Autumn Reds

With temperatures holding at summertime levels, the autumnal colors being enjoyed elsewhere have yet to appear in my part of Texas: at least, when it comes to foliage.

Still, color can be found. The eye-catching reds of flowers, fungi, and berries may not be as obvious as a flaming maple or oak, but when seen against the dull gray of Spanish moss or on the dimness of the forest floor, they’re no less delightful.

The Turk’s Cap will linger well into December, while the berries already are being nibbled away, but for now their color counsels patience; their presence signals a turning season, and the colorful foliage yet to come.

Turk’s Cap (Malvaviscus arboreus var. drummondii) ~ San Bernard Wildlife Refuge
Carolina Buckthorn  (Frangula caroliniana) ~ Watson Rare Plant Preserve
Scarlet catchfly (Silene subciliata) ~ Big Thicket
Jack-in-the-pulpit berries (Arisaema triphyllum) ~ Big Thicket
Scarlet waxcap (Hygrocybe coccinea) ~ Watson Rare Plant Preserve


Comments always are welcome.

56 thoughts on “Autumn Reds

  1. You’ve reminded me of the old oral riddle that seemed to be asking “What’s black and white and red all over?” In print, red was actually read, and the answer to the riddle was a newspaper. In terms of visual interest, this post’s pictures have red written all over them.

    1. I still think of that riddle from time to time. When I was in grade school, my dad teased me with it until I finally ‘got it.’ It seems to belong to a disappearing genre, although a few years ago I added a classic to my repertoire that involves Aggies, firemen, and the Texas accent. It’s hilarious, but really does need to be told, not written.

      October seems to be the month for ‘reds’ in east Texas. They certainly help to fill the ‘foliage gap.’

      1. Speaking of Texas accents, decades ago Austin television channels ran a commercial for a guy who billed himself as what sounded to me like “goal bar.” I didn’t have trouble figuring out that the first word was actually “gold” but it took a long time for me to get that the second word was “buyer.”

    1. It wasn’t hard to spot any of these, that’s for sure. The jack-in-the-pulpit berries were a tiny mystery, though. They’d been removed from the plant and were tucked in a section of fallen tree. Perhaps some creature hoped to save them for the winter.

    1. Aren’t they, though? Of course, those eye-catching colors also attract pollinators, or the seed-eaters who help the plants spread. For us, the beauty of the colors is paramount, but for the plants, the colors are more practical.

    1. It occurred to me while I was in these woods that I grew up accustomed to looking ‘up’ and ‘out’ to see fall color. Here, looking ‘down’ was the key to spotting these bits of red. Even the Carolina buckthorn was below eye level, and the mushroom and berries were literally on the ground.

    1. Turk’s cap is one of my favorites, and the hummingbirds love them. You’re certainly right about all of these being great examples of those seasonal colors. It occurs to me that the photo of the Carolina buckthorn would work especially well, because there’s space in the image for some text.

    1. Even though I’ve followed some of you New Englanders for a good while, it’s still a surprise when you begin to report the fading of your fall color before ours has started to form. We do have some oaks that turn that pretty russet/burgundy, and they are glorious. We’ve had so much rain this year that I’m hoping the trees will hold their leaves until some sharp frosts. That combination can bring beautiful color.

  2. How I love all this scarlet — and the fact that you’re getting some true Fall color down there! Here, things are mostly shades of yellow. Not awful, of course, but somewhat boring to those of us who are more used to seeing striking reds and oranges, too. Oh well, at least we aren’t shoveling snow … yet!!

    1. I’d be sending you care packages filled with hot chocolate and such if you were shoveling this early. We’ll hope the snow holds off for a while.

      Sometimes our elm trees produce beautiful yellows; the willows aren’t so dramatic, but they’re nice. Unfortunately, some of our best reds and oranges come from invasive trees, but it’s still hard not to enjoy the colors. I’m hoping for some good color in November — we’ll see what happens. First, we need to get below 80 degrees!

    1. You’ve done a good job of nurturing reds in nature, too. How are those geraniums doing? Have they made their trek indoors yet?

      Now that I’ve found some reds, I’ll have to look for some oranges and yellows!

      1. They’re still on the deck. I should take a picture! Mike checks the low temps each day to make sure they’re safe. We’re about to the point of needing to hire a teenager to move them. Ms. Pinky in particular is VERY HEAVY (don’t tell her I said that).

    1. I was lucky to find some catchflies that weren’t too damaged, or too faded. You can tell the age of this one by the slightly less intense red, and the long stamens. The mushroom was the prize of the day. Only about two inches tall, it was pristine. I don’t think it had been above ground very long.

  3. From what I remember of Texas accents Black Bear became a Black Bar and it looked like the tars on my car needed replacing!

    1. You’re so, so close. Imagine three guys who came to a costume party dressed as the Magi, but who were wearing yellow slickers with safety stripes on the sleeves. They’d “come from a fahr.”

  4. My neighbor in the duplex I lived in before I moved this last time had planted several Turks’ Caps bushes along the wall on her side of the garage. They attract Anna’s hummingbirds (Calypte anna), which are always a delight. It’s been warm here too and the oaks haven’t yet decided it’s fall. Their leaves always turn this wonderful ox-blood red in the fall.

    1. I had the pleasure of watching hummingbirds swarming Turks’ caps last fall, at the Artist Boat on Galveston Island. The photos didn’t turn out as well as I’d hoped, but it was great watching the birds. I may give it another go after the frontal passage this week. Most hummers seem to have traveled on, but we often get a second wave at this time of year.

      There’s one large oak in a nearby ‘vacant’ lot that turns that wonderful red. It’s not really red and not really burgundy, but a color that always reminds me of a pair of dress shoes my dad had.

