Rockport, Redux ~ A Most Unusual Blue

When ‘blue’ curls aren’t

One of the prettiest and most interesting plants around, bluecurls (Phacelia congesta) is named partly for its tightly coiled clusters of buds, which uncurl as the flowers develop.

Its flowers usually range from lavender to a truer blue, but bluecurls aren’t always blue, as the example above proves. I’ve seen white blue-eyed grass, white bluebells, and white spiderwort, but this was my first sighting of white bluecurls: a single plant tucked into the middle of a more typical colony.

Bluecurls in the process of uncurling

The plants are especially attractive to bees and butterflies, although a variety of flies and other insects will visit. In his Wildflowers of Texas, Michael Eason notes that bluecurls grow in moist, shady areas during dry years; its presence throughout the open and unshaded cemetery suggests that Rockport shared in this year’s coastal rains.

Butterfly? Skipper? I don’t know, but it seems happy

 

Comments always are welcome.

Rockport, Redux ~ Pretty in Pink

Drummond’s phlox ~ Phlox drummondii

I’ve never heard someone say, “Let’s drive out to the country to see the phlox,” but several varieties of phlox grow wild across Texas, and when they spread their sweet, pink glow across the landscape, they rival even our bluebonnets for eye-catching loveliness.

In early March, Drummond’s phlox (Phlox drummondii) was in full bloom at the Rockport City Cemetery. Named for Scottish naturalist, botanist, and explorer Thomas Drummond, the plant is only one of many that bear his name. During an expedition through Texas in 1835, Drummond shipped specimens and seeds to England, where English botanist Sir W. J. Hooker declared P. drummondii to be “decidedly among the greatest ornaments of the greenhouse in the Glasgow Botanic Garden.”

Drummond’s phlox is known for soft, hairy, and sticky leaves; enlarging the first photo shows the glandular nature of its hairs. Perhaps because of their small size the buds rarely are noticed, but their opening is a delight to behold.

 

Comments always are welcome.

 

Boon Companions

Black-bellied whistling ducks (Dendrocygna autumnalis) ~ Lafitte’s Cove Nature Preserve

According to various dictionaries, both the word ‘boon’ and the phrase ‘boon companion’ are tending toward obsolescence.  Nevertheless, ‘boon companion’ is exactly the phrase that came to mind when I encountered this assortment of avian pairs on Sunday afernoon. They certainly seemed to fit the definition of ‘boon companion’ from the 1560s:  “a convivial friend or close intimate, someone with whom one enjoys spending time or sharing activities.”

Foraging white-faced ibis (Plegadis chihi) & snowy egret (Egretta thula) ~ Brazoria Wildlife Refuge

While it makes sense that members of the same species would enjoy hanging out together, cross-species companionship isn’t unknown. Many waterbirds engage in what’s known as commensal feeding, practices that benefit both members of the pair:

In commensal associations, members of one species assist the foraging of another, but incur no significant costs and receive no benefits. One of the more common commensal associations involves “beaters,” which stir up prey, and “attendants,” which simply follow in their footsteps taking whatever comes their way.
Many waterbirds, marsh birds, and shorebirds attend particular beater species. Great and Snowy Egrets attend cormorants; Snowy Egrets, Tricolored Herons, and Great Egrets attend mergansers. Some attendants will follow more than one beater species. Enterprising American Coots attend Canvasbacks, Tundra Swans, Mallards, pintails, and Redheads. In water of swimming depth, Wilson’s Phalaropes will follow Northern Shovelers; where they can wade, they will often forage behind American Avocets.

Simple proximity doesn’t always guarantee that a pair of birds are feeding commensally, but after watching this ibis and egret for a half-hour, I became certain they were sharing a meal.

Napping double-crested cormorants (Phalacrocorax auritus)
On the other hand, most of the cormorants seemed ready for after-dinner naps. When I stopped to admire this pair, they deigned to look at me once before re-tucking their heads into their feathery pillows: perhaps to dream of fish in the afternoon warmth.

Comments always are welcome.
Click to enlarge any image for greater detail.