Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Wafer ash leaflets

with 34 comments

Wafer Ash Leaflets Backlit 7413

On October 16th, as part of the annual Native Plant Society of Texas symposium, I went on a field trip to a normally-closed-to-the-public section of the Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge. While walking through a dry creek bed there (we’d been in a drought again), I stopped to photograph this backlit compound leaf of Ptelea trifoliata, known as a wafer ash or hop tree. The ash in the common name wafer ash comes from the fact that the leaves are similar to those of some ash trees, but this tree is in the citrus family, Rutaceae. Today marks the first time the species has appeared here.

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 29, 2015 at 4:50 AM

Posted in nature photography

Tagged with , , , , ,

34 Responses

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  1. I hope we will see it again. It is very beautiful.


    October 29, 2015 at 5:03 AM

    • I should have made clear that wafer ash leaves are normally green, but these had turned the color that you see here, and that’s what attracted me to them. I’ll grant your wish and show you a different aspect of this species tomorrow.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 29, 2015 at 6:10 AM

  2. Plant parts against black backgrounds are so breathtaking.

    Cathy Testa

    October 29, 2015 at 5:14 AM

  3. It’s a beautiful photo and reminds me of the botanical artist Rory McEwen.


    October 29, 2015 at 6:05 AM

  4. This certainly is a photo worthy of a contest winner! Congratulations on winning Best of Show at the very symposium that allowed you to photograph these leaves so beautifully. I must say, I was especially happy to see the photo of the Clematis drummondii included. That photo just makes me happy.

    It was great to see that Portraits of Wildflowers won a prize for digital media, too. It — and you — deserve every bit of it.


    October 29, 2015 at 7:11 AM

    • Now that’s a surprise: I hadn’t discovered the page you linked to. Thanks for finding it, and as always for your enthusiasm. I remembered the way people liked that Clematis drummondii photograph (which appeared when I was in New Zealand), so I figured I’d submit it. I later heard that the judges weren’t sure it was a landscape, but sometimes I like to push against the category boundaries.

      The Digital Media Award was comforting. Now, where are you, University of Texas Press?

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 29, 2015 at 8:26 AM

      • I get every sort of wonderful tidbit through the NPSOT newsletter. Sometimes, good news just drops in my lap (or my mailbox)!


        October 29, 2015 at 8:30 AM

  5. Such lovely colours, the deep bronze, the hint of purple, copper and blood-red. I wish autumn would last until spring…


    October 29, 2015 at 7:29 AM

    • For those of you with real winter, that’s a wish I can understand, having left the cold of New York for the warmth of Texas a long time ago.

      The colors of these leaflets was unusual, more like something I’d expect from the lands up north—and that’s one advantage of many cold places: they have beautiful and expansive fall foliage.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 29, 2015 at 8:28 AM

  6. Oh, and many congratulations on winning – thanks shoreacres for the link and mention. I also love that Clematis drummondii 🙂


    October 29, 2015 at 7:34 AM

    • Thanks, Jude. I remembered the popularity of that skyscape, which I brought down to earth and submitted as a landscape.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 29, 2015 at 8:31 AM

  7. And a stunning debut it is. Such luscious colors! By coincidence, I’m in the throes of drawing this species right now. I was fortunate enough to get a day in the field with an ecologist from Lake County Forest Preserve Dist, who took me to where these grow. It was a special day in a special place.


    October 29, 2015 at 10:26 AM

    • That is a coincidence. I didn’t realize till your comment and a subsequent look at


      that this species grows from New Mexico to Quebec.

      I hope you’re planning to post your take on wafer ash so we can see how you saw it in a special place on a special day. Perhaps because you’re so far north, wafer ash leaves of the color I photographed are more common there than here.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 29, 2015 at 10:39 AM

      • I wish I had you with me that day~my photographs really aren’t that good and it isn’t in a place I can easily get to. Well, plus, now it is all cold and icky out there…I will post it but I don’t think it will hold a candle to your photo.
        And, Congratulations! I am so pleased for you. I would think the University will be more willing to consider your book now!


        October 29, 2015 at 4:05 PM

        • Thanks, Melissa. I tried twice with the University of Texas Press, but miracles occasionally happen.

          Sorry (but not surprised, given the reality of latitude) that it’s already cold and icky up there now. Down here we had a beautiful day of sunshine and an afternoon temperature of 80°.

          Even if you weren’t thrilled with your photographs of wafer ash, you can draw on them to draw whatever you like. That’s a freedom I don’t have (except to a limited extent via manipulation via software after the fact).

          Steve Schwartzman

          October 29, 2015 at 7:06 PM

  8. Eloquent example of autumn’s splendor…


    October 29, 2015 at 11:38 AM

    • We don’t have northern autumn splendor down here, but we have what we have, and some of it is worth looking at.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 29, 2015 at 12:02 PM

      • Our autumn has little pizzazz this year. Very ho hum…trees are still filled with leaves and slowly turning. We haven’t have that hard frost that seems to pull the hues into their finest form.


        October 30, 2015 at 10:02 AM

        • Sorry to hear autumn turned out a bit dull over by you. That’s the norm down here, the exception being primarily flameleaf sumacs and Texas red oaks. I seem to remember hearing that some places a few hundred miles north of you are having (or have already had) a good fall.

          Steve Schwartzman

          October 30, 2015 at 10:50 AM

  9. Absolutely gorgeous, I love how you used the lighting to make the structural details so eye catching.

    Charlie@Seattle Trekker

    October 29, 2015 at 2:14 PM

  10. Just beautiful. Thanks so much for sharing – what an honor to be able to photograph in that special space.

    Birder's Journey

    October 30, 2015 at 4:44 PM

    • You’re welcome. That’s the advantage some of these field trips offer: to go where you can’t normally go.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 30, 2015 at 5:03 PM

  11. All kinds of congratulations due. Best in Show, Digital Media and…got to be up there in importance along with the honors…the opportunity to shoot in a usually off limits area. I think I would be quite thrilled with the honors as I imagine you are, but there have been many times when I was shut out of a place by no trespassing signs and it is very cool to be able to honestly ignore such.
    This is a fine image full of comforting earthy tone and lovely lighting.

    Steve Gingold

    October 31, 2015 at 10:42 AM

    • Thanks, Steve. It’s good to be recognized for something I put a lot of time and energy into.

      The strange thing about this field trip is that I didn’t end up taking a lot of pictures, even if the walk was enjoyable. The first half of the excursion was to the nearby property of a native plant person, and there I took more like my usual quota of photographs (including the one of the false obedient plant that recently appeared here).

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 31, 2015 at 3:06 PM

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