Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

And this was the upper

with 44 comments

Prairie Flameleaf Sumac Turning Colors 0235

That is, the upper of the two flameleaf sumacs that I mentioned photographing along the switchback path leading down through the park behind the Arboretum on November 30th. This view looks almost directly overhead.

There’s no need of a ruse, and no one rues photographing Rhus lanceolata, unless it’s that there aren’t more of them and that their colors don’t last even longer. This picture is from two weeks ago, and while large and wonderful displays like the one you’re looking at are gone till next fall, a few colorful flameleaf sumac leaves still survive here and there around Austin.

© 2014 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 15, 2014 at 5:20 AM

44 Responses

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  1. I don’t believe I’ve ever seen flameleaf sumac photographed from this perspective. The nice, even distribution of sky patches and the clear view of those sinuous branches is so attractive. It feels almost weightless: airy and light. The colors are lovely, but, for me, almost secondary to the structure.


    December 15, 2014 at 6:01 AM

    • For me, too, the structure of the branches enhanced what was already a view that the colors, both of the leaves and the sky, made so attractive. I’d photographed flameleaf sumac from below before, but perhaps not ever as vertically, something facilitated by the tree’s open structure and the fact that the paved path had kept other plants from springing up on the ground where I needed to be for an upward vantage.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 15, 2014 at 9:03 AM

  2. Sumac is one of my favorite autumn plants, and you’ve captured the “feel” of them so well. Thank you.


    December 15, 2014 at 6:15 AM

    • You’re welcome, Debi. You can tell that sumac is one of my favorite plants in the fall too.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 15, 2014 at 9:57 AM

  3. These trees are quite lovely


    December 15, 2014 at 7:39 AM

  4. I like the transition from green to orange left to right.

    Jim in IA

    December 15, 2014 at 7:47 AM

    • I like that transition too, and it’s one of the things that made this picture of flameleaf sumacs different from others I’ve taken over the years. I’m always happy when I can find a new way to portray one of my familiar subjects.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 15, 2014 at 10:15 AM

      • You have indeed, here Steve. I have always enjoyed tipping my head back and looking up into the branches and canopy of a tree.


        December 15, 2014 at 11:48 AM

  5. Sent via the Samsung Galaxy S® 5 ACTIVE™, an AT&T 4G LTE smartphone


    December 15, 2014 at 11:50 AM

  6. I love the pattern of the leaves against the sky. Great perspective. 😀

    Raewyn's Photos

    December 15, 2014 at 2:10 PM

    • You and the next commenter used the phrase “great perspective.” How perspicacious of you both.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 15, 2014 at 3:54 PM

  7. Love seeing flameleaf against a clear blue sky 🙂 Great perspective Steve!

    Sarah Longes - Mirador Design

    December 15, 2014 at 2:32 PM

  8. I’ve shot up through trees a few times, but never a sumac and never in autumn. This works a treat, as they say.

    Steve Gingold

    December 15, 2014 at 4:53 PM

  9. Great photo!


    December 15, 2014 at 5:16 PM

  10. This beautiful photo of the sumac leaves against an azure sky, brought me such joy. Thank you, Steve, for all the beauties of nature you have shared with us during this year. Have a blessed and happy Christmas.

    Mary Mageau

    December 15, 2014 at 7:22 PM

    • Thanks for your continuing enthusiasm, Mary. That azure really set off the sumac’s colorful leaves, didn’t it?

      Happy holidays to you too.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 15, 2014 at 7:24 PM

  11. Nice, colorful, image. I thoroughly enjoyed your discussion with SG concerning use of the word Foreguess and your conclusion that Noah had deemed it unfortunate. D

    Pairodox Farm

    December 16, 2014 at 8:10 AM

    • Now if I could somehow foreguess the day when each flameleaf sumac would be at its peak of color, I’d end up with even more good pictures. This was the first time I’d photographed the two sumacs behind the Arboretum, but in future years I can try to keep an eye on them around the end of November.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 16, 2014 at 8:41 AM

  12. Such beautiful patterns on the photograph of this rhus. Yes, nothing to rue there, is there? Toxicodendron vernix, formerly known as Rhus vernix, is another matter!

    Susan Scheid

    December 16, 2014 at 9:54 AM

    • Your comment about patterns ties in with the post you did a couple of months ago on Mamoru Fujieda’s musical piece Patterns of Plants. I’ve sometimes wondered if Austin’s native plants, or any of my photographs of them, could inspire music, but no composer has come forth so far to try the experiment.

      In any case, there’s nothing for you to rue here, as the plant isn’t the rue that you’re allergic to, nor any of the (formerly classified) kinds of Rhus that most people react to.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 16, 2014 at 11:24 AM

  13. The Sumac puts on a wonderful show, beautifully captured from this angle – we have a small one in our garden. But the underground runners are an absolute nightmare!


    December 16, 2014 at 12:40 PM

  14. Such beautiful color…What a wonderful treat on this cold, dreary, winter day.

    Charlie@Seattle Trekker

    December 16, 2014 at 3:47 PM

  15. This is a nice autumn photo – although November surely is a winter month…..


    December 16, 2014 at 4:53 PM

  16. Suitable for framing!


    December 17, 2014 at 8:32 AM

  17. […] posted plenty of pictures showing the bright autumn leaves of prairie flameleaf sumac, Rhus lanceolata. On August 11th I was driving up Alum Creek Rd. east of Bastrop when a group of […]

  18. I hate to say this, Steve, but your photo is actually a male Chinese pistache. Flameleaf sumac would be a bit more upright and would be crowned with conical clusters of red fruit. Chinese pistache leaves are even pinnate (with an occasional odd pinnate leaf just to keep us on our toes), and flameleaf sumac is odd pinnate. These two plants—one native and the other invasive—are often confused.

    Cliff Tyllick

    February 19, 2018 at 11:24 PM

    • Thanks for your comment. Years ago, when I first got enthusiastic about native plants, I did originally confuse Chinese pistache with flameleaf sumac. Since then I’ve looked at candidates for flameleaf sumac to make sure the leaf structure is odd pinnate. I’m pretty sure that was the case overall with this one (occasionally a terminal leaflet here and there falls off). I’ll try to check out this tree again to confirm my judgment.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 20, 2018 at 6:15 AM

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