Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘Williamson County

July 4, 2021

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Today being July 4th, here’s a vintage red-white-and-blue picture of Ipomopsis rubra, known as standing cypress and Texas plume. The sky was filled with plumes of its own in Williamson County on that long-ago day (May 20, 2009), so I included both kinds of plumes in the portraits I made.

And here’s a quotation that relates to July 4th:

may it be to the world, what I believe it will be, (to some parts sooner, to others later, but finally to all,) the Signal of arousing men to burst the chains, under which monkish ignorance and superstition had persuaded them to bind themselves, and to assume the blessings & security of self-government. that form which we have substituted, restores the free right to the unbounded exercise of reason and freedom of opinion. all eyes are opened, or opening, to the rights of man. the general spread of the light of science has already laid open to every view. the palpable truth, that the mass of mankind has not been born with saddles on their backs, nor a favored few booted and spurred, ready to ride them legitimately, by the grace of god. these are grounds of hope for others. for ourselves, let the annual return of this day forever refresh our recollections of these rights, and an undiminished devotion to them.

That’s from a letter Thomas Jefferson wrote to Roger Weightman on June 24, 1826. (I’ve preserved the idiosyncratic punctuation and capitalization of the original.) It was the last letter Jefferson ever wrote. He died on July 4, 1826, as did John Adams. The story (perhaps slightly embellished) has come down to us that Adams’s last words were “Thomas Jefferson lives”; unbeknownst to Adams, however, Jefferson had died hours earlier in Virginia. Was any other simultaneous death ever as symbolic as that of the second and third presidents of the United States, both of whom were deeply involved in creating the Declaration of Independence and seeing it adopted exactly 50 years before the day they died?

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman (whose age today and for a year to come will match the Spirit of ’76).

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 4, 2021 at 4:45 AM

Wildflower carpets continuing into June

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Here from Mourning Dove Lane and US 183 in Leander is a field that was still wonderfully flowerful on June 7th. Dominating everything else was Gaillardia pulchella, known as firewheels, Indian blankets, and blanketflowers. The two kinds of white flowers toward the back were bull nettle (Cnidoscolus texanus) and white prickly poppies (Argemone albiflora).

Because I show pictures here at a size of about half a megapixel, you often miss details apparent in the full 50-megapixel photographs my camera takes. The image below is a strip across the bottom of the photograph above. Click the strip to enlarge it and see more details. The white flower at the left is Texas bindweed (Convovulus equitans). Near the middle of the strip is the pod of a milkweed, probably antelope horns milkweed (Asclepias asperula). The purple inflorescence a little farther right is a horsemint (Monarda citriodora). Notice how many of the firewheels had already become seed heads.


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“The Cultural Revolution, formally the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, was a violent sociopolitical purge movement in China from 1966 until 1976.” So begins the Wikipedia article about what I choose to call the Anti-Cultural Revolution because it destroyed culture and killed people. “Estimates of the death toll from the [Anti-]Cultural Revolution, including civilians and Red Guards, vary greatly, ranging from hundreds of thousands to 20 million.”

Elements of that horrific movement have now come to America, where crazed mobs, both in person and online, persecute people for having said or done something that the fanatics don’t like, even if the thing was decades ago and the people weren’t yet adults. As in the North Korean dictatorship today, a supposed offender’s family, friends, and associates also are deemed worthy of punishment. Thankfully, some Americans are speaking out against such destructive fanaticism. If you’d like to learn more about a recent incident, you can listen to Bari Weiss‘s half-hour podcast “America’s Cultural Revolution.”

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 15, 2021 at 4:32 AM

Brown-eyed Susan colony

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Here’s a wildflower that hasn’t appeared in these pages for a good while: Rudbeckia hirta, known as brown-eyed Susan or black-eyed Susan. (Maybe Susan’s the sister of the Barbara whose buttons you saw last time.) Mixed in are a few firewheels, Gaillardia pulchella, many of which had already gone to seed by the time I took this picture at Tejas Camp in Williamson County on June 7th. Among some of the brown-eyed Susans I found the basket-flower, Plectocephalus americanus, that’s shown below. Sometimes my hair looks like that, except for the pink.


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My country’s current administration is changing the word mothers to birthing people in some official documents. Honest. At least greeting card companies have 11 months to update their products for May 8, 2022, which will be the next Birthing People’s Day. A whole lot of changes are gonna have to get made. Whereas ma and mom were pet forms of the now discredited and unspeakable m-word, I guess children will fondly call the people who birthed them their bir. And of course the verb smother will have to be changed to sbirthingperson. As in: Google, Facebook, and Twitter keep sbirthingpersoning the expression of truths they don’t want you to know.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 12, 2021 at 4:34 AM

North Fork of the San Gabriel River

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On November 30th we spent some time on the North Fork of the San Gabriel River near Tejas Camp in Williamson County. For lack of rain the river had gone down a lot, revealing bedrock that’s more often hidden. The dropping water level left some algae draped over a rock, which the sun did a good job of spotlighting:

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 20, 2020 at 4:35 AM

Prairie agalinis has been out for some time now

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So much has been going on in 2020 that I’ve neglected to show you any prairie agalinis, Agalinis heterophylla, which has been out in various places for a good while now. The first time I photographed any this year was September 16th, along the North Fork [of the] San Gabriel River in Williamson County, as shown in today’s portrait. These flowers vary in length from about 0.75 to 1.25 inches.

