Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Seasonal color from rattan

with 21 comments

A few weeks ago I reported that fall color had suddenly descended on Austin. At that time I showed you the yellow leaves of cedar elm, and now I’ll add the orange leaves of rattan, Berchemia scandens, that I photographed in my neighborhood on December 16. In this case, instead of speaking of color that descended I should say ascended, because this woody vine that abounds in the woods of Austin can and does climb way up into the forest canopy, and it’s strong enough in its winding ascent to strangle a tree. Rattan does its strangling throughout the year, but at least in December and early January it does so to an accompaniment of pretty colors. I doubt whether those colors are any consolation to the tree being strangled, but our human eyes are happy enough to see the warmly colored rattan leaves.

To learn more about the formidable rattan vine, and to see a state-clickable map showing the places in the southeastern United States where it does its woody twining and strangling, you can visit the USDA website. One place where Berchemia scandens is thoroughly at home is Alabama, which I mention because another name for this vine is Alabama supple-jack (though people in Texas are inclined to drop the Alabama part of that name).

© 2012 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 10, 2012 at 5:10 AM

21 Responses

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  1. Love the commentary.

    Bonnie Michelle

    January 10, 2012 at 6:18 AM

  2. Beautiful but deadly. That’s a powerful combo!

    Mind Margins

    January 10, 2012 at 7:00 AM

  3. I really appreciated learning the proper names of trees and plants. I’ve seen rattan often but never knew what it was. Thanks for the education. I hope to learn a lot more from your blog this coming year.

    Pat Bean

    January 10, 2012 at 7:33 AM

  4. Makes me think of Belladonna–those who are deadly often use their beauty as a distraction from their murderous ways until all victims are helplessly in thrall. As it’s said, an *ugly* devil could never be so successful as an alluring one.


    January 10, 2012 at 11:26 AM

    • Good comments about the beautiful lady and the ugly devil. Even if my pictures have you in thrall I promise not to murder you: where would I be without viewers?

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 10, 2012 at 12:35 PM

  5. Another deadly beauty, isn’t it? I remember kudzu all over the south–don’t recall whether it put on any kind of compensatory autumn display. Around here we have bittersweet, another gorgeous strangler.

    Susan Scheid

    January 10, 2012 at 8:50 PM

  6. […] Berchemia scandens, the woody rattan vine that can strangle a tree, has surprisingly small fruits: each is only about a quarter to a third of an inch long and looks like a tiny grape. Behind the little cluster of them shown here you see two of the plant’s leaves illuminated by a shaft of late-afternoon sun that made its way through the darkling woods. […]

  7. Your images are amazing, Steve! Is a printed book in the works (or have I missed the ones you already have out?) Great shot!


    January 11, 2012 at 3:49 PM

    • Thanks for the vote of confidence, Steve. The subject of a book is one dear to my heart, but so far that heart remains broken. Three years ago I put together a whole book (pictures and text) called Portraits of Texas Wildflowers and shopped it around to various publishers. Even the two most likely ones, University of Texas Press and Texas A & M University Press, turned me down. Perhaps eventually they or another traditional publisher will see the appeal of what I have to offer. Or maybe I’ll go ahead with an e-version of that book or another nature book. One reason I started this blog is to get some of the pictures I’ve created out into the world, and in the process show publishers that people are interested. Hope may spring eternal, but I’m not getting any younger; gotta do something.

      Again, thanks so much for your support.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 11, 2012 at 4:03 PM

  8. Gotta love the fall colors!!! Have you looked into Print On Demand publishers?? There a quite a few out there…some good and some not so good. We have a book in the works with Virtual Bookworm.


    January 12, 2012 at 1:39 PM

    • I’m aware of print-on-demand publishing but the hardest thing is always promoting your book when you don’t have a ‘real’ publisher with a publicity department. I’ll be interested to hear how your book with Virtual Bookworm works out.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 12, 2012 at 1:44 PM

  9. This is stunning. And my second-most favourite part of this posting is this sentence: “. . . Rattan does its strangling throughout the year, but at least in December and early January it does so to an accompaniment of pretty colors. . . . ” It should be sent to P. D. James, and her next murder mystery will simply be called “Rattan”


    January 14, 2012 at 12:56 PM

    • I’m glad you appreciate the photograph and my sentence about the way rattan does its strangling to an accompaniment of pretty colors. As for murder mysteries, I’ve thought about them in the context of the native plants here that I’ve learned are poisonous. Seems like there’s a novel waiting to be written.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 14, 2012 at 4:08 PM

  10. […] term seasonal leaf color. Examples that you’ve seen so far have been the leaves of rattan, Texas red oak, cedar elm, flameleaf sumac, and even poison ivy. Cometh now a native grass that […]

  11. […] If you’d like to see what a lot of rattan leaves look like when they’re all turning color at the same time, and also to learn more about this vine, you can take a trip back to a post from a year ago. […]

  12. […] tree, Platanus occidentalis, but a dead one wearing the tangled and likewise lifeless remnants of a rattan vine, Berchemia […]

  13. […] end of fall; I didn’t see any of that this past season, but you’re welcome to (re)visit a post from two years ago. And if you look carefully at today’s picture, in several places you can make out some […]

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