A Different Drift of White

White prickly poppy (Argemone albiflora)


While reports of bluebonnet, Indian paintbrush, and phlox sightings have begun to multiply, I’ve yet to find a mention of this glorious native flower in the postings I’ve read.

No matter. The absence of mentions made finding this trio on a recent drive around the Willow City Loop, near Fredericksburg, wholly unexpected and purely delightful. Discovering pastures and ditches filled with additional flowers thrilled me even more.

Caught in a tangle of prickly pear, dead branches, and eroding rock, my first poppies of the year seemed perfectly situated: truly wild, and eminently Texan.


Comments always are welcome.


41 thoughts on “A Different Drift of White

  1. Thanks for sharing your beautiful finds, Linda. It is a warm and hopeful reminder of a coming Spring that still seems very distant for those of us who wake to find the temperatures still hovering around zero. Lovely!

    1. I often take a look at the Cornell webcam in Ithaca to see how things are up there.They’re showing 7F right now; I can deal with cold weather, but I’m not sure I could deal with that cold weather. At least we’ve had a couple of days of sunshine. It’s amazing how much difference that can make, even when the cold lingers.

  2. Happy white to you.

    I think I saw a white prickly poppy flower here a few weeks ago while driving on a highway, unfortunately at too high a speed and too great a distance to get a confirming look. A couple of plants near the road just half a mile from home have proven a reliable source of portraits for several years. So far nothing has appeared there for 2019, and two freezing overnights this week may have put a crimp in wildflowers generally.

    1. When they’re around they do stand out. Now that I’m familiar with them, it’s much easier to spot them, so i makes sense that you could have seen one, even while traveling. Like bluebonnets, they seem to flourish despite the cold; I hope your neighborhood poppies make an appearnace. Palacios hit freezing for two hours yesterday, but I’m hoping the puccoon will be healthy and happy this coming weekend. Eason’s book says they bloom in winter, so they may be hardier than all that frilliness suggests.

    1. Crepe paper is what I think of when I see them, too. I suspect that, were I living in your territory, something a little more colorful might be the ticket. Heck, even a few blades of green would do. I just discovered that your state has something called “frozen road rules” for truckers. That’s a little disconcerting.

    1. That might well be. On the other hand, it is deer resistant, so that’s a plus. It certainly helps to explain why they continue to spread and bloom in an area where deer are plentiful. I thought the most interesting detail about the flowers is that they last much longer after cutting if you sear the end of the stem in an open flame.

    1. Your comment reminded me that I recently learned a new word: phenology. It’s “the study of the timing of various events in the lives of plants and animals and the factors that influence that timing.” I think it would be right to say that the phenology of your white prickly poppies differs from that of hill country plants, but I’d be just as willing to say I hope they show up soon, and that you have a bumper crop!

    1. This USDA fact sheet has some interesting data regarding germination rates. You’re not alone — the average germination rate they achieved was around 12% in the trials they reported, and they found that the rate could vary quite a bit. I have a friend in the hill country who has them in her garden, but not by her choice. They just appeared one year, and never have gone away. May you have such luck.

  3. It’s interesting that this post should appear now. At our naturalists club we have a group that meets to discuss books about nature we have recently read and enjoyed, and every taxon imaginable is discussed over time. One of the members with a botanical orientation brought a book dedicated to the work that Lady Bird Johnson did in restoring native wildflowers to highway medians and other spaces in Texas. It brought back memories of a visit driving from Austin to the Edwards Plateau where I was seeking two special birds, and the riot of colour while driving was spectacular. Perhaps Prickly Poppy was among those plants.

    1. Texas in spring and summer is pure delight. Colonies of wildflowers come and go, even away from the places where they’ve been planted and encouraged. Pink evening primrose, grounsels, wild iris, the dainty herbertia — they’re all just beautiful. And, yes: the white prickly poppy is more than happy to share space with the others. I’ve found it everywhere from the middle coast to the hill country to the central Texas hills, and every time I see it again, I feel like I’ve found a friend.

  4. It is a coincidence that today I was watching a documentary on poppy farming in India. Prickly Poppy is new to me! Thanks Linda, for the beautiful photo and write up.

    1. If you do a search using the box in the sidebar, several more photos of the flower will pop up. My favorite is on the second page of results, titled “Just Before Sunrise.” It’s a photo of the bud in the process of opening, and then the newly opened flower. They are so beautiful — I’m glad this photo pleased you.

  5. Nice shot of the prickly poppy. The paper white of the flower seems so delicate as it arises from a stem of thorn like leaves. It seems a mystery how a plant that looks so menacing can produce a blossom that is so delicate and ethereal.

