Going For The Gold

Texas groundsel (Senecio ampullaceus) ~ Colorado County

It’s bluebonnet time in Texas. Given fair weather and a healthy crop of our lovely state flower, thousands of people will head into the countryside to take photos of hills turned blue. “Going to see the bluebonnets” is a Texas tradition, and a fine one.

But bluebonnets aren’t our only spring delight. Indian paintbrush and pink evening primrose can bloom just as enthusiastically, and other plants occasionally put on their own remarkable shows.

Traveling State Highway 71 last week, I discovered acres of Texas groundsel glowing with uncommon intensity. Spread across ranch fields and filling ditches on both sides of the road, accompanied by hundreds of white prickly poppies, the flowers tossed and bobbed in the wind: an extraordinary, glorious sight.


Groundsel with white prickly poppies (Argemone albiflora)


High noon in a Texas ditch

Comments always are welcome.

45 thoughts on “Going For The Gold

    1. They’re one of my favorite flowers, and I found them everywhere on this short trip; they adapt to quite different conditions. I’m glad you like them, because you’ll be seeing more of them. I’ll not be able to resist posting more photos.

  1. That’s the best field of groundsel I’ve ever seen. You’re fortunate to have come across it. The white prickly poppies were a lagniappe for someone who favors white flowers.

    1. That stretch of highway always has something to offer. A year ago, the fields across from this year’s groundsel were covered with white prickly poppies, or a mix of poppies and bastard cabbage. This year, that field was empty; all the action was across the road, or in the ditches. Only a few miles from this spot, the scene was entirely different; the ditches were filled with spider lilies.

  2. Ditto on the “best” field ever! My patch of groundsel is about 2’x2′ and it’s a blast of yellow. Did you need your sunglasses to view that field? All the photos are lovely, but a gold (yuk) medal to the one starring the poppies.

    1. Funny you should mention sunglasses. There was so much groundsel, and such bright sun, that everything seemed to have a faint yellow cast to it — even the air. Now that I’ve seen this plant, it’s clear to me that what I found in Brazoria County was Senecio imparipinnatus, or butterweed. The clasping nature of the Texas groundsel leaves is easy to spot, and quite different from the butterweed’s — or your golden groundsel, for that matter.

      I’m glad you like the poppies, too. The extent of their range amazes me. I’ve seen them along the coastal bays, and north of Fredericksburg. Adaptable little critters!

  3. Wow! Gorgeous sea of yellow! There’s a flower called Indian paint brush?! That’s news to me! ‘Going to see the bluebonnet’ reminded me of the Neela kurinji flowers  (Strobilanthes kunthianus) in the Western Ghats and Nilgiris of South India. The hills turn blue with the blooming of these flowers ( which happens once in 7 or 12 years). Loved your photo of those elegant looking prickly poppies amongst the gold. Beautiful post, Linda!

    1. The paintbrushes are beautiful, rethy. Here’s a little cluster of them. Don’t they look like brushes that have been dipped in paint? They can cover the hillsides as thickly as the bluebonnets or groundsel, and when they mix with bluebonnets, the hills can appear purple.

      I must say, nothing we have equals the Neela kurinji, though. I visited a site or two, and read that the next bloom will happen this year, from July through October. What a sight that must be! Have you ever visited during the bloom? I can understand why so many people make pilgrimage to see those blue hills.

      1. They are beautiful, the paintbrushes. Spring time must be splendid in your part of the world!
        There’s nothing unique about a single Kurinji with flowers. But thousands of them make the hills a spectacular sight. ‘neela’ means blue in our language. The year I got married the neelakurinji was in full bloom in Munnar. My husband was working there in the tea gardens and as a new bride I considered myself fortunate to be in that heaven on earth, called Munnar. When you told me I got to know that Kurinji blooms this year! Would love to visit those hills once again.

    1. When I looked at the BONAP maps for Senecio, it was interesting to see how many species there are, and how limited many are in their range. Some are limited to Texas, some to California, and some to the Northeast. It’s nice that they’ve spread their golden glow all across the country.

      1. I have seen cultivated fields around here, that are pure yellow like that – some farmers grow canola, which is actually a beautiful color, but I don’t have any photos of it.

    1. I’ve always enjoyed seeing bright yellow fields of sunflowers or canola, but this is the first time I’ve seen such a bright yellow field in Texas. I was surprised to see the poppy-groundsel mix only in the ditches. I remember seeing one or two poppies in the fields, but the ditches were about a 50/50 mix in places. I’m sure there’s a reason other than the wire fences that the poppies hadn’t moved into the fields!

      1. I immediately thought that there would be more moisture in the ditches, but the poppies I know prefer sharply drained soil, so I don’t know what might be going on there.
        Yellow isn’t my favorite color as a rule, but I confess a whole field of it is beautiful. Last summer I had to stop the car when I came across dunes covered in native sunflowers.

    1. Well, the Panhandle certainly knows how to do flat and dry, and our cities are getting bigger every day. But we do have other delights: especially in spring, before the heat and humidity begin to rise.

      On the other hand, I remember my astonishment the first time I drove through the middle of Florida. Other than orange groves, I’d never thought of the state being agricultural. The cows were quite a revelation, and Lakeland was a far cry from Key Largo!

      1. We do have a variety – Bible Belt to agricultural to senior village to snow-bird and tourist territory, Little Havana and Kokomo… :)

  4. Many moons ago, I traveled between Dallas and Denton for some sort of conference. It was about this time of year, and the bluebonnets and paintbrush were in full glory. I thought it might be the most beautiful thing I’d seen in a long time. Thank you for adding to the memory by posting your delightful poppies and groundsel. So much beauty in our world — how splendid that we don’t all live in the same place so we can enjoy each other’s scenic delights!!

    1. Anyone who’s seen that bluebonnet and paintbrush combination at the height of their bloom probably never forgets it. When either flower covers a field, it’s lovely, but when they combine, there’s nothing like it. I’m glad you had the experience when you were here, and have the memories now.

      On the other hand, you’re right that every place has its delights. Every time I travel to the hill country, I find another “something” that I’ve never seen before. It may take me some time to identify it, but that’s part of the fun. I hope your weekend’s filled with wonderful “somethings” — Happy Easter.

    1. That’s how I’ve generally seen it — as occasional plants, or as small colonies scattered here and there. It’s taken me some time to sort out the different species, but this one was easy to identify because of its leaves.

      Something else just occurred to me. When I stopped to take photos, I was intrigued by the sandy soil. There was a lot of sand: more than I’m accustomed to seeing in that area. This location is quite near the Colorado River, and it was in the heart of the area hit by Hurricane Harvey. I wonder if the flooding carried in sand, and this plant took advantage of it? The books say it likes sandy soil, and that certainly could explain why it spread so prolifically this year.

  5. I tend to lose patience with “goal” oriented expeditions. “Going to see the bluebonnets” — like bluebonnets are all there is to see. I like “explorations” much better. Going to see what’s there. You don’t know what’s there. That’s why you have to go see. Oh, look! . . .

    You and your trusty camera wandering about Deep in the Heart, in search of targets of opportunity is what keeps me coming back here. You always find the coolest stuff. . .

    I love the one with the three white prickly poppies against the golden groundsel. I can just hear them singing, “Three little maids from school are we . . .” (Mikado).

    1. That’s why I think the Bear Who Went Over The Mountain is such a great role model. He went out to see what he could see, without a set agenda or rigid expectations. There’s nothing wrong with hoping to find this or that, or even devoting considerable time and energy to finding it, but if the search blinds us to the unpredictable or the unexpected — well, what fun is that?

      That’s a great association you brought to the three poppies. Now I’ll have that song in my mind for a while.

    1. And look closely. Tucked into many of those primrose patches are blue-eyed grass and the lavender deer-pea vetch. I passed a vacant lot filled with lyre-leaf sage this afternoon. With luck, I’ll get back there before the mowers do. The bright colors appeal, but the pastels have their place, too.

      I’m sure your first sentence must be a reference to Frost’s poem. It’s true, but our “hour” seems to be a little longer this year.

      Nature’s first green is gold,
      Her hardest hue to hold.
      Her early leaf’s a flower;
      But only so an hour.
      Then leaf subsides to leaf,
      So Eden sank to grief,
      So dawn goes down to day
      Nothing gold can stay.

  6. (FYI They’ve been telling people all day that this and next week are prime wild flower viewings…and to make sure if you go out to get pix with flowers, make sure to make lots of noise going in and use a big stick to urge local residents to move before plopping down small children for portraits….didn’t say anything about luring fire ants away from the scene. Beauty is risky HAHA)

    1. And don’t forget the bull nettles. It was exactly on this stretch of highway that I made their acquaintance last year, when I squatted down to take a photo and made contact. I wasn’t sure what had happened, but I knew it wasn’t good.

  7. Oh the groundsel is so pretty and the poppies are shining in all their glory surrounded by a sea of golden waves. I’ve never seen a scene such as your photo. I hope to see that one day. I should get some seeds and plant some- next year.

    1. I never imagined groundsel could do this, Yvonne. Clearly, the conditions were just right. One thing I’ve learned is that there’s no predicting what will show up. Flowers that are thick in one spot disappear the next year, and plants that aren’t “supposed” to grow in an area suddenly decide to move in for a season. It’s great fun to track them — and now and then identify a few.

      I’m becoming more sensitive to which pollinators prefer which flowers, too. The groundsel were covered in bees. I found bumblebees in bluebonnets, and four species of butterflies enjoying blue stars (Amsonia). One hummingbird moth was flitting among the first columbine I’ve ever seen. Photos to follow, eventually.

    1. I thought so, too. Sometimes I debate a bit about whether to stop, which can lead to a lot of backing up. This time, there was no question. The conditions — midday bright and windy — were just the ticket for some skills improvement.

    1. I smiled for miles and miles after seeing it, Jeanie. There’s never a way to perfectly capture a scene like this — even the air seemed to shimmer with reflected gold.

  8. “High noon in a Texas ditch” is a terrific title, and I’m enamored of those white poppies with the grounsel, oh, to see the petals blowing in the wind.

    1. If it’s petals in the wind you enjoy, you would have been happy as the proverbial clam the few days I was gone. The wind didn’t just blow, it blew hard and insistently: sometimes, hard enough to blow me around. So, I was pretty pleased to be able to get the photos I did. If you enlarge the “Texas ditch pic,” you can see those petals standing straight out. When I passed by that way two days later, the combination of natural plant processes and the wind had reduced the golden glow considerably.

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