Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Red and yellow for this fellow

with 23 comments

At the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center on October 23rd, how could I not be drawn to clusters of red possumhaw fruits (Ilex decidua) in front of some Maximilian sunflowers (Helianthus maximiliani)? If you’re in a gloomy place, I hope this combination brightens up your day.

And here’s a relevant quotation for today: “Almost every person, from childhood, has been touched by the untamed beauty of wildflowers.” — Lady Bird Johnson.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 19, 2020 at 4:34 AM

23 Responses

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  1. These won’t kill a fella, just make him/her smile!!


    November 19, 2020 at 8:23 AM

    • It’s clear you know the snake-related rhyme I based my title on. Or you could say that this fella used his guile to see if he could make you smile.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 19, 2020 at 10:41 AM

  2. Yellow and red for me instead. I believe I have seen these berries in our northern region. But I am not sure. The sunflower makes an excellent background, Steve.

    Peter Klopp

    November 19, 2020 at 8:30 AM

    • Yellow and red for you instead; I’m glad to see you jumped ahead to make another rhyme in so short a span of time. The range of the possumhaw tree is the southeastern United States, so the similar fruit you saw in Canada must have been something else. And you’ve seen how often I line up a subject of one color against something of a different color farther away. In this case the Maximilian sunflowers proved willing accomplices.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 19, 2020 at 10:48 AM

  3. The colors made me smile. They’re very cheerful. I LOVE that quote.


    November 19, 2020 at 9:45 AM

  4. That happy combination should surely help to brighten anyone’s day. I see that they are a variety of holly but that their leaves lack the spikiness of the holly bushes that I’m used to. I also learned that the berries are regularly eaten by songbirds and small mammals but that they’re quite bitter and may be somewhat toxic for folks and dogs.


    November 19, 2020 at 2:53 PM

    • Right you are: you can touch the leaves of this holly with no ill effects. In Texas we also have Ilex vomitoria, which keeps its leaves and also produces similar fruit. In fact there’s one right outside my window now. In other years I’ve noticed squirrels easting the red fruit; this year I saw a squirrel eating some when they were all still green.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 19, 2020 at 6:53 PM

  5. I was immediately intrigued by this bright and beautiful image! I think you’ve solved a mystery for me! I’ve noticed a shrub or perhaps small tree-like plant with red berries in the late summer/early autumn, growing on the southern boundary of the pecan orchard, and another at the very west end of the orchard property. I have not researched much but wondered about those beautiful, red berries each year I noticed them! I’ll have to pay more attention to the leaves in spring, and I’ll know for sure. I also notice on the NRCS that possumhaw are shade tolerant. Both plants in our orchard are in more shaded areas. I am very excited to think we have another grazing/browse opportunity for wildlife.


    November 19, 2020 at 3:11 PM

    • It’s good to hear you may have solved your mystery. In addition to possumhaw, there’s the closely related yaupon, Ilex vomitoria, which keeps its leaves through the winter. You can therefore tell them apart starting around this time of year and continuing through the winter. When both still have foliage, you can go online and look at the characteristic leaf shape of each species. It sure is a joy to see larges masses of those tiny fruits.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 19, 2020 at 7:00 PM

  6. Nice shot, Steve. I love that pop of color!

    Eliza Waters

    November 19, 2020 at 7:38 PM

  7. What a nice quote from Lady Bird…and your photo is indeed very cheerful. That’s a holly relative, right?


    November 20, 2020 at 11:01 AM

  8. You had quite a day at the Wildflower Center. Maybe next fall I’ll set aside October 23 as a day to visit — it’s my birthday, and what could be a better celebration? This is a wonderful photo for showing seasonal transitions. The juxtaposition of sunflowers and possumhaw surprised me: late summer and autumn-into-winter in one view.


    November 21, 2020 at 7:38 AM

    • Our good day at the Wildflower Center would have been even better without the hordes of kids with mothers in tow who’d come for Fortlandia. Let’s hope we all have a chance to celebrate the day together in 2021: next year in the Jerusalem of central Texas wildflower sites.

      October 23 might have been a bit early for such and so much red possumhaw fruit. Plants at the Wildflower Center do get watered, and that of course affects their behavior. Some Maximilian sunflowers in the wild here have kept blooming despite the lack of rain. Just yesterday I photographed a bunch in Pflugerville.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 21, 2020 at 8:26 AM

  9. A colorful and unique way to set off the berries!


    November 21, 2020 at 1:13 PM

    • I believe this is the only time I’ve ever photographed that combination—and I was happy to do so.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 21, 2020 at 4:01 PM

  10. This is one of four of your posts ‘still’ on the browser; I may never catch up until there’s internet under my roof!

    Lovely image, but the caption made me think about coral snakes in Ecuador. The ‘red and yellow’ rule does not apply here!


    Also, we were taught in Mississippi that if a snake had round pupils it was harmless, but if the pupils were slits, it would be dangerous. Not always true here!

    It’s always a joy to see your posts, which reflect your talent as well as your wit – and the comments also show your kindness.

    Playamart - Zeebra Designs

    November 30, 2020 at 10:11 AM

    • Oh, I didn’t know about the “red and yellow” rule not applying down there, where the red of coral snakes is bordered by both red and black. And then you’ve got the failure of the distinction between pupils that are round and those that are slits. Sounds like an inhospitable place in regard to serpents.

      Thanks for your kind comment, and I do hope you can get an internet connection under your own roof soon, especially in these hard times.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 30, 2020 at 10:40 AM

  11. Ronald McDonald approved colors.
    Cultivars of that holly are grown for landscape use. We might have tried some back when we grew holly. Hollies are not a lucrative commodity here.


    November 30, 2020 at 4:01 PM

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