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.


84 thoughts on “Springing Forward

    1. I hope it will be. I have so much to write about, I was always struggling: photo post? or writing post? Now, I have a place for each, and can stagger the entries. I think it will be fun.

      1. Your first gallery is excellent. I never saw or heard of peppervine before, that’s wild, pretty darn vivid! And also never knew you could have a blue version of scarlet pimpernel. Absolutely cannot say that last flower without hearing Daffy Duck, but its very pretty.

        1. I know peppervine when it’s matured, but I never would have thought this was the same plant. The leaves turn light green, and then dark green, although the stems maintain a bit of a reddish hue. It has berries that go from green, to white, to red, to purple, so it’s very pretty in the fall.

          I read that in Europe there are counties where the blue pimpernel predominates, and others where it’s the orange that holds sway. Interesting.

  1. Wow, spring fever indeed. Here it is 80F and kids planted some potted flowers, they are predicting snow next week. I had not seen yuccas bloom here yet, a bit early I think. Interesting on the edibility of them, will have to look them up. A lady from Hualapai tribe recently presented at the library about the wild edibles eaten in the old days by Hualapai people and they had resurrected many traditions in their center with kids.

  2. It has been a bit of a strange spring, although the birds seem to be keeping to their usual schedules. And, while many are saying everything is early, it’s seemed around here that it’s the scouts that are out: a clump here, a scattering there.

    I think you’d be interested in the blog I linked for the fried yucca petals. The man’s name is Hank Shaw, and he has quite a reputation in culinary circles. The name of his blog says it all: “Hunter, Angler, Gardener, Cook.”

  3. The proper response to the ugliness in the world, I’ve always thought, is to create something beautiful. A place to display your beautiful nature photography is a case in point. We need somebody to say, “All is not ugliness and unpleasantness. Look here.”

    1. I agree. From time to time, I remember Goethe’s words: “One ought, every day at least, to hear a little song, read a good poem, see a fine picture, and, if it were possible, to speak a few reasonable words.” If I can provide even a few pretty good pictures, I’ll be happy.

      It was interesting to recall the lines that come immediately before those words:

      “Men are so inclined to content themselves with what is commonest, the spirit and senses so easily grow dead to the impressions of the beautiful and perfect, that everyone should study, by all methods, to nourish his mind the faculty of feeling these things.”

      “For no man can bear to be entirely deprived of such enjoyments: it is onlly because they are not used to taste of what is excellent that the generality of people take delight in silly and insipid things, provided they be new.”

      1796, meet 2018.

    1. I have, in salad. Well, and just for grins when I come across some. They can be a little astringent, but they’re not bad as a garnish. The fried ones probably are great, but I suspect the “fried” would overpower any taste of yucca.

  4. Great idea to have a photo website. The Yucca came out beautiful in the blue sky. All of them look great. What brilliant man was Mark Twain coining “Lagniappe”. What a master storyteller he was.

    I’m so glad you started this website. I see you’ve been getting beautiful light also. Spring will soon be giving photographers great opportunities and things to talk about.

    1. We’ve had some days with beautiful light, but not as many as I’d like. In fact, the last two weeks have had more than their share of fog, clouds, and haze. Today is lovely, with the fog finally lifting, and I’ll be off for a little exploring in a bit.

      I’d forgotten how much I enjoyed “Life on the Mississippi.” When I tried to reserve it at our library, I was surprised to find a waiting list. I imagine that would please Twain a good bit.

        1. I do prefer real books, but this is wonderful. I’ve used the Gutenberg site before, and just hadn’t thought of it. I had to smile where I looked at the first illustration below the covers. The name of the boat? The “Baton Rouge.” Aunt Fannie and the family lived on the east side of Baton Rouge, so that’s an appealing connection.

  5. Having a second site makes so much sense for you. Jim and I started with the Our View blog, and each of us quickly found it suited some of what we wanted to post, but not all of it. Separating your primarily written and primarily imaged posts may make it easier for you to enjoy both. And if YOU aren’t having fun, there’s not much point in any of it!

    Congratulations on the new site.

    1. Thanks, Melanie. Developing a second site is one of those things that seems so obvious, now that its done, I wondered why it didn’t happen sooner. Sometimes it seems my whole life is a process of discovering the obvious.

      I thought about you at one point when I was in the middle of this, trying to get all of the cross-linking and other such details right. The process reminded me of some things you’ve written about in terms of quilt design and construction, and gave me a new appreciation for your work. Getting all the little pieces to fit isn’t necessarily the easiest thing in the world.

      1. This is so kind of you to say. I do feel like that, in my quilting and in basically everything else. Right now I’m working on something with 4.25″ x 4.125″ patches. AAACK! I can’t even remember which way goes which, and why! And I’ll have to mark them to stitch the right things on the right sides! :) And when I get it figured out, it will seem so obvious…

        Today WordPress informed me is my 4th anniversary of registering here. That reminder brings a lot of mixed emotions, because of the route taken to get here. And I’m still not getting all the little pieces to fit…

        Thank you. Jim and I both appreciate our blog-friendship with you. I wish there were a better term for it than that.

        1. Four years! Congratulations. They do go by quickly, don’t they?

          I know what you mean about “blog-friendship.” It’s an awkward term, but it does have a certain elasticity to it. Sometimes it’s simply a casual back and forth on blog sites, but sometimes it develops into more: Christmas cards exchanged, phone conversations, birthday gifts. And people don’t worry so much about meeting in person. It’s been interesting to watch the changes that have come to online life over the years.

          Well, here’s to another year of getting the pieces in their right place — or at least having fun with the process!

          1. We have met some blog-friends in person, with mixed results, but no regrets. But other blog-friends — that’s part of the odd path that brought us here, and part of the mixed emotions.

    1. I’ve been pondering it since about Thanksgiving, but the coming of the new year, and then the beginning of spring, really gave me a push. Thanks so much for stopping by. I hope you enjoy it as much as I think I’m going to enjoy prowling my archives.

    2. If I’m honest (and why not be?) I think of this site as akin to a grade-schooler’s show and tell time. I’m forever coming across things I think are interesting, or beautiful, or curious, so why not share them? Who knows? It may help my photography, too. We’ll see.

      1. Nice, show and tell. Kindergarten classes are wonderful because the kids have honest emotions that change like mercury….

    1. I haven’t been holding out, Gary — I’ve been going crazy. I got the site going, and then marked it private while I worked out a couple of kinks. Even though I’m using the same template for both sites, they didn’t look the same. The figuring out took about five days. The fixing took about fifteen seconds. Isn’t that always the way?

      I’m glad you liked the photos. I made a quick run down to San Bernard this afternoon. I didn’t have much time, but the spider lilies and blue flags are putting on quite a show. In another week, the flags might be at their peak.

      1. Trust me, the idiosyncrasies of WordPress are an unending challenge.

        I haven’t made it down to San Bernard in a few years. I probably should. I once dug and transplanted some blue flags into my yard at a previous house. They grew so well I gave some to my mother whose first name is Iris. When we moved out to this place I ended up getting a new start of the plants from her… they are extremely well for years, but died off over a few dry years. I still miss them.

        1. They’ve been doing a lot of work down there: new boardwalk, improved trails, and such. I keep forgetting what a drive it is, and I didn’t have as much time to poke around as I wanted, but another time. I still haven’t seen the big oak. I need to do that.

    1. Many thanks, Dina. I think it will be fun, and a nice way to share a bit more of my world. There are lovely things out there — and not only in nature, as your museum posts prove. I don’t know exactly where I’m going with this, but I’m on my way!

  6. I do love coming across a new word – will definitely try to work ‘lagniappe” into a few conversations this upcoming week! All good wishes for the new site, too, Linda. Love the photographs – and hope you will be able to keep two sites running at once. It’s quite a challenge, as I know!

    1. You’ve done an excellent job of revising and refining your sites, Anne. If I can do as well as you, I’ll be more than happy.

      Now that the setting up is complete, we’ll see how things go. I have a decent photo archive built up (which is not necessarily the same as an archive of decent photos!), so I can draw on that. And, from time to time, there may be the odd quotation, art work, or whatever. After all, my first blog post at Weather Underground involved a recipe for pecan pie, so there’s no telling what will show up here, or where it will lead.

      Is this an auspicious time for beginning new projects? I know that Mercury in retrograde is supposed to afflict all things mechanical. Is there a different retrograde that affects all things mental?

      1. Thanks for the compliment, Linda. Much appreciated!
        Well, Venus is retro for, in effect, the whole of Lent. Then Mercury for three weeks from early April. Retrograde periods are always good for reaching back into the past, re-evaluating and recovering…if Venus amongst other things speaks of life’s artistic and aesthetic pursuits, then I’d say that reaching back into your photo archive to offer us inspiration and pleasure therefrom, is a good use of the retro energy of this time! However, it may be mid-May-ish before you feel that things are truly up and moving forward.

  7. I just knew these would be spectacular, Linda, and I’m not disappointed! How nice to drop by and find that spring is springing in your neck of the woods. You’re several weeks ahead of us, of course, but as sure as day follows night, I know our own spring is right around the corner. We’ve had some frosty mornings and even a bit of snow, but the days are growing longer and the flowers and trees are starting to wake up. Won’t be long now before we’re ah-chooing with the best of y’all!!

    1. We’ve been under that yellow and green pollen blanket for at least a month, Debbie, and there still is more to come. Everyone’s keeping an eye on the pecan treees. They’re the last to leaf out, and no one’s willing to declare spring fully arrived until the pecans say so.

      I did notice tonight that it stayed light until well past seven. The spring equinox arrives tomorrow morning, so any plants and trees that are light sensitive rather than temperature sensitive should begin to perk up. Who knows? This may be the year that your crepe myrtle decides to finally put on a show!

      1. How well I recall Texas’s sneezy season! That was before I knew I needed to take preventive allergy medicine daily.

        My granddad used to raise pecans. Had entire acres of them. Hurricane Camille really did a number on them though.

        I’d be delighted to see my crepe myrtles in full spectacular bloom (and you’ll see a photo when that happens!)

    1. You’re welcome, Tina. I can even imagine a pollinator or two (dozen) showing up here — either with identification, or with an appeal for help! I’m looking forward to learning a good bit as I move forward.

  8. I saw a primrose last week – so excited.
    Great images.
    The Yucca makes me laugh and think of a bunch of plump women gathered for a reunion picture.
    Glad you finally gave in and gave the camera what she’s been wishing for – and deserves.

    1. Primroses are exciting — no question about that. I feel a little sorry for the garden club that started the wildflower plot at the corner of 96 and Hwy 3. I didn’t see anything blooming there at all this afternoon. Surely if something was planted, there would be evidence of it by now. Do you know if the construction that was going on there might have complicated things for them?

      That’s a great association for the yucca. Do you suppose the gals were having a few yucs?

      1. Primeroses bring up such wonderful childhood memories for just about everyone.
        Those poor wildflowers. We mumbled about all the big trucks parked where they shouldn’t have been, but what really put a stop to the blooming was the mowing. They mowed just about the time the plants were getting up – right past the wildflowers sign. Really sad as it should have been an impressive show this year.

        1. You know, it looked to me like it had been recently mowed, but I couldn’t imagine that anyone would do that. Clearly, my imagination isn’t large enough to take in the stupidity of city departments. Sometimes, there’s just no accounting for folks.

  9. Congrats! This works for me! :-) That’s one of the prettiest photos of Spiderwort I’ve ever seen. I love the upward angle for the yucca flower – perfect way to do it, against that deep blue sky. It emphasizes the way the yucca flowers thickly pile upon themselves. There are flowers here I don’t know at all and some I’m only a little familiar with, which is nice. I look forward to whatever comes next.
    You make me long for Spring wildflowers – I’m conjuring up a possible May road trip to see wildflowers (and other stuff) in central Oregon. We’ll see.

    1. It’s always a surprise to be reminded of how much difference latitude can make. By May, our summer flowers are coming on, and the cool-weather wildflowers are long gone. I can’t get on the road for a trip even around here until the weekend of April 1, and I’m hoping some of our traditional favorites, like the bluebonnets, aren’t already gone. Nature waits for no one, that’s for sure. The beautiful red peppervine in the photo above already had green leaves last Sunday. Presto-chango!

      I’m glad you liked the spiderwort. There’s another species that can be found around here (if you define “around” expansively enough) and I’m hoping to find it one of these days.

      1. Yes, latitude, and around here, altitude, too – to a degree, we can go back in time and relive a few Spring flors moments by going up into the mountains. So nature can be stalled that way – reminds me that I used to love the fact that our family vacationed at Easter on one of the Georgia Sea Islands, and I’d come home and do Spring all over again after two weeks of it down there. Why not have your cake and devour it?
        I trust you’ll find that other Spiderwort. One frustration I notice is that even the plants I’ve seen for the past five Springs in a row – since I moved out here – do NOT stick in my memory well. There’s a lot to be said about knowledge of the environment that is built up over a lifetime. And added to!

        1. I agree, about building knowledge over time. Part of my difficulty is that I’ve only really been paying attention to wildflowers and other native plants for about five years: perhaps a little longer. Certainly when I began The Task at Hand I still was very much at the “Ooooohhh…. pretty flower!” stage. Then I learned the difference between lumpers and splitters, and why splitting was good, and why botanists and their taxonomy are important, and…and…and.

          I don’t have a lifetime left to build knowledge, I fear. But I’ve learned a good bit, and no doubt will learn more. That’s worth looking forward to.

  10. Your new blog is wonderful. You’re off to a great start with it. I’m in awe at the number of spring flowers that are in bloom in late February in Texas.

    1. Some were a little early this year, but late February and early March generally is the time that we begin to see blooms: with some plants, it’s even earlier. In fact, Valentine’s Day is the traditional date to begin rose pruning. Our freezes usually are done by then, although there always can be a surprise.

      I’m glad you enjoyed this first entry. Now my biggest problem is deciding what comes next.

    1. Thank you, rethy. Who knows? I may even find a sparrow or two to photograph. Actually, finding them isn’t the issue: they’re everywhere, including on my balcony. But getting them to sit still for a photo? That’s impossible. I’ll have to up my game to capture them.

      Thanks for the good wishes. I appreciate them.

    1. They are gorgeous things, aren’t they? I fussed over getting a macro lens because of the cost, but it’s beginning to pay some real dividends. I suppose that’s the difference between a purchase and an investment. I suspect you’ll find yourself experiencing the same thing with your new mobile digs. I certainly hope so.

  11. You, my dear, are getting your spring. And isn’t it lovely?! It’ll be a bit before we see these here but oh, that detail in your camera just tells the story — all the better when accompanied by your words.

    Congratulations on the new blog!

    1. Thanks so much, Jeanie. This is the season that makes up for all that envy I feel in the fall, when you’re surrounded by those beautiful autumn colors. It’s fun to see yours, and fun to share ours, although I do hope your spring begins to show its pretty little face soon. Your winter is somewhat more tiresome than ours.

      Once I’ve settled into this new routine, it will be time to ask, “What next?”

  12. Much as I love identifying plants, Cirsium horridulum is one I wouldn’t mind missing out on, if I ever make it to Texas. Your evening primrose is beautiful. Here I have Mexican Evening Primrose, in the same family, but mine haven’t bloomed yet.

    I’m so glad we’ll have more opportunity to see your photos! You’ve given us such a generous offering of lagniappe starting out, of the sort of photos some of us would dole out sparingly, each one is so worthy. But I know how it is – when Spring is springing so luxuriantly, one wants to follow suit. Thank you!!

    1. And yet that “Cirsium horridulum,” popping up everywhere now, is a magnet for butterflies, bees, and a whole host of other tiny insects. As it grows, it gains some height, and the flower becomes accessible for feeding. For all we know, the butterflies and bees may be singing the “Sursum corda,” at that point.

