Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘yellow

Maximilian sunflower time

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As September approached its end, erect stalks of Maximilian sunflowers (Helianthus maximiliani) became an increasingly common sight in central Texas. In a field along TX 71 in Spicewood on October 3rd I took advantage of the morning’s wispy clouds to photograph a good stand of those sunflowers. The maximum Maximilian in the field towered above me and could well have climbed above 10 ft. (3m):

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 12, 2021 at 4:29 AM

The other Liatris in Bastrop

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The other species of Liatris we saw on September 23rd in Bastrop that doesn’t grow in Austin is Liatris elegans, elegant blazing-star, which is unusual in having pale yellow or cream-colored flowers rather than the expected purple ones. As with other Liatris species, the flower spikes of this one tilt at varying angles, with the most extreme being largely horizontal, as above (which meant I had to lie on the ground and aim high enough to get a shot clear of distractions in the background). Even so, the predominant orientation for Litatris flower spikes is upright, which you can confirm in the closer frame-filling view below. Does your imagination let you see how “blazing star” came to be a common name for Liatris?


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At least twice in these pages I’ve quoted George Santayana’s most famous line: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” The other day a friend pointed me to a passage by Santayana that I didn’t know, from the essay “The Irony of Liberalism“:

Now what is the direction of change which seems progress to liberals? A pure liberal might reply, The direction of liberty itself: the ideal is that every man should move in whatever direction he likes, with the aid of such as agree with him, and without interfering with those who disagree. Liberty so conceived would be identical with happiness, with spontaneous life, blamelessly and safely lived; and the impulse of liberalism, to give everybody what he wants, in so far as that is possible, would be identical with simple kindness. Benevolence was one of the chief motives in liberalism in the beginning, and many a liberal is still full of kindness in his private capacity; but politically, as a liberal, he is something more than kind. The direction in which many, or even most, people would like to move fills him with disgust and indignation; he does not at all wish them to be happy, unless they can be happy on his own diet; and being a reformer and a philanthropist, he exerts himself to turn all men into the sort of men he likes, so as to be able to like them. It would be selfish, he thinks, to let people alone. They must be helped, and not merely helped to what they desire—that might really be very bad for them—but helped onwards, upwards, in the right direction. Progress could not be rightly placed in a smaller population, a simpler economy, more moral diversity between nations, and stricter moral discipline in each of them. That would be progress backwards, and if it made people happier, it would not make the liberal so.

That’s as true of illiberals today as when Santayana wrote the essay a century ago.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 8, 2021 at 4:37 AM

Sunflower and more

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From Twin Lakes Park in Cedar Park on September 24th, here’s a backlit back view of a sunflower (Helianthus annuus) with out-of-focus silver bluestem seed heads (Bothriochloa laguroides) beyond it. On one of the sunflower’s rays I noticed a tiny insect. Once I did, I brought my macro lens as close as possible to what turned out to be a true bug (as opposed to the common English use of bug to mean any kind of insect). Naturalist Ken Wohlgemuth says it might be in the genus Harmostes (which I showed a member of in 2015). Click below to truly enlarge the true bug.


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Discussions of taxes focus mostly on income taxes, property taxes, sales taxes, and other overt forms of taxation. Many people don’t realize that low interest rates are a form of tax. For much of my life, and as recently as 2008, people who lived within their means could save some money and put it in a bank to get interest of 4% per year. As decades passed, compound interest would let a person’s savings grow to a nice nest egg for later in life. Since the financial crash of 2008, however, governments around the world have kept interest rates artificially low, so low that 1% has often been the best deal available. A big reason why governments have done so is that they continue borrowing extravagantly, and lower interest rates correspond to lower repayments of debt.

Another tax that often isn’t thought of as a tax is inflation. People in recent months have begun to notice it because so many prices have been rising. Among the most conspicuous are the prices of staple foods—have you been to the supermarket lately?—and of fuel. The price of natural gas has risen 100% in the United States this year, and 280% in Europe, as winter approaches and the demand for heating homes heads for its annual peak. According to one website, “The annual inflation rate in the US eased [!] to 5.3% in August from a 13-year high of 5.4% reported in June and July.” So even as thrifty people struggle to get pitifully little interest on their savings in a bank—the best rates are currently running at about half of a percent—the value of each dollar keeps going down.

