Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘yellow

A sunflower bud unfurling its rays

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I was late tackling sunflowers (Helianthus annuus) this year. I finally took my first pictures of some on July 2nd but didn’t like the results. July 10th in the northeast quadrant of Mopac and US 183 provided more magic. At about three minutes apart, here are two takes on a bud gracefully and asymmetrically unfurling its rays.


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And here are not two but three takes from Eric Hoffer‘s 1951 book The True Believer:

There is in us a tendency to locate the shaping forces of our existence outside ourselves. Success and failure are unavoidably related in our minds with the state of things around us. Hence it is that people with a sense of fulfillment think it a good world and would like to conserve it as it is, while the frustrated favor radical change. The tendency to look for all causes outside ourselves persists even when it is clear that our state of being is the product of personal qualities such as ability, character, appearance, health and so on. “If anything ail a man,” says Thoreau, “so that he does not perform his functions, if he have a pain in his bowels even … he forthwith sets about reforming—the world.”

A man is likely to mind his own business when it is worth minding. When it is not, he takes his mind off his own meaningless affairs by minding other people’s business. This minding of other people’s business expresses itself in gossip, snooping and meddling, and also in feverish interest in communal, national and racial affairs. In running away from ourselves we either fall on our neighbor’s shoulder or fly at his throat.

All active mass movements strive… to interpose a fact-proof screen between the faithful and the realities of the world. They do this by claiming that the ultimate and absolute truth is already embodied in their doctrine and that there is no truth nor certitude outside it. The facts on which the true believer bases his conclusions must not be derived from his experience or observation but from holy writ. “So tenaciously should we cling to the world revealed by the Gospel, that were I to see all the Angels of Heaven coming down to me to tell me something different, not only would I not be tempted to doubt a single syllable, but I would shut my eyes and stop my ears, for they would not deserve to be either seen or heard.” To rely on the evidence of the senses and of reason is heresy and treason. It is startling to realize how much unbelief is necessary to make belief possible. What we know as blind faith is sustained by innumerable unbeliefs. The fanatical Japanese in Brazil refused to believe for years the evidence of Japan’s defeat. The fanatical Communist refuses to believe any unfavorable report or evidence about Russia, nor will he be disillusioned by seeing with his own eyes the cruel misery inside the Soviet promised land. It is the true believer’s ability to “shut his eyes and stop his ears” to facts that do not deserve to be either seen or heard which is the source of his unequaled fortitude and constancy. He cannot be frightened by danger nor disheartened by obstacles nor baffled by contradictions because he denies their existence. Strength of faith, as Bergson pointed out, manifests itself not in moving mountains but in not seeing mountains to move. And it is the certitude of his infallible doctrine that renders the true believer impervious to the uncertainties, surprises and the unpleasant realities of the world around him. Thus the effectiveness of a doctrine should not be judged by its profundity, sublimity or the validity of the truths it embodies, but by how thoroughly it insulates the individual from his self and the world as it is. What Pascal said of an effective religion is true of any effective doctrine: it must be “contrary to nature, to common sense and to pleasure.”

Those insights about true believers in fanatical movements
resonate every bit as much today as they did 70 years ago.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 20, 2021 at 4:32 AM

Rattlebush flowers

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At McKinney Falls State Park yesterday the rattlebushes (Sesbania drummondii) along Onion Creek downstream from the Lower Falls were flowering, so how could I not take some pictures?

A little earlier, after I’d arrived and was walking in from the parking area, I noticed that a man near me was heading in a direction that wouldn’t take him to the Lower Falls, which is the place I assumed he was trying to get to. I called over to the man, explained that he was heading the wrong way, and pointed him in the direction he needed to go.

On my way back from photographing the rattlebush flowers I passed by the Lower Falls and noticed the man sitting nearby. He looked like he was from India, and I wanted to find out his opinion about something, so I struck up a conversation. First I asked if he lived here or was just visiting the United States. He told me he’s been in the country about 20 years. He started in New York, then moved to Texas, where he’d run a Subway shop. I asked him what he thought of America. In particular, I pointed out that many people in the news media and now even many in our government are claiming that America is a horribly racist country, and I wanted to know if he agreed. He said that there’s always some discrimination in all countries, that it’s a reality of human nature. He mentioned the caste system in India as an example. Then he said that the United States is better. That immigrant to our country understands human nature and the United States in a way that too many Americans fail to—or refuse to—understand.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 19, 2021 at 4:35 AM

White against yellow

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Over the 10 years of this blog, it hasn’t been uncommon for me to spend time taking nature pictures at a place and yet not show you a single photograph from that outing. The other day I realized that was true of our May 26th visit to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, so here’s a portrait I made there showing American water willow flowers (Justicia americana) in front of a yellow waterlily (Nymphaea mexicana).

