Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Fall colors at Stillhouse Hollow

with 28 comments

Another source of colorful fall foliage down here is the Texas red oak tree (Quercus buckleyi). Well into the afternoon on November 26th at northwest-central Austin’s little-known Stillhouse Hollow Nature Preserve I aimed upward to record the colors in the leaves of one of those oaks contrasted with the blue of the sky. The network that the many darker branches created appealed to me as well.

While at the preserve I also recorded the shades of magenta in six clusters of American beautyberry fruits (Callicarpa americana) that were in varied stages of drying out.

Click to enlarge.

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 10, 2018 at 4:43 AM

28 Responses

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  1. The photograph is well composed/framed.


    December 10, 2018 at 5:25 AM

    • When I took the picture I thought mostly about color. Later I came to appreciate how well the branches filled the frame.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 10, 2018 at 7:41 AM

  2. I concur with the previous commenter. I love ‘up’ shots! The majestic red oak is the tallest tree on our property. Not sure how it (and one other, an offspring?) got here so many decades ago; there are no others like them we’ve been able to find.


    December 10, 2018 at 7:33 AM

    • So the upshot of my photographing is that you and Michael (the previous commenter) are happy with it. It’s good to hear that a majestic red oak found its way onto your property—or chronologically speaking, that you found your way onto its. I wonder whether a former landowner planted the tree.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 10, 2018 at 7:52 AM

      • Doubtful, as it was wild space before the developer began clearing for houses in the early 90’s. Perhaps a squirrel landowner?

        When we got the deed, the woods were thick with underbrush .. we knew there were big trees because we could see the tops, just couldn’t get to them until it was lightly cleared. Then WOW. Bur, post, red oaks, box elder, pecan — all tall canopy specimens — among others. Being a tree girl, we were certainly happy where we landed.

        All we need now is some mid-story plants like possumhaw and beautyberry.


        December 10, 2018 at 9:22 AM

        • I like your “squirrel landowner.”
          Possumhaw and beautyberry would be colorful additions for “tree girl” to branch out into.

          Steve Schwartzman

          December 10, 2018 at 9:50 AM

  3. A lovely fall display, and all the more welcome as the leaves up here have been down for a while. The beauty berry is such a pretty bush. Are there any critters who make use of the berries, or are they poisonous to all? (I ask because I seem to recall birds did not touch the berries on our bush on LI.)

    Susan Scheid

    December 10, 2018 at 8:06 AM

    • The difference in latitude can’t be ignored, can it? Two weeks after I took that picture, a little fall foliage still remains here—with emphasis on “little.”

      As for the beautyberry, I recently learned that people can eat the fruit. Here’s what the entry at http://www.foragingtexas.com/2008/09/beautyberry.html says:

      “American beautyberry berries become edible upon reaching full ripeness [,] which usually occurs in late summer to early fall. They should be a dark purple/magenta color but not turning wrinkled and dry. These berries can be eaten raw and have a mild, slight medicinal flavor. To truly maximize the potential of these berries it is best to make jelly out of them. Combine 1.5 qts of berries with 1 qt. water, boil for 20 minutes and then strain out the solids. Add 4.5 cups of sugar and one envelop[e] of Sure Jell to the liquid. Bring the liquid back up to boil for two minutes, skimming off any foam. Pour the hot jelly into sterilized jars and seal. The resulting jelly has a unique flavor which reminds me of rose petals and champagne.

      “These berries can also be used to make wine. Being low in sugars it is best to combine American beautyberry fruit with something sweeter such as grapes or bananas, otherwise the resulting wine will be a bit weak and have an uncomplex flavor.

      “Some people have reported stomach upset after eating beauty berries. Limit yourself to small servings until you know how your body will react.”

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 10, 2018 at 8:41 AM

    • I’ve forgotten (or perhaps never knew) where on Long Island you used to be.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 10, 2018 at 8:42 AM

      • East Quogue, which is actually in the town of Southampton (as opposed to Quogue).

        Susan Scheid

        December 10, 2018 at 8:46 AM

        • East Quogue is a place I’ve driven through only a few times in my life. It’s so far east of Franklin Square (where I grew up in Nassau County) as to have been almost another planet.

          Steve Schwartzman

          December 10, 2018 at 8:55 AM

  4. That red oak is sure pretty! Nice to see color in the trees. Our leaves are long gone already.


    December 10, 2018 at 10:12 AM

    • It works in both directions: you had glorious fall color well before we had any, and yours is grander than ours.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 10, 2018 at 10:33 AM

  5. Texas red oak was one that I have never seen. It is native to the part of Oklahoma where I went, but I was not looking for it. The common red oak, Quercus rubra, happens to be a good street tree here. It does not make too many acorns like it does in other regions.


    December 10, 2018 at 7:09 PM

    • From what I saw online, common red oak certainly lives up to its colored name.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 10, 2018 at 8:05 PM

      • Because it is an oak, it happens to have reasonably complaisant roots, so works well as a street tree. It does not get too big here. However, I sort of wonder how bit they will get in another century. Another concern is that all the relatively young trees that were planted only since the 1970s or so start to reach maturity at the same time, and drop more acorns than we are accustomed to. I hope that they do not make any more than they do now. They do seem happy.


        December 10, 2018 at 8:08 PM

  6. I love the yellow and orange against the blue!


    December 10, 2018 at 8:30 PM

  7. The first image makes me think of a richly brocaded canopy.


    December 11, 2018 at 6:46 AM

  8. One of the great advantages of a slow but consistent leaf fall is that fewer leaves on the trees makes for a more even leaf/sky distribution. That’s what I like most about your first photo. Trees that are blocks of color against the sky can be lovely, but the interplay of blue sky and colored leaves pleases me even more.

    It’s always intriguing to see where beauty berry lingers and where it doesn’t. I’ve always wondered whether growing conditions can affect the taste of such wild berries, and whether birds and other critters decide to eat, or not, depending on the taste. There are sour grapes and sweet grapes of the same variety, so it might be possible that the same is true with these native berries.


    December 11, 2018 at 8:41 AM

    • You make a good point about the slow but consistent leaf fall producing an even distribution of leaf and sky. I appreciate the variety of colors in the leaves, while at the same time liking photographs of oaks I’ve taken in other autumns that show blocks of red against the blue sky.

      As for the beautyberry, you raise a good question. One online recipe for beautyberry jelly that I found yesterday said to avoid any little fruits that have begun to shrivel or dry out, presumably because they no longer taste as good. If I encounter any remaining clusters, I may have to start sampling to see what I find out.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 11, 2018 at 9:06 AM

  9. […] them, like the nest now disclosed here. This bare tree, while neither massive nor colorful like the still-clad oak you saw yesterday, nevertheless appeals in the intricacy of its many slender branches and twigs. Visible beyond it […]

  10. That red oak photograph is stunning. I love that the oaks are the last to show up in the spring, seemingly taking sweet time to leaf out, and then in autumn are the last to display color and let go of their foliage. They’re like late party comers, that end up closing down the show.

    For several years I noticed a beauty berry bush along the old river channel path I took on my route to the big river. This year I looked and could not find it – not even any dead brush. I know the new neighbor had fence repair done, but I thought I might have seen where the workers may have cut or sawed it off. Nothing! I know many folks around here have it planted in yard landscaping, but I’d never seen it grow wild like I did along the old river route. It’s such a beautiful and striking plant!


    December 15, 2018 at 8:59 AM

    • You make an excellent analogy to late party comers. The way these oaks end up closing down the show is much appreciated. Not so well known is that their leaves contribute a different red as they emerge in the spring:


      I’m sorry to hear the beautyberry along the old river channel vanished like that. Let’s hope it just as mysteriously reappears, bears lots of fruit, and resists disappearing again.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 15, 2018 at 9:12 AM

  11. I love up shots too … and the branches fill the frame so well with splashes of yellow and red


    December 16, 2018 at 12:11 PM

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