Raising a Toast to Transition

Trailing winecup (Callirhoe involucrata) on the Nash prairie

Several species of winecup appear across Texas, and their common names reflect their growth habits. This lower-growing variety spreads across our coastal prairies and fields, while the standing winecup (Callirhoe digitata), true to its name, often grows as high as two or three feet in the hill country.

Other slight differences distinguish the species, but what they have in common is their glorious color. Ranging from rose, to magenta, to burgundy and almost-red, they’re a perfect flower for the transition from spring to summer. As compelling as Indian paintbrushes and as lovely as bluebonnets, they’re nature’s way of serving up yet another intoxicating sight.



Comments always are welcome.


48 thoughts on “Raising a Toast to Transition

  1. These were always my favorite as a child – no wimpy pastel color for them. Deep and rich and perfect contrast to early greens – like the elegant costuming Spring deserves. (And they did look like little cups if you were playing in the sand under the magnolia tree and setting up a tea for butterflies and grasshoppers)
    Gorgeous picture

    1. You might want to be careful about those grasshoppers. I suspect they’d be just as happy to eat the winecup as to drink from it.

      I found one winecup down at Hall’s bayou that was the purest red I’ve ever seen. I almost posted that photo, but then decided to show one with a more usual color. Maybe I’ll post the red one with some other oddities I’ve found.

      It was a gorgeous bloom that offered a chance for a gorgeous photo. My assumption is that this was a fresh bloom, since no insect had stopped by yet to spread that pollen all over the place.

  2. Good morning, Linda,
    I don’t recall ever having seen one of these. Looks like I need to have my eyes more open. ;)
    Have a great day,

    1. I found some of the standing winecups in your area, Pit. These were at a gate on the Willow City loop, but there were some scattered around the field in front of the little church you pass as you’re coming into Willow City. It’s not the best photo, but it gives a good sense of how tall they can grow. Some of these were well over two feet.

    1. I knew you’d like this, Jeanie. Their color does vary, so you could have a nice rosé, too. I haven’t yet found a white one, but I keep looking.

    1. The Nash is south of Brazos Bend on FM 25, about halfway between Brazos Bend and TX 35. It’s completely unmarked, except for one small sign at a utility easement telling utility workers and such that they can’t enter the Nature Conservancy property without authorization.

      I’ve seen more winecups this year than ever before. There have been a good number along Brazoria County roads, and in some fields that have been rich in flowers in the past. It is fascinating to see how things change from year to year. One parcel of land was filled with ladies’ tresses orchids and milkweed last year. This year, it’s been all winecups, evening primrose, Herbertia, and sneezeweed. Not knowing what’s going to show up is part of the fun.

  3. After seeing a closeup of a winecup, people who aren’t familiar with it must be surprised to find out that the wildflower is small.

    Coincidentally but not surprisingly, I’m preparing a winecup post too.

    1. It’s hard to resist these little flowers. They aren’t exactly uncommon around here, but if the bluebonnets and pink evening primrose were paragraphs, these would be the punctuation marks.

      I’d never seen standing winecup until I finally made it to the Fredericksburg/Willow City area, and I’ve never seen a winecup of any sort around Kerrville/Bandera/Medina. Now I’m wondering if your area — or the blackland prairie generally — supports both species of winecup. Dividing lines in nature never are so sharp as on a map, and it makes sense that as one eco-region gives way to another, there would be more diversity.

      1. The situation is even more complicated because Central Texas is home to three Callirhoe species. The decumbent one that you’ve shown, C. involucrata, is the most widespread across Texas, according to the BONAP map at http://bonap.net/Napa/TaxonMaps/Genus/County/Callirhoe. Marshall Enquist notes on p. 98 of his book that two species of standing winecup grow in central Texas, and that they’re hard to tell apart. The BONAP map shows one of those, C. leiocarpa, in Harris County.

        1. Now you’ve jogged my memory about the “white” winecups that you found. I’m curious which species will appear in your post. If you’ve found more white, I could be tempted to head northwest for once, instead of southwest.

          One thing is certain; I’ll not be digging up plants to check out their root systems!

          1. Good of you to have remembered the “white” winecups. They’re common in Williamson County, and I saw plenty of them last month when I went up to the quilt show in Georgetown. I haven’t photographed any of the lineariloba variety this year.

            Imagine having to dig up a plant to determine which of two similar species it is. That’s not for me, either.

  4. An intoxicating wine cup, huh? and here I’d thought you wildflower stalkers were the quiet, well-behaved sort. Your photo is excellent, and “glorious” isn’t an overstatement.

    1. Of course we’re quiet and well-behaved. Granted, we’re not as quiet as birders, and sometimes the birders don’t think we’re well-behaved at all — especially when they discover flower people don’t care about shutter sounds from their cameras.

      I suppose it makes sense that we wouldn’t think about such things. Flowers don’t fly away at the slightest sound; they just sit there and look pretty, and this was one of the prettiest I’ve found recently.

    1. They’d certainly look nice with that arrowleaf flower garden of yours I just saw. Isn’t it exciting when the “old, familiar faces” start to reappear? I’d say spring’s settled in for you, and summer’s about to make an appearance here — the colors really are wonderful.

