Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

A contrast in leaves

with 21 comments

Small Leaf Fallen onto Fern Leaf 4009

The intricate compound leaves of many of new Zealand’s ferns are large and horizontally oriented, so they act as nets to catch lightweight things falling from above. Many a time I noticed the contrast between a living fern leaf and a much smaller dead one from a tree, as was the case here in a downward-looking view from February 8th at Tiritiri Matangi.

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman


Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 21, 2015 at 5:59 AM

21 Responses

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  1. Very nice~there is something very satisfying in contrasting forms of leaves for me.


    March 21, 2015 at 9:10 AM

    • And here the contrasts are extreme indeed, with differences in size, shape, color, and aliveness.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 21, 2015 at 9:22 AM

  2. I love the patterns that the fern leaves give. I have a lot of photos like this.

    Raewyn's Photos

    March 21, 2015 at 5:01 PM

  3. The fern leaves and leaflets make for a nice architecture below the fallen dried leaf.

    Steve Gingold

    March 21, 2015 at 7:58 PM

  4. The green ferns remind me of what we call garden mesh here. It’s usually green. In this case the “garden mesh” is actually made out of real garden. Lovely contrast.


    March 21, 2015 at 11:26 PM

  5. Lovely contrast.


    March 22, 2015 at 3:26 AM

  6. Interesting that the structure of the fern so closely resembles the leaves of certain yews, like Taxus cuspidata.

    It’s been a while since one of your photos evoked Annie Dillard for me, but this one certainly does. I’ve always appreciated her assertion that, “A schedule defends from chaos and whim. It is a net for catching days. It is a scaffolding on which a worker can stand and labor with both hands at sections of time.”


    March 22, 2015 at 9:27 AM

    • My hand got ahead of my mind. I meant to add that the question of which is heavier, a day or a dead leaf, might well be open to debate.


      March 22, 2015 at 9:32 AM

      • And you in turn have reminded me of a Zen-like question that my high school calculus teacher used to ask: Is it colder in the winter or in the city?

        Biologists speak of convergent evolution, in which unrelated species (except insofar as all living things are ultimately related) develop similar structures. In your example the similarity is between the leaves of ferns and trees, but similar patterns also exist between plants and animals, and sometimes even inanimate things.

        Steve Schwartzman

        March 22, 2015 at 10:04 AM

  7. Very cool!


    March 22, 2015 at 11:29 AM

  8. The study of ferns (pteridology) can be so fascinating and rewarding. So many natural structures and textures–the variety and the possibilities for overlap and combination are practically endless. So many abstract studies to tantalize us. This is a wonderful one!


    March 25, 2015 at 9:51 AM

    • Yes, if I lived in New Zealand I’d take all sorts of pictures of fern leaves. The ancient Greeks referred to ferns as pterid-, from the root that means ‘feather,’ because of the feathery structure of fern leaves. The same root appears in pterodactyl, literally ‘feathered or winged finger.’

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 25, 2015 at 9:59 AM

  9. And here’s a terrific example of good use of a downward-looking view, which I seem to recall you use sparingly. Just right to “catch” that leaf!

    Susan Scheid

    March 25, 2015 at 3:19 PM

    • You have a good memory, Susan. Only sparingly do I look straight down at a subject because usually that view includes distracting and unsightly things on the ground. In this case the netting of the fern leaf blocked most details of the things below it. Another exception is when the clutter on the ground is the subject, and in fact I took a couple of pictures along those lines the fallen leaves and other natural litter at the base of the kauri tree you saw (vertiginously) in the post a few days later.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 25, 2015 at 4:07 PM

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