Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Make that three junipers in a row

with 14 comments

Ashe Juniper Hanging Upside Down from Cliff 2860

It has been said, accurately or not, that when the British surrendered to the Americans at the Battle of Yorktown in 1781, the British musicians played the song “The World Turned Upside Down.” Send some of those notes out now for this poor Ashe juniper tree (Juniperus ashei), which had gotten largely uprooted but still clung to life as it hung upside down over a cliff along Bull Creek in northwest Austin. The photograph shows how things looked on July 21, two weeks after I’d first caught sight of the inverted tree. Notice how much of the juniper’s foliage remained green.

This was not my first take on upside-down-ness over Bull Creek.

© 2016 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 31, 2016 at 4:53 AM

14 Responses

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  1. I can’t believe it. I was going to look for another upside-down plant I thought you had photographed, and there it is.

    Photos like this certainly make clear the root/crown connection: not to mention the ability of plants to keep on keeping on in adverse circumstance. I am curious about that collection of smooth, vertical “whatevers” just to the left of the tree. If they’re roots, they’ve got a way to go before they find earth or water.


    July 31, 2016 at 7:33 AM

    • You have a good memory for upside-down plants. My main question is how long this juniper can live in that position. The balance of brown/green foliage seemed about the same over the two weeks that separated my visits. I’ll try to go back in a couple of months to see what has happened.

      I believe the “whatevers” to the left of the juniper are a species of Nolina, known as devil’s shoestring or ribbon grass. Normally its long leaves flop onto the ground,


      but in this case there was nothing to keep at least some of them from hanging down over the cliff.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 31, 2016 at 8:04 AM

      • When I looked at the information for Nolina texana, I found this: “A graceful, evergreen garden accent complements almost any other plant and provides texture and structure in winter. Looks great flowing over a wall or hillside.” It certainly does, although I suspect the good person writing the description had a different sort of wall in mind.


        July 31, 2016 at 8:33 AM

        • Yes, definitely not the kind of wall the writer had in mind. Travis County is home to Nolina texana and Nolina lindheimeriana; I don’t know which species the one hanging over the cliff was.

          Steve Schwartzman

          July 31, 2016 at 8:44 AM

  2. Wonderful textures in this photo. If the tree has purchase on some soil above, I imagine it can hang on 🙂 for quite awhile.


    July 31, 2016 at 8:57 AM

    • Textures are a photographer’s playthings.

      If there were a way to get up to the top of the cliff I’d look at the tree’s base to see how many roots are still in the ground. All I can do, though, is observe from below and check to see what happens to the foliage.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 31, 2016 at 9:42 AM

  3. Back in the 1920’s our ranch in Comal County experienced a prolonged ice storm, downing many of the old growth Junipers by weight of the ice. The trees still stand today, a tangled mess, rather like an enchanted forest. Resilience does not even begin to describe this species!

    Jeri Porter

    July 31, 2016 at 11:32 AM

    • I appreciate your first-hand account of this resilient species. Is there an online picture that you can link to that shows the “tangled mess” of those junipers on your land?

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 31, 2016 at 12:02 PM

  4. One thing that has always impressed me was the “determination” exhibited by trees growing in less than hospitable conditions, hanging on to ledges, atop rocks, twisted around each other, perched on the edge of a cliff. Amazing organisms.
    The exposed rock strata in this image is quite striking.

    Steve Gingold

    August 2, 2016 at 6:38 PM

    • This stretch of Bull Creek is my favorite. In some places the strata have been scalloped out over aeons by the water flowing through the creek. The part shown in this post’s photograph was in the distance in a photograph I showed four years ago, in which the scalloping is noticeable:


      As for determination, I’ve noticed that sycamore trees along our Hill Country Creeks are quite good at getting established in difficult places.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 2, 2016 at 10:05 PM

  5. […] Do you remember the pōhutukawa-like trees clinging to the cliff at Halls Harbour? At Blomidon I similarly saw a lone tree at the edge of a cliff that looked like it might not be long for this world. At least it was still upright, unlike a tree in Austin two years ago that kept living while upside down. […]

  6. I read about the Juniper’s ability to survive like this and found this article, although it’s about the Utah Juniper, it states the Juniper’s tap root can grow up to 40ft while the lateral roots can grow as long as 100ft.

    Click to access secrets_of_survival_the_ancient_utah_juniper_1030_passage_and_questions.pdf


    August 6, 2018 at 7:29 AM

  7. […] If you could float back maybe 30 feet from this ferny nook and look to your left, you’d get the view shown below of the scalloped limestone cliffs along this scenic stretch of Bull Creek. Notice the dead trees hanging upside; that phenomenon was the focus of a post in 2016. […]

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