Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘fall foliage

Our majestic cottonwood trees

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On December 21st, the date of the winter solstice in 2020, I witnessed another display of colorful year-end foliage in the form of two venerable eastern cottonwoods, Populus deltoides subsp. deltoides. Botanist Bill Carr describes the cottonwood tree in Travis County as “uncommon but, due to its massive size, usually conspicuous in gallery woodlands along perennial streams and impoundments.” The two I found were on opposite sides of Pleasant Valley Rd. just south of the Longhorn Dam on the Colorado River. The first picture shows a lower portion of the cottonwood tree on the west side of the road. The other cottonwood, pictured below, had leaves that the different angle of the light made look a little more yellow-orange.

It’s not obvious that some of the leaves were larger than
a person’s face; here’s one in isolation by the Colorado River:

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 2, 2021 at 4:35 AM

When red becomes orange

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Another reliable source of colorful fall foliage in central Texas is the small tree known as rusty blackhaw, Viburnum rufidulum, whose species name means ‘reddish.’ You see it exemplified in the photograph above, taken in Great Hills Park on December 15th. As a reddish color came over those leaves, curiosity came over me, and I wondered what sort of pictures might be possible from behind the tree looking in the opposite direction. Cautiously I worked my way in there and got low to aim partly upward. From the other side the leaves looked more orange due to the sunlight shining through them and perhaps the blue sky beyond:

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 17, 2020 at 4:43 AM

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

Fall foliage at Zion

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On October 23, 2016, we drove west through Zion National Park on our way to Nevada.

You’re looking at three photographs of the park in which fall foliage co-stars with the rock formations.

And from Kolob Terrace Road, which winds its way in and out of the park’s western fringe,
here’s a view of what I take to be burned but becoming maple trees:

It’s autumn again now. Rather than a single quotation about the season, you can harvest a host of them.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 23, 2020 at 4:41 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

Rusty blackhaw: same fall color, new family

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A smallish native tree that provides welcome autumnal colors here is rusty blackhaw, Viburnum rufidulum. In looking at that linked site, I noticed this species assigned to a botanical family I’d never heard of, the moschatel family, Adoxaceae, rather than to the honeysuckle family, Caprifoliaceae, into which botanists had traditionally placed Viburnum. That change sent me searching, and I found the reasons for the reclassification.


I photographed these rusty blackhaws along the Brushy Creek Trail East in Round Rock on December 2nd.

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 22, 2018 at 4:39 AM

Osage orange excels at yellow

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On December 1st we inaugurated not only a new month but a new place in nature, the Brushy Creek Trail East in Round Rock. Based on what another walker told me, the first stretch of the trail running east from A.W. Grimes Blvd. has been open only a couple of years. I’ve been extensively photographing nature in my little part of the world for two decades, so I was happy to be taking pictures in a new location.

Probably the most striking fall find along the trail that day was some osage orange trees whose leaves had turned yellow. The fallen leaf shown below had even gotten impaled on a thorn from one of the trees, something you don’t see every day. (Look for the slender northeast-to-southwest shadow and you’ll be able to pick out the thorn.*) I assume the breeze that stayed with us during our walk had earlier done the impaling.

Maclura pomifera, as botanists call this species of tree in the mulberry family, has been known popularly not only as osage orange but also as bois d’arc, bodark, hedge apple, horse apple, monkey ball, bow-wood, yellow-wood, and mock orange. That’s a lot of names for one tree.

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* Just be careful that if you pick out the thorn you don’t dislodge the leaf.

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 14, 2018 at 4:40 PM

Fall colors at Stillhouse Hollow

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Another source of colorful fall foliage down here is the Texas red oak tree (Quercus buckleyi). Well into the afternoon on November 26th at northwest-central Austin’s little-known Stillhouse Hollow Nature Preserve I aimed upward to record the colors in the leaves of one of those oaks contrasted with the blue of the sky. The network that the many darker branches created appealed to me as well.

While at the preserve I also recorded the shades of magenta in six clusters of American beautyberry fruits (Callicarpa americana) that were in varied stages of drying out.

Click to enlarge.

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 10, 2018 at 4:43 AM

Autumnal cedar elms

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Cedar elms (Ulmus crassifolia) produce the most widespread autumnal yellow among native trees in central Texas. Each leaf is small, but a mature tree has a whole lot of them, and in the aggregate the effect can be quite pleasing, as shown above in a picture from Bull Creek District Park on November 26th. Below, from the same outing, you see what I saw as I stood beneath a large cedar elm and aimed a wide-angle lens up and out toward the late-afternoon sun. Notice the many ball mosses (Tillandsia recurvata) at home in the tree.

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 6, 2018 at 4:41 AM

Escarpment black cherry tree turned yellow

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Compared to places much further north, central Texas is too warm for a lot of colorful fall foliage. Still, we do get some, and its predominant color is yellow. That’s true for the escarpment black cherry treePrunus serotina var. eximia. We found this specimen at the Doeskin Ranch in Burnet County when we drove out there on November 24th hoping to find some bright autumn leaves. We weren’t disappointed.

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 2, 2018 at 4:24 PM

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