Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

A tale of two sumacs, part 2

with 15 comments


In yesterday’s post you saw that Rhus trilobata, one of Austin’s three native sumac species, produces colorful fall foliage, though not on the scale of our renowned flameleaf sumac. The third species, Rhus virens, is known as evergreen sumac. (In fact Latin virens means ‘being green’; compare verdant, from the same root.) Normally evergreen sumac’s leaves do remain green, but some of them occasionally turn warm colors. In my experience, that seems to be when something afflicts the tree, e.g. a freeze, or when a branch gets broken and dies. From Allen Park on December 17th, here are two different-hued examples of evergreen sumac not being green. The sheen on the leaves characterizes this species.



❧       ❧       ❧

My father and his parents and brother fled from the Soviet Union in the 1920s, so I’ve always been aware and leery of the tyranny of ideological regimes. Another Russian escapee, Anna Krylov, recently had a letter published in The Journal of Physical Chemistry in which she drew on her own early life in the USSR, “where communist ‘ideology permeated all aspects of life, and survival required strict adherence to the party line and enthusiastic displays of ideologically proper behavior.’ I noted that certain names and ideas are now forbidden within academia for ideological reasons, just as had been the case in my youth.”

Normally these days the people who uphold cancel culture lash out at anyone who speaks up against enforced ideologies. The reaction against Anna Krylov, however, was better than has recently been the case with many other people that illiberal ideologues have attacked: “I expected to be viciously mobbed, and possibly cancelled, like others before me. Yet the result surprised me. Although some did try to cancel me, I received a flood of encouraging emails from others who share my concern with the process by which radical political doctrines are being injected into STEM [science, technology, engineering, math] pedagogy, and by which objective science is being subjugated to regressive moralization and censorship. The high ratio of positive-to-negative comments (even on Twitter!) gave me hope that the silent liberal majority within STEM may (eventually) prevail over the forces of illiberalism.”

You can read more about this in Anna Krylov and Jay Tanzman’s article in Quillette, “Academic Ideologues Are Corrupting STEM. The Silent Liberal Majority Must Fight Back.” The article includes lots of links to related stories.


© 2021 Steven Schwartzman


Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 28, 2021 at 4:37 AM

15 Responses

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  1. I love both of these images, especially that “sheen” you pointed out. The texture/thickness of the leaves and sturdiness of the branches and stems to support them stands out here too. The golden veins in the second image really pop against the dark background


    December 28, 2021 at 6:55 AM

    • During my Allen Park visit I noticed that of the non-green leaves I saw on evergreen sumacs, most took on a color like the one in the top picture rather than the bottom picture. In taking these photographs, I used flash, which in addition to letting me stop down my aperture to keep many details in focus, produced the dark backgrounds that isolated the leaves. The closest that this species gets to you is a bit south of Fort Worth, so you’ll most likely have to visit Texas to see it in person.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 28, 2021 at 7:13 AM

  2. Ohh, that top image is pretty. Print that one! Do you print much any more?


    December 28, 2021 at 9:55 AM

    • I haven’t printed in a long time. The last time I did I used a lab in Dallas. Maybe it’s time to try again.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 28, 2021 at 10:46 AM

      • Yes!! Then show us the results. I have a few I am going to have printed too, and I am going to try having a calendar made in 2022.

        Have you done a book of your flowers? That’s on my list to do of a few genres but, I keep putting it off.


        December 28, 2021 at 1:02 PM

        • In 2009 I shopped around a Texas wildflower book to various publishers, including the most likely ones in the state. Unfortunately none of them were interested. Individual pictures of mine have made it into calendars, though I’ve never had one of my own printed. Good luck with your calendar next year—which begins only five days from now.

          Steve Schwartzman

          December 28, 2021 at 2:59 PM

  3. The red in the second image looks especially beautiful against the black background!


    December 28, 2021 at 4:33 PM

    • Yes, a black background works well for highlighting red. Stendhal even wrote a novel called Le rouge et le noir.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 28, 2021 at 4:45 PM

  4. It took me until just now to ‘get’ your title. I had great fun playing with it:

    “It was the best of seasons, it was the worst of seasons; it was the age of invasives, it was the age of natives; it was the spring of discovery, it was the autumn of concealment…” And so on. I don’t know if you intended it, but it’s a Dickens of a title!

    The sumac is gorgeous, too. It looks leathery to me; in fact, the first image has the color of Cordovan leather, which also has that sheen.


    December 28, 2021 at 8:44 PM

    • Yes, I intended that Dickens of a title: sumacs has the same rhythm and begins with the same sound as cities. You made a good parody with natives and invasives, spring and fall.

      I looked up Cordovan leather and saw what you mean about the color and sheen. I also learned that Cordovan leather comes from horses. I also confirmed my hunch about the name: “The leather derives its name from the city of Cordoba, Spain, where it was first produced by the Visigoths in the seventh century, and later also by the Moors.”

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 28, 2021 at 10:19 PM

  5. The red leaves against the dark background make very strong images, especially with the sheen on the top leaves. Quite a touch of drama to them!

    Ann Mackay

    December 30, 2021 at 1:24 PM

    • People are used to “drama” from poison sumac (and poison ivy) rather than the non-poisonous sumacs, but members of the latter group can also be dramatic, as you pointed out.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 30, 2021 at 1:45 PM

  6. […] year ago I reported on Anna Krylov, an escapee from the old Soviet Union who has lamented the way ideologues are working to turn the […]

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