Springing Forward

During my years in Iowa, spring meant forsythia, pussy willow, violets, and tulips. Once I moved to Texas, I learned to love bluebonnets: a flower with one of the best marketing teams in the business. Together with Indian paintbrush, bluebonnets define the season for most people, and the ritual of being photographed in a field of the flowers is well-established.

But spring in Texas is more than bluebonnets. These delights, found in and around the Brazoria Wildlife Refuge on February 25, show the bold, colorful, and sometimes prickly side of a spring that’s already arrived.

The blue form of scarlet pimpernel (Anagallis arvensis f. azurea) is a lovely variation on a sometimes red or orange flower that’s native to Europe and parts of Asia, but which has naturalized worldwide.

This beautiful new growth rising up in ponds, sloughs, and ditches all around Brazoria County is peppervine: Nekemias arborea (formerly Ampelopsis arborea.) Thomas Adams, botanist for the Texas Mid-coast National Wildlife Refuge Complex, was kind enough to provide the identification. The Complex includes the Brazoria, San Bernard and Big Boggy National Wildlife Refuges.

Gather ye yuccas while ye may: the flowers of the plant known as Spanish dagger (Yucca treculeana) make a lovely addition to springtime salads or huevos rancheros.  Tired of fried squash blossoms? Try fried yucca petals.

It’s still too early to see the typically large colonies of pink evening primrose (Oenothera speciosa) that form along Texas roadsides, but even taken singly, the buds and opened flowers are lovely.

An early bloomer along ditches and in wet prairies, bluestar (Amsonia tabernaemontana) is as appealing as our more famous bluebonnets: albeit a little harder to find.

With apologies to Longfellow: There once was a thistle that had a little bristle, right in the middle of its prickles. When it was good, it was very, very good, but when it was bad? It was Cirsium horridulum: a native Texas yellow thistle common to pastures and the edges of salt marshes.

One of spring’s true joys, this spiderwort (Tradescantia ohiensis) glows in the sunlight.

Comments always are welcome.