Lingering Lavender

Winged loosestrife (Lythrum alatum) ~ Brazoria Wildlife Refuge

Australian blogging friend eremophila recently coined the phrase ‘Sprummer Downunder’ — her way of acknowledging that spring and summer sometimes can be hard to separate from one another.

Seasons never are as clear-cut as the human invention known as daylight saving time. As the northern hemisphere moves toward winter, I responded to her ‘Sprummer’ with ‘Sumtumn,’ my own invented word for the mixing of summer and autumn.

Silverleaf nightshade (Solanum elaeagnifolium) ~ Galveston Island

Many of our summer flowers do persist into fall, and even into winter. I’ve found asters of various sorts blooming in January after three days of freezing temperatures. Each of the native flowers shown here continues to flourish despite shortening days and colder temperatures, and while the loosestrife surely will fade soon, I expect to see the asters and nightshade for many more weeks.

Perennial saltmarsh aster (Symphyotrichum tenuifolium) ~ Seabrook, Texas

Combined with the bright yellows and golds of sunflowers and goldenrod, autumn’s lavenders and purples — berries as well as flowers — are as much a sign of the season as falling leaves. Best of all, they’re willing to stay with us for a while.


Comments always are welcome.

55 thoughts on “Lingering Lavender

  1. The seasonal markers that we use have little connection to plant growth and fecundity, but it does help to have the seasons in lockstep with the solstices from an organizational point of view. When I store my pictures of visits to local parks and other locations I favour for birding, I have folders for pictures taken during the four seasons. There obviously has to be a way to segregate them in a standard fashion so that one may compare not only one location to another, but the same location from year to year. So I organize according to the conventional concepts of the four seasons, realizing of course, that the flora does not respect such arbitrary classifications. And, to state the obvious, a picture of winter in Ontario would look a whole lot different from a picture of winter in Texas.

    1. In the beginning, I created files for each location I regularly visited with my camera. There weren’t so many, and it worked perfectly well. But, as the number of photos began to increase, I did as you have, subdividing each location’s folder by seasons. Now that some time has passed, it’s interesting to look back and see how things have changed — or stayed the same – from year to year. Even better, when my poor mind suddenly can’t remember either the common or scientific name of a certain flower, I usually can remember where I saw it, and in which season. It may take a few minutes to run it down that way, but it works.

    1. There’s a good reason for that resemblance, rethy. The silverleaf nightshade and eggplant are both in the nightshade family — the Solanaceae — along with potatoes, tomatoes, chili peppers, and bell peppers. The tomatillo and goji berry belong there, too. Many nightshades are toxic or deadly, but we can eat a good number of them without fear!

      1. That’s quite a lot of information Linda. Thank you so much. I was not aware of something called goji berries! I did a thorough research now. Thanks!

    1. I can’t help myself: wingèd loose-strife suggests casual conflict among a certain group of robins. It’s good of you to point out the alliteration, Derrick. There’s too little fun with language these days; everyone’s busy parsing each other to death.

  2. Your good coinage, sumtumn, reminds me of wampum, which in turn might recall, for someone of a certain age, Princess Summerfall Winterspring.

    Your aster portrait, darker than the other two, is like music in a minor key.

    1. Someone of a certain age certainly does remember the good Princess. In fact, one Halloween I dressed as Princess Summerfall Winterspring for trick-or-treating. I even beaded my own headband.

      What a wonderful thought — a photo in a minor key. Perhaps a good collective noun for this flower would be a ‘symphony of asters.’

      You’ve brought to mind one of my favorite songs: “Way Over Yonder in the Minor Key,” by Billy Bragg and Wilco. It’s one of Woody Guthrie’s unrecorded songs, part of the original Mermaid Avenue album — named for the street on Coney Island where Guthrie and his family lived for a time.

  3. Seasons are just not the same here in the Gulf Coast area for a former Northerner. I find the bloom time of plants a better indicator of Fall than the leaves changing. Even Spring comes much earlier according to our flowers.

    1. I know the feeling. I was a midwesterner rather than a true northerner, but our seasonal changes were far more dramatic than they are here. It is interesting to see how hours of daylight affect the plants even more than temperature. My schefflera and cacti called it a season two or three weeks ago. They were growing like crazy, but suddenly stopped. Now, it’s time for me to cut back on the watering, lest they rot.

      1. Plants don’t lie and are definitely the best method of keeping track. A beekeeping friend of the family has many such markers passed down through their family (he’s a fourth generation Keeper: )
        EG: when the Dandelion bloom, it’s time to start splitting the hives who need it to prevent swarming… : )

        1. I was thinking about that dynamic the past couple of weeks, as ripe wolfberries began appearing in the marshes. They’re a favorite transitional food for the whooping cranes arriving in Texas for the winter, and sure enough: it was just last week that I saw a report that two cranes had been spotted on the mid-coast. Yesterday, the ripened berries were thick, just waiting for the birds.

