Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Flameleaf sumac in a dull autumn

with 13 comments

The autumn of 2016 in Austin has proven a dull one for foliage: we haven’t even reached the typical low level of color we expect in this warm climate. On November 24th I went over to a piece of undeveloped land off Seton Center Drive where in recent years I’ve relied on some prairie flameleaf sumacs (Rhus lanceolata) for good fall foliage. While I didn’t find the trees as bright as usual, I did discover a few small areas of color. Of more interest this time were the clusters of tiny sumac fruits.


(Just a reminder that I’m punctuating the string of pictures from the great Southwest trip with an occasional view of what’s been going on in Austin since our return.)

© 2016 Steven Schwartzman


Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 16, 2016 at 4:55 AM

13 Responses

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  1. Pretty….autumn mood well conveyed!


    December 16, 2016 at 7:48 AM

    • Thanks for letting me know you find the scene pretty. The time of fading and drying has its charms.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 16, 2016 at 8:18 AM

  2. Ours don’t have fruit. But the leaves weren’t that bad. Have a wonderful weekend,


    December 16, 2016 at 8:35 AM

    • Online sites say this species is dioecious, meaning that an individual tree is either male or female. If your flameleaf sumacs have never produced fruit, chances are they’re male.

      With freezing weather predicted for this weekend, perhaps you’ll find some frostweed doing its ice trick. I’m obligated to go check out the ones I know in Great Hills Park.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 16, 2016 at 9:06 AM

      • I’ll be down south – in Karnes City – over the weekend. We’ll have to see how much of the cold will arrive there.


        December 16, 2016 at 9:16 AM

        • The USDA map doesn’t show Verbesina virginica for Karnes County but does show it for the adjacent counties of DeWitt and Wilson, so there might be some in Karnes County as well. Seems unlikely, but you never know.

          Steve Schwartzman

          December 16, 2016 at 9:24 AM

  3. I’ve never made an image of sumac berries that I felt pleased with. I’d be happy with this nice little bit of managed sumac chaos you have here.

    Steve Gingold

    December 16, 2016 at 5:53 PM

    • I’ll grant you that sumac fruit clusters are hard to photograph. I appreciate your contentment with “this nice little bit of managed sumac chaos.” In fact I don’t believe I’d ever seen so many clusters arranged in such a pleasing way. I felt I had to use flash to reveal the details of the most prominent cluster, which otherwise would have remained too dark, given the position of the sun.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 16, 2016 at 6:40 PM

  4. After so much time, we had a sudden burst of color over the past 48 hours. Yesterday, there were oaks, crepe myrtles, tallows, and sweetgums that fairly glowed against the blue sky. Today? half the leaves are down, and the gloom has dimmed what color remains. The cypress suddenly have turned rusty, too. I expect by the time the weekend’s over, they’ll be bare.

    Still, color isn’t the whole story, as your photo proves. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a collection of fruit on a sumac. I like the faint blush of color remaining inside the cluster, but the heaviness of the fruit is what draws my eye.


    December 16, 2016 at 7:41 PM

    • Well, better two days of color than none at all, right? I was beginning to hope for some belated color here as well but the forecast a few minutes ago called for freezing temperature and wind by Sunday morning. The cold could be good for any foliage that survives the wind.

      The prominent panicle of sumac fruits shown here was a particularly good one. Its size and the red remaining at its heart made it special and attracted me to it. There’ll always be more colorful sumac foliage; I don’t know if I’ll ever encounter such a good fruit cluster again.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 16, 2016 at 9:21 PM

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