Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Rattan and mustang grape vines interacting

with 28 comments

The falling off of leaves as cold weather comes makes it easier to see the two most common large and woody native vines in Austin: rattan (Berchemia scandens) and mustang grape (Vitis mustangensis). The dull green vines are rattan; the thicker ones with bark are mustang grape. These pictures from Great Hills Park were doubly new: it was the first day of the year, and I was trying out my Canon EOS R5 camera.

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I found the New York Post article “Five college students speak out: We’re fed up with campus ‘wokeness‘” enlightening. One of the students, Aryaan Misra, from India, said: “Progressives back home [which she considered herself] fight for women to have fundamental rights, while progressives on my campus [in the United States] hang pictures of Mao in their dorm room.” She continued: “Another time, my professor taught the class how to find what ‘triggers’ them. Growing up on the streets of Delhi, there are triggers everywhere you look — so-called ‘microaggressions’ are nothing compared to animal carcasses on the streets and malnourished children begging at every red light. I don’t know how my peers who treat every minor insult as a microaggression will survive outside the gates of their liberal campus.” Alas, her fellow students are surviving by trying to force everyone outside the gates of their illiberal campus to submit to their dictates.

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman


Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 17, 2022 at 4:36 AM

28 Responses

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  1. The images you posted could have come from the immediate woods behind our home. The grapevine is quite common here, and the autumn berries are a favorite of all sorts of animal and bird species. Even in spring one can find new leaf shoots to be a favorite nibble for birds, squirrels and deer. This was another plant that the state biologist who we had come to help us make this place more wildlife friendly, said needed to be controlled as it is invasive. I beg to differ after living here for fifteen years!


    January 17, 2022 at 7:10 AM

    • I don’t know that I’d have expected you to have woods behind your home that look so similar to what we have in our Austin neighborhood. It probably varies in your area, too; this sort of woody terrain is more common on the hilly west side of Austin than on the flatter prairie side to the east. Speaking of leaf shoots, the ones of another common Austin vine, greenbrier, are edible. That’s a little bit of redemption for all the damage greenbrier thorns inflict on human skin and clothing.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 17, 2022 at 8:23 AM

  2. I like the way the arc of the central vine in the first photo led my eye to the two splotches of color: one red, one green. The second made me think of the tangles I’ve seen under computer desks, or the occasional electrical wiring system on some boats — the sort of undisciplined mess that always makes me think, “Wire ties, people!”

    Speaking of triggers and the grumping they produce, I had an interesting and relatively extended exchange with my checker at HEB this weekend. I mentioned that I’d found everything I was looking for, and she said, “Oh, thank goodness. Most people who come through are griping that we didn’t have something they wanted.” When I mentioned my days of shopping in Liberia, when a good day in the Lebanese store involved finding something more than Maggi cubes and Russian waxed toilet paper, she starting laughing. As it turns out, she lived in Saudi for some time, and knew the experience. As she said, “Americans are spoiled.”


    January 17, 2022 at 7:35 AM

    • Call it the Arc Toward the Colors Bent rather than the Ark of the Covenant. I certainly relate to the computer cable tangles you mentioned” I’ve got one on my desk behind the iMac and another on the floor underneath.

      I like the form you used, grumping. The verb grump is in dictionaries but I think I’ve mostly heard the adjective grumpy (an impression perhaps reinforced by the Seven Dwarfs from childhood).

      A common reaction of people from third-world countries who come to the United States for the first time is that they can’t believe the huge number of items supermarkets carry. In particular they can’t believe there’s often a whole aisle given over to foods and other products for pets; in their home countries people normally feed pets with table scraps.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 17, 2022 at 8:35 AM

    • HEB is a great store, “Thank You, H.E. Butt.”


      January 18, 2022 at 5:11 AM

  3. These scenes make me itch to go in there with a machete. I guess mostly in NYS it’s just wild grape, but there’s spots where tangles of multiflora rose and Oriental Bittersweet make it pretty hard to get through the woods. I guess the rose is a shrub but it sometimes seems to shoot out quite a distance like a vine.

    Robert Parker

    January 17, 2022 at 10:00 AM

    • Coincidentally, I toyed with including one of the close-ups I took of a rattan vine that looked like someone had taken a machete to it. I imagine many temperate areas have tangles that are hard to get through; all that differs is which plants conspire to block a person’s way. I wonder whether with enough time your rose might evolve into a vine.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 17, 2022 at 5:13 PM

  4. How do you like the R5?! I just bought the Canon R6 at the recommendation of a wonderful photographer/teacher.

    Birder's Journey

    January 17, 2022 at 1:29 PM

    • After several outings in nature I don’t feel like I’m on top of things yet. I still grope at times for which button or sequence of buttons to press to make something happen. Unlike all the previous Canons I’ve had, if you leave this one on, it runs down the battery pretty fast. And the electronic image in the viewfinder doesn’t match the quality of what I’m accustomed to and rely on in a DSLR. I hope I’ll eventually feel better about such an expensive purchase. How are you liking your R6?

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 17, 2022 at 5:08 PM

  5. Funny, I don’t see native vines here in CA. Very rare indeed in this part where I live.

    Alessandra Chaves

    January 17, 2022 at 9:03 PM

  6. Vines are native to New York and grow as thick as a human thigh. I am constantly battling them in the yard. A successful plant.


    January 18, 2022 at 5:12 AM

  7. Wonderful photos


    January 18, 2022 at 5:17 AM

  8. With poisonous snakes a part of the landscape where I grew up, I looked at those images and thought, ‘Wow. Be careful; it would be hard to see a snake in there!’
    The second image, however, also made me think of the neotropics, where I rarely see a poisonous snake, but lots of vine snakes that artfully ‘shadow’ the limb or vine where they wait for an insect or frog or gecko.

    I think that students from other countries must think that many students in our country are quiet spoiled and selfish. But then we also have some amazing and refreshing young people stepping forward. Esperanza….

    Playamart - Zeebra Designs

    January 20, 2022 at 12:40 AM

    • You must be psychic. While I was taking pictures of these tangled vines, a couple walked past and we ended up getting into a conversation. Among other things, they told me that over the years they’d been going for walks in Great Hills Park they’d seen a rattlesnake and another kind of venomous snake. It surprised me, because not once in all the times I’ve been in this park of the past two decades have I seen a venomous snake. I’m not sure I’ve even seen a harmless snake.

      I wish I could share your esperanza. (Coincidentally, in Honduras the Peace Corps initially sent me to a little town in the mountains called La Esperanza.) However, things seem to be getting worse. Ten years ago hardly anyone outside college campuses had heard of the tenets of “wokeness,” and now they seem to have captured all our main institutions. In my entire life I’ve never seen the kind of authoritarianism that has so quickly spread through segments of our country. The pandemic has only added to the spread of that moral virus.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 20, 2022 at 6:53 AM

      • I realize how lucky I am to be crossing paths with so many people who keep a close connection to the planet – and who truly care and have empathy for the planet — and who pay little attention to the trends – positive or negative ones… They just keep moving forward with their goals, sometimes discouraged, but later rewarded when doors seem to magically open – and leading them in directions they never dreamed of.

        And then there are hurdles, like right now the horrible rains in the Sierra — about 48 hours now — and many friends are not replying – probably ‘no hay luz’ or in transit and between washed out roads… or helping friends/family who were affected. But again, everyone helps, even if it’s just by giving a stranger a papaya or six or so ‘free range’ eggs! (The huevos criollos are just part of the culture – highly prized is the ‘seco de pollo’ but even more prized is ‘seco de pollo criollo.’ Basically stewed chicken, but basted for hours over a very low heat/flame. Now I’m hungry!

        Playamart - Zeebra Designs

        February 1, 2022 at 9:46 PM

        • I hadn’t heard about your torrential rains in the Sierra. You won’t be surprised, given that nothing about Ecuador normally appears in any American newscast. The same could be said here for news about most of the world’s countries.

          Linguistically, you’ve reminded me of an insight I had after arriving in Honduras 54 years ago: luz for ‘electricity.’ It made me realize that what people most valued about electricity when they finally got it was being able to see at night. Your use of seco for ‘stew’ puzzled me, as stew isn’t dry, so I went searching and found the explanation in the article at


          “The word ‘seco’ derives from ‘sheco,’ the name of the large platter traditionally used to serve the dish; but ‘seco’ is confusingly also the Spanish word for ‘dry,’ which this stew decidedly is not.”

          Steve Schwartzman

          February 2, 2022 at 6:43 AM

          • Sí; I was the same as you – wondering how in the world they got ‘seco’ from a dish that was swimming in broth! unlike you, I did not follow a trail of info — thank you for sharing that link – and for the extra history. sheco. now I am armed with trivia for my next session with friends. they still have no idea about the origin of the word ‘segua.’

            Playamart - Zeebra Designs

            February 2, 2022 at 2:33 PM

            • With a constant high-speed Internet connection I have an easier time tracking things down than you.

              Steve Schwartzman

              February 2, 2022 at 3:10 PM

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