Sunday, February 26, 2012

Macro Monday: Field Pansy

This photo is my contribution to Macro Monday, hosted each week by Lisa at Lisa's Chaos. 
Earlier than any other violet in my yard, I see this absolutely teeny violet in bloom.  I first noticed it in a neighbor's lawn and was actually disappointed I couldn't find it in my own.  It's not like I don't have plenty of other lawn weeds, but I wanted a closer look and didn't want to be too conspicuous inspecting something on my neighbor's property on hands and knees (or, worse, pulling something out of their lawn.  That seems downright antisocial, even though I'm pretty sure they would consider it a weed and not a wildflower).  What I really wanted was a close look at the leaves so that I could identify the species, but it's not easy to differentiate the leaves of a single tiny plant growing in the middle of a weedy lawn.  But today I found it growing in my herb garden.  Previously, I bragged about how well weeded my herb garden is.... oh well.  I was happy to see it.  It was well-enough separated from the nearby parsley and chamomile that I could get a good enough view to look it up in my trusty Peterson's Wildflower Field Guide.  It looks like Viola kitaibelliana, the Field Pansy.  The next picture shows the shape of the leaves.  Note the long, narrow stipules at the base of the upper leafstalks.

Peterson's lists it as "Alien."  It seems to me that many of our lawn weeds are introduced species, rather than native wildflowers.  Years ago, when I first got this field guide and didn't know much, I would pull it out to try to identify every flower I could find growing in the wild.  If I was close to home (i.e. the suburbs), these were generally lawn weeds.  When you think about it, lawn is not really a native habitat here, in the region once blanketed by the Eastern Deciduous Forest.  Forest openings would have briefly been occupied by meadows, but not mowed lawns.  Maybe it's more surprising that some native plants (like the common blue violet) can adapt to living in a lawn.  Many or most of the other common lawn weeds and many meadow wildflowers are probably plants that have long been adapted to grazing by livestock and came over with the earliest Europeans.    

I snapped the last picture to show just how incredibly tiny the bloom is.  That's my index finger, grotesquely larger than life size.  The pansy is out of focus and overexposed because I'm not very good at using my camera one-handed, and it wasn't worth it to set up the tripod for a picture that was going to have my finger in it!  The tininess of the bloom made photographing it a challenge.  First, to get the camera close enough to get a nearly full-frame macro shot, I was close enough to shade the bloom with the camera!  So I had to take the photo from slightly off-center rather than line up with the pansy in the same plane as the camera sensor (as often recommended for macros because of the narrow depth-of-field).  That's OK, I like the slightly oblique view better.  I needed a tripod (I usually do for macros) but couldn't get it close enough. I was stymied for a moment, but just then my husband came out to see what I was up to.  I said "I need a bean bag!" And he said, "what about a bag of rice?"   Part of why I married him is that he's so smart!  Another big part is that he's really nice -- he actually went back inside to get it for me!).   Now the camera was all set up and ready to go, but sunlight on the foliage was making a distracting background.  The bean bag also gave me a free hand to shade the background.  Initially I meant to only shade the hotspot, but it was hard to aim my shadow.  I liked the look of the nearly black background anyway, so I went ahead and triggered the shot.