UPDATE: I should’ve mentioned that individual water willow flowers measure from one-quarter to five-eighths of an inch (6–15mm), so today’s photograph is quite a close-up.


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And now here’s a poignant passage from Abigail Shrier’s Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters:

None of the parents I spoke to was naïve about the pressures or hardship of adolescence. They knew the rigmarole: one day the little girls they had attended through countless flus and rushed to the hospital for casts and stitches would transmogrify into teenagers and curse their love. Every one of the parents I met had been prepared to be hated for a while. They knew their daughters would mock their fashion sense, even reject their values for a time. What they were less prepared for was the macabre spectacle of their daughters’ sharp turn against themselves.

Dozens of dogmatic Amazon employees pushed to get the company to stop selling the book, but I’m happy to say Amazon didn’t cave in to the ideologues’ pressure. That hasn’t always been the case: Amazon did ban Ryan T. Anderson’s When Harry Became Sally: Responding to the Transgender Moment, even as Amazon has continued to sell The Communist Manifesto and Hitler’s Mein Kampf, whose followers murdered tens of millions of people in the 20th century. Target originally carried Abigail Shrier’s Damage, then banned it, then rescinded its ban, then banned it again. I’m against banning books, even those I think are terrible.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 18, 2021 at 4:34 AM

A wet roughstem rosinweed flower head

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From July 6th along Bull Creek, here’s a somewhat wet roughstem rosinweed, Silphium radula.

And from Aldo Leopold’s essay “Prairie Birthday,” in A Sand County Almanac, published in 1949, comes this passage about mowers cutting down a Silphium in Wisconsin.

Heretofore unreachable by scythe or mower, this yard-square relic of original Wisconsin gives birth, each July, to a man-high stalk of compass plant or Cut-leaf Silphium, spangled with saucer-sized yellow blooms resembling sunflowers. It is the sole remnant of this plant along this highway, and perhaps the sole remnant in the western half of our county. What a thousand acres of Silphiums looked like when they tickled the bellies of the buffalo is a question never again to be answered, and perhaps not even asked.

This year I found the Silphium in first bloom on 24 July, a week later than usual; during the last six years the average date was 15 July.

When I passed the graveyard again on 3 August, the fence had been removed by a road crew, and the Silphium cut. It is easy now to predic tthe future; for a few years my Silphium will try in vain to rise above the mowing machine, and then it will die. With it will die the prairie epoch.

The Highway Department says that 100,000 cars pass yearly over this route during the three summer months when the Silphium is in bloom. In them must ride at least 100,000 people who have taken what is called history, and perhaps 25,000 who have taken what is called botany. Yet I doubt whether a dozen have seen the Silphium, and of these hardly one will notice its demise. If I were to tell a preacher of the adjoining church that the road crew has been burning history books in his cemetery, under the guise of mowing weeds, he would be amazed and uncomprehending. How could a weed be a book?

This is one little episode in the funeral of the native flora, which in turn is one episode in the funeral of the floras of the world. Mechanized man, oblivious of floras, is proud of his progress in cleaning up the landscape on which, willy nilly, he must live out his days. It might be wise to prohibit at once all teaching of real botany and real history, lest some future citizen suffer qualms about the floristic price of his good life.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 17, 2021 at 4:22 AM

Tropical neptunia

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On July 5th I found some Neptunia pubescens crawling out onto the sidewalk along the busy Capital of Texas Highway. The plant had produced several flower “globes,” of which this was one. The whole cluster might have been an inch long, so the individual flowers in it were tiny. Below you see one of the plant’s drying seed pods.


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Here’s another passage from Douglas Murray’s The Madness of Crowds.

Until the last decade or so, sex (or gender) and chromosomes were recognized to be among the most fundamental hardware issues in our species. Whether we were born as a man or a woman was one of the main, unchangeable hardware issues of our lives. Having accepted this hardware we then all found ways — both men and women — to learn how to operate the relevant aspects of our lives. So absolutely everything not just within the sexes but between them became scrambled when the argument became entrenched that this most fundamental hardware issue of all was in fact a matter of software. The claim was made, and a couple of decades later it was embedded and suddenly everybody was meant to believe that sex was not biologically fixed but merely a matter of ‘reiterated social performances’.

The claim put a bomb under the feminist cause…. It left feminism with almost no defences against men arguing that they could become women. But the whole attempt to turn hardware into software has caused — and is continuing to cause — more pain than almost any other issue for men and women alike. It is at the foundation of the current madness. For it asks us all to believe that women are different from the beings they have always been. It suggests that everything women and men saw — and knew — until yesterday was a mirage and that our inherited knowledge about our differences (and how to get along) is all invalid knowledge. All the rage — including the wild, destructive misandry, the double-think and the self-delusion — stem from this fact: that we are being not just asked, but expected, to radically alter our lives and societies on the basis of claims that our instincts all tell us cannot possibly be true.

