Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘yellow

An octagon in the eleventh month that proclaims itself the ninth

leave a comment »

Hot on the heels of the out-of-season Indian paintbrush you saw last time, here’s another prodigy. It’s the Engelmann daisy, Engelmannia peristenia, a spring wildflower that normally has done its thing no later than July, but that I photographed in northeast Austin on November 13th. Engelmann daisies typically have eight ray flowers, as in this picture, and there’s a tendency for them to curl under, as you also see here.

If you’re wondering why September, October, November, and December, whose names indicate that they’re the seventh, eighth, ninth, and tenth month, are actually the ninth, tenth, eleventh, and twelfth month, it’s because the Roman calendar originally began in March. January and February got added later, bumping the already-named months two places further down the line. And here’s another related tidbit: before July and August got appropriated for Julius Caesar and Augustus Caesar, those months had been called Quintilis and Sextilis, whose names proclaimed them the fifth and sixth month in the original calendar.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 1, 2020 at 4:35 AM

Cedar elms turning yellow

with 21 comments

A reliable source of autumnal yellow in Austin is the cedar elm tree, Ulmus crassifolia. In the picture above, taken around 4 in the afternoon on November 9th at the Arboretum shopping center, you see some cedar elms whose leaves picked up extra color saturation from the strong backlighting the late-afternoon sun provided. The previous day in Austin’s Jester neighborhood I’d photographed another yellow cedar elm:

I’d also recorded the way a cedar elm’s yellow contrasted with the red
of the flameleaf sumacs (Rhus lanceolata) surrounding it:

As no one has offered a solution to yesterday’s poser, I’ll let it ride at least one more day. The question is what all the following English words have in common beyond the fact that in each of them a vowel letter and a consonant letter alternate.


© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 28, 2020 at 4:36 AM

Thankfully some Maximilian sunflowers are still flowering

with 25 comments

“Linger,” said the warm weather to the Maximilian sunflowers, and they listened. You’re looking at Helianthus maximiliani along Impact Way in Pflugerville on November 20th.

A happy dose of sunshiny yellow to you all.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 26, 2020 at 4:45 AM

Red and yellow for this fellow

with 22 comments

At the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center on October 23rd, how could I not be drawn to clusters of red possumhaw fruits (Ilex decidua) in front of some Maximilian sunflowers (Helianthus maximiliani)? If you’re in a gloomy place, I hope this combination brightens up your day.

And here’s a relevant quotation for today: “Almost every person, from childhood, has been touched by the untamed beauty of wildflowers.” — Lady Bird Johnson.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 19, 2020 at 4:34 AM

A new place for Maximilian sunflowers

with 23 comments

On October 19th, while driving home from Central Market along W. 45th St., I glimpsed a stand of Maximilian sunflowers (Helianthus maximiliani) on the west bank of Shoal Creek. Never having noticed any of those sunflowers there in other years, I went back the next morning to see what I could do with them. Getting in there wasn’t easy, but I scampered over rocks and pushed my way through a jungle of giant ragweed that had sprung up in the mostly dry creek bed. Then I struggled up the rough slope to get to the sunflowers. The first picture shows some of them beneath a line of paloverde saplings (Parkinsonia aculeata) that had spring up at the edge of the embankment.

Maximilian sunflowers often stand tall. They often lean, too, as in the second picture. It’s also not unusual to see a stalk that has bent so far over that it ended up with its flowers near or even on the ground. That’s what you see in the third photograph. Notice the narrowleaf sumpweed (Iva angustifolia), which had formed a carpet across the plateau atop the creek’s bank, along with some asters. The sunflower stalk’s sinuosity and the redness of its lower portion got my attention.

Below you get a better look at how colorful a Maximilian sunflower stalk sometimes is.

As of today there are still some Maximilian sunflowers brightening up central Texas.  

And here’s a relevant quotation: “My heart found its home long ago in the beauty, mystery, order and disorder of the flowering earth.” — Claudia Alta Taylor Johnson (known as Lady Bird), in a letter in Native Plants magazine, Fall 2002 issue.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman


Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 13, 2020 at 4:33 AM

Damianita for only the second time here

with 22 comments

The one and only time here that I showed you the fragrantly-foliaged plant called damianita was in 2016. I’ve intermittently photographed Chrysactinia mexicana since then, so another post about this species is long overdue. In my county damianita grows naturally a bit to the west of Austin but people have been cultivating this aromatic native in town for some years now. That accounts for the specimens I photographed in the southwest quadrant of Gault Lane and Burnet Road on October 11th. The first portrait depicts a typically “long-fingered” bud opening in front of an already fully open one. The second photograph shows how the flower heads in this species typically occur in clusters.