Not only is inflation a hidden tax, but it’s the kind of tax economists classify as regressive. That means it disproportionately affects people who are the least able to afford it. A wealthy person doesn’t care if gasoline is $3 a gallon or $6 a gallon, or if a loaf of bread this year costs a dollar more than it did last year. But for a person who is living on the margins and who needs to drive to work, the dollar-a-gallon rise in the price of gasoline over the past year is painful, as is paying noticeably more for a cart of groceries to sustain a family.

Several years ago I would occasionally ask someone out of the blue: “Have you got your $60,000 ready?” That was the share of the national debt owed by each person in the United States, from newborn baby to centenarian. By 2019 the per-capita share had risen to around $69,000. By 2020 it had soared to almost $81,000. As of two weeks ago, the amount every single person in America owes was calculated to be $85,424.

I bring all this up now for a couple of reasons. One is that it’s distressing to watch helplessly as the money we’ve dutifully saved by living within our means is worth less and less each month. Another reason is that the current administration in the United States is pushing to “spend”—which means borrow—$3.5 trillion more than the trillions it has already borrowed. That will drive the national debt even higher; soon I’ll be asking you whether you’ve got your $100,000 ready to pay your individual share. Profligate borrowing will also further incite inflation, which, as noted, most affects the people least able to cope with it. To use a word that’s in vogue, all this is unsustainable. Our representatives in government have to find ways to begin paying down the national debt, not driving it ever higher. In short, just as individuals have to live within their means, so do governments.

(And let me head off potential criticism by adding that I was against the large increases in the debt under both Obama and Trump. Inordinate debt is bad no matter which party is responsible for it.)

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 6, 2021 at 4:27 AM

Grasshopper central

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While at Tejas Camp in Williamson County on September 25th I though of calling the place “grasshopper central” for the many insects of that kind I saw ensconced on plants and jumping about. Here are two portraits of grasshoppers on river primrose plants (Oenothera jamesii).


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Yesterday I outlined a proposed Constitutional amendment of mine that would require legislators to read and understand bills before being allowed to vote on them. Actually that would be part of a larger amendment dealing with legislative bills. Here’s more of what I’d like to see included.

1. A legislative bill shall deal with only one subject.

2. The first line of the bill must state what that subject is, and it must conform to the general understanding among the public of what that subject includes.

3. For each pending Congressional bill, every sentence shall be identified by the name and position of the person or persons who wrote the sentence. If the writer(s) acted on behalf of or at the behest of some other person(s) or organization(s), those identifications must also be included.

4. Unless Congress by a three-quarter majority in each house separately declares a national emergency, the complete text of a bill must be released to the public and made readily available online at least 14 days before a bill is brought to a vote.

5. A non-partisan commission created by Congress shall thoroughly examine every final bill and remove all parts of it that don’t conform to points 1–3 above. The commission is also empowered to prevent, and must prevent, voting on any bill whose final form the public has not had easy access to for 14 days.

Point 1 is intended to eliminate the monstrous bills we now get that run to hundreds or even thousands of pages and that include a slew of unrelated things. Politicians too easily hide pet projects and controversial proposals in the welter of such “omnibus” bills. My idea is to have the legislature vote separately on each proposal or small group of related proposals. That would let the public know which legislators support which things.

Point 2 is intended to head off concept creep and gross semantic inflation. For example, the current administration has been referring to anything under the sun as “infrastructure,” e.g. “human infrastructure” and “family infrastructure,” whereas the normal use of the term “infrastructure” includes only physical structures like roads, bridges, airports, dams, power lines, railroads, ports, canals, and the like.

Point 3 is intended to reveal who is actually inserting provisions into a bill. As things stand now, the real promoters are often hidden from the public.

Point 4 is intended to give the public and the press a reasonable amount of time to find out what’s in a bill before it gets voted on.

Point 5 creates a neutral external body to enforce the provisions that members of Congress may be too pusillanimous to adhere to.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 2, 2021 at 4:32 AM

Yumptious yellow

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The other day the word yumptious popped into my mind. Wondering whether anyone had come up with it before me, I searched and found I wasn’t the first to use that portmanteau of yummy and scrumptious (with scrumptious having perhaps arisen as an alteration of sumptuous). Now I’m getting to use that adjective for the river primrose flowers (Oenothera jamesii) I went to see on September 25th at Tejas Camp in Williamson County, where I’d found the species for the first time in 2020.

