Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

After Lost Maples

with 30 comments

You’ve heard that on November 10th we spent a couple of hours at Lost Maples, disappointed that the fall foliage this year fell far short of what we’d seen there in 2014. Our route home took us along TX 39 by the Guadalupe River, which also proved not as fall-ful as in 2014. Finally, coming northeast from Kerrville along TX 16, Eve spotted something off to the side that I as the driver with my eyes glued to the road in front of me had missed: three strands of brightly reddened Virginia creeper vines (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) climbing diagonal branches of a live oak tree. I made a U-turn and went back to do my photographic thing. Later I thought about wordplayfully labeling the view “Red-olent of fall.”

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UPDATE. After yesterday’s commentary appeared, I was made aware of a Newsweek opinion piece entitled “I’m a Black Ex-Felon. I’m Glad Kyle Rittenhouse Is Free.”

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It’s not unusual on intelligence tests to see a question like this: What’s the next number in the sequence 2, 4, 6, …? All such questions are inherently invalid because they incorrectly assume there’s only one right next number or even one “most likely” next number. A better question would be: Give a possible next number in the sequence and a reason to justify it. For instance, if you say the next number is 8, a reason would be that you’re continuing with the consecutive even integers. If you say the next number is 9, you could be following the rule that each new number has to be larger than the one before it. If you say the next number is 6, you could be following the rule that each new number has to be at least as large as the one before it. If you say the next number is 1, a reason could be that every number in the sequence has to be a positive integer. If you say the next number is 50, a reason could be that the English-language word for every number in the sequence has to begin with a consonant. If you say the next number is 7, you could be alternating between numerals that have a curve in them and numerals that are written entirely with straight strokes.

One* lesson to take from this is that many possible explanations exist for an occurrence. If it’s important to know how or why something happened—as for example in a legal trial—then we have to investigate and try to find the actual explanation for the occurrence. Jumping to a conclusion without enough evidence can and does lead to mistakes and to injustices.

— — —

* I started to write “The lesson to take from this” but I realized I’d be making the very mistake I’m cautioning against because more than one lesson could be drawn from this discussion. One obvious point is the one I suggested at the outset: people who design tests should stop asking what the next number in a sequence is. Another lesson I could go on to elaborate—and used to when I taught high school math but will spare you the details of here—is that if you tell me what you want the fourth number to be, within a few minutes I can come up with an algebraic formula such that when you put 1 into the formula it produces the value 2; when you put 2 into the formula it produces the value 4; when you put 3 into the formula it produces the value 6; and when you put 4 into the formula it produces the value you wanted for the fourth number. In fact I can come up with as many formulas as I like that will produce the same four values—a reality that reconfirms the important idea that there can be more than one explanation for something.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 24, 2021 at 4:22 AM

Posted in nature photography

Tagged with , , , , ,

30 Responses

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  1. A diagonal explosion of red particles, kind of hypnotic. What a cool shot!

    Robert Parker

    November 24, 2021 at 8:19 AM

    • I like your description: “a diagonal explosion of red particles.” I’m happy to have mesmerized you. I’d seen a bit of bright Virginia creeper at Lost Maples but it was on a smaller scale and on the ground, so not as impressive as what you see on this tree.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 24, 2021 at 8:37 AM

  2. Now THAT really is colourful. Good that your wife spotted it. It’s the same here: when I drive, Mary usually spots the things, but normally I don’t do a u-turn.


    November 24, 2021 at 8:35 AM

  3. I am glad that you did not return home without this impressive photo of the bright-red Virginia creeper vines.

    Peter Klopp

    November 24, 2021 at 8:36 AM

    • It compensated a little for the bright foliage I’d hoped to find on the trees at Lost Maples.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 24, 2021 at 8:40 AM

  4. That’s a lovely pop of color, and your Eve has a good eye! Does that vine hurt the tree? I hope not!


    November 24, 2021 at 8:51 AM

    • I’m fortunate that she saw it. As far as I know, Virginia creeper doesn’t hurt the trees it climbs. Some other vines, like mustang grape (and the alien kudzu) can grow so densely that they smother what they climb on, but Virginia creeper grows in long strands.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 24, 2021 at 8:53 AM

  5. That creeper is quite the looker! The Virginia Creeper seems especially colorful this year. I have some in my back garden which never gets color and this year, it’s put on a nice show–not as brilliant as what you photographed, but lovely nonetheless. Glad your wife was paying attention and glad you had your eyes on the road!