Douglas Murray’s book came out in 2019. The cognitive dissonance has increased since then. For example, you may have heard about a recent incident at a spa in Los Angeles.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 15, 2021 at 4:34 AM

It wasn’t Ezekiel who saw this wheel way up in the middle of the air

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Like the silverleaf nightshade you saw a picture of the other day, this firewheel (Gaillardia pulchella) was also growing along the Capital of Texas Highway on June 14th. As in that other photograph, because I used my ring flash and a small aperture (this time f/18), the bright sky came out in an unnatural way, but one I find pleasant. You can decide whether the tiny spider is a pleasant addition.

The title of today’s post is a reference to an African-American spiritual based on the Book of Ezekiel in the Jewish Bible.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 8, 2021 at 4:21 AM

Silverleaf nightshade flower

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One of Austin’s most common wildflowers is silverleaf nightshade, Solanum elaeagnifolium. I photographed this one along Capitol of Texas Highway on June 14th. Flash and a small aperture of f/20 caused the bright sky to come out a very dark blue. You can see it that way if you look at the full image against a black background; in contrast, the white surrounding the photograph on this page will make most of you (and me) see the deep blue as black. You may also imagine that the flower’s yellow stamens are little bananas, but I wouldn’t advise eating them unless you want to suffer the effects of toxic masculinity. (Many plants in the nightshade family are poisonous, but some, e.g. tomatoes and potatoes, have become staple foods.)


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What’s poisonous in our legal system is the denial of due process and the attempt by ideologues to change our legal ethos from “innocent until proven guilty” to “guilty until proven innocent” or even “guilty because accused.” My niece, Adrienne Levy, works for a law firm that represents people whose due process has been violated. Her arguments carried the day in an important case in Colorado last month.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 6, 2021 at 4:33 AM

Tiny bees in a white prickly poppy flower

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I don’t know about the species of these tiny bees, but the flower they’re reveling in is Argemone albiflora, the white prickly poppy. This picture comes from June 14th along the Capital of Texas Highway.


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The other day I watched a roughly one-hour-long talk given by economics professor Glenn Loury. Toward the end he became impassioned at times about the need to better educate African-American students so they can fairly compete intellectually. If you’d like to hear the last part of his talk, you can begin listening at around 54:10 and continue to 1:03:00 in the video.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 5, 2021 at 5:46 AM

Yellow with a blush of pink

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Our two local species of Tetraneuris both go by the common name four-nerve daisy. The one that I find in much larger numbers and that I’ve therefore most often shown here is T. linearifolia. On June 18th in the town of Cedar Park I came across the other species, T. scaposa, and took advantage of the find to make a portrait with some nearby mountain pinks offering their contrasting color in the background.


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Here’s an interesting bit of history I learned from an article by Jarrett A. Lobell in the July/August 2021 issue of Archaeology, which is one of the magazines I subscribe to: “When it was built nearly 5,000 years ago, the Great Pyramid of Giza was the tallest structure in the world, a title it would retain for more than 3,500 years, until it was surpassed by several of England’s medieval cathedrals.”

Since 2010 the world’s tallest building has been the Burj Khalifa in Dubai. I can’t imagine it will retain its title for another 3500 years; it’s highly unlikely to still even exist 350 years from now. Sic transibit gloria mundi.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 2, 2021 at 4:43 AM

Orange-and-yellow and yellow

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If you need your day brightened, here’s some Texas lantana (Lantana urticoides) in a colony of four-nerve daisies (Tetraneuris linearifolia) as I saw them along Yaupon Dr. on June 2nd.


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One thing that can brighten my day is mathematics. In 1514 the great German artist Albrecht Dürer did an engraving called “Melencolia 1.” In the engraving’s upper right corner appeared the following lattice of numbers, the bottom two center cells of which not by chance echoed the year of the engraving:

The numerical lattice that Dürer showed is an example of what mathematicians call a magic square. What’s “magic” about this magic square is that if you add up the numbers in any of the four rows, four columns, or two diagonals, you always get the same total, in this case 34. While the rows, columns, and diagonals add up to a constant in any magic square*, this one is even better because it includes other patterned groups of four cells that also give a total of 34. More than a dozen of them exist. Be the first kid on your block (or in your time zone) to find and point out some of those patterned foursomes that add up to 34. (By “patterned” I mean arranged in an orderly or symmetric way. The set of 5, 7, 9, and 13 wouldn’t count, because although they do add up to 34, the numbers are scattered about in the lattice in no particular way.)

* By tradition, the numbers that fill a magic square are consecutive, with 1 as the smallest number. That needn’t be so, however. For example, you could add 5 to each number in Dürer’s square and the new square would still be magic, except the total in each row, column, and diagonal would now be 54. Or you could double each number in Dürer’s square to get a new square whose magic total would be 68.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 24, 2021 at 4:30 AM

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