      One of the hardest things about this site is going to be identifications: not only of flowers, but also of insects. Of course, “hard” is just another way of saying “time consuming,” but when the “Ah, ha!” moment comes, it’s worth every minute spent. And it’s good to know that you’ll be sharing the pleasure of increased knowledge with me.

  13. I enjoyed both the prose and the pictures. Will be interested to see how maintaining two blogs goes for you. I tried it; it seemed to bifurcate my readers. But you have such a large following, I am sure those interested in both your words and your photography will journey to both places.

    1. The other side of the readership coin is that some may end up preferring one site over the other. There’s nothing wrong with that. If there’s vanilla ice cream, I eat vanilla, but if vanilla and chocolate show up on the same table, it’s chocolate for me — although, in truth, I’d prefer to have both, all the time.

      The same words that helped shape my attitude when I began “The Task at Hand” apply here, too — at least, for me. Eliot always has a word that applies:

      “And so each venture
      Is a new beginning, a raid on the inarticulate
      With shabby equipment always deteriorating
      In the general mess of imprecision of feeling,
      Undisciplined squads of emotion. And what there is to conquer
      By strength and submission, has already been discovered
      Once or twice, or several times, by men whom one cannot hope
      To emulate—but there is no competition—
      There is only the fight to recover what has been lost
      And found and lost again and again: and now, under conditions
      That seem unpropitious. But perhaps neither gain nor loss.
      For us, there is only the trying. The rest is not our business.”

  14. Well, I see I’m going to enjoy myself here! Such a wonderful post, spring certainly has sprung and you seem surrounded by many a delight. I have yucca here but it only flowers every few years and always in the summer.xxx

    1. I’m so glad you like it, Dina. I’ll probably bounce around as much here as I do at “The Task at Hand.” What catches my attention will be what shows up — and there’s no predicting what that will be. I can pretty much guarantee there won’t be any hedgehogs — but you never know!

  15. Glad to see you displaying your photographs in a prominent space, Linda. Also nice to see two of our garden plants growing wild in your ‘hood. Both bluestar and spiderwort are thriving in one space or another. The spiderwort is actually a bit of a garden bully as it spreads easily, crowding out other plants, and is hard to completely remove as the slightest bit of root turns into a patch the following year. But they are beautiful flowers and I love photographing them. They also attract hover flies (syrphids).
    I see you have the patented Schwartzman blue sky over your yucca. :)

    1. I was involved with a workshop out at Armand Bayou Nature Center this weekend, and was amazed by the variety of color among the spiderwort. I’ve mostly seen purple, or lavender, but there were pink and white there, as well. I also heard a number of people talking about its aggressive nature, but I wouldn’t mind that at all. They are gorgeous. The bluestar is apparently just coming on. I was lucky to find this patch way out in the country, but I’m told there are places around where it’s thick as can be. I may try to sneak away and find some of those places this week.

      We haven’t had many blue skies like that this spring, so I was happy to be able to make use of one. I’m not sure if Steve gets residuals when we use his sky, but I’d be happy to pay up.</i.

  16. I really enjoyed the vivid blue flowers in your post. Thanks for sharing! I have a poetry blog here on WordPress in case you have time to have a look? Many of my recent poems have been Spring related! Wishing you a relaxing weekend, Sam

    1. Thanks so much for stopping by. That little blue flower is one of my favorites, and I’m glad you enjoyed it, too. Enjoy your spring — poetry always is a good response to the season.

    1. It’s good to know you like them, too, and it’s really good to have you stop by. I went snooping around to see where you might be active these days. I laughed at Flickr. When I went to see if you were uploading there, it said your last upload was “ages ago.” That’s just funny. I suspect Facebook is where you are, but since I’m not, I miss a lot.

      I do hope all’s well. I still remember those snow-covered lilacs vividly. I hope this spring the flowers don’t have to cope with such an insult!

    2. I just went back to my first post on “The Task at Hand,” and remembered that you were my very first commenter! Ten years ago! Now, poem you offered is even more appropriate. Thank you again!

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