Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Prairie flameleaf sumac buds and flowers

with 6 comments

Flameleaf Sumac Flowers and Buds 1092

Plants in the sumac family typically make up for the small size of their flowers by producing dense clusters of them, and that’s the case with prairie flameleaf sumac, Rhus lanceolata. This small tree is known for the rich colors its leaves turn near the end of the year, but its buds and flowers usually get overlooked; now you get to look them over in this August 1st photograph from northwest Austin. Notice the characteristic curving of the compound leaves as they arc around the buds and flowers on three sides.

This is the first post in a miniseries that will carry prairie flameleaf sumac from summer through fall.


Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 28, 2014 at 5:29 AM

6 Responses

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  1. I love the idea of following a species through the season. The curve of the branch caught my eye right away.


    November 28, 2014 at 6:10 AM

    • Being a painter, which is to say a creator and an arranger of shapes, you would respond to that curve, and so you did. It’s not a branch, though, but the central axis of a compound leaf; what might appear to be leaves are actually leaflets comprising the large compound leaf. You’ll find an actual branch in the thicker, darker structure at the upper left, partly obscured by several leaflets.

      Following a species through the seasons is a device I use from time to time. It provides continuity through change.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 28, 2014 at 6:41 AM

      • I like your phrase, “continuity through change.” It brings to mind those words attributed to Heraclitus: that no one steps in the same river twice. I thought about that a good bit on my trip, watching the fire by night and the rivers by day. I suppose it’s the same dynamic here. No one ever sees the same plant twice. The changes may be subtle, but they’re real.


        December 1, 2014 at 7:37 PM

        • Continuity and change are underlying concepts of calculus (yay, math!).

          I certainly never see the same plant twice. Finding new ways to portray a species is exciting, though sometimes difficult.

          Steve Schwartzman

          December 1, 2014 at 8:33 PM

  2. Very much like our eastern variety. As Melissa mentioned, that curved stem makes a strong statement. I’m looking forward to the rest of the series.

    Steve Gingold

    November 28, 2014 at 6:44 AM

    • Me too, especially the colorful culmination that I anticipate seeing (and photographing, naturally) as each year slides toward its close. Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday were bright and clear, so I spent hour after hour finding and recording local color in half a dozen species that will make their appearance here after the sumac.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 28, 2014 at 6:51 AM

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