Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Autumnal cedar elms

with 11 comments

Cedar elms (Ulmus crassifolia) produce the most widespread autumnal yellow among native trees in central Texas. Each leaf is small, but a mature tree has a whole lot of them, and in the aggregate the effect can be quite pleasing, as shown above in a picture from Bull Creek District Park on November 26th. Below, from the same outing, you see what I saw as I stood beneath a large cedar elm and aimed a wide-angle lens up and out toward the late-afternoon sun. Notice the many ball mosses (Tillandsia recurvata) at home in the tree.

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 6, 2018 at 4:41 AM

11 Responses

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  1. Fall at its best!!


    December 6, 2018 at 6:11 AM

    • By Austin standards, the last couple of weeks have given us excellent fall foliage. The local television news even mentioned it.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 6, 2018 at 7:33 AM

  2. There’s nothing crass about this foliage! We had some glorious color this year, too, and not all of it was compliments of invasives. I really like the second photo, because of the inclusion of the ball moss. It’s so interesting; here, it looks as though it’s serving as ornaments on a different kind of Christmas tree.


    December 6, 2018 at 8:08 AM

    • Nothing crass indeed. The species name describes the rough texture of the leaves, a feature that distinguishes this tree from other elm trees.

      Your region and mine don’t always match up in our weather and its effects. Fortunately this fall we both got delicious foliage.

      While I’ve shown autumnal cedar elms in these pages a bunch of times, today’s second picture is the first to include ball moss. Your conception of ball mosses as Christmas ornaments accords with Eve’s. On each of two recent nature walks she picked up a ball moss that had fallen to the ground. She’s put them in a dish and ensconced several conventional ornaments in the mosses.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 6, 2018 at 8:55 AM

  3. Quite wonderful…enjoyed the backlit shot. These specimens must stand out.


    December 6, 2018 at 9:59 PM

    • Yes, they do stand out, and fortunately this species is quite common. I’m a sucker for backlit shots and go for them whenever I can get them.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 6, 2018 at 10:05 PM

  4. This is native to Oklahoma, but only on the Red River and near Fort Smith (in Arkansas). I never saw it, but because I did not know it was not native where I was, I looked for it. I found only the American elm, which was grand to see in the wild.


    December 8, 2018 at 9:36 PM

    • I’m glad you mentioned Oklahoma because I’d never looked at a range map for cedar elm. I just checked out the USDA map at


      and I see what you mean: cedar elms inhabit a fringe along the southeastern edges of the Oklahoma. I also learned at


      that cedar elms in the semitropical climate of far south Texas don’t turn yellow in the fall but act as evergreens.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 9, 2018 at 6:58 AM

      • Is that what the shamel ash does there. I mean, are they evergreen in milder climates?


        December 9, 2018 at 8:59 AM

        • Sorry, I’m not familiar with shamel ash. I see online that it’s a native of California and Mexico.

          Steve Schwartzman

          December 9, 2018 at 9:02 AM

          • Oh, I thought it was in Texas too. It is deciduous here, but evergreen in the Los Angeles region. We expect winter to be mild if they hold their leaves here. If they defoliate in Los Angeles, winters are expected to be harsh.


            December 9, 2018 at 9:22 AM

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