Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Pointillism in red

with 33 comments

The manifold fruits made manifest in Texas by the dropping of the leaves on the possumhaw trees (Ilex decidua) toward the end of fall are a pointillist pleasure. I’ve usually waited till January each year to go out scouting for fruit along what I’ve nicknamed the Possumhaw Trail, the stretch of TX 29 between Liberty Hill and Burnet. With others’ reports and my own observations of good fruit already by late November of 2018, we did the drive on December 15th. The densest specimen we found was the one shown here a little west of Bertram. Note that while some leaves remained on the tree, they were turning pale and wouldn’t linger.

Photographically speaking, this picture exemplifies point 15 in About My Techniques.

© 2019 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 3, 2019 at 4:44 AM

33 Responses

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  1. Interesting effect, Steve. We have other species of holly in the north that set red berries for winter color.


    January 3, 2019 at 5:39 AM

  2. that is so cool


    January 3, 2019 at 6:18 AM

  3. What a beautiful sight. You’re right, my mind went immediately to Ilex verticillata which were in fine fruit the last time I was there in November. The distribution maps are misleading. It is a plant of the bog, and grows in only one location in Illinois that I have found.


    January 3, 2019 at 8:54 AM

    • When you say you were there in November, where is “there”? Might it be Volo Bog, since you mentioned bogs? (And now I can’t write bog without thinking of blog.)

      Yes, distribution maps can be off. On the other hand, they represent reports by many people, so specimens may well exist in places where you haven’t been able to go, especially on private property. As a photographer I’ve often had the feeling of wanting to be everywhere at once, particularly in the spring.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 3, 2019 at 9:11 AM

  4. Well, a double whammy for me today in the learning department!! I have never heard of Pointillism or the Possumhaw tree. That’s an outstanding image, Steve. Well done!


    January 3, 2019 at 8:57 AM

    • Then I’ll have to say double thanks. I guess by now you’ve looked up Pointillism, and today’s picture shows you the delights of the possumhaw. I see from the USDA map that some counties in central and especially eastern Oklahoma are home to possumhaws, so you might still see some. This is the best time of year because the fruit stands out on the trees’ bare branches and most other things in nature are drab.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 3, 2019 at 9:21 AM

      • Pointillism was the first term I looked up. And I bet today the possumhaws are spectactular in Oklahoma because most of the state is getting snow! I just got back from a very taxing hike (4 inches of snow doesn’t seem like much until you trudge around in it!) and shot a few photos. Nothing bright red but lots of cardinals feeding on tall weed seeds!


        January 3, 2019 at 1:02 PM

  5. What a beautiful stand of possumhaw. Even though we have more in this area than I’ve ever seen, I’ve not come across anything like this. I suspect if I could roam a little farther afield — especially to the north and west — I’d find more. I do like it when it’s at this stage, with some of the leaves still hanging on. There should be some dramatic shots possible a bit later in the season, as the branches become more bare.


    January 3, 2019 at 4:05 PM

    • You won’t be surprised that I took plenty of pictures that day, both on and off the Possumhaw Trail. I’d taken a bunch on other days, too. While this is the densest fruit for the 2018–19 season so far, I’m also happy with some of the photographs showing less fruit, though equally red, against the clear blue of the sky. I’ve also seen plenty of young trees with small amounts of fruit, too little to entice me to take any pictures. That sounds more like what you’ve been seeing. Let’s hope a mature possumhaw all covered with fruit still awaits you. I know you’d be thrilled at the chance.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 3, 2019 at 4:36 PM

    • By the way, the “others’ reports” mentioned in my text included yours.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 3, 2019 at 4:38 PM

  6. I am reading this on 5 January. You wrote it on 3 January. In between, 4 Jan, marks the birthday of Louis Braille and World Braille Day. https://brailleworks.com/what-is-world-braille-day/ When I saw this image, pointillism didn’t immediately come to mind, but I thought of all the little raised dots which make up Braille. If this image were tactile, I wonder if, inadvertently, the possumhaw dots would make any words. Probably not! Or they could say, Look at us. We are red and beautiful.


    January 4, 2019 at 6:15 AM

    • Now that’s another coincidence, and an imaginative way of looking at this possumhaw. Even without Braille, we’re free to feel the little possumhaw fruits saying “Look at us. We are red and beautiful.”

      Did you notice that the article about Braille starts out correctly identifying him twice as Louis and then incorrectly switches to twice calling him Louise? Maybe the writer of the article was listening to Maurice Chevalier singing Leo Robin and Richard A. Whiting’s song “Louise.”

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 4, 2019 at 6:55 AM

      • I didn’t notice that change from Louis to Louise but I am glad you did and sent me the song Louise. I remember it from long ago and, of course, I liked it because one of my sister’s names is Louise. My grandmother was Louisa..


        January 4, 2019 at 10:39 PM

  7. That’s a beauty of a growth. I have always enjoyed pointillism so this rocks.

    Steve Gingold

    January 4, 2019 at 6:50 PM

    • Amen. For me, Pointillism (New York, in college) came decades before possumhaw (here, two decades ago).

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 4, 2019 at 6:53 PM

      • Same here. I had a collection of nibs and dotted my way around sheets of nice textured paper. Long, long ago.

        Steve Gingold

        January 4, 2019 at 6:56 PM

  8. That is a beautiful mass of fruits!

    Lavinia Ross

    January 6, 2019 at 11:08 AM

    • It certainly is. A drive north of Austin yesterday confirmed that there are still plenty of possumhaws showing off their fruit, which brightens the land in winter here.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 6, 2019 at 11:15 AM

  9. What a beautiful, bountiful bush (or bush-like tree, at least judging by the photo). I try to imagine this scene with hungry birds, and would love to be present to witness that feast.


    January 8, 2019 at 9:34 PM

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