Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Agarita turning colors

with 16 comments

Agarita Leaflets Turning Red 8815

Click for a sharper view.

If flameleaf sumac provides one of the largest displays of cooling-weather color in central Texas, agarita provides only an inch or two at a time when one or more of its three spine-tipped leaflets turn red. Formerly classified as Berberis trifoliolata and now as Mahonia trifoliolata, this shrub can also produce colorful leaflets in seasons other than fall, but always in bits and pieces; I’ve never seen a sizable part of an agarita turn colors all at once.

This view is from the Upper Bull Creek Greenbelt on December 18, 2013.

© 2014 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 19, 2014 at 5:57 AM

16 Responses

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  1. The combination of magenta and orange reminds me of your photo of the coral honeysuckle. It’s interesting that I saw a good bit of agarita around Comfort and Kerrville just after Christmas, but it all was typically blue-green. I don’t believe I’ve ever seen agarita so colorful.


    January 19, 2014 at 7:59 AM

    • I’m glad to hear you took Comfort in the agarita you saw near Kerrville, even if it wore its usual glaucous color. It’s not unusual for me to see an agarita leaflet here and there turning red or orange, but this plant had more than usual, and that’s what attracted me to it.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 19, 2014 at 8:10 AM

  2. I like those color changes. The leaf structure with barbs on the points reminds me of Canada Thistle. Do you get it in TX?

    Jim in IA

    January 19, 2014 at 10:12 AM

    • Austin is so far south that we don’t get much large-scale fall foliage. As a result, we’re thankful for even the small amounts that we do get.

      So-called Canadian thistle is actually a native of southern Europe. It must have become an alien invasive in Canada, and from what you say seems to have spread at least as far south as Iowa. All three of the Cirsium species in the Austin area are native to Texas.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 19, 2014 at 2:58 PM

  3. The lovely colors are a foil for those aggressive points on the leaf tips.

    Steve Gingold

    January 19, 2014 at 1:54 PM

    • “Aggressive” is a good word. I can attest to having been “aggressed” many a time by this species.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 19, 2014 at 3:00 PM

  4. Cool! I just looked up Mahonia trifoliolata. Lovely plant in all seasons. It makes me wish I was back in New Mexico again. Steven, thanks for broadening my world and opening my eyes to the Nature of things out there in the Southwest!

    Brenda Jones

    January 19, 2014 at 3:07 PM

  5. […] This photograph comes from the same December 18th walk in the Upper Bull Creek Greenbelt that brought you the preceding pictures of leafminer trails and a colorful agarita leaflet. […]

  6. Wow, what a cool looking plant. I don’t believe we have those up here in the Midwest. Colorful foliage is a great wonder of nature, I can see how this plant caught your attention. The contrast of the green leaves behind it is very nice.

    Funny that I just got done replying to you elsewhere about plants up close and personal, Lol!

    Thanks for sharing.


    January 20, 2014 at 8:21 AM

    • You’re correct that Mahonia trifoliolata doesn’t grow in the Midwest; it’s strictly a species of the Southwest:


      I agree with you that colorful foliage is a wonder of nature, and down here in our warm climate we’ll take whatever fall foliage we can get.

      As for “up close and personal,” that describes the majority of pictures I take. There’s not a lot of majestic scenery here, so I focus on the details of the appealing things that we do have.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 20, 2014 at 9:11 AM

      • I can understand your feelings towards lacking fall colors, that is something we are definitely blessed with.

        Last year I gained an appreciation for Hostas that I had not already had due to a trip I took to a local nursery. Some of the colors and variations on species I don’t ever see were amazing. I love the contract of the green & white for example on a variety called Fire & Ice.

        Good thinking! I’ve felt that way before as well, that when nothing in the “bigger picture” of life surrounding me sticks out there’s bound to be some fascinating image right under my nose!



        January 20, 2014 at 6:51 PM

  7. What a photo! Beautiful.


    January 20, 2014 at 8:39 PM

  8. […] and finally saw a native plant beginning to blossom. It was an agarita bush, Mahonia trifoliolata, some colorful autumn leaves of which you saw not long […]

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