Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

A lot going on here

with 23 comments

Click for greater size and better color.

1) The yellow flower head that has lost its rays is goldeneye, Viguiera dentata.

2) The plant with the questing red tendril that has managed to catch hold of the goldeneye and seems to be straining back to reel it in is a greenbrier vine, Smilax bona-nox.

3) The long daubs of bright red-orange in the background are the leaflets of a prairie flameleaf sumac, Rhus lanceolata, at its colorful peak. More about that next time.

The date was November 20, and this photograph came at the end of four hours spent photographing, mostly on the prairie, but by the time I took my last pictures of the day I was close to home on an undeveloped property behind Seton Northwest Hospital.

For those of you who are interested in photography as a craft, points 1, 2, 5, 12, 15 and 16 in About My Techniques are relevant to this photograph.

© 2012 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 30, 2012 at 6:20 AM

23 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. And the moral of the story is, “Never put down roots too close to the Smilax bona-nox!” 😉


    November 30, 2012 at 7:02 AM

    • And I try not to put my body down too close to the Smilax bona-nox, not because I’m afraid its tendrils will lasso me but because I’m afraid its thorns will scratch me, which they’ve done often enough.

      In the location where I photographed this I found various kinds of plants growing jumbled up together, something I often see.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 30, 2012 at 7:12 AM

      • Steve, my first encounter with this plant was to reach down with ungloved hand to try and pull it out… I didn’t notice the thorns. They call it “Saw-vine” in these parts! This is a fun shot!


        November 30, 2012 at 7:18 AM

        • This may be a fun shot, but I imagine your experience with ungloved hands wasn’t much fun. Sawvine is an apt name. It sent me to Ellen Schulz’s 1929 book Texas Wild Flowers just now to see what names have been used here. The book doesn’t mention sawvine but it does include cat-brier, and we know what part of the cat the namers had in mind.

          Steve Schwartzman

          November 30, 2012 at 7:36 AM

  2. This is an amazing photo – you can almost see the vine roping in its catch. And the vine appears to have thorns too, making it seem quite evil!


    November 30, 2012 at 10:17 AM

  3. Three plants for the price of one. This is a good one. The sumac in the background added nice bright colors to the picture.


    November 30, 2012 at 1:44 PM

    • You said it well: three for the price of one. I’m often fascinated by the combinations of native plants I see.

      This is the best time of year for our flameleaf sumacs. I’m still seeing some of them change color and will bring you more views of that in the days ahead.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 30, 2012 at 2:17 PM

      • Wonderful. Love those sumacs. That is one plant that will always come through with fall color (at least I think that it does).


        November 30, 2012 at 9:02 PM

        • I think you’re right, at least judging from the Rhus lanceolata that I know so well from central Texas, and that’s the most reliable source of fall color in Austin. Not all the trees turn colors at the same time, so I’ve been able to find a good showing in various places over the past couple of weeks.

          Steve Schwartzman

          November 30, 2012 at 9:59 PM

  4. […] you saw prairie flameleaf sumac, Rhus lanceolata, at its colorful peak but out of focus behind a greenbrier vine that had lasssoed a goldeneye flower stalk. Now here’s a look at some vibrant flameleaf sumac leaves in the foreground, where you can […]

  5. It may be foolish to ascribe intentionality to a plant, but I swear – that vine seems more alive and active than many of the vines I see.

    More, the photo captures perfectly the sense of a poem by Pattiann Rogers I saved at least twenty years ago, during my sailing days. I can’t surface it online just now, and it’s too long to enter as a whole into a comment. I’ll do more searching this weekend to see if I can find it online to link. This snippet will give you a taste.

    …I know how to unravel
    sawgrasses knitted to iris leaves knitted
    to sweet vernals. I can unwind sunlight
    from the switches of the water in the slough
    and divide the grey sumac’s hazy hedge
    from the hazy grey of the sky, the red vein
    of the hibiscus from its red blossom….

    It’s one of my favorite poems in the world. I never read it without chills. I certainly wish I’d saved the title with it. 😉


    December 1, 2012 at 7:10 AM

    • This vine looked to me, too, much more intentional than the ones I normally see, and I see plenty whose tendrils latch on to other plants. Almost certainly my anthropomorphism, and perhaps yours as well, comes from the way the greenbrier leans to the right before bending more abruptly to the left at the top, a configuration that in a human would normally symbolize effort.

      Thanks for the snippet of poem, which I’ve learned is called “Knot” and is from a book named Splitting and Binding. I’d never heard of Pattiann Rogers, but I found the poem here.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 1, 2012 at 8:38 AM

      • And here is Pattiann Rogers’ own website, whose parts are accessible via the links at the left of the page.

        Steve Schwartzman

        December 1, 2012 at 8:54 AM

      • Here you go. I scanned the copy I had in my scrapbook. Clearly, there are a couple of versions of the poem. Notice the change in the first line from forest to shoreline, for example. Whether mine is the latest I can’t say, but it’s as perfect as that vine.


        December 1, 2012 at 9:17 AM

        • Look how different the endings are. I notice that there’s contact information for Pattiann Rogers on her website: perhaps you can ask her about the two versions. What you find out might turn into an essay for your blog.

          Steve Schwartzman

          December 1, 2012 at 9:32 AM

  6. […] The flameleaf sumac is back to serving as a background, one even more happily out of focus than in the view from two posts ago. Call this minimalism when it comes to composition but maximalism when it comes to […]

  7. […] this blossoming redbud tree, Cercis canadensis, rising sunnily above a tangle of greenbrier vines, Smilax bona-nox, on the afternoon of February 13. The location was a margin of land between a driveway that runs […]

  8. […] left aren’t those of the possumhaw, which by then had lived up to its species name, but of a greenbrier vine, Smilax bona-nox, that had climbed into the […]

  9. […] Saw vine information can be linked to by clicking on its name above, but an awesome image of the plant can be found on Steven Schwartzman’s Portraits of Wildflowers  by clicking HERE […]

  10. […] On the cold morning of January 24th, where you’ve already heard that a shallow carpet of ice pellets lay on the ground in some places, I went to Great Hills Park, where I photographed some thick rattan vines, Berchemia scandens. The sweet-potato color you see here is one typical hue of this woody species, the other being a dull green. Speaking of colors, this vine’s leaves can turn a pretty yellow-orange at the 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 strands of a different and slenderer vine, the aptly named greenbrier. […]

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 )

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: