Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Coral honeysuckle flower and buds

with 57 comments

A couple of months ago I discovered a picture in my archives that I’d never shown, so here it is on the 10th anniversary of the date I took it. You’re looking at a coral honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens) flower surrounded by buds along Great Northern Blvd. Unfortunately construction along Mopac and the building of a sound-mitigating wall have destroyed or blocked much of the strip where I used to photograph native plants.

And here’s a quotation for today: “… [A] copy of the universe is not what is required of art; one of the damned thing is ample.” — Rebecca West, 1928, in the essay “The Strange Necessity.” Quote Investigator offers more information.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 10, 2021 at 4:36 AM

57 Responses

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  1. It tickled me to find Noam Chomsky making his grammatical point about West’s use of a singular noun, and then adding, “But the statement is nevertheless exactly to the point.” It’s interesting that West’s ‘abstraction’ of the language functions in the same way as abstraction (or impressionism, or cubism, etc.) functions in art: it makes us stop, back up, and look again.

    I’m certainly happy to look more than once at that beautiful honeysuckle. Despite it being favored by so many gardeners, and despite seeing photos of it so often, I’d never realized it’s native. Maybe it’s the name that fooled me, since other honeysuckles planted here are non-native or even invasive.


    March 10, 2021 at 5:00 AM

    • Aside from being a pioneering linguist, Noam Chomsky has been very political. As a result, some people apparently ordered his books Problems of Knowledge and Freedom and Lectures on Government and Binding in the mistaken assumption they were about politics, not linguistics.

      You’re clever in noticing how a linguistic abstraction can produce the same effect as an artistic one. When I came across the Rebecca West quotation I realized it would be suitable for this already scheduled post, whose photograph shows coral honeysuckle in a way probably no one else has photographed it, due to the closeness and abstractness of the image.

      Yes, coral honeysuckle is happily native. The white-flowered honeysuckle that so many people in America grow up with and that smells so good is unfortunately an invasive from Japan. I remember it from Long Island and I’ve found it here in Great Hills Park.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 10, 2021 at 7:14 AM

      • It’s sad that I have problems understanding linguistic abstractions in English. Visual arts on the other hand can be more universal.

        Alessandra Chaves

        March 11, 2021 at 10:45 AM

        • A good point. Even so, there are different “languages” in art, and a person attuned to, say, realism, may have a hard time understanding and appreciating, say, abstract expressionism.

          Steve Schwartzman

          March 11, 2021 at 3:32 PM

  2. These are lovely colours.


    March 10, 2021 at 6:50 AM

  3. You pulled out of your archive a real beauty of a flower, Steve.

    Peter Klopp

    March 10, 2021 at 9:01 AM

  4. I love that thin line of depth of field! The texture and colors are wonderful.


    March 10, 2021 at 10:06 AM

  5. Beautiful shot and so great to see! My coral honeysuckle is just about to bloom. The pollinators and I are excited!


    March 10, 2021 at 10:14 AM

    • Thanks. Your coral honeysuckle, which I assume you planted, isn’t far from where I found this one growing wild (I also assume).

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 10, 2021 at 11:26 AM

  6. Never seen a coral honeysuckle in a macro photo quite like that, Usually I take the same old “boring” lateral view of the flower clusters. Attempts to get creative with the flowers and buds have not been as successful. Will try again in the next few weeks, assuming they start putting out flowers – the big freeze has been harsh on the native plants (and, hopefully, the invasives). Thanks for the inspiration.


