Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Palm fingerprints

with 39 comments

Palms behind the historical church in Baclayon, Bohol, caught my attention on December 21st last year.

It occurred to me that the patterns on those trunks could act like fingerprints
to identify individual trees—assuming anyone would ever want to do that.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman


Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 11, 2020 at 4:28 PM

Posted in nature photography

Tagged with , ,

39 Responses

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  1. What beautiful images, Steve! They are like fingerprints, in a way.

    Lavinia Ross

    February 11, 2020 at 4:38 PM

    • As soon as I saw these patterns I was fascinated. I walked around various trunks looking for ways to frame what I saw. The fingerprints idea came to me six weeks later, back in Austin.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 11, 2020 at 5:25 PM

  2. My latest post Showy In Pink includes a link to a beetle from the Philippines, a shiny maroon really but I had to include! Link to photographer’s flickr (if you back up one on the slideshow you see the whole beetle): https://flickr.com/photos/55114263@N00/49166230068/in/photostream/

    Ms. Liz

    February 11, 2020 at 5:15 PM

    • That’s one weird beetle. Now you make me wish I’d sought out more insects beyond the two kinds of butterflies I showed last week.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 11, 2020 at 5:28 PM

  3. I have to hand it to you; both the palms and the fingerprints are wonderful ways of visualizing these trunks. When I enlarged the first photo, I noticed that the sections between the bands with the longitudinal striations look like the skeletons of cholla cactus. Did you try cropping one of these to show only the alternating bands? I suspect that would create an interesting abstraction.


    February 11, 2020 at 5:37 PM

    • With palms, how could you not hand it to me? It’s good of you to point out the way the sections between the bands resemble cholla cactus—something I hadn’t noticed. As for cropping, in all these I cropped to about half of the original area to exclude things that would otherwise have been visible to the left and right of each palm. Your idea of cropping even farther to show only the bands is a good one, and I have enough pixels in the originals to make that feasible.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 11, 2020 at 7:23 PM

    • By the way, I don’t believe I’ve ever seen pictures of palm trees cropped like this to emphasize the patterns in them.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 12, 2020 at 7:42 AM

      • I’m pretty sure I haven’t, either. For the most part, the trunks play only a supporting role for the fronds at the top.


        February 12, 2020 at 8:16 AM

  4. I can see the fingerprint/palmprint idea, but the horizontal rows struck me as looking like ancient manuscripts, and then I remembered, they actually used palm leaves for paper in Hindu temples, in SE Asia. I suppose you could photograph the unique print, in case somebody palmed your potted palm.

    Robert Parker

    February 11, 2020 at 5:41 PM

    • I also saw a connection to ancient manuscripts, no doubt because of what you said about ancient manuscripts in India and southeast Asia. As for palming these palms, they were growing firmly in the ground rather than in a planter, so it’d be pretty hard to abscond with one unless you’re King Kong or Godzilla.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 11, 2020 at 7:28 PM

  5. There’s the story of their life, if only we knew how to read it.


    February 11, 2020 at 8:51 PM

    • It would take quite a historian to read all those details, more of a historian than I think could ever exist.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 12, 2020 at 7:40 AM

  6. Modern abstract painting made by nature and artfully captured by you, Steve!

    Peter Klopp

    February 11, 2020 at 10:18 PM

    • The patterns focused my attention and I knew I needed to record them. How to present them occurred to me only much later.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 12, 2020 at 7:43 AM

  7. Beautiful patterns. I am always looking for patterns in nature and in fact on my travel blog I am studying patterns this month in an attempt to focus my photography.


    February 12, 2020 at 6:22 AM

  8. Oooh, I love those shots. So textural–gorgeous!!


    February 12, 2020 at 8:24 AM

  9. It’s true, you could. I love it that while the individuals of a species conform to a set of characteristics, there is still individual variation making each one unique.


    February 12, 2020 at 9:02 AM

  10. It is an intriguing question to ponder whether or not each palm (or each real tree, for that matter) has its own trunkprint, so to speak, but it wouldn’t surprise me. Nature has come up with countless ingenious rules, and I’m convinced that there is still much that humankind hasn’t figured out.


    February 12, 2020 at 4:57 PM

    • So many points can differ from one trunk to another that on a mathematical basis alone the chances of two trunks being alike is infinitesimally small—zero, for practical purposes. I like your coinage: trunkprint.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 12, 2020 at 5:38 PM

  11. Beautiful color and patterns, Steve. A close look at things often rewards.

    Steve Gingold

    February 12, 2020 at 5:53 PM

  12. Although individual palms are genetically unique, and some within the same species exhibit visible genetic variability, these patterns are affected as much by the growing conditions the individuals develop in.


    February 12, 2020 at 10:45 PM

    • That makes sense. I believe geneticists now refer to that factor as the unshared environment. That’s in addition to the difference between genotype and phenotype.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 13, 2020 at 5:19 AM

  13. Great nature abstracts Steve!


    February 13, 2020 at 9:24 AM

    • Thanks. You know me with patterns and abstractions. The narrow vertical cropping made the abstraction possible.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 13, 2020 at 5:04 PM

  14. I don’t know about fingerprints, but you’ve created some lovely and interesting abstracts!


    February 13, 2020 at 1:07 PM

    • What caused fingerprints to pop into my head was the uniqueness of each person’s fingertip patterns, just as the designs on each palm differed from those on the other palms.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 13, 2020 at 5:06 PM

  15. I love these, Steve. They make me happy. Sorry I am so far behind looking at your posts, and now I’m bombarding you with a bunch of comments.


    February 23, 2020 at 2:32 PM

    • This was something new for me, so I’m glad people found something to like in them.
      Your comments are always welcome.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 23, 2020 at 7:15 PM

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