Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Leaflets like flames

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Prairie Flameleaf Sumac Leaflets Turning Red 9367

Okay, call me the Lancelot of Rhus lanceolata: I’ll admit I sometimes can’t get enough of jousting (using a camera, of course) with prairie flameleaf sumac, and I’ve been regaling you with pictures of it for a few days. Here’s the closest view yet of the slender tree’s compound leaves, now turned red-orange as they prepare to fall off. Notice the “wings” that run along the leaf’s midrib and that become just as colorful as the leaflets flanking them. Today’s photograph is from November 25th on the same property behind Seton Center Parkway that brought you the last few flameleaf sumac pictures.

If you’d like another close but differently hued view of flameleaf sumac leaflets, you’re welcome to check out a picture from three years ago that’s one of my favorites of this species.

Today’s post is the fifth and last episode in a miniseries that has carried prairie flameleaf sumac from the beginning of August through the latter part of November. The colorful leaves of other species await you in the days ahead, so keep the cones in your eyes warmed up.

© 2014 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 1, 2014 at 5:53 AM

19 Responses

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  1. I wonder about the ‘wings’ you mention. Have you ever heard anyone discuss possible adaptive significance, beyond increasing photosynthetic surface? Perhaps it’s simply nonadaptive and may be viewed as a side-consequence of something else (adaptive) going on in the plant? Beautiful color … well balanced by the blue in the background.

    Pairodox Farm

    December 1, 2014 at 6:34 AM

    • Leave it to you as a biologist, D, to wonder about the adaptive significance of the wings. I don’t recall ever hearing any conjectures—let alone facts—about the usefulness of the wings. A brief search online a few minutes ago didn’t turn up anything.

      Leave it to you as a photographer to notice how well the blue filled in the spaces between parts of the tree.

      And leave it to me as a wordplayer to add a letter to leave to make leaves. Leave the leaves alone, you may say, they’re pretty enough already.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 1, 2014 at 8:22 AM

  2. My cones are somewhat red-green challenged. Certain color combinations are all the same to me. You know these color vision tests where you are supposed to see numbers in the dot patterns. I can’t see some of them.https://goodvisionohio.wordpress.com/eye-diseases/vision-problems/color-vision/465-2/

    Jim in IA

    December 1, 2014 at 8:07 AM

    • Those tests did a number on me, but only in the sense that I could read each number. I’m sorry they do a number on you in a different way. Do you know if scientists working in ophthalmology have made any progress toward a remedy?

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 1, 2014 at 8:27 AM

      • I don’t know if they have made progress.

        Different graphic displays will show these number tests to varying degrees of fidelity. You know how that can affect your photographs. The color test should be done with a certified printed copy in a well lighted room probably with a particular light source. Lots of variables can affect results.

        Jim in IA

        December 1, 2014 at 8:59 AM

  3. Beautiful colours. 😀

    Raewyn's Photos

    December 1, 2014 at 1:16 PM

  4. I love the color these attained and the leathery texture of them as well, Steve. Our leaves are a bit more broad. I am embarrassed to admit that I have not photographed Sumacs at all. Even more embarrassing is the fact that we have them growing in our yard. Maybe that is why. Ours are constantly spreading into the garden and it is impossible to get rid of them. The slightest bit of remnant root is all it takes.

    Steve Gingold

    December 1, 2014 at 4:46 PM

    • We don’t have any sumacs around our house, but I wish we did, and that they took over as much as they wanted to. On the other hand, there’s not a lot of clearing in the canopy that would allow sunlight to get to those sumacs, and without that light a flameleaf sumac’s flaming doesn’t appear to best advantage.

      In any case, we hope to see you atone and do some sumac pictures next fall.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 1, 2014 at 4:53 PM

  5. Made me miss the sumac we had by our driveway in Tacoma with this series, Steve. Pretty trees! Such grand winter color.


    December 1, 2014 at 7:18 PM

    • Having sumac in your driveway or yard (like Steve Gingold, the previous commenter) is really handy. Less handily, I know where to find some good ones a couple of miles from where I live. I see from the USDA map that Rhus lanceolata has been attested in three counties adjacent to yours: Dallas, Tarrant, and Grayson. For you the trek will be longer than for me, but you may still get to see some sumacs up there one of these autumns. I sure hope so, and I’d like to see the art you’d make from a good sighting.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 1, 2014 at 10:41 PM

      • By the way, if it’s any consolation, you can take to heart the fact that all these recent sumac photographs come to you from someone who was born in Tacoma.

        Steve Schwartzman

        December 1, 2014 at 10:43 PM

        • That’s just good ol’ synchronicity, right? I think I’ve sighted sumacs making their appearance in some of the newer TX-DOT/Tollway plantings in the Dallas area, a good choice for color and textural contrast/complement among the native grasses, Texas sage, red yucca and other xeriscape beauties they’re using so much better these days.


          December 2, 2014 at 5:10 PM

          • Let’s hear it for synchronicity! And let’s hear it for TxDoT if they’re planting flameleaf sumacs in your part of the state. Another tree I’ve noticed planted along some state highways in Austin is the desert willow.

            Steve Schwartzman

            December 2, 2014 at 7:31 PM

  6. What a wonderful series this has been. I was lucky enough to see flameleaf sumac in every shade of red, orange and gold over the past days — some were almost mahogany. Part of the change was the passage of time in a given location, and part was due to my driving around, but whatever the color, they were glorious: sometimes seeming to be lit from within. I’m so glad it’s one of your favorites, since your photos help preserve those memories.


    December 1, 2014 at 8:21 PM

    • It’s great that you got to see those color variations last week, both on the same tree or trees over the course of several days, and from tree to tree as you traveled around. I’ve profited from both myself.

      I wonder whether the colder climate of the Edwards Plateau produces more-vivid or more-varied colors than what you see in sumacs near the coast.

      As of today I ended this series with five views of sumacs, but just yesterday afternoon I took lots of pictures of two trees that I’d never photographed before even though they’re just two miles from home, and that the intermittent sunlight lit up brilliantly. Now I plan to add to the five-part sumac series, but in a couple of weeks, after I go through a bunch of other species that have been colorful this year.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 1, 2014 at 10:55 PM

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