    1. The contrast is something, isn’t it? I’ve read that even cattle won’t eat the plant in times of drought, because the leaves are so prickly and distasteful. It’s deer resistant, too, so it makes sense that large colonies can develop here and there. There’s a place on Highway 71 south of El Campo where I’ve found fields full in the past. Maybe they’ll be there again this year — or not. If I’ve learned anything, it’s that wildflowers are unpredictable.

  6. I’m so glad you’re profiling a native that many ignore. It’s a lovely spring bloomer and worthy of our attention. This post reminds me of a story about a painting my mother-in-law purchased years ago. She wanted a Hill Country scene–but not with bluebonnets. We’ve inherited the non-bluebonnet Hill Country painting by the San Antonio artist, Raul Gutierrez.

    1. I laughed at your mother-in-law’s request for a hill country scene, minus bluebonnets. The truth is that a field of bluebonnets seems to be harder to paint than it is to photograph, and good photography is hard enough. A little scroll through one of the galleries that handles Gutierrez’s work reminded me of just how — pedestrian? — those bluebonnet paintings can be. I say that despite knowing how much pleasure they give people. They just aren’t my favorites.

      Of course I found bees working the poppies, but I decided to add them in a different post. My goodness, those bees were happy!

    1. A little time travel is good for the soul. One of the prettiest springs I ever enjoyed was in Mississippi: white wisteria, pecan orchards, spiderwort, and daffodils. I’d love to transport myself back there, especially now that I can do somewhat better with the camera.

      Speaking of time travel, across the road from where I took this photo a lovely man was working on a fence next to a small piece of bare land. You would have laughed at our conversation — my Spanish is about as good as his English was — but he managed to communicate that he wanted to give me something. It turned out to be arrowheads. He’d been finding them as he cleared the land, along with pieces of worked chert and the occasional scraper. It surprised me that they’d be up there, but I clearly need to do some reading about the history of the land. Someone apparently called it home, a very long time ago.

      1. What a lovely gift! Uh-oh, but I suspect you’ll be like I would be – searching via many tangents to learn more about the ancients who lived there before modern man! Happy searching!
        We’re getting buckets and buckets of rainfall, btw…

    1. Either that, or others have been seeing them and simply haven’t reported the sightings. On the iNaturalist map, there are 2018 reports, but I didn’t find any there for this spring. If I were to really get with the program, I’d start adding my sightings there. Maybe later.

      Not far from this poppy, I found two other flowers I’ve heard about but never seen — they’ll be coming along later.

  7. What delicate blooms! They’d surely be overlooked here with all the snow. I haven’t run into a single person — even the self-professed snow-lovers — who hasn’t had it with the cold and gray and longs as I do for spring!

    1. You have all my sympathy. We’re back into the fog and rain, and it looks as though it’s going to continue for a while. It’s troublesome for those of us who need decent weather for work, but it’s starting to get to everyone. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve heard say, “I don’t care if it’s cold. I just want the sun to shine!”

      Well, time change this weekend, and the Spring equinox is March 20. Surely by that time we’ll have some relief!

  8. “truly wild, and eminently Texan” Ha. Is this how you would describe yourself, Linda? At first I thought you were a bit far afield. Then I read the Willow City Loop is a prime spring-time destination for the hill country and I thought to myself, that sounds like Linda. Peggy and I drove through Fredericksburg on our way up to visit Peggy’s brother in Georgetown. –Curt

    1. The Willow City Loop is great. I still haven’t gotten to another nearby attraction you surely know — Enchanted Rock. I need to get there before full summer arrives. A big ol’ granite monolith can be a little unpleasant in the heat of August.

      Fredericksburg is a fine town. They’ve renovated the Naval Museum there, and the reviews have been terrific. If you’re ever in the neighborhood, I think you’d enjoy it. I visited when it was smaller, but they had one of the Japanese “personal submarines” that GP has mentioned.

      1. I’ll probably be back that way. Peggy’s brother keeps lobbying for us to come. Sounds like spring is definitely the time to go. We are going to be in New Mexico in May, but I doubt we will make it that far south. –Curt

        1. Autumn’s pretty nice, too. There’s a whole second crop of wildflowers that bloom, and there can be some nice fall color. Granted, it’s not much by New England standards, but it’s nice.

    1. Sometimes I try to emphasize the lines of a flower — its elegance, if you will — but I thought showing these in the midst of the cactus and winter brush was just perfect. I’m glad you like them! (And I can’t wait to show you the flower that’s a dead ringer for a part of Windsor Castle!)

    1. I’m not sure what it is that I find so appealing about these flowers. They’re white, of course, so that’s a plus for white-flower-loving me. There are those crepe paper petals, and the fact that they’re so open to inspection, by bees and by us. Finding the first of the season always is exciting.

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