If you’d like to see a whole bunch of them, you’re welcome to look back at the 2016 post.

And here’s an unrelated but striking fact for today: “[A]ncient skeletons show that human brains have shrunk by some 20 per cent in the last 20,000 years, a fact that has often puzzled biologists.” — Matt Ridley, How Innovation Works, 2020.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 10, 2020 at 3:46 AM

Red and yellow against blue

with 20 comments

Four years ago today we visited the John Muir National Historic Site in Martinez, California. In addition to touring John Muir‘s house, we checked out what was growing in the native plant garden out front. The first picture shows a couple of oso berries, Oemleria cerasiformis. The genus Oemleria is monotypic, meaning that it includes this one species and no other. Regarding the common name, oso is the Spanish word for a bear, and that’s appropriate, given that there’s a bear on the state flag of California. The second picture depicts California sunflowers, Helianthus californicus, which I’d never heard of till then.

Rather than a quotation today, you’re welcome to read some theories about the origin of the name California.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 2, 2020 at 4:38 AM


with 27 comments

As the second yellow-on-yellow picture in two days, behold a bumblee (Bombus sp.) visiting goldenrod flowers (Solidago sp.) along Ross Road in Del Valle. The date was October 10, and the place was one I’d never worked at before, so you could say I had beginner’s luck. I could reply that I’ve been beginning my photography for more than 50 years now.

UPDATE: Robert Kamper (see comment below) has presented evidence that this is really a carpenter bee and not a bumblebee. I’ve left the original post’s title rather than changing it to something like “Carpentrod.”

Instead of a quotation today, how about listening to a two-piano dueling version of Rimsky-Korsakov’s famous “Flight of the Bumblebee”?

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 28, 2020 at 4:38 AM

Not minimally

with 34 comments

In Leander on October 16th I confirmed once again that the Maximilian sunflowers (Helianthus maximiliani) have been good to us in central Texas this fall, as they usually are. In the first photograph, the relatively stationary cloud bank struck me as a good thing to play the flower spikes off against, so I lay on the ground and aimed upward. The brisk breeze pushing those spikes back and forth led me to set a shutter speed of 1/640 second. In the second picture, a Maximilian sunflower shone as the predominant yellow among the many smaller flower heads of broomweed (Amphiachyris dracunculoides).

And thanks to The Quote Garden for pointing me to today’s thought about yellow: “Yellow is the colour nearest approaching to light, and is most advancing and brilliant, either alone or in connection with other colours…. The effect of yellow upon the mind is of a bright, gay, gladdening nature, owing to its likeness to light. Yellow is sometimes employed to express the richness of autumn, and also the season itself, although deeper and richer colours are more suitable, as russets and browns.” — W. J. & G. A. Audsley, Taste versus Fashionable Colours: A Manual for Ladies on Colour in Dress, 1863. We’ve yet to see whether November offers central Texas some comely russets and browns.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 27, 2020 at 4:37 AM

Yellow to the max

with 29 comments

How could I go through the fall and not let you feast your eyes on some more Maximilian sunflowers (Helianthus maximiliani)? I took the first two pictures along McKinney Falls Parkway in southeast Austin on October 10th. The light-gray band across the upper part of the photograph above was morning fog, which I rarely get to see in my part of the world (maybe ’cause I don’t go out early enough or to the right places).

And how could I not include at least one picture of Maximilian sunflowers with a clear blue sky? The one below is from October 6th on the Blackland Prairie in northeast Austin.

As an unrelated quotation for today, here’s a “decalogue of canons for observation in practical life” that Thomas Jefferson put forth in 1825, the year before his death.

      1. Never put off till tomorrow what you can do to-day.
      2. Never trouble another for what you can do yourself.
      3. Never spend your money before you have it.
      4. Never buy what you do not want, because it is cheap; it will be dear to you.
      5. Pride costs us more than hunger, thirst and cold.
      6. We never repent of having eaten too little.
      7. Nothing is troublesome that we do willingly.
      8. How much pain have cost us the evils which have never happened!
      9. Take things always by their smooth handle.
      10. When angry, count ten, before you speak; if very angry, an hundred.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 18, 2020 at 4:36 AM

%d bloggers like this: