Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘Williamson County

Flower tower power versus mottled

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From the bed of the North Fork of the San Gabriel River near Tejas Camp in Williamson County on September 12th come these contrasting views of clammyweed, Polanisia dodecandra. The looking-upward view popped the phrase “flower tower power” into my mind, while “mottled” seemed a good word to describe the looking-downward picture with its patches of light and shadow on the ground beneath the flowers.



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A main theme in my essays for the past year and a half has been that justice requires similar things to get treated in similar ways. If it’s known that person A and person B both committed a certain transgression but only person B gets called out or punished for it, that’s not justice; it’s a double standard. Thirteen months ago I wrote a detailed commentary along those lines regarding the extensive rioting that took place in the United States from mid-2020 through January 2021.

A much less consequential example came to light this week. Sunny Hostin, a co-host on the American television talk show “The View,” accused Nikki Haley, former South Carolina governor and former American ambassador to the United Nations, of playing down her ethnic Indian heritage by using the first name Nikki. Turns out, however, that Nikki was in fact one of the names on Nikki Haley’s birth certificate. It’s not unusual for a person with multiple given names to prefer one of them, even if it isn’t the first one on the person’s birth certificate or baptismal certificate. For example, the great classical music composer Franz Joseph Haydn went by Joseph, not Franz. The American naturalist and writer Henry David Thoreau had been given the birth name David Henry but he eventually changed the order of his two given names and went by Henry. Similarly, Mr. and Mrs. Randhawa named their daughter Nimrata Nikki, and as a girl she chose to go by Nikki.

And now for the pot-calling-the-kettle-black part of the story. Knowing almost nothing about Sunny Hostin, I looked up her biography and found that her mother, Rosa Beza, comes from Puerto Rico, and her father, William Cummings, is American. Mr. and Mrs. Cummings named their daughter Asunción. That’s Spanish for Assumption, a Catholic reference to the Assumption of Mary. It’s easy to see how the -sun- in the Spanish name Asunción could give rise to the English name Sunny. There’s nothing wrong or unusual about that. What is wrong and unusual is for a person who changed Asunción to Sunny to accuse someone else of trying to cover up a foreign background. We call that hypocrisy.


© 2022 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 22, 2022 at 4:36 AM

River primrose again

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The tallest of all our evening primrose species in central Texas is Oenothera jamesii, known as river primrose. I’d discovered a good colony of it in the bed of the North Fork of the San Gabriel River near Tejas Camp in Williamson County in mid-September of 2021, so on September 12th this year I went back there and wasn’t disappointed, as you see above. And here’s a much closer look at one of the low flowers:



© 2022 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 21, 2022 at 4:29 AM

Full house

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From May 13th at the Southwest Williamson County Regional Park, look at all the Euphoria kernii beetles that had crammed themselves into the base of a prickly pear cactus flower, Opuntia engelmannii. The beetles did seem to be in a state of euphoria.


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 Here’s more about consciousness from philosopher Julian Baggini’s The Ego Trick:

So we have these three facts: thoughts and feelings are real, they are not describable in purely physical terms, but the universe has within it only the physical things described by the equations of physicists. It seems the only way to make sense of this is that mental events emerge from physical ones, without being strictly identical with them. As the neurologist Todd E. Feinberg puts it, “your life is not a pack of cells; your life is what your particular pack of cells collectively do, though I cannot observe such a thing as your life, touch it, put it under a microscope, or keep it on a bottle on a shelf.” Thought and feeling are what matter does, when it is arranged in the remarkably complex ways that brains are. Matter is all that is needed for them to exist, but they are not themselves lumps of matter. In this sense, “I” is a verb dressed as a noun.

The idea that the mental emerges from the physical is a tricky one. It looks to me like a partial description masquerading as an explanation. What I mean is, to say consciousness is an emergent property is not to explain consciousness at all. To do that you’d have to explain how it emerges, and although some claim to have done that, most remain unconvinced. But what does seem to be true is that consciousness does indeed emerge from complex physical events in the brain, even if we don’t know how it does so. Whatever the mechanism, we have thoughts and feelings because we have physical brains that work, not because there’s something else in our heads doing the mental work instead. The evidence for this is simple but overwhelming: damage the brain, and you impair consciousness. Change the chemicals in the brain, and you change consciousness. Stimulate certain parts of the brain, and you get a certain kind of experience. To accept this (as surely we must) but insist that brains aren’t the engines of thought is not impossible, but it is perverse.

(Another passage appeared in a post two weeks ago.)


© 2022 Steven Schwartzman








Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 24, 2022 at 4:26 AM

Stickleaf on a sunny morning

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Seems like I almost always have to go into Williamson County to find stickleaf, Mentzelia oligosperma. That was true on May 13th when we visited Northwest Williamson County Regional Park for the first time in years and found stickleaf in several spots there. The plant gets its common name from the fact that its leaves readily cling to clothing and even skin. The second picture shows why.



