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Closer looks at flameleaf sumac’s colorful fall foliage

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⇧ Arterial 8, November 8

⇧ Seton Center Drive, November 15

⇧ Cedar Park, November 18

Rhus lanceolata is the most colorful of the three native sumacs in the Austin area.
Backlighting enhanced those colors in all three pictures.

In the relevant quotation department we have this interchange from Albert Camus’s 1944 play Le malentendu, The Misunderstanding:

Martha: Qu’est-ce que l’automne?
Jan: Un deuxième printemps, où toutes les feuilles sont comme des fleurs.

Martha: “What is autumn?”
Jan: A second spring, when all the leaves are like flowers.

Versions floating around on the Internet glom the question and answer together into a single declarative sentence. Here you get no glomming, only the original.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 24, 2020 at 4:26 AM

Two views of flameleaf sumac

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Longtime visitors here know that central Texas is too warm to get the kind of fall foliage that colder parts of the country are famous for. That said, we do get some autumn color, and one reliable source of it is the aptly named flameleaf sumac, Rhus lanceolata. On November 9th I spent time on part of the Brushy Creek Regional Trail in Cedar Park, where I made the two flameleaf sumac pictures in today’s post.

© 2019 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 10, 2019 at 4:40 AM

Prairie flameleaf sumac flamed out with respect to fall foliage this year.

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2018 wasn’t a good year for colorful fall foliage from prairie flameleaf sumac (Rhus lanceolata), of which I’ve shown you many good examples in other years (for example in 2012 and in 2015). However, I did find a few small instances of bright leaves from that species this year. The one that you see in the first photograph came my way on November 26th as I drove down (literally) Ladera Norte and quickly pulled over to record the bright color I’d glimpsed in the leaflets of a sapling. Even at so young an age it knew how to turn colors.

I’d found the other example of flaming flameleaf sumac much earlier, before you’d normally expect it, along a path on the southwestern edge of my Great Hills neighborhood. The date was October 4th, and a small portion of a full-grown tree had unexplainedly turned colors while all the other leaves were still green. Scrunching myself in behind the bright leaflets, I aimed outward to take advantage of the backlighting sun, grateful for how early these warm colors had begun.

Sometimes the minimalism of a single leaflet is the way to go, and so I went:

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 27, 2018 at 4:56 AM

Prairie flameleaf sumac and clouds

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On December 1st last year we walked around a good-sized pond in Cedar Park, a contiguous suburb north of Austin. In one area I spent a little time photographing the colorful leaves of some prairie flameleaf sumac trees, Rhus lanceolata. How about those clouds? And how about this minimalist view of some backlit leaflets?

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 1, 2018 at 4:35 AM

Prairie flameleaf sumac fruit

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In my neighborhood on September 26th, the first time out taking pictures since returning from Alberta twelve days earlier, I found luscious fruits on some prairie flameleaf sumac trees (Rhus lanceolata). A few of the leaflets on this one were also turning red rather early in the season.

© 2017 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 26, 2017 at 4:46 AM

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Flaming flameleaf sumac fruit

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I’ve posted plenty of pictures showing the bright autumn leaves of prairie flameleaf sumac, Rhus lanceolata. On August 11th I was driving up Alum Creek Rd. east of Bastrop when a group of sumacs caught my eye with the sunlight-saturated rich red of their freshly forming fruit clusters against the greenery of the trees’ foliage. I’m not sure which species or Rhus this was, as there are several similar-looking candidates in Bastrop County.

I’d gone out that morning to get acquainted with a new 100–400mm lens, so I used only it on the entire outing. The fruit clusters high up in the sumac trees proved worthy subjects to zoom in on, as you see below.

© 2017 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 15, 2017 at 7:01 AM

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Flameleaf sumac in a dull autumn

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The autumn of 2016 in Austin has proven a dull one for foliage: we haven’t even reached the typical low level of color we expect in this warm climate. On November 24th I went over to a piece of undeveloped land off Seton Center Drive where in recent years I’ve relied on some prairie flameleaf sumacs (Rhus lanceolata) for good fall foliage. While I didn’t find the trees as bright as usual, I did discover a few small areas of color. Of more interest this time were the clusters of tiny sumac fruits.

flameleaf-sumac-fruit-clusters-3645

(Just a reminder that I’m punctuating the string of pictures from the great Southwest trip with an occasional view of what’s been going on in Austin since our return.)

© 2016 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 16, 2016 at 4:55 AM

Some prairie flameleaf sumac leaves get redder than others

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Prairie Flameleaf Sumac Turning Colors 0331

Like the previous photograph, this one is from an undeveloped property off Seton Center Parkway in northwest Austin. Unlike that picture, however, this one shows redder leaves, is from November 13, and was taken with an iPhone 5s. I wasn’t out photographing at the time but had merely stopped by on my way home from something else to check how the prairie flameleaf sumac, Rhus lanceolata, was coming along, and that’s why I didn’t have my usual heavy-duty (and just plain heavy) camera equipment with me. I’d say the phone did a commendable job, wouldn’t you? Notice how the fruit clusters darken as they age and dry out.

This is the fourth and penultimate* episode in a miniseries that is carrying prairie flameleaf sumac from the beginning of August through the latter part of November.

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* Penultimate means ‘next to the last.’ Some people have misunderstood the word and think it means ‘ultimate, utmost, greatest, best.’

© 2014 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 30, 2014 at 5:25 AM

What happens to prairie flameleaf sumac’s leaves in the fall

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Prairie flameleaf sumac turning colors 7339

On November 17th I photographed some prairie flameleaf sumacs (Rhus lanceolata) beginning to do their autumn thing on an undeveloped property off Seton Center Parkway. As you look at what was the last of just over a hundred photographs I took on my visit to the site in northwest Austin on that sunny fall afternoon, let your eyes wander over the dense compound leaves that still favored yellow and orange over the red that is usually the destiny of this species, prime and reliable source of fall color that it is in central Texas, and prime as well in my life as a photo follower of the seasons here.

Today’s is the third episode in a little series that is carrying prairie flameleaf sumac from the beginning of August through the latter part of November. At the same time, this post begins a tribute to fall in central Texas that will go on for the next couple of weeks. Fasten your seat belts ’cause it’s going to be a colorful ride.

(I’ve decided to postpone more pictures from the Great American Southwest Adventure so you can see some of the wonderful things that have been going on in central Texas before they get too out of sync with the dates of my posts. The trip pictures are already a couple of months old, so they’ll keep just fine and should provide a good contrast with the bleaker weather we’re liable to get here in late December and January.)

© 2014 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 29, 2014 at 5:20 AM

Prairie flameleaf sumac fruit ripening

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Flameleaf Sumac Fruit 5928

In the last post you heard that plants in the sumac family typically make up for the small size of their flowers by producing dense clusters of them, and you saw that that’s the case with prairie flameleaf sumac, Rhus lanceolata. After fertilization, those dense clusters of flowers give way to dense clusters of small fruits, as you can verify here in a picture from September 3rd off Seton Center Parkway in northwest Austin. People have concocted sumac-ade from the fruits: I’ve had some, and I can tell you it was pretty tasty. As with lemonade, it takes a good amount of sweetener to offset the tartness of the fruit.

This is the second episode in a miniseries that is carrying prairie flameleaf sumac from the beginning of August through the latter part of November.

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 28, 2014 at 12:27 PM

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