Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

New Zealand: Turutu amid ferns

with 42 comments

Turutu with Fruit 7087

Not everything at Wai-O-Tapu is geothermal. There are also some pleasant areas of native bush, in one of which I found a turutu plant among lush ferns when I walked about on February 24th. You can’t see much of the plant per se, but its colorful little fruits are hard to miss, and they’ve prompted the vernacular names blueberry and inkberry. For more information about what botanists know as Dianella nigra, you can check out the relevant T.E.R.R:A.I.N article.

(I’ve added an update to yesterday’s post about the possible pronunciations of the word elephantine, of which there are at least four.)

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 13, 2015 at 5:13 AM

42 Responses

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  1. Such a lovely blue.


    June 13, 2015 at 6:22 AM

    • Are you familiar with this plant and its berries? I found another website that says the species is “found throughout New Zealand in open forests and on banks,” but it doesn’t indicate how common it is in each part of the country.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 13, 2015 at 7:08 AM

  2. I saw something similar in Sydney, but I think it was a Solanum plant. Your berries look much rounder. Striking plant! Love the name inkberry 🙂


    June 13, 2015 at 6:33 AM

  3. The fruit almost looks fake they are so bright.

    Jim in IA

    June 13, 2015 at 9:28 AM

    • I understand how you might think that. At the same time, some other small fruits are just as bright:


      Steve Schwartzman

      June 13, 2015 at 9:44 AM

      • Don’t misunderstand, I don’t think they are fake. But the possumhaws, that is another matter. Gotta be a fake name. 🙂

        Sometimes the crab apples get fermented before the cedar waxwings eat them. They get kind of loopy and can’t straighten up and fly right. https://youtu.be/6fVaP6dM1fs

        Jim in IA

        June 13, 2015 at 9:56 AM

        • Have no fear, I didn’t misconstrue your comment. As for the strange word possumhaw, the haw in it is the same as the haw in hawthorn. Someone must have thought, rightly or wrongly, that possums are fond of that tree’s little fruits.

          I’ve heard about cedar waxwings and other birds getting pixilated from eating fermented fruit, but I’ve never seen it live.

          Steve Schwartzman

          June 13, 2015 at 11:01 AM

  4. Steve – that is a hue of blue I have never seen and it is stunning! I don’t know anything about photography so please don’t take this as an insulting question – is that the true blue we’d see with naked eye or is it filtered via your camera? I want to show it to a couple of my artist bloggers and see what the hue is called (unless you know – perhaps blueberry or inkberry is the answer!) just stunning against the fern backdrop.

    Sammy D.

    June 13, 2015 at 12:02 PM

    • There are multiple layers of interpreting that go on. Each model of camera has a sensor that records colors in a unique way. Then there’s the software that converts the strictly digital file into something we can see, and there’s an infinite number of ways to do that. Then there are the pixels in our computer monitors, and finally there are our eyes that look at the image on the monitor, perceive it via rods and cones, and have those sensations interpreted in our brains. It’s highly unlikely that we see an image on a computer screen in the same way we would have seen it (or I actually saw it) in person at the site.

      As for giving a name to a color, that varies tremendously within a language and across languages. I’ve had a longstanding discussion in this blog about the purple~blue distinction, with my brain seeing as purple many things that other people see as blue.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 13, 2015 at 4:35 PM

      • One of the strangest things about my camera — if I use the automatic setting to take a photo of something on the lavender scale, the color is true. If I try it with manual settings, or even by setting the aperture and letting the camera select the shutter speed, the image turns out pink. It’s happened several times, in several kinds of light, with different plants. What am I missing?


        June 13, 2015 at 4:51 PM

        • I wish I had an answer for you, but there are so many hundreds of models of cameras out there, each one functioning in its own way. I’d suggest calling the help line for the company that makes the camera to see if the person you talk to there has an idea of why that’s happening. If not, call back at another time and hope you reach a different person who does know what’s going on.

          I’m guessing that you’re recording your images as jpegs rather than as raw files. If you record files in raw format, you can use software to adjust colors after the fact to make them closer to what you saw. The downside is that that entails more work than just accepting the jpegs that the camera produces (and you also need photo-editing software), but since you’re not happy with some of those results, the extra work might be worth the trouble. Cameras that have a raw setting usually allow for a raw + jpeg setting, so you get both types of file each time you press the shutter release. That way if the jpeg is okay you need do no more, but if you’re unhappy with the jpeg you have the raw file to fall back on and adjust to your liking.

          Steve Schwartzman

          June 13, 2015 at 5:15 PM

      • Thanks so much for the info. I’ve had discussions about color blindness and I know Hub sees colors differently than I do, but you added complex, nuanced layers to the equation! I appreciate your input.

        Sammy D.

        June 13, 2015 at 5:40 PM

  5. It looks like lace studded with lapis beads, Steve – lovely!


    June 13, 2015 at 1:09 PM

    • That’s a good association you’ve made with lapis lazuli, something that didn’t occur to me and probably never would have without your prompting. I think I’m more likely to have made a connection between ferns and lace.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 13, 2015 at 4:37 PM

  6. Those berries are intensely blue. That they are called blueberries, among other names, reminds me of an episode of Taxi.

    Steve Gingold

    June 13, 2015 at 3:40 PM

    • That’s a great example of playing around with intonation and what linguists call juncture: blue berries versus blueberries. I hadn’t seen this before, so thanks.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 13, 2015 at 4:40 PM

  7. Thank you! It is a beautiful photo!

  8. With the berries so scattered, my first impression was of 1950s pop beads scattered through the ferns. Even our blueberry isn’t so blue. The intensity of the color is startling.

    We do have our own colorful berries, though: especially the beautyberry, which I think compares quite favorably to this one.


    June 13, 2015 at 5:01 PM

    • You’re good at finding fabricated analogues of things in nature, in this case the pop beads you linked to. I’m glad you remembered the beautyberry, which didn’t occur to me, but which is as saturated in its color as the turutu is in its. That in spite of the fact that last week I began seeing some beautyberry bushes flowering, though the fruits are still months away.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 13, 2015 at 5:26 PM

  9. They produce ink according to the link you included … Very interesting and new to me …Jane

    jane tims

    June 14, 2015 at 5:57 PM

  10. I’ve never seen berries this colour, sure they must be desperately poison!

    Lucid Gypsy

    June 17, 2015 at 1:28 PM

    • The berries of this species are indeed described as being poisonous. “Look but don’t eat” is the guideline.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 17, 2015 at 1:33 PM

  11. My next series on Monochrome of the Day are shots at the beach between Napier and Hastings. The landscape around Rotorua is very lush

    Raewyn's Photos

    June 17, 2015 at 7:06 PM

  12. What a lovely color and so unusual!


    June 22, 2015 at 12:05 AM

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