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I spend a fair amount of time looking things up because I strive for accuracy in my commentaries. That’s why I include so many links to documents. If you’re aware of any facts that I’ve reported incorrectly, please point them out. Of course people can disagree about what policies to follow, but we have to start from the facts.




Speaking of illegal immigration into the United States, as I did last time, here are the official 2022 figures for the number of monthly encounters border patrol agents have had with people who illegally entered the country by coming across the border from Mexico:

January: 154,812

February: 165,894

March: 221,303

And for April the number was 234,088, the highest ever recorded. Do you see a trend? While a portion of the people encountered get sent back, many are allowed to remain, and the current administration pays their way to go wherever they choose to go inside our country. The government even sends some of the illegal border-crossers to their destinations on charter flights, though officials have managed to conceal many of those from the public. According to an April 20th New York Post article by Miranda Devine:


… in recent weeks “the charters are back with a fury,” says a whistleblower from Avelo Airlines, one of three charter companies raking in millions of taxpayer dollars whisking migrants out of sight.

Staffers are disturbed by the secrecy of the operation, and the prospect that they are participating in a human-trafficking operation, the whistleblower says.

“The charters are not on our paperwork, not on the [air-traffic] breakdown, not on the schedule, not on the flight plan. They’re not listed anywhere”…

Avelo employees have begun openly to discuss concerns that they may be participating in human trafficking, says the whistleblower, especially with so many ­unaccompanied minors on flights.

“We’re trafficking children,” the whistleblower says. “I am not OK with that happening . . .
“The company is saying it’s not true, but people don’t believe that, and everyone wants to leave. People stay for three months and leave.”


Title 42, a Covid-era policy that allows authorities to immediately send illegal entrants back across the border without having to entertain their political asylum claims (most of which are really the understandable desire to have a better standard of living), is set to expire on May 23rd—just three days from today. According to the Texas Tribune: “Homeland Security predicts up to 18,000 daily encounters with migrants — more than double the current average — when Title 42 ends.” Now, I’ve long been leery of the phrase “up to,” a staple ploy that advertisers use to make people think the average value of something is larger than it really is. So let’s say that if Title 42 ends, the number of encounters with illegal border-crosses will rise to “only” 15,000 every day rather than 18,000 every day. And let’s say that without Title 42, authorities will have to let 12,000 of those 15,000 new illegal border-crossers remain inside the United States every day. Where will that leave us? Since 12,000 is a daily number, we’ll multiply by 365.25 to estimate the yearly toll. We find that the current administration will be allowing 4,383,000 illegal border-crossers to stay in our country every year. If that continues unabated, then between now and when the current administration’s term ends in January of 2025, something like 11,000,000 illegal entrants will have been allowed to stay in our country. To give you a sense of scale, remember that the country’s largest city, New York, has a little under 9 million people. In other words, the illegal entrants allowed to stay here in just the next two-and-a-half years could be imagined to form the nation’s new largest city, though not a contiguous one. And of course to those 11,000,000 illegal entrants we’ll have to add the presumed one million or two million or three million that made it past overworked and understaffed border authorities altogether—the so-called gotaways.

Some people think that this kind of mass lawlessness is how we should be running our country. I don’t.


© 2022 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 20, 2022 at 4:35 AM

Capital variation

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From the Latin noun caput, which meant ‘head,’ we get the adjective capital, which originally and literally meant ‘having to do with a head.’ Austin, where I live, is the capital—i.e. head—city of Texas. That’s one kind of metaphor. Another is calling the inflorescence of a plant in the composite botanical family (Asteraceae) a capitulum, or ‘little [flower] head.’ Even within a plant species one flower head can look rather different from another, both in shape and color, just as human heads can. You see that exemplified here with two Texas thistle (Cirsium texanum) flower heads from Northwest Williamson County Regional Park on May 13th.



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In yesterday’s commentary I brought up the terrible May 14th mass murder in Buffalo, New York, in which an 18-year-old white supremacist and anti-Semite killed a bunch of supermarket shoppers, most of whom were targeted because they were black. I pointed out that some people in the media immediately claimed that the shooter was inspired by Republicans and conservatives, as well as conservative television news channel Fox News and in particular one of its commenters, Tucker Carlson. I showed you that, unfortunately for the people making those claims, a long manifesto left by the killer made clear he hated conservatives, and especially a Jewish conservative like Ben Shapiro. Nowhere in the manifesto did the killer mention Tucker Carlson.

