Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Portraits from our yard: episode 14

with 36 comments

We have an American beautyberry bush (Callicarpa americana) growing in three places around our house. On October 6th I stood on a stepladder to aim mostly downward at this fruiting branch. The one yellow leaf is the first fall foliage you’ve seen here for 2021—ironic, given that afternoon high temperatures stayed in the 90s for at least a week after I took the picture.


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For at least five years, some astute social observers have been classifying Wokeness as a secular religion, complete with unquestionable dogma, proselytizing zeal, priests, and a prohibition against blasphemy. For a good explanation of the phenomenon, you can watch a remote talk that John McWhorter gave to the International Literature Festival in Berlin on September 9th.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 18, 2021 at 4:29 AM

36 Responses

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  1. The first sign of fall in your region in Texas is one yellow leaf on a beautyberry bush? I am astounded. Here in BC, fall has been in full progress for several weeks now.
    Your photo is absolutely superb, Steve.

    Peter Klopp

    October 18, 2021 at 8:17 AM

    • Thanks, Peter. American beautyberry isn’t even a plant we think of as having significant fall foliage. (It’s fruit is another story.) The peak of fall foliage here—what little we have of it—is still at least a month away. As you’ve been seeing in recent posts, we still have plenty of wildflowers doing their thing.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 18, 2021 at 8:45 AM

  2. Very beautiful rendition of a beautiful branch .

    Alessandra Chaves

    October 18, 2021 at 8:54 AM

    • Thanks. The yellow leaf made this photograph different from any I’d taken of American beautyberry over the years.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 18, 2021 at 9:21 AM

  3. That’s pretty and still bearing fruit in October!

    I agree it does seem to have become a religion to a lot of people.

    circadianreflections

    October 18, 2021 at 8:55 AM

    • Just keep in mind how much warmer it is here than where you are. Only this past week did we finally get an overnight temperature that was as low as any we’d had since April.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 18, 2021 at 9:23 AM

      • It’s a chilly 37 here this morning and there’s a lot more snow on the mountains since yesterday. They had snow but we got nothing here in the valley…well we do get that view. 😀

        circadianreflections

        October 18, 2021 at 9:39 AM

    • And yes, it is a religion for some people who don’t have a conventional one.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 18, 2021 at 9:23 AM

  4. Hey! I just got my first beautyberry! I have been wanting to try some for years. It seems that most people are familiar with it in other regions. Just recently, a reader sent me six seedlings, cuttings and seed!

    tonytomeo

    October 18, 2021 at 9:26 AM

    • According to the map at https://plants.usda.gov/home/plantProfile?symbol=CAAM2, this is a species of the southeastern United States. I don’t know how well it does when people plant it elsewhere. Sounds like you’re about to find out.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 18, 2021 at 11:43 AM

      • YES! I have seen it available in mail order catalogs, but never got around to trying it. I intend to grow it in riparian situations, since I suspect that it would not be so keen on ‘relatively’ arid chaparral situations. I am very pleased with the common straight species, as it grows in the wild, rather than a cultivar, although, if they perform well, I may eventually find a cultivar with white berries. (If I could get a wild form with white berries, that would be even better!)

        tonytomeo

        October 18, 2021 at 1:00 PM

  5. The berries are a fabulous colour. My hubby wants to plant callicarpa here – if we have space… 🙂

    Ann Mackay

    October 18, 2021 at 9:51 AM

    • Two of the specimens around our house have remained small, so size may not be an issue. The beautyberry shown here has gotten bigger, but not as much as the ones in the wild.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 18, 2021 at 11:45 AM

  6. Lovely photo of the aptly-named beautyberry, Steve.

    Jet Eliot

    October 18, 2021 at 9:56 AM

    • It could also be called strangeberry, for the way the fruits are spaced out in clusters with a leaf emerging from both sides of each cluster.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 18, 2021 at 11:52 AM

  7. Magnificent photograph. And yes what might’ve been a good idea once, has turned into something extremely rigid and oppressive. I’d like to take part of this discussion off-line. Could you email me at info (at) amagaphoto.com?

