Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘wildflowers

New Zealand: Orokonui

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A year ago today we spent several hours at the Orokonui Ecosanctuary north of Dunedin. At the entrance we gazed upon the broad and healthily handsome cabbage tree (Cordyline australis) shown below. In the foreground you see a stand of the ubiquitous plant known as flax in New Zealand English, harakeke in Māori, and Phormium tenax in botanese.

Among the kinds of native plants inside the reserve we saw one with clusters of white flowers. It turned out to be Ozothamnus vauvilliersii, known as tauhinu and mountain cottonwood.

Tauhinu belongs to a tribe of the sunflower family that I don’t remember having heard of, Gnaphaleae, though I see now that the tribe includes a genus that’s common in Austin. One clue that mountain cottonwood is in the sunflower family is the way its seed heads turn fluffy as they age:

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman


Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 27, 2018 at 4:42 AM

Fireweed at the edge of Emerald Lake

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On September 7th, Yoho National Park‘s Emerald Lake served as a pastel backdrop for these buds and flowers of fireweed, Chamaenerion angustifolium.

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 23, 2018 at 4:48 AM

An antidote to winter

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As 2017 traipses to its end, those of you in frigid places might crave a dose of sunshiny warmth ‘long about now. Here from October 21st in my neighborhood is a dreamy look at some flowers on a goldeneye bush (Viguiera dentata). A flowerful 2018 to you all.

© 2017 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 31, 2017 at 4:58 AM


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An exchange of comments last month with Linda at The Task at Hand brought up a milkweed vine classified as Cynanchum racemosum. The vernacular name is the four-syllable talayote, the form in which Spanish borrowed an indigenous word for the plant. Talayote rang a bell, so I searched my archive and discovered that the one time I ever found the species was May 25th, 2011, and right in my neighborhood. That was a couple of weeks before this blog started up, and with a world of native plants to highlight in the ensuing posts, I lost sight of talayote. Here then, six-and-a-half years late, is a photograph of a talayote flower. Notice once again that milkweeds do things in fives.

While I never showed talayote here till now, I did feature a different Cynanchum species in 2013.

© 2017 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 21, 2017 at 4:42 AM

Purple fall asters flowering

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Asters are typically the last of Austin’s wildflowers to appear in quantity each autumn. These are Symphyotrichum oblongifolium at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center on October 25th.

© 2017 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 14, 2017 at 4:34 AM

Above and beyond the call

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Above and beyond the call of yellow put forth in the lower foreground by camphorweed (Heterotheca subaxillaris), you’ll find leanings and standings of Maximilian sunflowers (Helianthus maximiliani). Reaching in from the bottom left are some branches of paloverde (Parkinsonia aculeata).

This fall prairie display graced an undeveloped property along Joe Barbee Dr. in far north Austin on October 12th. I occasionally saw other Maximilian sunflowers around Austin through November. Just two days ago I found a few in the northern suburb of Cedar Park; while the bit of snow we’d had left their ray flowers bedraggled, the plants still stood erect.

© 2017 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 11, 2017 at 5:28 PM

Out of season

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Botanical field guides tell us the time(s) of the year when a species normally flowers. “Normally” is the operative word, based on observations over decades. Often what has proved true keeps on being true: books say that our prickly pear cacti bloom in the spring, and sure enough, I’ve never seen a prickly pear flower here in any other season. Some other species are freer in their stirrings, and that was the case with the firewheels I found on December 3 along the Colorado River at Loop 360. Gaillardia pulchella is described as blooming in the spring and occasionally into the summer, but here I found a small group that had put out some very healthy-looking flowers just three weeks before Christmas.

I’d gone out that morning to try for some pictures of fog, a rare occurrence here. I didn’t get any good fog pictures, but the firewheels made up for that. The low light led me to use an uncharacteristically wide aperture of f/2.8. That accounts for the photograph’s shallow depth of field, with only the nearest ray and the closest part of the central disk coming into good focus. At the same time, the limited depth of field caused distracting background details to graciously dissolve into amorphous areas of muted colors.

© 2017 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 8, 2017 at 4:46 AM

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