Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Pearl milkweed vine leaf

with 19 comments

On the autumnally clear morning of October 29th, I drove down to San Marcos, a town about 30 miles south of Austin, and one never mentioned in these pages before, to explore a place I’d discovered a few days earlier on the Internet: Purgatory Creek Natural Area. One of the things I found there was this leaf of a pearl milkweed vine, Matelea reticulata, a plant whose unique flowers you’ve seen several times in this blog. Almost all the vine’s other leaves were a normal color, so I doubt that the yellowing of this one was due to the somewhat cooler weather that had descended on central Texas. I could be wrong.

For those of you who are interested in photography as a craft, points 1, 3 and 12 in About My Techniques are relevant to this photograph.

© 2012 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 11, 2012 at 6:13 AM

19 Responses

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  1. This is quite stunning, Steve.

    ken bello

    November 11, 2012 at 6:55 AM

  2. Your leaf would fit beautifully in Jane Hammond’s sculpture called “Fallen”. Hammond’s installation is comprised of handmade leaves, and each one has been inscribed by her with the name of a U.S. soldier killed in Iraq. The work started with 4229 leaves; Hammond continued to add leaves and names as the war went on.

    In her artist’s statement she says, “There is something about leaves in the autumn, at the zenith of their coloration that is transcendent: they are both dematerializing and intensifying simultaneously. As their bodies become lighter, their color is becoming more and more intense. I’ve tried to gather leaves just at this moment when the chroma is so strong it transcends the body of the leaf and becomes a kind of pure light.”

    I’d say this leaf would fit into the installation perfectly. You can read more about it here . And – happy Veterans’ Day!


    November 11, 2012 at 7:23 AM

    • Thanks for the information about Jane Hammond, whom I hadn’t heard of. From what I’ve read at the site you linked to, my understanding is that she gathers real autumn leaves and copies them using materials that won’t quickly fade the way real ones do.

      The connection between fallen leaves and fallen soldiers strikes me as a natural one, and the use in English of fall to mean die goes back quite a ways. The Oxford English Dictionary gives examples of the sense ‘to drop down wounded or dead’ from as long ago as 1300. I find it interesting that English has also used fall in the context of animals to mean the opposite, namely ‘to be born.’ That usage was even extended to people, as when Shakespeare wrote in King John: Or, if it must stand still, let wives with child / Pray that their burthens may not fall this day….”

      With reference to Veterans’ Day, I’m reminded of the ending (at least in A. W. Wheen’s translation) of All Quiet on the Western Front:

      “He fell in October 1918, on a day that was so quiet and still on the whole front, that the army report confined itself to the single sentence: All quiet on the Western Front.
      “He had fallen forward and lay on the earth as though sleeping. Turning him over one saw that he could not have suffered long; his face had an expression of calm, as though almost glad the end had come.”

      (I’ve been able to confirm that the original German version of that first sentence also uses the verb fall.)

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 11, 2012 at 8:17 AM

  3. Love the light coming through!


    November 11, 2012 at 10:46 AM

    • Me too. I strive for that translucence whenever I can get it because it enhances the vibrancy of the subject.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 11, 2012 at 11:00 AM

  4. Simply a wonderful capture of light, color form and texture!


    November 11, 2012 at 12:17 PM

  5. That leaf, I am sure looks far better per your macro than it did/does in reality. Beautiful!


    November 11, 2012 at 3:57 PM

    • In Europe they have the euphemistically named V.A.T., or value added tax, which, like any tax, takes money away from people. My goal is the opposite, to add to people’s perceptions of nature, and at no cost to them.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 11, 2012 at 5:26 PM

  6. I know others have said it but it is a great use of light! Fantastic image Steve.

    Brian Comeau

    November 12, 2012 at 8:38 PM

  7. Magnifique!


    November 14, 2012 at 4:38 AM

  8. […] little over a week ago you saw the leaf of a pearl milkweed vine that I photographed on the autumnally clear morning of October 29th when I drove down to San […]

  9. […] was most likely Matelea reticulata, one of whose striking green flowers you saw last October, and a backlit leaf of which you saw in November. This is the first time here that you’re getting a look at one of its […]

  10. […] a rather unpleasant smell that might be described as rubbery or fishy, much like the odor of the pearl milkweed vine that’s a lot more common in central Texas. Notice the mature pod, quite svelte, which I […]

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