Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

A colorful revisiting of Emerald Lake

with 37 comments

Hard to believe today marks three years since we stood at the edge of Emerald Lake in British Columbia’s Yoho National Park. Smoke from forest fires obscured the lake’s far shore but the turquoise color still came through to set off the slender red seed capsules of the fireweed (Chamaenerion angustifolium) in the first photograph. On a different fireweed plant there I found the caterpillar of a bedstraw hawkmoth, Hyles gallii.

Although it was only a week into September,
so far north some foliage was already beginning to turn colors.

I was attracted to a bush with small white fruits and reddening leaves
that I take to be common snowberry, Symphoricarpos albus.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 7, 2020 at 5:00 AM

37 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. We love the photo of the common snowberry! The contrast and clarity of the white berries against the beautiful foliage is really special.

    Ms. Liz

    September 7, 2020 at 5:16 AM

    • It’s a good thing I looked back at my photographs from three years ago because I’d forgotten about the snowberry pictures, of which I never showed any at the time. I agree with your take on the contrast, clarity, and color in today’s fourth picture.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 7, 2020 at 7:14 AM

  2. The common snowberry is a stunner! And somehow on my first scroll through (I often quickly check out the images and then go back to read and better observe the photograph) I nearly missed the caterpillar! What a beauty! Oddly, it does tend to camouflage itself rather well in the fireweed.


    September 7, 2020 at 7:22 AM

    • With two for two so far, appreciation for the snowberry is snowballing.
      The little curved red “horn” on the caterpillar keeps drawing my attention. The fact that there’s a pink glow around it from fireweed flowers doesn’t hurt.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 7, 2020 at 7:55 AM

  3. Ah, the fireweed and the snowberries are also at the Arrow Lakes such a common sight. The turning of the leaves must be the result of much higher altitude and not so much its northern location. Thank you for sharing your experiences at one of the loveliest lakes in BC!

    Peter Klopp

    September 7, 2020 at 8:37 AM

    • That’s a good observation about the higher altitude contributing to the earlier changing of the leaves. We had a great time on our 2017 trip, which included several of that area’s scenic lakes.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 7, 2020 at 1:24 PM

  4. I couldn’t quite get my mind around “fireweed seed capsules.” I couldn’t figure out where the seeds were. Then, I noticed the fluff hanging on them, and wondered which plant produced the fluff. Now I know — the fluff almost certainly came from more fireweed. It’s a beautiful plant in all its stages, but the combination of those red capsules and white fluff is special. The same color combination makes those snowberries standouts, as well.


    September 7, 2020 at 8:58 AM

    • I’m glad you found the old post that explained where the seeds apparently came from in today’s fireweed picture. If I lived in an area where fireweed grew, I know it would be one of my favorite plants to photograph in all its stages. At least a had a few chances in Montana, Alberta, and British Columbia. As for the snowberries, I happily rediscovered the few portraits I’d made of them.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 7, 2020 at 6:50 PM

  5. Fantastic shot of that caterpillar. But then the other pictures are fantastic, too. I simply can’t decide which one I like most. So I just enjoy them all. 🙂


    September 7, 2020 at 9:41 AM

    • Your egalitarian approach works well here. My preference is to show one picture at a time so people can focus on it, and also so there’s no implied hierarchy. That said, I’m so backlogged with pictures from this crazy year we’re in that I’ve more often than before showed several pictures at a time.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 7, 2020 at 6:54 PM

  6. Just love the caterpillar – excellent shot!


    September 7, 2020 at 10:36 AM

  7. I have to say that it’s the caterpillar, especially, that stops me cold. And what is it about the caterpillar? The pink horn.

    Michael Scandling

    September 7, 2020 at 10:45 AM

  8. Lovely photography


    September 7, 2020 at 12:43 PM

  9. The shots are all great, so different from one another. I’m wondering if that last shot might be of a Rough leaf dogwood (Cornus drummondii)? https://www.wildflower.org/plants/result.php?id_plant=codr It seems too early for the foliage to turn, but plants sometimes do their own thing. I have two specimens in my back garden. The older is about 6 years old, given to me as a stick by a gardening/blogging buddy and now it’s about 9 feet tall. This past spring was the first time it’s ever set blooms. The second is about 2 years old, purchased from Barton Springs Nursery and is about a third of the size of the first. It also bloomed this past spring, but then developed one cluster of white fruits. Just last week, I saw a female White-eyed vireo snacking on one berry of that little cluster. I can’t wait until my trees are grown-ups!


    September 7, 2020 at 7:30 PM

    • I’m not great at identifying plants, so what I photographed in British Columbia might not be common snowberry. I’ll grant you, after looking at photographs of roughleaf dogwood with fruit, that the plant shown in the fourth picture looks similar. However, when I checked the distribution map for Cornus drummondii, I found the closest it grows to Yoho National Park is eastern South Dakota. That’s about a thousand miles away, so it doesn’t seem likely I photographed roughleaf dogwood up there. I’ve occasionally come across roughleaf dogwood in the wild in Austin. One place I remember seeing its flowers is St. Edward’s Park. I wish I came across it more often.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 7, 2020 at 8:26 PM

    • Cornus stolonifera, which is also known as Cornus sericea, is what it looks like to me.


      September 9, 2020 at 12:26 AM

      • Thanks for your suggestion, which seems plausible. I’ll probably never be able to know for sure.

        Steve Schwartzman

        September 9, 2020 at 5:24 AM

        • I am pretty sure, unless there is another native species of dogwood there, although I realize it is not very important either.


          September 10, 2020 at 12:09 AM

          • Ultimately, no. And there’s still the possibility of common snowberry, which does grow in that area. Whatever it is, I’m happy with the image as an image.

            Steve Schwartzman

            September 10, 2020 at 5:29 AM

            • Well, it is obviously not snowberry. Their fruit do not develop so numerously in slightly convex corymbs. Their leaves are smaller and blunt, with a few small distal clefts. Their stems are rather wiry.


              September 12, 2020 at 11:54 AM

  10. Time passes so quickly. These are nice memories of your visit.

    Steve Gingold

    September 8, 2020 at 2:52 AM

    • Time’s sure zooming, and now the pandemic’s messing with it, too. We’d have traveled at least twice more by now.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 8, 2020 at 3:10 AM

  11. Cool caterpillar!


    September 8, 2020 at 9:00 PM

  12. I like your composition with the golden bushes. The out of focus blue lake makes a nice backdrop and color combo with the gold.


    September 10, 2020 at 12:24 PM

    • That contrast between the golden foliage and the pale blue water of the lake in the background is just what I had in mind with the third picture. I’m glad you mentioned it.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 10, 2020 at 12:50 PM

  13. Super images Steve … that caterpillar looks like he is on a mission!


    September 14, 2020 at 2:19 PM

  14. Love that caterpillar! Snowberry is a common shrub here but it doesn’t turn such a pretty color – I guess we are just not high enough in latitude or altitude to see those changes. Lovely series, Steve. 🙂


    September 18, 2020 at 2:50 PM

    • A couple of people raised questions about whether what I thought could be snowberry was actually a species of dogwood. Whatever it was, I certainly appreciated the way the reddening leaves set off the little white fruits. And yes, that caterpillar made for a pretty portrait.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 18, 2020 at 5:26 PM

      • Right, I think it’s not what is commonly called Snowberry here, which is Symphocaricarpos albus. Now that I’m looking more carefully, the berries are held very differently on the PNW Snowberry and the leaves are smaller. Maybe this is Cornus stolonifera?


        September 28, 2020 at 7:36 PM

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: