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More sumacs in Arkansas

with 28 comments

Sumacs Turning Red Above Lake Fort Smith 8759

Click for greater clarity.

As we wended our way south on US 71 in Arkansas on November 10th we came to a scenic pullover above Lake Fort Smith. The view of the lake was okay, but for me the sumacs proved the main attraction. Chances are these were Rhus glabra, known as smooth sumac.

© 2013 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 5, 2013 at 6:04 AM

28 Responses

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  1. I’ve always liked the reds and oranges of sumacs around here.

    Jim in IA

    December 5, 2013 at 7:27 AM

    • Welcome to the ranks of sumac lovers. Long may they live—the sumacs and their appreciators.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 5, 2013 at 7:43 AM

  2. Love those sumacs, Steve! To me, they seem to be the first to turn and one of the last to let go of their fall color. I find them to be the most intensely colored as well.

    I’m trying something new this year. I have harvested some of the drupe clusters (what do you call them?) for drying. They will then be ground into a powder and used as a condiment for Mediterranean dishes served with rice. I’ll let you know how it worked when I taste it. 😉


    December 5, 2013 at 8:40 AM

    • You can tell that I love them too, Lynda. In the four weeks since I returned from Arkansas I’ve photographed the sumacs that we have here (flameleaf, Rhus lanceolata), which turned colors a bit early and are mostly finished now. I’ll show a few of those pictures in the weeks ahead, but I have to restrain myself to keep from sumac-ing people out.

      Yes, do let us know how your experiment with dried sumac fruit clusters (I think they’re called panicles) works out. I’m always glad when we can use a native plant as food.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 5, 2013 at 9:29 AM

  3. Beautiful, I had forgotten that this was called sumac. We have them around here as well. Thanks both for the photo and information.


    December 5, 2013 at 10:08 AM

    • You’re welcome on both counts. Sumac is one of the delights of autumn, and many parts of the United States and Canada are host to one or more species of it.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 5, 2013 at 10:11 AM

  4. Gorgeous Steve! I had a ball photographing the many bushes that I have here on the mountain, earlier this autumn. I really can’t get over the colors! Keep those pictures coming!

    Brenda Jones

    December 5, 2013 at 10:32 AM

    • Thanks, Brenda. What makes the red of the sumacs so saturated here is the backlighting.

      I’ll certainly keep those pictures coming, including some more that show fall foliage.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 5, 2013 at 10:53 AM

  5. I can see why you were attracted to the sumac. That crimson colour against the blue shadows of the trees is quite wonderful.


    December 5, 2013 at 1:00 PM

    • I hope you live in a part of Canada with sumacs, even if you have plenty of taller trees like oaks and maples that put on a display of autumn color, because sumacs do a great job of brightening up the understory.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 5, 2013 at 1:18 PM

      • Yes, Rhus Glabra (Smooth Sumac) is native to British Columbia, and many people grow Staghorn Sumac here (Rhus typhina). You and I once had a round of comments and replies on the subject of culinary uses of sumac. I have since learned that most sumac berries are edible; however, Toxicodendron vernix, formerly known as Rhus vernix, is poisonous. Don’t go by my word alone, but the red berries are edible and the white are not. I buy sumac from a Middle Eastern store, already dried and ground. Mixed with thyme (or oregano), sesame seeds and salt, it is delicious with olive oil on pita bread. Melted Gouda cheese is good with this, too.


        December 5, 2013 at 4:40 PM

        • Thanks for reminding me of that earlier discussion. My understanding of the segregating of some former Rhus species into the genus Toxicodendron is to distinguish the poisonous plants (with the white fruit) from the benign ones (with the red fruit). And speaking of edible, what you describe at the end of your comment makes me wish you could send some of that over the Internet, too.

          Steve Schwartzman

          December 5, 2013 at 4:55 PM

  6. Green and red make a wonderful combination and these reds are particularly vivid. Much richer red than our sumacs this year.

    Steve Gingold

    December 5, 2013 at 3:02 PM

    • That’s my bonus for having been an Arkansas traveler this fall. This group of sumacs looked especially vivid that morning because I faced east and found a position that maximized the translucence of the backlit leaves.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 5, 2013 at 3:08 PM

      • I hope that this was your accompaniment on the trip. 🙂

        Steve Gingold

        December 5, 2013 at 3:14 PM

        • I see you picked up on my reference. Actually we have Sirius-XM Radio in the car so I got to hear classical music for large parts of the trip. That came in handy because we were often out in rural areas where we wouldn’t have found much on the regular radio that we would’ve wanted to listen to.

          Steve Schwartzman

          December 5, 2013 at 3:54 PM

        • Oh, and I see that a couple of the people on the CornDancer website are from the University of Arkansas.

          Steve Schwartzman

          December 5, 2013 at 3:59 PM

  7. I do enjoy the way you so often frame your photos in such a way to increase a sense of depth and liveliness. I’m particularly fond of the “river of green” flowing here through the red sumacs. Hard to imagine all of that encased in ice this morning, but so it is – dangerous for people and extremely difficult for wildlife.


    December 6, 2013 at 9:20 AM

    • I like the way you saw this: a river of green flowing through it. As much as I don’t like the cold, I’d be thrilled at the chance to photograph these plants or any others encased in ice. Yesterday’s weather forecast gave hope for that this morning, but it didn’t happen. Still, I spent almost five hours out in the near-freezing cold taking pictures of fall colors, muted and brighter.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 6, 2013 at 2:37 PM

  8. It reminded me of those colours from the ‘Fauvism’ period from Matisse.

    Maria F.

    December 7, 2013 at 12:17 AM

    • By a happy coincidence, the French adjective fauve originally referred to a reddish yellow color, and that’s appropriate for sumacs in the fall.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 7, 2013 at 7:43 AM

  9. I just love sumacs. We have lots of them in Ontario.

    Dr. Booky

    December 7, 2013 at 9:54 AM

  10. Regardless of the subject, this is a great photograph.


    December 10, 2013 at 10:38 AM

    • I gather that you have species of sumacs in the Middle East. So far I’ve heard of sumac being used in Arab cooking but I haven’t run across any references to it in Jewish cooking (I haven’t looked, either).

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 10, 2013 at 2:16 PM

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