In case anyone wants to accuse me of “cherry picking” evidence, let me add now that the killer did believe something that Tucker Carlson believes: the declining birth rate among white Americans, coupled with the American government’s allowing—even encouraging—high illegal immigration into the United States from non-European countries, has resulted in a declining ratio of white Americans. A check of the numbers confirms it. According to a Wikipedia article: “As of the 2020 Census, 61.6%, or 204,277,273 people, were white alone. This represented a national white demographic decline from a 72.4% share of the US’s population (white alone) in 2010.” You may look on the decline favorably, unfavorably, or neutrally, but the decrease in the portion of Americans who are white is real.

Now let me make a point about logic, or the lack of it. Just because two people share a certain belief or preference doesn’t mean they share all beliefs and preferences. I shouldn’t need to point out something so basic, but I feel that I have to, given the way some commenters quickly turned to guilt by association. Yes, the Buffalo killer and Tucker Carlson share a belief about the undesirability of unchecked illegal immigration. That doesn’t make Tucker Carlson in any way responsible for the mass shooting in Buffalo—any more than Senator Bernie Sanders and leftist talk-show host Rachel Maddow were responsible for the 2017 incident in which a man who admired those two public figures fired 60 shots at Republican members of Congress—one of whom almost died—who were playing baseball as practice for a game to raise money for charity.

Similarly, just because the Buffalo killer who disapproves of illegal immigration was a white racist and an anti-Semite doesn’t mean that everyone, or even most people, or even more than a smattering of the people who disapprove of illegal immigration, are white supremacists and anti-Semites. Take me, for example. As I revealed in greater detail in a commentary a year ago, I happen to be Jewish, the son of someone who fled the Soviet Union with his family in the 1920s to escape communism and anti-Semitism. I also happen to be married to someone of a different race who’s an immigrant to the United States from the other side of the world. And yet by the “logic” of some people in the media, because I don’t condone illegal immigration I must be a xenophobic anti-Semitic white supremacist. Crazy, isn’t it?


To be continued tomorrow.




© 2022 Steven Schwartzman







Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 19, 2022 at 4:33 AM

Ditch diving

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A recent post played up the advantage that plants in ditches get from the moisture the soil retains there. That’s how it was in a ditch on Main St. in the rural community of Thorndale on April 10th. The seed columns of anemones (Anemone berlandieri) vary a lot in length, with the one shown here coming from the long end of the range. Spiderworts (Tradescantia sp.) graciously provided the purple in the background. The second portrait shows the ditch-happy spiderworts in their own right.

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman



Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 26, 2022 at 4:33 AM

Totally Texas toadflax

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On April 10th in rural eastern Williamson County we came across a field covered in flowering Texas toadflax, Nuttallanthus texanus. Above’s a somewhat dreamy take; below, you get a feel for the expanse of the colony.

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman



Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 23, 2022 at 4:02 PM


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This morning Facebook popped up a post from a group I’d never heard of: World Wildflower Photography. The post showed a cemetery in Walburg that had dense bluebonnets (Lupinus texensis) in it. Walburg is a small settlement in eastern Williamson county, much of which has remained rural. Nevertheless, when I searched online I discovered the little town has two cemeteries. Noting the names on a couple of the tombstones in the post’s photographs, I searched in an online cemetery registry and determined that the right cemetery was the one belonging to St. Peter Lutheran Church (which incidentally is a mile away from its cemetery).

Despite the (much needed) rain coming down in Austin, we set out for Walburg and hoped the rain would let up by the time we reached Walburg. It did. Only a minute after we arrived, and before I’d had a chance to take a single picture, another car pulled into the driveway. A couple visiting Texas from North Carolina had also seen pictures of the bluebonnet-covered Walburg cemetery online and had come to check it out, too. Small world, no? And in the middle picture, how about the stylized flower decoration among all the real flowers?

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 13, 2022 at 4:00 PM

Pink-tinged snow

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On September 25 I drove approximately that many miles north to Tejas Camp in Williamson County. I went there not only to check out the river primroses but also to search for some good snow-on-the-mountain plants (Euphorbia marginata) to balance the snow-on-the-prairie I’d already documented for this year. I succeeded in both quests. While snow-on-the-mountain is poetically named for its prominently white-margined bracts, they occasionally show a pink tinge, as parts of the plants in both of today’s photographs confirm. I noticed that in some of the inflorescences the little elliptical structures called nectar glands that start out a pale olive green had turned tan or even conspicuously red. And it’s time for a reminder that the plant’s actual flowers are restricted to the small rough areas that those nectar glands surround.

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Free speech has increasingly been coming under attack in the United States and the Western world in general. If that troubles you, as it does me, I invite you to watch a good 76-minute discussion of the topic by free-speech supporters Matt Taibbi, Nadine Strossen, Amna Khalid, and Nico Perrino.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 3, 2021 at 4:35 AM

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

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