Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Like a fist

with 28 comments

Click for greater detail.

Yesterday morning’s post featured the tightly twisted young tendrils of a mustang grape vine, Vitis mustangensis; a follow-up post in the afternoon showed tendrils that in their dried-out and faded state served as camouflage for a similar-looking spider. Now comes a picture in which young and old combine. This time a fresh tendril—you know it’s young from its color—has grabbed a dead stalk and in so doing has ended up looking like a narrow fist. Curiously, the dried-out stalk was part of the same plant as the tendril: talk about pulling yourself up by your own bootstraps.

For those of you interested in photography as a craft, points 1, 2, 5, 9, 11, 14, 16, and 19 in About My Techniques are relevant to this photograph. For more information about Vitis mustangensis, and to see a state-clickable map of the places where it grows, you can visit the USDA website.

© 2012 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 22, 2012 at 5:05 AM

28 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. Fantastic color, the red all the more effective against the brown, dried-out stalk. The tendril looks like some strange creature hanging on for dear life!


    January 22, 2012 at 6:14 AM

    • I’m glad you like the contrast of the red against the rest. We could say that hanging on like that is the life of this plant.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 22, 2012 at 7:39 AM

  2. “Most vines twine counterclockwise, though about 10% go clockwise. Some do it both ways. The twining direction of vines is not dependent on whether the plant lives north or south of the Equator. Twining direction is genetic, and some species go one way while others go the other.” from Jim Conrad’s Naturalist Newsletter.

    Great picture.

    New Hampshire Gardener

    January 22, 2012 at 6:57 AM

    • Thanks for the information about twining, which is new to me. It made me wonder why the large majority of vines twine counterclockwise, but then I realized that the same could be asked about handedness, since most people are right-handed and a few ambidextrous.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 22, 2012 at 7:45 AM

  3. Isn’t this just like a fist? And your photograph of the spider was stupendous!

    Susan Scheid

    January 22, 2012 at 8:07 AM

    • Thanks , Susan. I wonder if the spider “knew” that it was camouflaged on the dried tendrils.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 22, 2012 at 8:31 AM

  4. You would be fascinated by the kudzu vine in the East where it is an invasive and smothers natives. I’ve made great natural baskets from native honeysuckle and those rampant vines. But we work hard to eliminate it. Still, it makes for terrific images, Sally

    Sally W. Donatello

    January 22, 2012 at 8:09 AM

    • I lived for three years in Virginia and North Carolina, so I quickly grew familiar with kudzu, the monster that ate the South. Somewhere I have some old black and white photographs I took of the plant covering buildings and trees. Good luck trying to eliminate it.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 22, 2012 at 8:25 AM

  5. I’m going to hazard the guess that it’s the hand of a Muppet. Looks strangely familiar! And yes, so intriguing that the old and the new are all part of the same whole. Just as we living things all are: matter in a constant state of renewal. Or should be, anyway!


    January 22, 2012 at 8:18 AM

    • I’ll take your word for it, because the Muppets came after my time and I’m only vaguely aware of them.

      I’ve noticed that the vines we have in my part of the word will generally grab onto anything, including themselves. They seem not to be able to help themselves: it’s their nature to grab and twine.

      As for renewal, I sometimes wish that for my body.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 22, 2012 at 8:37 AM

  6. Hope you are consider selling them as a pair! I know there is a market for your work!

    Bonnie Michelle

    January 22, 2012 at 8:35 AM

  7. As a knitter I saw red yarn, cast on and ready to knit. What will nature make with this? 🙂


    January 22, 2012 at 9:13 AM

    • Not (knot) being a knitter, I didn’t have your association, but I’m glad to hear it. One answer to your question may be found if you go back three posts: given enough time and favorable circumstances, this tiny tendril can lead to a huge woody vine.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 22, 2012 at 10:14 AM

  8. Hi Steven

    I just found your blog and I have posted a link on my blog.

    I hope you do not mind.

    Regards Guy


    January 22, 2012 at 10:10 AM

  9. this photo is absolutely FROM MARS. When it first flashed on my screen, my instant thought was, “What the hell is THAT???” you certainly have an eye for the unexpected.


    January 22, 2012 at 10:58 AM

  10. how wonderfully observational! I love the idea of plants being left or right ‘handed’. Great life lesson from the mustang grape vine. ‘grab for dear life’

    thank you for your great photography and appreciation of nature. It reminds me to slow down every now and again and see what perfection closer inspection reveals.


    January 22, 2012 at 11:35 AM

    • Your comment about a “great life lesson from the mustang grape vine” reminds me of the famous passage from Shakespeare’s As You Like It:

      Sweet are the uses of adversity,
      Which, like the toad, ugly and venomous,
      Wears yet a precious jewel in his head;
      And this our life, exempt from public haunt,
      Finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks,
      Sermons in stones, and good in every thing.

      To the “tongues in trees” we can add “visions in vines.”

      And yes, close inspection reveals so many things.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 22, 2012 at 11:46 AM

  11. Hi there I’ve just come over from Kathryn’s blog – kiwsparks. and I’m captivated. So much to see, so much to appreciate, so much to learn, so much to enjoy 🙂


    January 22, 2012 at 12:06 PM

    • My thanks to Kathryn, and welcome to this world of nature. There is indeed “so much to see, so much to appreciate, so much to learn, so much to enjoy” in that world.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 22, 2012 at 12:22 PM

  12. This pic reminds me of our peas in the summer and how they latch on to anything and everything.


    January 22, 2012 at 12:55 PM

  13. Yes, it is like a fist! Great photo. The color of it is absolutely brilliant! 😀


    January 23, 2012 at 9:05 AM

  14. i love these mustang vines, perfect name for them. a fabulous photo, that red pops right out of the pic.


    January 23, 2012 at 11:36 AM

    • You’re right that the neutral colors of the dry stalk and the background make the red pop out all the more. The picture is minimalistic in composition as well as color.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 23, 2012 at 11:47 AM

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: