Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

We interrupt fall color to bring you fall color

with 26 comments


The interrupted fall color is from New Mexico; it will resume tomorrow. Interrupting it are two colorful views from Austin. For a couple of months I’d watched the fruit forming on the yaupon tree (Ilex vomitoria) outside my window. First it was green, then yellow, then red. Finally on the sunny afternoon of November 13th I figured I was ripe enough to take some pictures of it, which I did with my telephoto lens. Notice that not all the little fruits ripened at the same rate.

The second view is from yesterday along the Capital of Texas Highway in my hilly part of Austin. The picture shows a seasonally colorful colony of poison ivy, Toxicodendron radicans. As much as we may crave order, nature is often a jumble, and there’s no such thing as personal space when it comes to plants.





§         §         §



Two generations ago, my father, an immigrant from Mexico, benefitted from programs that gave him access to job opportunities and scholarships that were not available to my mother, whose Ashkenazi ancestry had imbued her with lighter skin. My wife, who immigrated to North America as a refugee from Ukraine when it was part of the former USSR, was similarly excluded from work and educational opportunities due to her ancestry. At what point can we start to hold every person to the same standards, and seek to grant them access to the same opportunities—regardless of skin color, ancestry, gender, sexual orientation, or other immutable characteristics?

Discriminating against a person based on the color of that person’s skin upends this nation’s foundational tenets of equality, while sacrificing our humanity in the process. Hard-earned principles and freedoms formed over centuries through the democratic process should not be abandoned. Treating applicants as representatives of identity groups, rather than as unique individuals with intrinsic value, elevates institutional interests over individual rights. In turn, this promotes division, resentment, and dehumanization.


So wrote Bion Bartning in a November 18th article for FAIR,
the Foundation Against Intolerance and Racism.
You can read the full article.


© 2022 Steven Schwartzman





Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 27, 2022 at 4:30 AM

26 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. Poison ivy and poison oak yield very beautiful fall colors. I am blessed that I don’t react to them. Conversely, my son reacts to the sight of them!

    Alessandra Chaves

    November 27, 2022 at 7:11 AM

    • You got me wondering about the proportion of people who don’t react to poison ivy and kin. WebMD provided this answer: “Up to 85% of Americans are allergic to poison ivy, leaving at least 15% resistant to any reaction. If you are allergic to poison ivy, you’re more likely to be allergic to poison oak and poison sumac, because all three plants contain the same rash-triggering plant oil called urushiol (pronounced yoo-ROO-shee-all).”

      You’re fortunate to be among that group (sorry your son’s not). Every so often I’ve accidentally brushed up against poison ivy but have never had a reaction. Maybe I’m in the fortunate group, or maybe the contact was too slight to cause a reaction. My skin reacts to plenty of other things, so nature owes me at least one exemption.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 27, 2022 at 7:23 AM

      • I think whether you grew up in the estates or not, matters. The more contact you have, the more sensitized against it your body will get.

        Alessandra Chaves

        November 27, 2022 at 7:40 AM

        • I’ve read accounts of people who’d never reacted to these plants suddenly reacting to them.

          Steve Schwartzman

          November 27, 2022 at 7:50 AM

          • That’s right. Allergy is a function of repeated exposure. Those with a propensity for certain allergies will eventually react to substances they are repeatedly exposed to.

            Alessandra Chaves

            November 27, 2022 at 7:57 AM

    • Understandably, few people are friends of poison ivy. I am because of the fall color it affords my part of the world, which is too warm for the large scale autumn displays of colder climes further north.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 27, 2022 at 7:28 AM

  2. The poison ivy makes a very attractive display.

    Robert Parker

    November 27, 2022 at 8:05 AM

    • This seems to be a good year for it to turn colors, based on what I saw yesterday. I’m hoping for more of it.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 27, 2022 at 8:26 AM

  3. It’s been only in the past week that I’ve become aware of yaupon berries; the color has seemed to develop slowly this year. On the other hand, post-rain and post-colder, the Chinese tallow have finally begun to turn. Unfortunately, they began losing leaves early because of the drought, so they’re not quite as impressive as they can be. I’m hoping that some of the possumhaws I usually see made it through the drought and set fruit.

    I’m off to Walden West today, and there’s plenty of poison ivy there. It will be interesting to see if it’s turned color, but I’m more interested to see if there’s some water in the vernal pool there. It’s been dry for months.


    November 27, 2022 at 8:05 AM

    • I forgot to mention what appealed to me most about that first photo. I’ve never come across those berries during the ripening process, when the colors are so varied.


      November 27, 2022 at 8:06 AM

    • Happy Walden West-ing. We’re off to try our luck at Lost Maples. And happy possumhaw-ing and vernal pool-ing to you, too. Odds are at least one of your three will pan out.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 27, 2022 at 8:30 AM

  4. I wonder if these berries are edible or are they just for the birds?

    Peter Klopp

    November 27, 2022 at 8:25 AM

  5. Oh, the names; Toxicodendron and vomitoria. hmmm. . . . You know though, Toxicodendron diversiloba happens to provide some of the best foliar color during autumn here. Only a few native species develop color, and almost all of it is simple yellow. So, orange and red Toxicodendron diversiloba really gets noticed. Ilex vomitoria cultivars are rare here, most likely because they do not perform well. Since it is not native, only compact cultivars (or a single cultivar) are available.


    November 27, 2022 at 12:14 PM

    • What you say about foliar color in autumn is why I appreciate poison ivy so much in a part of the country not known for colorful fall foliage. I’ve gotten many good pictures of it in autumns past, and again this year.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 27, 2022 at 7:13 PM

  6. Always a pleasure to see a new image of your yaupon tree.


    November 27, 2022 at 10:30 PM

    • It suffered damage in “the big freeze” of February 2021 but fortunately didn’t die the way some other trees did. I still get to see the fruit outside my window and to pass along images of it here.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 28, 2022 at 4:36 AM

  7. I am glad that both you and the Yaupon were ripe enough for the picture. I think berries also qualify as sources of fall color even if not foliage.

    Steve Gingold

    November 30, 2022 at 3:47 AM

    • In central Texas we’ll take any source of fall color we can get. That includes berries and grasses.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 30, 2022 at 4:59 AM

  8. Your second image, with all its horizontal branches is a unique take on fall foliage!


    December 2, 2022 at 12:20 PM

    • For all the poison ivy pictures I’ve taken—including a bunch more yesterday—I don’t recall ever taking one with a slew of horizontal branches like that, so I’ll agree with you on the uniqueness.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 2, 2022 at 4:49 PM

  9. Love the varied colours in the berries. 🙂

    Ann Mackay

    December 3, 2022 at 7:28 AM

    • They’ve all turned bright red now. Neither squirrels nor birds have yet come for them, which past winters say will be the fate of most.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 3, 2022 at 7:39 AM

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: