Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Green and orange in the fall

with 16 comments

The leaves of the black willow (Salix nigra) tend to turn yellow in the fall, as you recently saw. On November 26th at the Southeast Metropolitan Park in Del Valle I was pleased to find several of those trees with some of their leaves taking on orange hues. Notice the fuzzy goldenrod (Solidago sp.) seed heads in both pictures.

And if you’ll allow orange to shade toward tan and brown, then how about this long colony of slenderpod sesbania (Sesbania herbacea) stretched out along the edge of another pond at the site? The trees lined up parallel to them are paloverdes (Parkinsonia aculeata).

Here’s a closer look at the thorny green from the opposite side:

If you’d like some quotations about the color orange, you can find them in The Quote Garden.

The history of the word orange is also interesting.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 10, 2020 at 4:37 AM

16 Responses

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  1. I should have realized, just from the look of it, that the Spanish word for orange is from Arabic.
    The “ruling family” of the Netherlands is still the House of Orange-Nassau. which always sounds like they should be ruling a tropical island, doesn’t it?

    Robert Parker

    December 10, 2020 at 5:58 AM

    • I grew up in Nassau County (Long Island), whose police cars were colored orange and blue. And of course the Dutch settled nearby New Amsterdam. Spanish speakers flooded into the area a few centuries later and presumably brought with them a love of naranjas. (The Portuguese version is laranjas.) The Dravidian/Arabic origin of the word may be why nothing in English rhymes with orange. On the other hand, Spanish does have rhyming words, for example granja.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 10, 2020 at 6:47 AM

  2. There’s an Orangetown, too, in Rockland Co.. In addition to all the Dutch names, parts of NY sound Caribbean: Nassau, Jamaica, Kingston. And upstate there’s Cuba, Florida, Freetown, Georgetown

    Robert Parker

    December 10, 2020 at 7:16 AM

    • You got me curious about Jamaica. The article at [https://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/06/nyregion/what-is-jamaica-queens-named-after.html] says this: “Jamaica wasn’t the settlement’s first name. In 1655, English colonists from Massachusetts and eastern Long Island established a town, Rusdorf, in the area the Dutch called Rustdorp (“rest-town”). / By the end of the 17th century, after the English takeover of the colony, the English had renamed it Jamaica. / According to ‘The Neighborhoods of Queens’ by Claudia Gryvatz Copquin, the word is believed to have been derived from the Jameco, or Yamecah, Indians who first lived there; ‘jameco’ is the Algonquin word for ‘beaver.’ There is a Beaver Road in Jamaica, but it is north of Jamaica Bay, where the Jameco Indians lived along the shore.”

      As for the Caribbean island, here’s what the article at


      says: “The original inhabitants of Jamaica are believed to be the Arawaks, also called Tainos. They came from South America 2,500 years ago and named the island Xaymaca, which meant ‘land of wood and water’.”

      In Texas there’s a Georgetown some 25 miles up the road from Austin. Other Georgetowns may have been named after “good King George” but this one took its name from George Washington Glasscock, who donated the land for the new town. It’s clear who he was named after.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 10, 2020 at 7:48 AM

  3. The story of the fruit and its colour is truly amazing. What long journey in time and physical distance the orange has travelled!

    Peter Klopp

    December 10, 2020 at 8:59 AM

    • It sure has. You’ve reminded me that when my then-teenage father and his family were on their way from the Soviet Union to America in the 1920s, he saw his first banana. Apparently there weren’t any where he’d lived.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 10, 2020 at 9:38 AM

      • As a young child immediately in the post-war era, I remember having given away the first banana or orange which my mother had added to my lunch pack and which I had never seen before. I gave it to a classmate because it was new to me. I am glad my mother never found out about it.

        Peter Klopp

        December 10, 2020 at 1:11 PM

        • What a coincidence that that’s in your past, too. Yes, it’s probably for the best that your mother never found out you gave away your precious fruit.

          Steve Schwartzman

          December 11, 2020 at 8:02 AM

  4. These are beautiful late season colors, Steve!

    Lavinia Ross

    December 10, 2020 at 11:20 AM

    • I’ll bet you have some beautiful late-season colors where you are, too. I’m happy to send these central Texas ones your way. I’m heading out after lunch to look for more.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 10, 2020 at 11:44 AM

      • Mainly blueberry bushes, grape vines and non-native maples.

        Lavinia Ross

        December 13, 2020 at 10:22 AM

        • We had two non-native (Norway) maples in front of the house I grew up in on Long Island. In Austin, two of the most common non-native trees planted for their color are Chinese tallow and Bradford pear.

          Steve Schwartzman

          December 13, 2020 at 11:31 AM

  5. Again, it’s the willow that caught my eye. The slenderpod sesbania fooled me for a minute; I thought the water level had dropped and exposed the lower stems, but it’s reflection.

    The exchange about orange, the color and the fruit, was interesting. Have you read John McPhee’s article for The New Yorker titled Oranges? It was published in the 1960s, and still is just as fresh as it was then. If you search for McPhee, New Yorker, and Oranges, you can pull up the online text. It was one of the first pieces he published in his inimitable style.

    On my recent jaunt, I saw one of the only truly orange trees I’ve come across: an oak. I was surprised to see so much color around Medina Mountain, Bandera, Lost Maples, etc. I’d say only 25-30% of the oaks have turned in that area, but the range of colors was great: burgundy, red, pinks, and russets. After this next cold front, I’m sure more will change. The maples, cypress, sycamore and such are almost gone; it’s the oaks that are so gorgeous.


    December 11, 2020 at 12:52 PM

    • I’d been waiting and hoping for some good oaks; only yesterday did I finally start seeing a few. I’m hoping what you said about only 25–30% of the oaks having turned where you were is true of Austin too, and that I’ll find larger specimens than the one in my post today.

      I found McPhee’s article on the New Yorker website but you have to be a subscriber to get access to it. I see that McPhee followed up by turning the article into a book.

      You weren’t fooled about the slenderpod sesbania. The pond appeared in the lower part of the picture, which I cropped off, so the browner band across the base of the sesbanias isn’t a reflection. Further evidence that the water level had dropped (aside from the fact that we’ve had very little rain this fall) came from a bald cypress tree growing in the pond; on its trunk was a large patch of algae extending upward at least a foot from the current water level.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 11, 2020 at 3:11 PM

  6. That’s a nice colorful pond bak.

    Steve Gingold

    December 12, 2020 at 6:38 PM

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