Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

It’s not just flameleaf sumac’s leaves

with 19 comments

It’s not just the leaves of flameleaf sumac (Rhus lanceolata) that turn warm colors: its fruit clusters at their most vivid become bright red. In the second view, nary a colorful leaflet remains.

Both photographs are from November 1st at the corner of Spicewood Springs Rd. and Old Spicewood Springs Rd. (Because that description could apply to either of two intersections about a quarter of a mile apart, I’ll have to specify that it was the one a block south of Capital of Texas Highway.)

❀     ❀

From 2019, you’re welcome to watch an interview by Malcolm Gladwell of Jonathan Haidt and Greg Lukianoff, authors of The Coddling of the American Mind, and Lenore Skenazy, founder of the Free-Range Kids movement.

Here’s a blurb for the discussion:

Civil discourse is in decline, with potentially dire results for American democracy. On college campuses across America, visiting speakers are disinvited, or even shouted down, while professors, students, and admini-strators are afraid to talk openly, for fear that someone will take offense. Political discussion on social media and television has devolved into a wave of hyper-partisan noise. A generation of overprotective parents are reluctant to let their children play outside without supervision. How did we get here? And how can we change the way that we engage with one another?

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 21, 2021 at 4:33 AM

Posted in nature photography

Tagged with , , , , ,

19 Responses

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  1. Excellent.


    November 21, 2021 at 7:14 AM

  2. Now that you’ve allowed ads on your blog, there are some interesting combinations showing up. I had to laugh at your mention of the Gladwell interview of Haidt and Lukianoff being followed by a photo of peeled hard-boiled eggs and advice from the U.S. Surgeon that “This simple trick empties almost immediately your bowels every morning.” Given the absence of ‘General’ following ‘U.S. Surgeon’ and the grammatical construction, I could make some guesses about the source of the ad.

    The photo of the sumac berries is stunning in a different way; it’s a glorious photo. Finding those unobscured berries would have been enough, but there are so many other details to enjoy: the fruit-less custer, the opposing curves of the stems, and the little curlicue near the cluster. Against the darkened sky, they’re just perfect.


    November 21, 2021 at 7:21 AM

    • It’s not that I previously didn’t allow ads and now do: they just showed up a couple of days ago, even in the previews WordPress shows me for upcoming posts. The humorous juxtapositions of ads you mentioned reminds me of the funny search strings I used to cite in a post at the end of each year. I, too, noticed the foreign-sounding construction of “This simple trick empties almost immediately your bowels….”

      I never expected as much enthusiasm for the second picture as you’ve shown. That’s good news.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 21, 2021 at 8:43 AM

  3. Every concerned individual should reflect on and attempt to answer the questions raised in your blurb for discussion, Steve.

    Peter Klopp

    November 21, 2021 at 9:34 AM

  4. That sumac looks a bit like our mountain ash or rowan (Sorbus aucuparia). The leaf shape and colours of autumn leaves and berries are very similar. I just noticed a rowan seedling in the garden for the first time because its leaves have turned a brilliant red. I must find it a permanent home. 🙂

    Ann Mackay

    November 21, 2021 at 11:17 AM

    • Happy home-hunting.
      Having heard of rowan but knowing almost nothing about it, I looked it up and found that it’s a member of the rose family, and therefore not a relative of sumacs (except insofar as all plants are related if you trace their origins back far enough). I’ve learned from my two decades of photographing that plants from different botanical families sometimes develop similar characteristics; from what you said, that’s apparently true for the fruits and autumn leaves.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 21, 2021 at 12:54 PM

  5. Beautiful photos, Steve. I like that second one especially: The reach from somewhere to the right of the photo, ending in the luscious cluster of red berries, the curved stems, each with just one colored leaf, a double exclamation point! Sort of. 🙂

    I just planted a baby Flameleaf Sumac, a volunteer and gift from a neighbor, as well as an Evergreen Sumac purchased from a nursery. My large Arizona Ash tree was cut down last week and I’ve been on a re-planting the garden frenzy.


    November 21, 2021 at 4:14 PM

    • I’m glad to see you seconding Linda’s appreciation for the second picture in particular. As I recall, I had to lean through some other branches for an angle that let me get pure sky as a backdrop. I’m equally glad to hear you’re in the flameleaf sumac business, so to speak. May it bring you plenty of fall foliage and bright red fruit in the years to come. Evergreen sumac’s also good, though in different ways. I photographed some that was flowering a couple of months ago but never got around to showing a picture here.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 21, 2021 at 7:07 PM

  6. The berries are the reason we allow a few staghorn sumacs to survive in the yard.

    Steve Gingold

    November 21, 2021 at 4:23 PM

  7. This sumac is gorgeous, Steve. We have wild sumac here but with broader leaves – still, they look stunning in the fall.


    November 21, 2021 at 4:46 PM

    • Gorgeous indeed. As far as I know, all the local sumac species produce rich fall foliage except for the evergreen sumac we have here.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 21, 2021 at 7:10 PM

  8. I’m glad to see these striking images of “good” sumac. I especially love the second photo – the red pops against the blue sky. One can harvest the fruits of sumac and make a tea or use it for a seasoning for a meat rub. The Native Americans often used it in ceremonial teas.


    November 21, 2021 at 5:30 PM

    • I guess by referring to “good” sumac you’re making a contrast with the poison variety. You’re now the third person to single out the second portrait, which I agree plays the red fruit off against the blue sky very nicely. You’ve seen how fond I am of color contrasts like that. Some years ago I sampled sumac-ade at a local meeting of the Native Plant Society and found it tasty.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 21, 2021 at 7:14 PM

  9. Those are good questions everyone should try to answer. The second picture of the sumac, I keep trying to rotate landscape but my iPad won’t let me. The colors are stunning.

    Alessandra Chaves

    November 21, 2021 at 10:26 PM

    • Good questions, indeed. I wish we had the answers.

      I don’t know why your iPad won’t let you rotate the second picture. Speaking of which: in adobe Bridge I’d rotated one of the several pictures I took of this cluster, just to see how I liked it. A rotation clockwise produced an image that I find aesthetically pleasing, even if it’s 90° different from how the sumac actually grew.

      And yes, the colors are quite pleasing.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 22, 2021 at 5:37 AM

  10. […] it embraces two things: several already bare flameleaf sumacs (Rhus lanceolata) still adorned with prominent fruit clusters, and a few bigtooth maples (Acer grandidentatum) whose leaves were among the more colorful ones we […]

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