Rockport, Redux

Woolly globe mallow (Sphaeralcea lindheimeri)

As lovely as cemeteries filled with wildflowers can be, it’s often easy to miss the occasional or unusual delight hidden among the mass of blooms.

At the Rockport City Cemetery, I found one grave surrounded by the pure, bright orange of woolly globe mallow. Found in sandy coastal prairies and inland areas of southern Texas, the plant is a Texas endemic (native only to Texas) and is named for botanist Ferdinand Jacob Lindheimer, known as the father of Texas botany.

Sandyland bluebonnet (Lupinus subcarnosus)

On March 7, 1901, Lupinus subcarnosus became the only species of bluebonnet recognized as the state flower of Texas. But we have four bluebonnet species and, in time, Lupinus texensis emerged as most Texans’ favorite. To accomodate everyone’s preferences, the 1971 Texas Legislature granted equal rank to any species of Lupinus found in Texas.

Native bluebonnets tend to be blue, of course, but white variants can be found, and some had appeared next to a grave in Rockport.

Cucumber leaf sunflower (Helianthus debilis)

Another lover of sandy soil, the cucumber leaf (or beach) sunflower was scattered here and there among the mix of flowers. Common around dunes or disturbed coastal areas, it can be found any month of the year along south Texas beaches.

An uncommon feature of this one is the extra leaf that’s sprouted on the underside of the bloom. In July of 2013, Steve Schwartzman posted a photo of a similar phenomenon, noting that he’d never before seen such a thing. Now, after nearly six years, we know that there have been at least two.

Trailing wine cup (Callirhoe involucrata)

The trailing wine cup can be distinguished from the standing wine cup in a number of ways. Most obviously, the trailing wine cup forms mats near the ground, while the standing wine cup does just that: it stands, tall and erect, above surrounding plants. This trailing wine cup bud appears to be standing, but it was standing only about four inches above the ground.

The scientific name of the trailing wine cup points to another difference. If you look closely, you can see a ring of small, leafy bracts at the base of the flower. Absent in the standing wine cup, this involucre gave rise to the flower’s species name.

A bit of art deco design ~ Yucca spp.

I’m still uncertain whether all yuccas planted in the cemetery are Texas natives. I suspect not, but all were attractive: the emerging buds especially so. I found the symmetry of this one delightful, and proof enough that all stages of plant growth can be worthy of attention.


Comments always are welcome.


43 thoughts on “Rockport, Redux

  1. While some have spoken disparagingly of filthy lucre, we native plant folks have nothing against a wildflower’s involucre. And when it comes to the influence of plants on artists, I think even more of Art Nouveau, which for more than a century has not been nouveau, than of Art Deco, which is still decorative.

    1. Of course we have nothing against those involucres — I suspect anyone involved with wildflowers is going to come to appreciate them sooner or later.

      Like you, I’m more likely to associate flowers with the Art Nouveau period, but the yucca pattern seemed distinctly Art Deco to me. When I looked at it, I saw the top of the Chrysler Building .

      1. I planned to include a link to a picture of the Chrysler Building in my comment. Then I looked at the Chrysler Building and saw enough differences from the yucca, like all those little triangles, that I changed my mind. Maybe I was too picky.

        1. I understand your reaction. The first photo I linked was beautiful, but it was such a close view that the triangles took center stage, and the resemblance wasn’t at all obvious. A slightly more distant view did a better job of capturing the similarity that the yucca suggested to me.

    1. Thanks, Pit. The globe mallow was new to me, and I loved finding the white bluebonnets. It was great fun finding that quirky little sunflower, too. There are a lot of unusual things going on out there.

  2. I learn so much from your research, Linda — thank you! My favorite has to be those bluebonnets, though. They just strike me as so native Texan! I’ve never seen a white one — guess I’ll need to add springtime in the Hill Country to my bucket list!

    1. The plant geneticists have bred differently colored bluebonnets — maroon and red seem to be favorites — but I still like the old-fashioned blue, and the naturally occurring variations, like this one. I’ve learned that white bluebonnets aren’t exactly rare, but I don’t think I’ll ever reach the point of not being excited when I find one. When I showed these to some other women who were enjoying the cemetery, they were just as excited. One, in her nineties, never had seen one. Now she has.

    1. We’re both learning from my research, believe me. Quite often I’ll bring home photos of something (like the globe mallow) and have to figure out what I’ve found. Sometimes I know what I’m looking for, like the involucres on the trailing wine cup, but getting a decent photo is a challenge. It’s all great fun, and I’m glad you’re finding something of value.

  3. Wine cups were always a playground favorite – you could brush their gold powder on your face like makeup. (Primroses were great, too, but that deep jewel color was so rich and elegant, rather than “prairie flower casual.”)
    The sunflower picture is my favorite today

    1. I agree about those deep jewel tones. They really are beautiful. I found some bluebonnets that were a deep, rich blue, and they were equally stunning. Prairie casual has a lot going for it, but there’s something to be said for naturally saturated colors.

      Isn’t that sunflower fun? I was hoping to find some of the big silverleaf sunflowers, too, but it’s too early in the year for those. No matter — it’s something to look forward to.

      By the way: have you heard that Galveston Island State Park’s beach side is closing for three years on July 15 for renovations? It’s time to get down and enjoy it before it closes. The bay side will stay open.

      1. Arrgh. 3 years? We’ll miss that state park beach, but the facilities could use a little care – gotta match the natural beauty there. (The turtles will be thrilled)
        “Prairie casual” – I like that one!

  4. Swooning over these photos, Linda–brava! I used to grow some winecup, until shade overtook the area. That color-whew! The mallow photo is gorgeous ; I don’t know that one. I grow one that’s commercially avalable, S. ambigua, but it’s not native to Central Texas. I’ve finally found a spot in my garden where it grows well–it likes blasts of sun and good drainage.

    1. I’m sure I remember seeing photos of your globe mallow on your blog. In fact, I bumped into that species when I was trying to sort out which I’d found. For this photo, I took advantage of the fact that the flowers were growing next to a black marble tombstone; of all the backgrounds I tried, I thought the dark showed off the flower to best advantage.

      Outside Gonzales, I found some standing winecups that were at least four feet tall, and some of the flowers were on stems well beyond two feet long. I can’t imagine how such a long, slender stem can support the flower, but here it is. Amazing, no?

    1. Of course they’re thriving. They’re in Texas! I was happy to get there in time to find some nice specimens before everything went to seed — and they were well on their way to setting up next year’s crop.

  5. A wonderful discovery. Photographers such as yourself remind the rest of us to watch where we’re going or we’re going to miss life!

    1. I can’t even imagine a life lived the way so many do now: buried in their phones in restaurants, grocery stores, traffic, walking down the street. There’s a lot around us to enjoy, every day. I’d hate to go to my grave saying, “Sure, I missed most of what was around me, but at least I kept up with my news feed.”
      That’s just silliness.

    1. I’ve always enjoyed cemeteries for their historical value; an afternoon spent reading gravestones can be enlightening and fun. But the wildflowers add a whole new dimension, and it was pleasurable exploring the few I was able to visit this year.

      While I was reading about the winecups, I learned they have another trick. They open in the morning and close in the evening, but after they’re pollinated, they close up for good. The secret life of plants is pretty darned interesting.

  6. Lots of lovely images, but I the ones I like best are the wine cup image with the intriguing background and the graphical appeal of the Art Deco yucca.

    1. That wine cup was a labor of love, believe me. I really wanted to line up the bud with the flower behind it, but it was only about four inches tall. You can imagine the rest. I’m fairly agile, but there was a point where I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to pull it off — or get back up from the ground, for that matter. There was a large live oak behind the bud and the flowers that contributed that nice, neutral background.

      None of the yuccas were blooming, but I did like the structure of this bud, and the faint blush of pink. The flowers in the background are coreopsis.

      1. I’m frequently flat on the ground for flowers and small butterflies. A low crouch is harder for me, that’s what I had to do for bloodroot, to avoid the mud. I liked the yucca pattern very much, and the background.

  7. All are fine photographs, Linda. And, of course as always, the research and writing are super.
    I really like the Wine Cup shot and I can relate to your description of the difficulty making it that you mention to Tom. I’ve made a lot of images either lying on my belly or my side and wondering if I will remain like that until someone comes along to help me up.

    1. I’m pleased that you enjoyed the little gallery, Steve. Learning how to add artistry to my images has been a great deal of fun, as well as being a great introduction to chiggers, ants, poison ivy, and the number of thorny plants in the world. (I’d already met mosquitoes.)

      I’ve also met a remarkable number of game wardens, sheriff’s deputies, and ‘just folks’ who’ve been concerned that the white-haired lady in the ditch might have had a stroke. If I were to make a list of photographic tips like Steve S’s, I’d probably add “Be sure your camera’s visible to passers-by, so they know what you’re up to.”

      I really like the wine cup shot, too. I desaturated the background just a bit, and cropped, of course, but it was pleasing to have an idea in mind, and mostly achieve it just with the camera.

      1. Trying to combine natural history photography with artistic design can be particularly challenging but you have brought your photography a long way from the beginner status you had not all that long ago. The images you are posting these days are really quite nice. Combined with your writing you have a top notch blog.

        1. Choosing to hang around quality photographers has been a great help, believe me. When I think of all I’ve learned from you and Steve S., it’s astounding. As a matter of fact, my most recent Aha! moment came after your recent comment about bracketing. Not only have I discovered my camera can do that, I even found the explanation/instructions in my big, fat book. Now that’s on the list of tools to explore in the future.

          1. I used to participate in a photography forum that was frequented by many pros as well as superb amateurs and when I compared my images from before that to what I was doing after it was remarkable and easily noticed. I still look at the work of other photographers constantly. Facebook is pretty good for that as many working pros post images to entice possible workshop participants. But a lot of talented amateurs do as well. It’s a lifelong learning process. Even Adams was constantly trying to improve his previous work as well as new.
            There are lots of YouTube tutorial videos out there for exposure blending by hand, but it can be automatically done for you in Lightroom as well.

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Maria. I thought of you when I finally identified the brilliant red spicy jatropha, and learned it’s a Cuban native common in Florida. I suspect you’ve seen it, too — such a gorgeous plant.

      The globe mallow was as brilliant. Even though there were only a couple of plants, with a few blooms, I spotted them from some distance away. It’s rare that I think, “The color in that photo is exactly what I saw,” but in this case, it was.

  8. Linda, you have so many blooms I’ve never seen. Truly, you could write a book with these descriptions just as they are, so long as they were accompanied by your exquisite photography. I love the trailing wine cup but that bluebonnet and the wonderfully named Woolly globe mallow really make me smile. And how lovely to see such pretty blooms on a grave.

    1. What a difference 1,200 miles makes! Obviously, your area’s filled with flowers and other plants I’ve never seen — taht’s one of the great things about the internet. We get to see things we otherwise might not.

      I can’t pick a favorite among these. As photographs, I especially like the bluebonnet, wine cup, and agave. For color and smiles, it’s the sunflower and globe mallow. What a great world we have!

    1. Isn’t it something? That’s just the way the color looked to me at the time. It’s the prettiest, purest orange I’ve seen. Orange can be a little garish sometimes, but the globe mallow flowers were a perfect orange — just pastel enough to be good orange sherbet-ish.

  9. Wow! What a truly luscious purple is that purple trailing wine cup. You are really getting good at this flower photography. You really ought to be sending some of your pieces to Texas Monthly, and other such state magazines.

    1. Woulda, shoulda, coulda, as the saying goes. If I bestir myself to finish any project this year, it’s going to involve writing rather than photography. Many of my photos that look great on the internet wouldn’t do at all for printed media — I’ve got a lot to learn and a lot of improvement ahead of me before that could happen. But thank you!

      I do have one more winecup flower photo for you — quite different, but proof that the end of the cycle can be as appealing as buds and blooms.

    1. No, it’s one of those instances where the common name can cause some confusion. Out of curiosity, I went over to the BONAP site, and discovered there’s not a single member of this genus shown in your area. Interesting.

    1. The bluebonnet photo is one of my all-time favorites. I love bluebonnets, and white flowers, and genetic variants, and there they all are, in one delightful photo. I’m glad you like it, too!

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