The Flower’s Basket


The American basket-flower (Plectocephalus americanus) is notable not only for its fragrant and delicate blooms, shown in this previous post, but also for the complex, closely-woven bracts which give the flower its common name. 

Like sunflowers, black-eyed Susans, and asters, the basket-flower belongs to a family of composite flowers known as the Asteraceae. Most have small disc flowers in their centers (the sunflower’s ‘eye’) and ray flowers (which look like petals) around the outside.

Some Asteraceae, however, have only ray flowers (dandelions) and some have only disc flowers.  American basket-flowers happen to have only disc flowers; each of their pretty pink, white, or lavender elongated corollas is attached to a developing seed. 

Seen here, in this intermediate stage between bloom and seed, drying disc flowers wrap around their basket. In time, they’ll fall away, leaving the seed to ripen, fall, or float away, ensuring next season’s beauty.


Comments always are welcome.


Two Summer Surprises


Together with the bluebonnet and pink evening primrose, Indian paintbrush (Castilleja indivisa) is a traditional sign of spring across Texas. Sometimes the flowers appear as early as February. In other years, they may dally until April or May, depending on the weather.

Given the plants’ reputation as a spring wildflower, I was surprised to find a substantial patch in bloom at the Brazoria Wildlife Refuge on July 22. Wildflowers can be unpredictable, of course. There had been some rain, and I supposed the moisture might have led to some seasonal confusion for the plants. But when I returned a week later, even more paintbrush were blooming, and young plants were scattered along several roads.

Then came a second surprise. Consulting my new favorite field guide, Michael Eason’s Wildflowers of Texas, I found Indian paintbrush described as both a spring and summer bloomer. Why Eason extended the flower’s bloom time into the summer months I can’t say, but these plants, at least, suggest he was right to do so.


Comments always are welcome.


Dew Points


Although less vividly purple than another species of eryngo found in Texas (Eryngium leavenworthii), the soft greens and lilacs of the Eryngium hookeri overspreading local pastures and fields is no less delightful. A member of the carrot family and thistle-like in its prickliness, it’s often called sea holly.

On this early morning prairie, far from the sea, the only water in evidence was the dew, collecting and shining in the rising light of dawn.


Comments always are welcome.