Before each bright yellow flower emerges at the tip of a long stem, river primrose’s svelte buds are sculptural and textural, as you see below. Notice the reddish tips, above which strides a stilt bug in the genus Jalysus.

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One of the worst statements ever spewed forth from the mouth of a legislator came in 2010: “… We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what’s in it.” That’s not how laws are supposed to be made. Legislators aren’t supposed to vote on bills whose contents they and the people they represent aren’t aware of. The “representative” who made that infamous statement should have been summarily expelled from Congress for dereliction of duty and breach of ethics.

On September 8th I mentioned that in recent years I’ve gradually been crafting amendments to the American Constitution to fix things that are wrong with our government. The would-be amendment I described then involved contributions to political campaigns. Now I’d like to propose an amendment to deal with the horrid thought quoted in the previous paragraph.

Prerequisites for a member of Congress to be allowed to vote on a bill

A.  The member shall read the final version of the bill in its entirety.

B.  The member shall create an uncut video showing the member reading the entire bill, and shall post, at least 24 hours before voting on the bill, the complete video online in an easily accessible place where the public can view it.

C.  The member shall pass a test about the contents of the bill, such test to be created and administered by a non-partisan commission established for that purpose. The test shall contain at least 10 questions and the passing grade shall be set no lower than 80%. A member of Congress who fails may take one retest consisting of a randomly different set of questions about the bill. A second failure shall bar the member from voting on the bill.

D. Each revision of a bill that comes up for a vote shall trigger these requirements anew.

I’m optimistic that these requirements would greatly shorten the lengths of proposed bills and simplify their contents. What do you think?

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 1, 2021 at 4:30 AM

Purple prairie clover young and old

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It’s not often I’ve shown you purple prairie clover, Dalea purpurea. Here are two contrasting takes from the northeast quadrant of Mopac and US 183 on August 22nd. First you have a limited-focus view of fresh flowers, then a decaying seed head in front of some sunflowers, Helianthus annuus.


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Diversity? What diversity?

One of the three* sacraments in the Holy Trinity of the Critical Social Justice religion is Diversity. (The other two, in case you’ve just arrived from Pluto and aren’t au courant, are Equity and Inclusion.) Anyone not a true believer soon recognizes that the diversity in question refers only to group characteristics like skin color. It certainly doesn’t include diversity of thought. On the contrary, in the spirit of Orwell’s “Freedom is slavery,” the sacrament of Diversity requires waging a crusade against ideological diversity.

I recently learned that one ray of enlightenment has broken through, and it’s right here at the University of Texas (UT) in Austin. “The University of Texas has worked with private donors and Lt. Governor Dan Patrick to establish a new think tank to promote conservative ideas on campus.” Now, you might argue that a state university has no business promoting conservative ideology. All things being equal, I’d agree with you. But in this case things are very far from equal. As a Campus Reform article notes: “In total, UT employees donated $642,693.43 from 2017-2018. Of that amount, 94.7 percent went to Democrat politicians or Democrat organizations, while just 5.3 percent of the donations were made to Republican politicians or Republican organizations.” With such an enormous ideological imbalance already existing, it would be hypocritical to begrudge establishing one little program on the other side of the political spectrum. But of course leftist activists will rail against it anyway—all in the name of Diversity.

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* Never content for long with the status quo, no matter how radical, the Critical Social Justice religion seems to be in the process of adding a fourth sacrament: Belonging. Once Belonging gets officially inducted into the pantheon, a fifth sacrament should soon be a-borning. What will it be? Safety? Solidarity? Openness (which will of course mean ‘closed to evidence that contradicts it’)? Tolerance (which won’t tolerate dissent)?

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 13, 2021 at 4:32 AM

A different camphorweed stage

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In yesterday’s post you saw that the ray florets in a camphorweed (Heterotheca subaxillaris) flower head sometimes curl like little ribbons. Now the same stand of plants in the northeast quadrant of Mopac and US 183 on August 22nd lets you see the remains of a camphorweed seed head. The bright and pretty yellow in the background came from some “common” sunflowers (Helianthus annuus).