  5. Beauty in a small package. I’m not seeing any in my yard at the moment. Linda, Susan had mentioned that they were planning to burn the high portion of the Nash last week… Did they get it burned?

    1. I was there on Sunday, and they hadn’t burned. I suspect they didn’t on Monday, either, as there were people who went out to collect seed. It certainly was remarkable to see the differences between the sections of the land, and I was glad to see so much liatris still waiting to bloom. I really need to get over there early in the morning, but that means leaving here by 6 or so. Oh, my.

    1. Isn’t it a pretty flower? Right now, they’re getting harder to find. Despite their vibrant color, the grasses are growing up, and they can be hidden until you’re nearly on top of them.

    1. It sure is. It’s one of those colors that makes me happy just to see it. I enjoy spring pastels, and even the brighter Indian paintbrush and bluebonnets, but this one’s special. For one thing, it’s the color of some of my mother’s peonies, and I always enjoy remembering those.

      1. I find that some of the simplest things, such as the color of this flower, can bring back such wonderful memories of something much larger.

        1. I’ve always found memories based in the senses — taste, sight, sound, touch — to be the strongest. Ask me for the date that this or that happened, and I might have to spend some time calculating. But offer the scent of lilacs, or the taste of fresh cherries, and I’m transported back in time.

  6. Ah, Linda, you’ve photographed a real looker today! I love that shade of purple, and I can imagine how this beauty stands out in a Texas field. We’re barely beginning spring, so I’m amazed that you’re already heading into summer bloomers!

    1. We’d be just as happy to extend our spring a bit more, Debbie. It was around 90 today — a reminder of what’s to come. It’s always a bit of a shock to the system when these summertime temperatures begin reappearing. But it’s great to have these lovely flowers back — not to mention homegrown tomatoes, already!

      1. Tomatoes?? Already? Oh, wow, and I haven’t even put the first plant in the ground. Y’all are waaaay ahead of us (though we’re supposed to reach nearly 90 by the weekend).

  7. I used to have a C. involucrata, but it has apparently thrown up its leaves in disgust at the increasing shade of its home. Sigh. I miss that color, which you captured beautifully.

    1. I wonder if C. digitata would do better for you, Tina? When I found them up around Fredericksburg and the Willow City loop, they often were in semi-shaded areas, and seemed to be doing fine. I’ve only seen ours in full sunshine, so it makes sense that increasing shade would have discouraged yours. It won’t be long until they’re all gone for another season, and another delight will take their place.

  8. The transition from bud to flower is what I seem to miss out on each time. I see buds and then flowers. They must do it at night when I am asleep. It always surprises me.

    1. The few times I’ve seen a bud become a flower have either involved a night-bloomer or a flower that unfurls in morning sun, like a morning glory. In those cases, it still required some sitting around. But mostly, they do appear to make the transition secretly.

      I know I have a lovely photo of a winecup bud somewhere in my files, but I just went looking and couldn’t find it. I’ll make another run at it later, because it really is a pretty thing and I think you’d enjoy it.

    1. Not only is the color gorgeous, it changes with the light: sometimes substantially. And it is fun to see a combination of differently-colored winecups all together. The differences can be subtle, but they’re obvious. Whenever I see one of those groups, it’s great fun trying to come up with just the right word for the color.

  9. That is such a lovely take-no-prisoners shade of magenta — I have to say, it looks like a lovely Chinese porcelain cup of breadcrumbs. Another one for the Wallpaper Program, for sure.

    1. As tickled as I was to find such a pretty winecup, I was doubly delighted when I got home and discovered that little pile of pollen in the middle. I usually find them after an insect or a few have stopped by for a treat, and the pollen’s spread all over the place. Breadcrumbs is exactly what it looks like. That’s a great description of the color, too. Nothing shy about this one.

  10. I think you nailed it with “nature’s way of serving up yet another intoxicating sight.” For sure! And in the comment above, “take-no-prisoners magenta” sums it up too!

    1. I love finding these. They’re not at all rare, but at least around here they tend to be scattered, rather than forming large colonies. They’re still blooming, but so are the grasses, and now it takes a little more effort to find them — a real treasure hunt.

  11. I love your description of the winecups as punctuation marks. I have always had a fondness for wine and magenta colours particularly in food form; pomegranates, omega plums, port wine jelly, boysenberries……. so I will definitely raise a toast to the winecup and its many hues.

    1. Now that I think about it, there aren’t that many foods that come in this color family: nearly all that I can think of are fruits and berries. One exception is the maroon-colored carrots developed at Texas A&M, where the school colors are maroon and white. There surely are other wildflowers, but they’re escaping me just now.

      In any event, the color is as scrumptious as any food you named, and it’s always a delight to drink it in.

  12. These cup-like or tulip-shaped flowers are not easy to shoot. They require finding that focus point and your image is beautiful.

    1. Your point about these not being easy to shoot is well-taken. Not only did I find it hard to get both sides of the bloom in focus (a feat I didn’t quite manage), there was the issue of strong reflections and shadows, since it was nearly high noon when I found these. Every time I toss out thirty or forty images, I give thanks again for digital photography — and every time I’m able to keep one like this, I rejoice. I’m happy you found it pleasing.

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