Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Scarlet leatherflower opening—in its way

with 32 comments

Click for greater clarity.

In a comment on yesterday’s Clematis texensis post, Sally Donatello asked what the scarlet clematis flower was concealing. Not much that’s picturesque, I’m afraid. The flower doesn’t readily open wide, although the distal ends of the thick sepals flare out to varying degrees and offer a glimpse of some fibers inside. This photograph tells that story.

A fertilized scarlet leatherflower does go on to produce feathery strands in the style of its genus-mate Clematis drummondii, but there aren’t as many strands, nor are they as fancy as in even a routine showing of old man’s beard, so the overall effect is less impressive. On the other hand, as intricate and swirly as a display of Clematis drummondii can be, it pales, literally, in comparison to the rich color of the scarlet leatherflower. Each species has its appeal.

© 2012 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 8, 2012 at 6:03 AM

32 Responses

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  1. Wow! This is a stunning photo, and what a beautiful flower.


    August 8, 2012 at 6:49 AM

    • I wish I encountered this species more often. I’ve found it in my northwestern part of Austin only a couple of times.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 8, 2012 at 7:02 AM

  2. A perfect shot! The texture of these flowers should, if the name is anything to go by, be leathery… are they really? They look more waxy.


    August 8, 2012 at 6:50 AM

    • Your intuition is right: I find the feel to be rubbery or waxy rather than leathery. I wonder if, when English speakers created the common name for this flower, there was a type of leather that was more like this texture than what I usually think of as leather.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 8, 2012 at 7:06 AM

      • Interesting thought… or leather was the nearest thing to that texture that they knew at the time.


        August 8, 2012 at 7:10 AM

      • And rubber would probably have been largely unknown here before the latter 1800s.

        Steve Schwartzman

        August 8, 2012 at 7:23 AM

  3. Beautiful photo, Steve! I love the clematis texensis clan; they are reliable garden plants for me, though I only have some of the hybrids. Perhaps I will try the species!


    August 8, 2012 at 7:19 AM

    • I don’t know if Clematis texensis is easily gotten at a nursery, but you may be able to order seeds.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 8, 2012 at 7:25 AM

  4. So vivid!


    August 8, 2012 at 9:33 AM

  5. Thanks for giving me a peek into this unusually simple but eloquent flower, which reminds me of a tulip. Maybe it has Dutch ancestry.


    August 8, 2012 at 9:34 AM

    • Your comment yesterday prompted me to interpolate this post, for which I had to go back and look at the pictures I took that day in April. I’m glad I did, because at the moment I’m favoring this photograph over the one I used yesterday.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 8, 2012 at 10:00 AM

  6. Wow. It looks like a swan.

    Pedro de la Punta

    August 8, 2012 at 11:01 AM

  7. This flower is so beautiful or else your photo-magic is fooling me! 🙂 I love the softening of the sky in the centre, clouds, I assume, but perfectly photographed.

    Cindy Kilpatrick

    August 8, 2012 at 5:37 PM

    • Let’s say it’s a combination of the two things. The flower has its intrinsic beauty, but I do my best to portray it in a romantic way. An important factor in a portrait is the background. I often spend time looking for an angle that will give the subject a flattering background, and in this case the blue-white-blue horizontal strata of the sky did a good job of complementing the vertical orientation and scarlet color of the subject. (Sounds like I’m being my own PR guy.)

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 8, 2012 at 5:59 PM

  8. How beautiful — it almost seems to be unfolding right before our eyes.


    August 8, 2012 at 8:13 PM

    • I know that it wasn’t unfolding, but I can see how the image might lead you to feel that it was. I’m glad you felt moved.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 8, 2012 at 10:13 PM

  9. As beautiful as the previous photo – although it looks to me more like marzipan than anything else!

    Is there any possibility you chose your title as a take-off on a poem? The phrase “in its way” is nagging at me terribly. I just can’t remember the original line – it seems to be something like “always loved you, [insert name] in my way”. But no amount of searching has brought it up. If you didn’t do it purposefully, don’t bother looking. I’ll give my subconscious a few days and see if it surfaces. 😉


    August 8, 2012 at 9:57 PM

    • My “marzipan moment” was with the leaf of a cedar elm tree (now destroyed, as the land on which it had sprung up has been razed).

      I wasn’t thinking of anything specific when I wrote the title of this post, but I’ll bet I know what you’re thinking of. It’s a poem by Ernest Dowson:

      “Non Sum Qualis Eram Bonae Sub Regno Cynarae.”

      Last night, ah, yesternight, betwixt her lips and mine
      There fell thy shadow, Cynara! thy breath was shed
      Upon my soul between the kisses and the wine;
      And I was desolate and sick of an old passion,
      Yea, I was desolate and bowed my head:
      I have been faithful to thee, Cynara! in my fashion.

      All night upon mine heart I felt her warm heart beat,
      Night-long within mine arms in love and sleep she lay;
      Surely the kisses of her bought red mouth were sweet;
      But I was desolate and sick of an old passion,
      When I awoke and found the dawn was grey:
      I have been faithful to thee, Cynara! in my fashion.

      I have forgot much, Cynara! gone with the wind,
      Flung roses, roses riotously with the throng,
      Dancing, to put thy pale, lost lilies out of mind;
      But I was desolate and sick of an old passion,
      Yea, all the time, because the dance was long:
      I have been faithful to thee, Cynara! in my fashion.

      I cried for madder music and for stronger wine,
      But when the feast is finished and the lamps expire,
      Then falls thy shadow, Cynara! the night is thine;
      And I am desolate and sick of an old passion,
      Yea, hungry for the lips of my desire:
      I have been faithful to thee, Cynara! in my fashion.

      (The Latin subtitle means “I am not as I was under the reign of the good

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 8, 2012 at 10:28 PM

  10. What a Sexy, Beautiful Flower!


    August 8, 2012 at 10:30 PM

  11. J’adore cette photo ! Le mélange des couleurs, le cadrage, le sujet… Elle est top ! Bravo !


    August 9, 2012 at 3:10 AM

    • Merci bien. Lemarcal says that he loves this photo for its mix of colors, its framing, and the subject. He refers to it with an English word that the French have borrowed, top (which reminds me of the words of the Cole Porter song “You’re the Top”).

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 9, 2012 at 7:53 AM

  12. […] For all the pictures of the wonderful Clematis drummondii that you’ve had a chance to look at here, you’ve seen only two photographs of another species that’s native—actually endemic*—in central Texas, Clematis texensis, known appropriately as scarlet leatherflower. If you weren’t visiting these pages last year, or if you’d like another jolt of bright red, especially as it stands out against a background of blue sky and white cloud, I invite you to look back at a scarlet leatherflower. […]

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