Goldenmane tickseed (Coreopsis basalis) ~ a star at the Broadway cemeteries
Each spring, some of Galveston Island’s seven Broadway cemeteries — those allowed to remain unmowed — burst into bloom, covering their grounds with a carpet of yellow. Primarily coreopsis and Indian blanket, interspersed with white lazy daisies, it’s a sight designed to draw visitors to the spot.
For several years I’ve made it a point to visit Broadway at the height of the flowering, enjoying the color and exploring the histories behind the stones in posts like Cemetery Season.
This year, familiarity seemed to have bred indifference. Even breathless media reports of an especially good year couldn’t entice me into a visit. Then, a friend who’d never been to any of my usual haunts wanted to visit them, so we took a day to follow my path from Galveston to the Brazoria Refuge and home.
Our first stop was the Broadway cemeteries. On May 7, somewhat later in the season than I’d visited in the past, grasses had grown up amid the flowers and some species I’d never before seen were present. Clearly, the time had come for a more extended visit, with a focus on Broadway’s supporting cast rather than on the flowers that always are the stars of the show.
A first surprise was the number of spiderworts still in bloom. Accustomed to thinking of them as an early spring wildflower, it was a pleasure to see the purple and gold combination spread throughout one of the cemeteries.
Spiderwort ~ Tradescantia spp.
A diminuitive bit of pink was everywhere. The genus is familiar — the beautiful east Texas scarlet catchfly (Silene subciliata) blooms in fall — but unlike that flower, the common catchfly isn’t native; it probably was imported as a contaminant in crop seed.
Common catchfly ~ Silene galica
Despite being a native plant, scarlet spiderling has an interesting distribution across the state. Listed only for Galveston County in southeast Texas, this member of the four o’clock family (the Nyctaginaceae) ranges throughout central and far south counties as well. It may well have escaped notice in other coastal counties; the flower cluster is so tiny it was impossible for me to get a sharp image of the pea-sized bloom.
I did better with the sharpshooter (Paraulacizes spp.) feeding on the flower. Leafhoppers in the family Cicadellidae, sharpshooters use their piercing-and-sucking mouthparts to tap into and feed upon plant tissue. It’s possible this larva was the fourth instar of Paraulacizes irrorata, but that’s only a best guess.
Sharpshooter larva on scarlet spiderling ~ Boerhavia coccinea
Cutleaf evening primroses are another form of Broadway yellow, but as they fade, they often present interesting combinations of yellow-trimmed salmon and a pretty pinwheel shape. Winecups also will take on a pinwheel shape.
Cutleaf evening primrose ~ Oenothera laciniataWinecup ~ Callirhoe involucrata
Despite its name, you’re not likely to find a frog noshing on Texas frogfruit. It seems the flower was called fogfruit in the middle ages, when farmers gave the name to low growing plants that invaded their freshly hayed fields. Over time, the name transitioned from ‘fog’ to ‘frog.’ Why it’s sometimes called turkey tangle fogfruit I can’t say, unless wild turkeys sometimes get their feet tangled in the densely matted plants.
A member of the verbena family, frogfruit attracts butterflies to its nectar, and serves as a host plant for Phaon Crescent, White Peacock, and Common Buckeye butterflies. Its ability to tolerate both drought and flooding makes it a useful groundcover, although some gardening sites caution it should only be mowed after blooming, since it can take years for it to recover from too-early mowing. Clearly, the no-mow policy in the cemeteries has allowed it to thrive.
Texas frogfruit ~ Phyla nodiflora
Growing grasses sometimes become impediments to spring floral photography, but this year I found the grasses themselves immensely attractive.
Rescuegrass ~ Bromus catharticus
Long-spike tridens ~ Bidens strictus
Less colorful and less obvious than the silverleaf nightshade now in full bloom across the state, Texas nightshade is no less attractive. Found only in Texas and occasionally in Oklahoma, its red fruits help to distinguish it from the non-native Solanum nigrum, which produces black fruits.
Texas Nightshade ~ Solanum triquetrum
My favorite discovery of the day was the tiny-flowered, vining Gulf Indian breadroot, sometimes called brown-flowered psoralea. Members of the pea family, plants in the genus produce starchy, edible roots: some larger and more worth pursuing than others.
The so-called prairie turnip (Pediomelum esculentum), found in Oklahoma and northward through the plains states, has been described variously as a “delicacy,” “tolerably good eating,” or “tasteless and insipid.” Barry Kaye and D. W. Moodie have described Native Americans’ use of the food:
They eat it uncooked, or they boil it, or roast it in the embers, or dry it and crush it to powder and make soup of it. Large quantities are stored in buffalo skin bags for winter use. A sort of pudding made of the flour of the dried roots and serviceberries (Amelanchier alnifolia), after boiling together, is very palatable and a favorite dish.”
However tasty the roots, I must say that I found the appearance of this member of the Broadway cemeteries’ supporting cast delicious.
Gulf Indian breadroot ~ Pediomelum rhombifoilum
Comments always are welcome.