I don’t know about you, but when I look at the larger-spotted, ellipse-shaped part of this flower, my brain tends to see it as concave even though I know it’s convex. Call it a floral equivalent of a Necker cube. Oh, what a world of illusions we live in. And in lieu of a quotation today, you’re welcome to turn your eyes and brain loose on some more optical illusions.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 31, 2020 at 4:30 AM

White: familiar and unfamiliar

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On August 18th I spent time at Raab Park in Round Rock and photographed several things that were white. A very familiar one was Clematis drummondii, whose feathery strands you see above. (You may remember that I also made portraits of some actual feathers there.) Near the end of my stay I noticed a little group of low plants I wasn’t familiar with. I took pictures and hoped that later on I could figure out what I’d photographed. Thanks to a timely post in the Texas Wildflowers Facebook group, I’ll say that the plants seem to have been Nealley’s globe amaranth, Gomphrena nealleyi. Other species I’ve seen online do have a more globe-like inflorescence than this one. The scientific name of this species pays tribute to Greenleaf Cilley Nealley (1846-1896), a Texan botanist—and look how appropriate his first name was for the profession he pursued.

Nealley’s globe amaranth normally grows in south Texas, so perhaps it’s expanding its range. Botanist Bill Carr says it’s rare in Travis County, and the USDA map doesn’t have it marked for Williamson County, which is where I found my specimens. And speaking of globe amaranth, here’s a quotation for today:

“When we contemplate the whole globe as one great dewdrop, striped and dotted with continents and islands, flying through space with other stars all singing and shining together as one, the whole universe appears as an infinite storm of beauty.” — John Muir, Travels in Alaska  (1915).

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 26, 2020 at 4:38 AM

South Fork of the San Gabriel River

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As often as I’ve photographed along the North Fork of the San Gabriel River at Tejas Camp in Williamson County, I’d never photographed along the South Fork till September 18th, when we visited the relatively recent Garey Park in the southwest corner of Georgetown.

All three of these landscape pictures show the eons-long erosive effect of water streaming against rock.

In case you’re wondering about the yellow-green stuff at the edge of the water, it’s duckweed (Lemna minor), which forms floating mats. On one such mat I found a tiny grasshopper.

Click to enlarge.

Here’s an unrelated thought for today: “Dear, sweet, unforgettable childhood! Why does that irrevocable time, forever departed, seem brighter, more festive, and richer than it actually was?” — Anton Chekhov, The Bishop (1902).

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 6, 2020 at 4:24 AM

From river primrose to eryngo

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In the previous post I showed you the flowers of a native plant that was new to me, river primrose (Oenothera jamesii), bunches of which I found along the north fork of the San Gabriel River in Williamson County on September 16th. The yellow flowers are large, so you won’t be surprised to see, as you do above, that the plant’s buds are also sizable, maybe 4 inches long in this case. But what, you ask, is that rich purple in the background? It’s eryngo (Eryngium leavenworthii), whose inflorescences some people liken to little purple pineapples, and others to thistles, given how spiny the plant is. Strangely, though, eryngo turns out to be in the same botanical family, Apiaceae, as parsley, dill, anise, cumin, and celery. Because I’ve teased you with eryngo as a background glow, I guess I’ll have to show you one in its own right.

In an unrelated fact for today, see if you can get your arms around the fact that embracery is a legal term meaning ‘an attempt to influence a court, jury, etc., corruptly, by promises, entreaties, money, entertainments, threats, or other improper inducements.’

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 27, 2020 at 4:34 AM

A new tall yellow

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On September 16th we drove the 25 miles or so to Tejas Camp in Williamson County. Walking along the edge of the great meadow there, we saw nary a flower of any kind, just the opposite of the way the field had looked in the late spring of 2016 when it was covered with wildflowers. Still we kept on. Things changed abruptly after we followed a side path over to the north fork of the San Gabriel River. The parts of the river bed without flowing water had become hospitable ground to many kinds of native plants. The most conspicuous, because some of them were taller than a person and had plenty of long-stemmed yellow flowers on them, was river primrose (Oenothera jamesii), which I don’t remember ever seeing before. Below is a close-up of one flower.

A view from the side is also worthwhile.

And here’s an unrelated quotation for today: “Deliberate much before you speak or act, because you can’t call back what you’ve said or done.” — Epictetus, Fragments.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 26, 2020 at 4:31 AM

Green milkweed flowers and pods

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From May 29th at the Benbrook Ranch Park in Leander you’re seeing the flowers and pods of green milkweed, Asclepias viridis. And how about those great clouds? Because I took these pictures only three minutes apart, the clouds hadn’t changed that much, so if you compare you can still match some of them up.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 16, 2020 at 4:40 AM

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