Several times during the Trans-Pecos visit I noticed Rhus trilobata, known as skunkbush and three-leaf sumac, which also grows in Austin. Like other Rhus species, three-leaf sumac has compound leaves that tend to turn colors in the fall. That’s what you see happening to this sapling in the shelter of some sotols, Dasylirion spp., in the Chisos Basin at Big Bend National Park on November 23.
A lot is going on in this little scene aside from the emergence of the prominent red in the sumac. Notice how the sotol’s fresh leaves contrast in color and linearity with its tan ones. Less conspicuously, note that what was once a sotol flower stalk now lies fallen and gray on the ground in the lower left corner of the photograph. And then there are those scraggly dead branches of some other plant reaching in from the opposite corner.
© 2015 Steven Schwartzman