Tung tree flowers are a photographer’s delight

tung tree

The tung tree flowers are five petals veined with a gorgeous maroon color. 50mm macro, 1/100th second @ f5, ISO 200. (Photo by Andrew Boyd / Copyright 2017)

TUNG TREE BLOSSOMS ON DISPLAY

It’s raining tung tree blossoms here in south Louisiana right now.

Tung trees, Vernicia fordii, are small to medium-sized trees that remind me of something Dr. Seuss would have created: tall and skinny with no limbs, then suddenly a gaggle of limbs all bursting forth from the same spot around the trunk, leading to a weird, punk-rock snaggle of greenery at the top. Think The Lorax and you’ll get the idea.

A branch of tung tree blossoms. I've opened the aperture up almost wide open (f2.8 here ) because I want to draw your eye to the blossoms at the left. A smaller aperture here would bring too much of the flowers in the upper right hand corner of the frame into focus. As photographers, we want to always be in control of how people are viewing our images. 50mm macro, 1/500th second @ f2.8, ISO 200. (Photo by Andrew Boyd / Copyright 2017)

A branch of tung tree blossoms. I’ve opened the aperture up almost wide open (f2.8 here ) because I want to draw your eye to the blossoms at the left. A smaller aperture here would bring too much of the flowers in the upper right hand corner of the frame into focus. As photographers, we want to always be in control of how people are viewing our images. 50mm macro, 1/500th second @ f2.8, ISO 200. (Photo by Andrew Boyd / Copyright 2017)

They were originally imported to the United States from China about a hundred years ago for the critical chemical properties contained in their hard, round seed pods (about the size of a baseball). Tung oil and its derivatives were needed for the manufacture of tough marine paints and other adhesives. The plants weren’t successful in surviving the dry West Coast places that were first tried to propagate them, but along the Gulf Coast of Louisiana, Mississippi and Florida, tung tree plantations were successfully established. One of the biggest was set up about 15 miles from my home at a place that’s known as Money Hill, which was also a giant lumber operation. Although the tung tree plantations are almost all gone now due to changes in the chemistry of paint and bad luck with hurricanes, the little trees seem to grow around here in any places that the grass doesn’t get cut. It’s now listed as an invasive species in Florida.

tung tree

A sea of tung tree blossoms on the ground, nestled in amongst the clover. 50mm macro, 1/60th second @ f9, ISO 200. (Photo by Andrew Boyd / Copyright 2017)

But I love the trees that spring up on our property! They flower in early spring with small, delicate blossoms, providing a gorgeous upper-story visual counterbalance to another Chiinese import that’s a huge part of our southern landscape, the azalea. The flowers have 5 petals, a cream color that’s veined with a subtle, fragile maroon; hold one up close to your nose and you’ll be treated to a fabulous perfume.

tung tree

This spot on a tung tree trunk is common. A snaggle of branches sprung forth here but as the tree has grown, most of the branches have died and fallen off. More snaggles of branches have appeared higher up. 50mm macro, 1/1000th @ f2.5, ISO 200. (Photo by Andrew Boyd / Copyright 2017)

The show doesn’t last many days, though. Before you know it, it’s over.  The flowers break off in a breeze and helicopter down. For a few days the lawn is covered in a sea of white blossoms beneath each of the trees.

Making photographs like these causes me to stop, to really slow down and look. The beauty is in the small details here. The wonder and miracle of life itself is on display when we take the time to appreciate it.

Posted in: Nature

About the Author:

Photographer, videographer and photo editor. Host and creator of The Discerning Photographer web site. Currently a Canon shooter.

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