    1. You may have helped me identify one of my beloved cacti that finally bit the dust this year. At least, you’ve pointed me in the direction of its family. It was nearly two feet tall, but the shape and the flower looked the same as the Bishop’s Mitre. After I moved, it just didn’t get the sun it needed, and it got too much moisture. Still, it lived for nearly 30 years, so there’s that.

      It’s interesting to me to see how similar these ‘reds’ are. The catchfly’s a bit faded; otherwise, it’s color would be just as saturated as the waxcap.

    1. It’s an odd sort of bouquet, but it has such appeal. I had initially found jack-in-the-pulpit and the catchflies last year, and sure enough: they were right where they were ‘supposed’ to be. Finding them was like running into old friends.

  5. What a lovely series of Autumn colour. That’s a great shot of the Turk’s cap. I found them hard to photograph unless it’s very shady or overcast here in Melbourne’s Royal Botanic Gardens.

    The Scarlet catchfly is a beauty.

    1. The Turk’s cap was in shade, and that did make photographing it easier. I’m still trying to get a good photo of its fruit. I found a pair that were lovely — one just turning, and the other full red — but I’m not happy with the image. There’s plenty of time to keep looking.

      The Scarlet catchfly is gorgeous. I’ll feature it in another post, with more details about it. It’s quite uncommon, and I’ve only found it in three locations over the course of about four years.

    1. They make a nice set, don’t they? Each one is so different from the others, but that color they share is delightful. Bark, pine needles, and Spanish moss make great backgrounds, too.

    1. I’ve only seen the scarlet waxcap (or scarlet waxycap) in the east Texas woods, although it’s scattered across the state. In fact, I looked at the iNaturalist map and found sightings from Cleburne and Colleyville up in your area, as well as an entry from Upper Turtle Creek Road outside Kerrville. I have a friend who lives not far from Turtle Creek — we need to go mushrooming!

  6. Gorgeous photos of the wild things dressed in red. I really enjoy the close ups that have the dark or black background.

    I saw your reply to someone about the “fur piece” being a country term as distance measurement. I remember that well and will admit to using it myself. It really dates a person in age and probably points to culture as well. I still say “further down” the road but not sure if I say “fur” or not. I grew up using “it’s a ways down the road or up the road.” I have also heard it as a good “piece” down the road or little piece up the way.”

    I have always thought myself as a refined hick that lives in the city. “Over yonder” is another one. Not sure if this is a southern thing or a Texas way of speaking for older people. And while I am thinking about it, I read somewhere that it is not proper to use or write “folks” when “people is the proper word usage. I am guilty of using folks in writing and speaking.

    1. I’m not sure who came up with that foolishness about using the word ‘folk’ or ‘folks.’ If that’s true, the Smithsonian had best change the name of their Folklife Center, and Folkways recordings need a new name. Context matters, of course, but “folks” is a word I use regularly. It probably is more country, but when I’m addressing a group of people I don’t know when I’m on the road, “Howdy, folks” is better than “Yo, Dudes!”

      Some of the words are old, of course. One of my grandmother’s favorite hymns was “When the Roll is Called Up Yonder,” but I still hear “over yonder,” and “down the road a piece” quite often. Of course, I’m out in the country more than I’m in our local Starbucks. I might be that these expressions are more Texan/Southern, of course. I don’t remember them from my Iowa childhood, but in those days I wasn’t paying so much attention.

      I like those dark backgrounds, too. The Carolina buckthorn and the catchfly were in dappled light, so the problem there was finding a berry or flower where I could eliminate harsh contrasts.

      1. I believe that using folks only pertains to formal written material in business or publications and not to be substituted in a sentence for the word people. When used for other things it is considered correct.

    1. It seems to me that ‘garden reds’ like yours, which often are in bright sunlight, would be difficult. Still, you do a fine job with all of the colors. I’m still working on the yellows!

    1. Isn’t that gorgeous? It was only about two inches tall, and from what I could see, perfectly formed. I don’t know how long it takes for them to emerge, but this clearly was a fresh one. I suppose it might have been only hours old, since the ones that pop up in the yard do so overnight.

    1. There are a couple of other plants that produce wonderful red berries, but they haven’t begun to turn yet (or I haven’t found them). Down here, the ‘autumnal fun’ is just beginning. Our tree foliage isn’t spectacular, but colors still will emerge.

  7. When I saw your title I thought we were about to learn of the Lone Star State’s successful ventures into viticulture.

    Happily, I was mistaken.

    A natural high obtained from viewing nature’s display of “autumn reds” is, for me, highly preferable to the bottled version. No hangover, either!

    Your photographs are exquisite! It ain’t easy to to make red look – well – red. It appears you did not use a flash for any of these? There is always a temptation to use “post processing” beyond a point where a subject loses its natural appearance. Thank you for resisting that urge.

    So. No wine advice. No problem. Instead, I have an overwhelming urge to seek autumn colors lurking in the forest and swamp. Wish me luck.

    1. No, I didn’t use flash. In fact, I probably could count on two hands the times I have used it, with fingers left over. I can’t remember ever using it for plants, but I have found it useful with the occasional spider. Particularly when they’re above my head and I’m forced to shoot into the sky, it helps. As for those reds, I really don’t enjoy over-saturated images, so I try to get the color right while the subject’s still in front of me. I figure it’s nature photography, so it ought to be as ‘natural’ as possible.

      I hope you’ve been out color-seeking, and finding some of your own treasures. We just had two days of 50-60 kt winds, so things are a little beaten up — but I heard sandhill cranes today, so the season’s still turning!

Leave a Reply

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

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

Facebook photo

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

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.