  4. Lovely to have these lingerers to add enjoyment to Fall. Purple loosestrife ( Lythrum salicaria ) in New Zealand is an unwelcome, invasive plant, pretty though it is. Fortunately, your purple loosestrife is completely at home in its surroundings and a welcome harbinger of Sumtumn.

    1. Your purple loosestrife is a troublemaker in the U.S., too. It’s not just invasive — it’s listed as noxious. This, from a Minnesota state site, tells the tale:

      “Purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria) is an invasive perennial plant that is spreading rapidly in North American wetlands, shorelines, and roadside ditches. Thick stands of purple loosestrife crowd out native plants and reduce food, shelter, and nesting sites for wildlife, birds, turtles, and frogs. After multiple introductions in the 1800s for bee keeping, as an ornamental plant, and in discarded soil used as ballast on ships, this European species has invaded nearly every U.S. state and at least six Canadian provinces.”

      That note about dirt being used as ballast is interesting. I wonder if that’s one way the plant made it to New Zealand, too.

      That same site has an interesting page about another invasive we’re dealing with: the New Zealand mud snail. They’re relatively new — there’s some history here. Speaking of scary critters: one female can produce a colony of forty million snails per year. Oops.

      1. Goodness! Ships’ ballast has a lot to answer for. I am sorry New Zealand and its mud snail are causing such trouble. As far as I know I haven’t had a mud snail come out of my faucet. That would be unpleasant.

        1. You’d never know it, I fear. They’re quite small, which makes them doubly hard to deal with. Boaters and fishermen here are implored to clean their boats before moving to another lake, since that’s one way the snails are spread. As one of our Parks and Wildlife fellas likes to say, “Think surgical suite. That’s the clean we want.”

          1. Apparently Purple Loosestrife thrives where salt levels are higher… (In our northern temperate climate that means in the roadside ditches where salt has been used as a de-icer for generations and it’s invaded the water table.

            1. That’s interesting. Of course we don’t have issues with salted roads, but the effects of salt water are real. Extended droughts that increase the salinity of the bays, or floods than turn them fresh, can lead to frustration for fishermen. And after Hurricane Ike, it was salt that killed so many trees on Galveston Island. We experienced an extended rain-free period after the storm, and without fresh water to flush the soil, the trees didn’t have a chance.

  5. I really love all three, the texture detail of the first, the soft delicacy of the second and the light and shadow in the Aster image . You do such a nice job with detail and depth of field and color.

    1. I’m so glad you saw the set that way, Judy. I wanted to highlight the color similarity, but let other characteristics of the plants and different treatments with the camera add interest. There’s always a gap between what I intend and what I get, but the gap’s getting smaller — at least, sometimes!

      I wish you could have seen what I came across this morning — well over a hundred black-necked stilts in a flooded field. They were mixed in with northern shovelers, and it was quite a sight. My lens just didn’t have enough reach, but it’s good to know they’re back. The teal are streaming in, too, and the first whooping cranes have been sighted. There’s nothing like a good, strong norther to get our feathered friends moving.

      1. I do so understand the Plan vs What you Get!! Its always nice to get credit for serendipity though! I find those unintended bonuses as well as the disappointments really inform the way you shoot next time. Photography is one of those sports where bettering your best is always a win!

        I see stilts once in awhile and think they are a very dapper species with their coloring and elegance. It would be terribly cool to see a whooping crane for the first time!!

        Here in Florida it is still pretty warm. More breezes but looking forward to a front making its way to our area. In Florida winter only comes in waves like the ocean.

  6. Ah, my old friend the silverleaf nightshade, which becomes a Martian plant in the wintertime, when frost leaves it with nothing but stalks and yellow berries.

    1. I’ve been looking, but all of the fruits I’ve found still are green. They’re pretty cute themselves, resembling tomatillos, but I do love those yellow berries on bare stems. I’m hoping for another good stand of them this year.

  7. The season demarcations are just plain arbitrary. And that’s good thing. It’s such a treat to find a plant that should be spent still in bloom and beautiful as are all those you shared. Your image of the Saltmarsh Aster is wonderfully done, Linda. Everything laid out in composition to support the lovely bloom at the fore. The loosestrife and nightshade are very nice also. Our most successful nightshades here in the yard, tomatoes-which are among the few not poisonous, are well past blooming now.

    1. I like all of these photos, but the asters is a favorite. Every now and then I look at one of my photos and think, “Did I really do that?” Why, yes — I did. I just checked the settings for the aster, and found 100mm (I love my macro lens), f/7.1, and 1/500. One of the best learning tools I’ve found is reviewing really good and really bad photos to see which settings I used, and which never to use again: like the day I accidentally oomphed the ISO up to 12800. Whoops!