    Michael Scandling

    October 18, 2021 at 11:48 AM

    • Though I’ve been photographing beautyberry fruit for two decades, this portrait differs from previous ones and makes me happy in its own right and because of the novelty.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 18, 2021 at 11:57 AM

  8. Nicely seen and photographed Steve!

    denisebushphoto

    October 18, 2021 at 1:12 PM

  9. I think you just solved a shrub choice in our yard dilemma for us. Who wouldn’t want all those berries prettying up things?

    Steve Gingold

    October 19, 2021 at 2:49 AM

  10. On that five-years-ago trip I took, I found large stands of beautyberry in northwestern Arkansas bearing still intact but entirely golden leaves. I wonder now if the difference might lie in the way autumn arrives there, with colder temperatures coming more quickly and remaining constant. In any event, I like the way the color change is progressing down the leaves of your plant — and of course the berries are beautiful. I found some on Sunday at the Watson preserve in east Texas, although their leaves still were a lovely green.

    It was interesting to see how much farther along the end-of-summer decline had progressed at Sandylands. I found exactly one tiny E. corollata flower, some ragged snake cotton, three disintegrating Palafoxia, and one three or four inch segment of still blooming L. elegans. The tall Liatris I found last year clearly is a different variety; more research is required. But it’s Lobelia season there now: not cardinal flower, but the pretty lavender L. puberula. I’d assumed it was uncommon, but this year it’s everywhere.

    shoreacres

    October 19, 2021 at 7:12 AM

    • Your mention of Arkansas accords with the fact that the densest display of beautyberry fruit I ever saw was in that state:

      American beautyberry with dense fruit

      Those bushes lacked all the golden leaves you also mentioned, even though it was already November 8. Temperature and rainfall are factors in yearly variation.

      I’m glad to hear the lavender Lobelia was everywhere at Sandylands: that bodes well for forthcoming pictures.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 19, 2021 at 7:24 AM

  11. What a beauty to have in your backyard.

    Gallivanta

    October 20, 2021 at 3:50 AM

    • Technically it’s on one side of the house rather than in the back, but your comment still applies. These were the best beautyberry fruits I’ve seen on any of our three specimens, none of which are large.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 20, 2021 at 6:30 AM

  12. I listened to most of John McWhorter’s talk. He is an articulate speaker but in this particular talk he failed to convince me that cancel culture is anything more than a disagreeable and destructive off-shoot of our social media dominated lives. Interestingly, this young man released a track the other day which is supposedly about his feelings on cancel culture. His lyrics reference religion and medieval times. It is good to know that there is a range of people who are concerned about cancel culture. https://youtu.be/ngfXVmS9UkY

    Gallivanta

    October 20, 2021 at 4:32 AM

    • It’s interesting that the album “Medieval” comes from is entitled “Optimist.” It’s also unusual (and welcome) that a pop song would reference the Middle Ages. I’d not heard of Finneas:
      https://www.allmusic.com/artist/finneas-mn0003709451/biography

      Regarding McWhorter’s talk, do you know what other things it would have taken for you to consider Wokism a religion?

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 20, 2021 at 6:26 AM

      • Finneas has said that the title, Optimist, is aspirational. As for Wokism, my brain is very unawoke at this hour so I can’t really answer your question with any coherence. Maybe I will try again tomorrow.

        Gallivanta

        October 20, 2021 at 8:44 AM

      • Not sure what would convince me to consider Wokism a religion but perhaps some data like this would be helpful https://figure.nz/chart/RfmHYb2IsMMrn9OC

        Gallivanta

        October 20, 2021 at 9:31 PM

        • While many that I would label Woke may not consider themselves to be following a religion, a lot more people adhere to the tenets of Wokism than to those of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster listed in the chart you linked to.

          Steve Schwartzman

          October 20, 2021 at 10:28 PM

          • Quite possibly!

            Gallivanta

            October 20, 2021 at 10:57 PM

          • My daughter tells me that I ‘argue’ very incoherently and illogically so I think it’s probably best if I don’t get myself in a tangle of words.

            Gallivanta

            October 20, 2021 at 11:01 PM

    • Coincidentally, yesterday evening we attended a three-person discussion at the University of Texas. The topic was free speech in public schools, and one of the three panelists was Kmele Foster, a libertarian who also happens to be black and who is unhappy that things have become so racialized in the United States.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 20, 2021 at 6:47 AM


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