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Yesterday’s post also dealt with the early and continuing politicization of the Covid-19 pandemic. On July 3rd I mentioned that some countries were using the drug ivermectin as a therapeutic in treating Covid-19, while at the same time some authorities continued saying the drug is ineffective for that purpose. Regardless of the truth of ivermectin’s effectiveness, which of course as a layman I was (and still am) in no position to know, I lamented the fact that large online sites like Facebook and Twitter were banning people, some of them highly qualified, from even discussing the matter. That’s not in the tradition of a country that thinks so highly of free speech that it’s mentioned in our Constitution’s Bill of Rights.

Since my July 3rd post there have been new developments about ivermectin. Before I go into them, let me tell you what ivermectin is. “In 2015, the Nobel Committee for Physiology or Medicine, in its only award for treatments of infectious diseases since six decades prior, honoured the discovery of ivermectin (IVM)…. IVM as deployed worldwide since 1987 has made major inroads against two devastating tropical diseases, onchocerciasis and lymphatic filariasis.” It’s also the case that “Ivermectin is FDA-approved for use in animals for prevention of heartworm disease in some small animal species, and for treatment of certain internal and external parasites in various animal species.”

Now for the recent developments.

A rural Oklahoma doctor said patients who are taking the horse de-wormer medication, ivermectin, to fight COVID-19 are causing emergency room and ambulance back ups.

“There’s a reason you have to have a doctor to get a prescription for this stuff, because it can be dangerous,” said Dr. Jason McElyea.

Dr. McElyea said patients are packing his eastern and southeastern Oklahoma hospitals after taking ivermectin doses meant for a full-sized horse, because they believed false claims the horse de-wormer could fight COVID-19.

“The ERs are so backed up that gunshot victims were having hard times getting to facilities where they can get definitive care and be treated,” he said.

That’s something McElyea said is now backing up ambulance systems as well.

“All of their ambulances are stuck at the hospital waiting for a bed to open so they can take the patient in and they don’t have any, that’s it,” said Dr. McElyea. “If there’s no ambulance to take the call, there’s no ambulance to come to the call.”

Rolling Stone Magazine picked up the story, as did MSNBC and various other outlets. Some of them put a decidedly “look at those stupid hicks swallowing horse paste” spin on their telling of it, conveniently failing to even mention that ivermectin does have approved human uses and that some other countries have been administering it for Covid-19.

One little problem: the story was untrue. An MSN article details the things that were wrong with it.

  • Here’s the second development. In August, a doctor who favors the use of ivermectin in treating Covid-19 wrote a remote prescription for a patient in an Ohio hospital’s intensive care unit. After the hospital refused to administer the drug because it’s not approved for that purpose in the United States, the patient’s family went to court. On August 23rd a judge ordered the hospital to administer the prescribed ivermectin. Then on September 6th another judge reversed the first judge’s order, siding with the hospital’s stance that government agencies in the United States haven’t approved ivermectin for Covid-19. The second judge noted that “This Court is not determining if ivermectin will ever be effective and useful as a treatment for COVID-19.”
  • In the third and most important development, the September 2021 issue of the medical journal New Microbes and New Infections reports the following:

Since March 2020, when IVM (ivermectin) was first used against a new global scourge, COVID-19, more than 20 randomized clinical trials (RCTs) have tracked such inpatient and outpatient treatments. Six of seven meta-analyses of IVM treatment RCTs reporting in 2021 found notable reductions in COVID-19 fatalities, with a mean 31% relative risk of mortality vs. controls. During mass IVM treatments in Peru, excess deaths fell by a mean of 74% over 30 days in its ten states with the most extensive treatments. Reductions in deaths correlated with the extent of IVM distributions in all 25 states with p < 0.002. Sharp reductions in morbidity using IVM were also observed in two animal models, of SARS-CoV-2 and a related betacoronavirus. The indicated biological mechanism of IVM, competitive binding with SARS-CoV-2 spike protein, is likely non-epitope specific, possibly yielding full efficacy against emerging viral mutant strains.

If you wish, you can read the full article.

