayfeather. Almost all those plants were still only budding on August 14th, so nine days later we headed back on the assumption that enough time would have passed for a bunch of the buds to have opened. And so they had. Above you see two buds beginning to open, and then a mixture of buds and flower heads. Notice how the buds open from the top of each spike downward.

Notice also how there’s a flower head at the apex of each spike. On one spike that was still short enough for me to look down at its top, I photographed the opening flower head at its tip.

You see below what a fully open flower head looks like:

And here’s another thought by our friend Blaise Pascal (1623–1662), from his Pensées (Thoughts): “Dire la vérité est utile à celui à qui on la dit, mais désavantageux à ceux qui la disent, parce qu’ils se font haïr.” “Speaking the truth is useful for those to whom it is spoken, but harmful for those who speak it, because people will hate them for saying it.”

I just found out that François de la Rochefoucauld (1613–1680) said something similar in his Maximes: “Le mal que nous faisons ne nous attire pas tant de persécution et de haine que nos bonnes qualités.” “The bad things that we do don’t lead to as much persecution and hatred of us as do our good qualities.”

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 2, 2020 at 4:33 AM

Yellow and blue

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While at a construction site in southern Round Rock on August 1st I photographed central Texas’s answer to the pussy willow, the golden dalea (Dalea aurea). I also made a portrait of a sunflower (Helianthus annuus).

As I said, this was a construction site, and across the lower section of the sunflower picture you see part of a long ridge of earth that bulldozers had heaped up. In a few of my pictures I made that ridge a subject in its own right, overflown and enhanced by the day’s wispy clouds.

And here’s a tip for today: I recently stumbled across the Good News Network, which lives up to its name by providing good news from around the world. That’s a much-need balance to the endless tales of woe and outrage that so many other news outlets feature. Check it out and see what you think.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 31, 2020 at 4:43 AM

Liatris elegans in two stages

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On August 14th we drove some 40 miles east of home and spent a while beyond Bastrop for the first time since last year. Based on a report I’d read, I hoped to find some flowering Liatris elegans, a species that doesn’t grow in Austin. Find some I did. A few of the plants had already even gone to seed, as you see below.

The only species I see in Austin, Liatris punctata var. mucronata, has purple flowers. In fact every other species of Liatris I’m aware of has purple flowers, so the yellow really is special.

And here’s a quotation for today: “Let us not underrate the value of a fact; it will one day flower in a truth.”
— Henry David Thoreau, “Natural History of Massachusetts.”

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 27, 2020 at 4:42 AM

A bitterweed bud and bloom and beyond and a bee

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It’s been a couple of years since I showed you the common wildflower known as yellow bitterweed, Helenium amarum var. amarum. The native-bee-bedecked portrait above is from August 18th in Round Rock. At the same time I took what I believe are my first pictures ever of a bud in this species, so here’s one of those:

Toward the opposite end of the development cycle, here’s what a seed head looks like when it’s decomposing:

Many parts of the United States are experiencing a summer drought now. People longing for cooler and wetter times may find the following cold-weather fact welcome, and probably also surprising: if a lake has a solid covering of ice 12 inches deep, an 8-ton truck can drive on it. If you want to know how much weight other thicknesses of ice can bear, check out this chart. Notice that the relationship isn’t linear: doubling the thickness allows the ice to bear a lot more than twice the weight.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 26, 2020 at 4:38 AM

A torch-like take on a familiar subject

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If 2020 has been a good year for new takes on Mexican hats, it has also turned into a good year for novelty with Clematis drummondii. This portrait from July 29th on the Blackland Prairie in far northeast Austin is unlike any I’d done in my two decades exploring the most prolific of our three native Clematis species. You can see that I played an opening bundle of silky fibers off against already loosened strands a little further away. Because the vertical bundle strikes this former New Yorker as rather torch-like, for today’s quotation let’s have the poem “The New Colossus,” which Emma Lazarus wrote in 1883 to raise money for the construction of a pedestal for the giant statue* that France had given to the United States to commemorate the country’s declared independence in 1776:

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities** frame.

“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

UPDATE: You can listen to the famous part of the sonnet set to music by an immigrant to the United States, Israel Beilis, better known as Irving Berlin.

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* The French title of the statue that sculptor Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdi designed was Liberté éclairant le monde, Liberty Enlightening the World, but Americans know it as the Statue of Liberty.

** The twin cities were New York and Brooklyn, which weren’t consolidated until 1899.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 21, 2020 at 4:37 AM

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