    November 24, 2021 at 9:53 AM

  6. I like the sound of creeper ~ looker (a role I couldn’t effectively play while driving). The Virginia creeper climbing an Ashe juniper in our back yard turned red last week but didn’t rival the one shown in today’s post, just as you’ve reported about the one in your back yard. I think the best fall foliage from a Virginia creeper that I ever found in our area was four years ago in Cedar Park:

    Virginia creeper creeping colorfully upward

    Steve Schwartzman

    November 24, 2021 at 10:58 AM

  7. Your Lost Maples foliage may have been disappointing but this is indeed a richly colored view and most of our Virginia Creeper was disappointing so you have that one up on us.

    Steve Gingold

    November 25, 2021 at 10:00 AM

    • Many’s the time we’ve noticed how a species can look great one year and blah the next. At least this time the Virginia creeper made up for the bright red we didn’t find in the maples.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 25, 2021 at 10:33 AM

  8. There’s a Virginia creeper a couple of gardens along from ours and I can just see it in their trees – a spectacular sight at this time of year!

    Ann Mackay

    November 25, 2021 at 3:05 PM

    • That’s one mighty creeper to have crept across the ocean.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 25, 2021 at 3:51 PM

      • I’m sure it would give it a try! We almost planted one against our last house – and then realised that it might swallow it… 🙂

        Ann Mackay

        November 25, 2021 at 4:13 PM

        • But think how colorful the “swallowed” house might look in autumn.

          Steve Schwartzman

          November 25, 2021 at 5:37 PM

          • I have actually seen buildings covered in it and they were spectacular. 🙂

            Ann Mackay

            November 26, 2021 at 7:52 AM

            • That’s something I’ve never seen Virginia creeper do here.

              Steve Schwartzman

              November 26, 2021 at 8:42 AM

              • I’ve seen it just once, on an old stone barn in Kansas. It wasn’t completely covered, but one side and one end were. It was a ‘two-story’ barn, so there was quite a spread. Unfortunately, the plant was entirely shaded, and I wasn’t close to skilled enough to figure out how to photograph it well — or smart enough to go back the next day to catch the morning light.


                November 27, 2021 at 6:49 AM

                • It seems I’ve been deprived of Virginia creeper at its lushest. Maybe someday….

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  November 27, 2021 at 7:37 AM

              • There’s a hotel in a town near us that has it covering the frontage and then has bright flowers in window boxes – it’s quite a sight! They did cut it all back a couple of years ago, but I should think it’s growing back pretty quickly!

                Ann Mackay

                November 27, 2021 at 10:30 AM

  9. I remember the photos that came out of that area after last February’s freeze, and can’t help but wonder if Virginia creeper is one more of the plants that seem to have come back from it more colorful, more prolific, and so on. Maybe that old saying about what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger applies to plants, too.


    November 27, 2021 at 6:55 AM

    • After February’s storm we had to have a tree service remove several precarious Ashe junipers, one of which had leaned onto our roof but fortunately didn’t damage it. Of the remaining Ashe junipers in the back yard, one had a Virginia creeper vine on it that got as colorful as any I’ve seen in our yard in the 17 years we’ve been here. I might have photographed it and posted a picture but the one near Kerrville was better.

      Jonathan Haidt and Greg Lukianoff emphasize “what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger” in The Coddling of the American Mind.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 27, 2021 at 7:57 AM

  10. Love this stuff … glad you saw it! It reminds me of some I photographed in a winter peach orchard many years ago.


    November 28, 2021 at 2:49 PM

    • It’s great that you get to share them, too. The Virginia in the name can mislead people about the vine’s large geographic range.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 28, 2021 at 4:31 PM

  11. Thanks for sharing your photos and comments, Steve. I lived in west Texas only 2 years, and Albuquerque before that. We now live in Oregon where everything is green and wet, but the color and vibrancy of the high desert is missing. I miss that about Texas.

    Doug Kenfield

    December 25, 2021 at 1:35 PM

    • You’re welcome. Like you, I’m partial to high deserts and have enjoyed recent visits to New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, Utah, and southeastern California—plus of course west Texas. Had the pandemic not come, we’d have been out there again by now. Maybe it’s time to risk it.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 25, 2021 at 4:42 PM

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