So it seems the evidence is now coming down in favor of ivermectin’s effectiveness in treating Covid-19. We’ll see if future research keeps supporting that conclusion. We’ll follow the science.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 11, 2021 at 5:10 AM

A tendency to curl

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I’ve noticed that the ray florets in some of our sunflower-family flower heads tend to curl like little ribbons. Ribbony wildflowers I’ve shown in these pages include Engelmann daisy and peonia. The most recent example I came across is this camphorweed (Heterotheca subaxillaris) in the northeast quadrant of Mopac and US 183 on August 22nd.


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I don’t have to tell you that the Covid-19 pandemic quickly became and remains highly politicized. That high degree of politicization is all the more reason for researchers, including journalists, to do what’s known as due diligence. In other words, seek out all the evidence you can find, regardless of what position it ends up supporting, and report it accurately. Yesterday I learned about an article by David Zweig in which he reported on research of that kind that he had done. The article is “The Science of Masking Kids at School Remains Uncertain,” and it appeared in the August 20, 2021, issue of New York Magazine. I invite you to read it.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 10, 2021 at 4:28 AM

Sunflower yellow

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Helianthus annuus; August 22; northeast quadrant of Mopac and US 183.
More of these sunflowers persisted through August, and
now into September, than I remember seeing in any previous year.


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“When schoolchildren start paying union dues,
that’s when I’ll start representing the interests of schoolchildren.”
— Albert Shanker (1928–1997), long-time head of the United Federation of Teachers.
His remarkably honest statement goes a long way toward explaining why
American public schools do such a poor job educating students.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 5, 2021 at 4:31 AM

Water primrose flowering

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Along Wells Branch Parkway at Strathaven Pass on August 13th I took pictures of narrowleaf water primrose, Ludwigia octovalvis. The top picture sets the scene and includes a couple of purple bindweed flowers, Ipomoea cordatotriloba, which starred in a recent post about the same site. The gialloscuro portrait below isolates one of the water primrose flowers.


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From the time I was in elementary school I was interested in population figures. Here are some observations from the Daily Wire about the 2020 census in the United States.

The Topline: New data from the most recent Census offers a glimpse into the changing demographics of the United States. 

Why Does The Census Matter?

Census data helps determine a state’s representation in Congress. The data also plays a role in allocating electoral votes and helps determine how much funding states can get from the federal government throughout the year. 

State Breakdown

Texas will be adding two members of Congress due to its population growth over the last decade. 

Florida, North Carolina, Oregon, Colorado and Montana will also gain one Congressional seat. 


Seven states — most notably New York and California — will be losing a member of Congress due to lower rates of population growth. 

Political Party Breakdown

It’s unclear if one party benefited more from the Census data. In the fall, states will finalize the process of redrawing congressional lines. 

States controlled by Democrats will attempt to capitalize on urban growth by redrawing lines to create as many districts as possible close to cities with the desire to maximize the impact of their voter base, which typically resides in urban areas. Republicans will take similar action, but in different regions, as their strongholds are in more rural areas.

Snapshot Of American Life In 2020

Experts had predicted a stark increase in the number of people moving to cities, but the Census data exceeded expectations. While the overall population increased, half of all U.S. counties — almost all of them rural — experienced a decrease in size. 

Almost all of the country’s population growth occurred in cities. As a result, for the first time ever, the U.S. has ten cities with populations over 1 million people.

Diversity In America 

One of the key takeaways from the data is the increasing diversity of America. 

White people are still the largest demographic, but their share of the population decreased by 8.6% over the last decade, which is the first time in census history that there was a decrease in the overall number of white Americans. 

According to the data, a large part of the increased diversity is due to immigration, but the data shows that it’s also due to the fact that white families are having fewer children on average than black and Hispanic families. 

Decrease In Population Growth

The U.S. population grew at a rate of 7.4% over the last decade, which is the slowest rate since the Great Depression.

According to the data, the average man is now over 30 years old when he first marries, and the average woman is 28 years old. In 2000, those numbers were 27 and 25. Experts also point to the student debt crisis and increased presence of women in the workplace as reasons for Americans waiting to have children. 


The Big Picture: A decline in the population growth rate may not be initially concerning, but experts say there could be a massive labor shortage if population growth doesn’t start to increase as Baby Boomers and Gen X’ers retire.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 31, 2021 at 4:31 AM

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