I did not think I would stumble over an answer so swiftly when I wrote, at the beginning of September, ‘Another phantom word that also demonstrates the English language to be wanting is a label for that particular cobwebby flake-like ember that floats on air currents above a bonfire. It’s not ash or a cinder or exactly a smut. It could be a “floater”, like those shadows on the retina. Now this floating ember is a quite specific phenomenon, yet the word for it has floated out of my reach ... and it's a minor frustration that, if unresolved, could lead to an unhealthy degree of obsessiveness.’
The image of a burning flag occurred to me, And surely ‘smouldering tatters’ (shreds of cloth, newspaper, wood fibre, etc.) provides the correlative image.
Example: Outside the looted embassy its flag was burned by rebels until only smouldering tatters floated across the square.
P.S. (28-09-11) Is this too simple a solution now I wonder?
A gerundive answer now occurs to me when we learn that a 'smouldering' could be a noun. Should we revise our example, then?
Example 2: Outside the looted embassy its flag was burned by rebels until only tattered smoulderings floated across the square.