    March 10, 2021 at 11:06 AM

    • You’re welcome. My goal—at least some of the time—is to see a familiar thing in a new way.
      I’m not sure the February freeze suppressed any invasives: this week I’ve been seeing shepherd’s purse and henbit flowering in my part of town, at best only a little later than usual.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 10, 2021 at 2:20 PM

  7. A cool close-up, it takes a native and makes it look very exotic.

    Robert Parker

    March 10, 2021 at 11:26 AM

    • Exoticism is in the eye of the beholder—that is, after it was in the viewfinder of the photographer.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 10, 2021 at 2:22 PM

  8. As Joni Mitchell sang, “They paved Paradise, put up a parking lot…”

    Eliza Waters

    March 10, 2021 at 4:42 PM

    • Some of the properties that have been lost to me over the past two decades have indeed become (at least in part) parking lots.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 10, 2021 at 5:24 PM

  9. Wow. This photo is just stunning!! Thanks for the QI link, too – very interesting.

    Birder's Journey

    March 10, 2021 at 7:01 PM

    • The colors and abstract composition grabbed me, too, when I rediscovered this photograph a couple of months ago. Quote Investigator is an excellent site; I hope you have fun browsing it.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 10, 2021 at 7:23 PM

      • Yes, I did, and I’d never heard of QI before.

        Birder's Journey

        March 10, 2021 at 7:25 PM

        • I’ve been browsing there for several years now. Because so many quotations get garbled or misattributed, it’s good to have a site that tracks down (or at least attempts to) their origins.

          Steve Schwartzman

          March 12, 2021 at 3:36 PM

          • What a great resource! Yes, more than ever now, one could be duped into thinking that someone said a particular thing when actually it was just a misrepresentation that was repeated over and over again .

            Birder's Journey

            March 13, 2021 at 8:30 AM

            • A bad feature of the internet is that many people see something posted on a website and copy it without even trying to verify that it’s correct. With quotations on the internet I have a rule of thumb about attributions. If I see a quotation on many websites, but never with anything more than the name of the person who supposedly said it—no date, no book or speech or letter it’s from—then I assume the attribution is probably wrong. In most of the cases where I’ve done the research my assumption has proved correct.

              Steve Schwartzman

              March 13, 2021 at 8:42 AM

              • I couldn’t agree more.

                Birder's Journey

                March 13, 2021 at 8:49 AM

              • In fact, I seriously wonder if the John Burroughs I have at the heading of my blog site is accurate?? I’ve searched for it many times in the writings of John Burroughs and not found those exact words. 😳

                Birder's Journey

                March 13, 2021 at 8:57 AM

                • I see what you mean. I just searched online for a while and couldn’t turn up anything other than just an attribution to John Burroughs; there was never a specific source. The fact that you’ve searched many times and have always come up empty-handed tilts the balance strongly toward the likelihood of either incorrect wording or an attribution to the wrong person. I just searched a little further and found evidence that Burroughs is the correct person but that the wording is wrong. Look near the bottom of the right-hand column on p. 137 in this article in Journal of the Outdoor Life from 1923:


                  Steve Schwartzman

                  March 13, 2021 at 10:04 AM

                • Thank you SO much, Steve! Very much appreciated – guess I didn’t hunt hard enough, and I’m grateful that you did. I’m going to make the correction on my blog right now!

                  Birder's Journey

                  March 13, 2021 at 2:54 PM

                • You’re welcome. Tracking down quotations is fun.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  March 13, 2021 at 4:45 PM

                • ☺️

                  Birder's Journey

                  March 13, 2021 at 5:24 PM

                • And now if you’d really like a lesson in human psychology and behavior, and are willing to invest a little time, go ahead and contact a bunch of the websites that have the widespread but seemingly incorrect wording. Give them the link to the 1923 article in the magazine, and suggest they change the wording on their sites. My prediction is that most of the people won’t answer you, and that of those who do, most will refuse to change the wording.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  March 13, 2021 at 10:12 AM

                • Guess it just sounded a bit more ‘poetic’ to someone the other way ☺️

                  Birder's Journey

                  March 13, 2021 at 3:01 PM

                • My guess is that somebody who’d read or heard the original statement later remembered the gist of it and tried to re-create the words. That’s pretty common, as evidenced for example in the many versions of old folk songs floating around. Other people would later have seen the re-created version of the quotation and copied it.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  March 13, 2021 at 4:41 PM

  10. I never saw this in Oklahoma, but wanted to. Cultivars are available from catalogs, but they are not the same as what you find in the wild. I thought we had a cultivar of it here, but it now seems to be a type of Japanese honeysuckle.


