Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

20 days later

with 28 comments

Three-Leaf Sumac Turning Colors by Cedar Elm and Yaupon 0992

In the previous post you saw some three-leaf sumac (Rhus trilobata) turning colors in the shelter of a sotol in the Chisos Basin of Big Bend National Park. Twenty days later, on December 13, after an overnight rain I walked through Great Hills Park in my Austin neighborhood and saw another three-leaf sumac turning bright colors. It was sheltered, too, but this time beneath two kinds of trees, cedar elm (Ulmus crassifolia) and yaupon (Ilex vomitoria). Yaupons aren’t deciduous, and that’s why you see so many green leaves here.

The fact that everything was still wet or at least damp caused colors to appear more saturated than during drier times, including the next day, when I returned and found that the lichen on the tree trunks had already lost the pale green cast that I couldn’t help noticing when I took this picture.

If you’ve wondered why I’ve posted some (or even all) of the fall foliage photographs that I have, I ask your forbearance. In cold climates many of these pictures wouldn’t show anything special, given the great autumn displays that deciduous trees regularly put on up there. Down here in warm Texas, however, fall foliage is limited, and my purpose is to make people appreciate what little of it we do have in this part of the country.

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 21, 2015 at 5:28 AM

28 Responses

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  1. I love these fall foliage shots, Steve – the delicacy and color of the sumac leaves makes for a very appealing image.


    December 21, 2015 at 6:11 AM

    • I’m happy to extend your fall colors a couple of months, Lynn. It’s been four decades since I saw good fall foliage in the Northeast—too long.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 21, 2015 at 7:12 AM

  2. Beautiful!


    December 21, 2015 at 6:25 AM

    • I have the impression that not a lot of people in Austin are aware of this kind of sumac. We need all the fall color we can get.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 21, 2015 at 7:14 AM

  3. We need every encouragement possible to pay attention to the presence of native color. It may be subtle, but it’s here. It’s just sometimes hard to find behind all those tallow trees. The more people come to understand that there are options for fall color, the more they may be willing to look for alternative plantings, and battle Demon Tallow. I didn’t realize until this morning that even the decomposing leaves of that tree can harm native plants.

    Anyway: this is lovely, and its mix of colors is as delightful as any other autumn foliage. It’s fun to see it in two such different settings.


    December 21, 2015 at 7:20 AM

    • When I was little the DTs were delirium tremens, but now it’s Demon Tallows I wish we could shake off. Sumacs in general are the most reliable source for native fall color in Austin, particularly the flameleaf sumac I’ve been showing here every autumn. 2015 seems a good year here for the three-leaf sumacs, or else after the specimen in Big Bend I’m more tuned in to that species than usual. Too bad it doesn’t grow where you are near the coast, but you can look for some on your next fall visit to the Hill Country.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 21, 2015 at 7:48 AM

  4. It’s good to see the differences and viva.mi planted a sumac in my garden in the UK and now need to move it. It seems it might affect the drains with its roots, it is so pretty and red in Autumn.


    December 21, 2015 at 7:22 AM

  5. Hi and good morning, Steve.
    I grew up in the Berkshire Mountains of northwestern Massachusetts-ground zero for colorful Fall foliage. I appreciate your images of beautiful Fall color here in Texas. Outside my front door is a China Tallow tree that is a major exponent of Autumn loveliness here nearer the Gulf Coast of Texas.
    As always, thank you for your photos and commentary and Season’s Greetings to Eve and to you.
    Ariana and Michael

    Michael McIver

    December 21, 2015 at 8:27 AM

    • And happy winter solstice to us all at 10:48 CT tonight, Michael. By coincidence, my sister has a country house in the Berkshires. I tried to see fall foliage there some years ago, but due to circumstances we ended up having to visit two or three weeks too early for good color that year. Maybe someday.

      Thanks for letting me know you’re enjoying these photos and commentary about nature. See you soon.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 21, 2015 at 8:35 AM

  6. I like the delicacy of this plant and enjoy seeing it again. It is wise to focus on the beauty at hand.


    December 21, 2015 at 9:20 AM

    • As you’ve seen from being a faithful reader/viewer here, most of what I’ve shown over the last four-and-a-half years has come from within an hour’s drive of home, and the majority of that from much closer. If you take what Thoreau wrote in Walden—”I have travelled a good deal in Concord”—and change the town to Austin, you’ll have a statement of what I’ve done here.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 21, 2015 at 9:42 AM

      • That sentiment of Thoreau’s has always resonated with me. Some crave distant vistas, others prefer to travel deeply. I am in that camp as well.


        December 24, 2015 at 5:30 PM

  7. As Linda mentioned in her recent post, finding what’s lovely about the seasons in one’s own environment is far more satisfying than wishing for what is elsewhere. You have shared what is there and it is just as lovely as in other places. Eye of the beholder and all.

    Steve Gingold

    December 22, 2015 at 4:15 AM

    • This beholder was happy to get an eyeful of fall foliage in the Trans-Pecos, and less so here in Austin, where so far we’re heading for another winter without a winter. I saw on a national weather forecast yesterday that even in New England you’re supposed to be in the mid-60s later for Christmas.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 22, 2015 at 6:44 AM

  8. The little is appreciated a lot by this reader.


    December 22, 2015 at 5:55 AM

    • My grandmother used to like the song “Little Things Mean a Lot.”

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 22, 2015 at 6:47 AM

      • I like your grandmother’s choice of song.


        December 23, 2015 at 4:23 AM

        • That’s the version of the song that was popular when I was a child. I no longer remember why, years later, my grandmother mentioned liking it.

          Steve Schwartzman

          December 23, 2015 at 4:59 AM

          • Something must have struck a chord for her. 😉


            December 23, 2015 at 5:04 AM

            • I vaguely recall it had something to do with the line “Say I look nice when I’m not,” but I’ve lost the connection.

              Steve Schwartzman

              December 23, 2015 at 5:10 AM

              • And , unlike the internet, the connection is not so easily restored.


                December 23, 2015 at 5:15 AM

                • Well said. Scientists have hypothesized that all those memories are in out heads somewhere, if only we had a way to retrieve them when we wanted to. (I say “when we wanted to,” because if all our memories flooded in on us we’d drown in them.)

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  December 23, 2015 at 5:27 AM

  9. Beauty is always right where you are. I like that you have no problem ‘finding’ it.


    December 22, 2015 at 6:34 AM

    • I’m thankful for continuing to find it too. I worry that someday I won’t, but so far so good.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 22, 2015 at 7:03 AM

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