      1. I have forgotten to drop the ISO on a few occasions. Some images survived and some did not. I use my 180 for most of my close ups but have thought about upgrading the old 100 to the IS model as I do use it handheld with a flash on my old 40D for insects in the yard. All apertures have their use depending on the DOF you are desiring. But the highest and lowest ends tend to give some softer results. You are doing a lot right judging by the images you share. I know not all make the cut, very few of most of ours do, but you’ve been sharing some real beauties.

        1. I got IS with my 100mm, and it’s helpful, especially since hard-headed me still isn’t inclined toward a tripod. I’m pretty steady, no doubt due in part to my work, but if it’s windy and I’m waiting for a plant to stop bobbing around, the IS can really help as my muscles tire.

          1. I thought it to be the case that your 100 was the newer version with the IS as you have mentioned not using a tripod. I’ve always been a little shaky, although I am dependable, so a tripod is a must unless I am chasing insects with a flash. It is kind of hard to hold a composition steady waiting for the wind to calm.

  8. One wonderful thing about blogging is connecting with people who don’t live where we do, so we can enjoy plants and scenery we don’t get. We in the Midwest might have lots of Fall color, but our flowers (except for the mums) are pretty much history. You, on the other hand, still are finding asters and these gorgeous lavender beauties — thank you, Linda, for sharing them!

    1. It’s true, isn’t it — these blogs of ours are like windows on a wider world. I know more about gardening in England and the ferns of New Zealand than I ever could have imagined — it’s been great fun learning about them. And when it comes to what’s already familiar, like fall foliage, it’s great to have my memory nudged through photos like yours. Since we can’t actually be in more than one place at a time, it’s great to be able to travel virtually, and enjoy each others’ seasonal treats.

  9. Moving from lavender the color to lavender the plant, ours seem to bloom on forever, Linda— or at least for about six months. And bees and butterflies are busy harvesting them the whole time, usually in the dozens if not the hundreds. Neither of those is our primary reason for growing them, however. It is one of the few plants our ravenous deer herd refuses to touch! –Curt

    1. I’m always surprised by what deer enjoy and what they refuse. I suppose they’re like people — if something doesn’t taste good to them, they move on down the buffet line. It’s great that your lavender blooms for so many months. When the pickings get slim for the insects, it’s good to have a dependable source of nectar. Right now our goldenrod is showing signs of decline, but it’s glorious — and the bees think so, too.

  10. The petals of the of the loosestrife look like crepe paper. And last photo in this series is simply beautiful/ All the colors complement each other. I love those asters- so unpredictable and hardy and blooming at ridiculous times.

    1. They are wrinkly, aren’t they? Crepe paper’s a good analogy. I have another photo of this same plant with a gorgeous, shiny black native bee visiting. They’re clearly appealing to a wide variety of pollinators; there were bees and flies galore buzzing around. The asters are wonderful. There are so many species I sometimes can’t figure out what I’m looking at, but I’m sure of three or four species, and this is one. Like the evening primrose, they often change color as they age. There’s a little white one whose center turns from yellow to red, and seeing those differently colored disk flowers is a real treat.

  11. Asters and hydrangeas. Boy, they hang in there. My massage therapist just gave me another beautiful bunch of hydrangeas from her bush and they are even more lovely than they were two weeks before! These are gorgeous. I love the purples!

    1. Lucky you! I thought that hydrangea bouquet was special enough, but to have another bunch to enjoy is delightful. Have you ever thought of drying the hydrangeas yourself, for even greater longevity? I dried some basketflowers three years ago, and they’re still just as colorful as they were then. They haven’t dropped a leaf or petal, either — although they’ve not been moved since they went into their vase.

      I think the purples are gorgeous, and the shades are so different. When I think about it, there are a number of other purple flowers I enjoy — and in fact, the pinkish basketflowers turned lilac once they were dried.

    1. There’s another good seasonal combination. The only one we’re missing now is autumn into winter. Maybe we should use ‘fall,’ which could give us ‘fallter.’ Most people do seem to falter a bit when facing the demands of honest-to-goodness winter.

    1. They do look like crepe paper — or that fabric called crepe. And wouldn’t a seersucker dress in that lavender be gorgeous? I haven’t seen seersucker in ages — maybe it’s out of fashion now — but I gave up following fashion a few decades ago.

    1. It certainly has been so this year. I have started carrying a full complement of clothing in the car, though. There’s often no telling at the beginning of the day what the afternoon will bring. We can swing from cold to warm to hot and back again in the wink of a weatherman’s eye.

    1. The poor things will be shivering next week, since our predicted low is 35F. We’re not in danger of a freeze here at the coast, but there’s no question there will be some nipping going on. The asters and nightshade will be fine, but I suspect the loosestrife will be finished, if it isn’t already. No matter — there are other treats that arrive with the winter — and many more birds to enjoy!

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