    March 10, 2021 at 8:56 PM

    • Coral honeysuckle isn’t all that common in the wild here, so when I do occasionally come across it I value it all the more.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 11, 2021 at 5:25 AM

      • I never actually saw it in the wild in Oklahoma (that I am aware of). I did happen to bring back what might be Lonicera albiflora. I am not certain because it does not look like all of the pictures of it online. (The pictures are quite variable.) It is neither remarkably pretty, nor notably fragrant. However, I really enjoy it because it is from Oklahoma. I will not purchase coral honeysuckle, unless it is the straight (non-cultivar) species from a nursery that sells natives in Oklahoma, or somewhere else within the native range.


        March 11, 2021 at 11:49 PM

        • I believe I came across Lonicera albiflora in the wild only once, in a neighboring county. As you pointed out, the native Texas honeysuckles don’t have fragrant flowers the way the Japanese species does. You might do a search for native plant nurseries in the southeastern United States that sell uncultivated coral honeysuckle seeds.

          Steve Schwartzman

          March 12, 2021 at 6:26 AM

          • That is sort of cheating. I am not so interested in a plant that I can get from a nursery, even if it is exactly what I want. (Well, there are a few that I would purchase.) I want to find it myself, even if it is something that I do not really have a use for. I have no use for Eastern red cedar, but am very pleased with those that I got from Oklahoma!


            March 13, 2021 at 7:49 PM

  11. It is like a flower within a flower. I enjoyed seeing this on a grey morning!

    Lavinia Ross

    March 11, 2021 at 10:55 AM

    • I like the way you put it: a flower within a flower. I can see how a grey morning would endear these colors to you.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 11, 2021 at 3:33 PM

  12. I will have to enjoy your images of coral honeysuckle this year as I cut mine way back this winter. It’s a beautiful plant that a friend gave us when we first moved here, that I have divided and started up in various places around our ranch. Mostly I love it because it attracts hummingbirds, which have begun to build nests in trees near the plants! We also have non-native honeysuckle that grows wild all over this place too, and its fragrance is outstanding in spring and early summer.


    March 12, 2021 at 7:58 AM

    • Given how much you like coral honeysuckle, what led you to cut yours way back this winter?

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 12, 2021 at 8:14 AM

      • One coral honeysuckle grows up a tri-antenna alongside our house. The vine had reached the roof and was attaching to apparatus atop the roof. Another coral honeysuckle grew along the railing of our steps on the back porch, but it was taking over the entire structure, plus climbing a downspout up the house, and also interlacing in a climbing rose bush next to it. I have a couple of other coral honeysuckle, but they pose no problems where I placed them, and the deer are pretty good to nibble them back.


        March 14, 2021 at 12:20 PM

        • Your answer makes clear why you cut back your coral honeysuckle. The specimens I’ve come across in Austin were no more than several feet long and were growing mostly horizontally, so I’ve never seen that high climbing that I’d read about and that you experienced. Maybe someday I’ll find a tall one.

          Steve Schwartzman

          March 14, 2021 at 2:08 PM

          • Well shoot! I wish now I had photographed it last summer! Both plants were stunning. But roof and railing damage isn’t so cool, thus the trim job!


            March 14, 2021 at 2:26 PM

  13. Beautiful. The shallow depth of field works so well with the shape of the petals and color.


    March 12, 2021 at 2:27 PM

  14. It’s always nice to discover a little treasure long forgotten.

    Steve Gingold

    March 12, 2021 at 6:22 PM

    • It’s pretty common when I go archive-browsing that I find something worthwhile, along with the usual amount of so-so pictures.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 12, 2021 at 6:41 PM

  15. Great shot! Love the depth and the colours ..


    March 15, 2021 at 2:29 PM

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