The Over-achievers


Unlike the so-called standing poppy-mallow (Callirhoe digitata), the purple poppy-mallow, or winecup (Callirhoe involucrata) forms mats of colorful blooms. Usually, the flowers appear singly atop their stems, but in the midst of one thick stand in the Rockport City Cemetery, I found this pair: a beautifully colored little quirk of nature.

Not far away, a section of the cemetery was filled with white prickly poppies (Argemone albiflora spp. texana), one of my favorite Texas wildflowers. I searched for the plant for at least two years without success; now I see them frequently, in places as widely separated as our coastal bays and the hill country.

What I’d never seen before my visit to Rockport was a prickly poppy with what appeared to be extra petals extending out from the same receptacle as the usual flower. Perhaps the poppy had attempted to ‘double’ in the same way as the winecup, but managed only to produce  extra petals.

In any event, I was delighted to find these little quirks of nature: good reminders that what can’t be explained still can be enjoyed.


Comments always are welcome.

72 thoughts on “The Over-achievers

    1. There are two other poppy species I’ve never seen: Argemone sanguinea, which is a beautiful red, and A. mexicana, which is yellow. Both are Texas natives, but the red grows to the south and west of me, and although there are reports of the yellow in my area, I’ve missed it. No matter — the white will do until I find the others.

  1. I love poppies. They are such an underappreciated and overlooked flower… almost treated like a weed. Even in a poor year for wildflowers, you can count on them to be there. Love the rich magenta color. Nice way to start a chilly April morning. Thanks.

    1. I suppose all that prickliness contributes to their reputation as a weed, but they are beautiful. Do you see the yellow and red varieties? I suspect you might, since both are in your area. I’ve seen breath-taking displays of the white in the hill country; I finally learned that deer leave them alone, which helps to explain that.

      You might enjoy this photo of the ‘other’ winecup. It certainly makes obvious why the common name is standing winecup.

    1. I have seen other doubled flowers; the ones that come to mind are Sabatia, both S. campestris and S. gentianoides (pinewoods rose gentian). Now that you’ve put the idea of the amoeba in my mind, I’m hearing the surrounding poppies cheering this one on: “Stretch!”

  2. We all need a spot of bright these days and this hits the spot. I’m longing for my hot pink sweet peas to come but not till June, I think. Maybe July. Till then I can thoroughly enjoy your beautiful finds!

    1. We have so many native peas, but I had to look up your sweet peas. Once I saw some photos, I recognized them, but I’m not sure I’ve ever seen them growing. Are they fragrant? The jasmine is blooming here now, and the scent is glorious. I wish I could send some of that to you, too.

  3. Lovely finds! I would love to get prickly poppy established here in our yard but we may be a smidge too wet at times with a smidge too much shade, too. Lovely when I can find them, though!

    1. I’d bet you are too wet. Even though I’ve found them on the edge of Tres Palacios Bay, and along the Colorado river in Matagorda County, they were in sandy soil. In the hill country,they seem to favor thinner soil with more limestone. The closest I’ve found them is along Hwy 35 outside Angleton — near the highway, and not in the fields.

    1. The first poppies I experienced were the California poppies, and I thought they were the best in the world. I still think they’re beautiful, but I don’t think they outshine ours. I was up at Wildseed Farms once when their fields of red poppies were blooming — it was glorious.

  4. “what can’t be explained still can be enjoyed” — absolutely, Linda! So much around our world these days that can’t be explained (some of which *can’t* be enjoyed either!) Beautiful flowers. We have poppies here, but they don’t look like yours. Variety can be interesting, too.

    1. My friend in the hill country was telling me last week that hers are blooming now — not the natives, but pink and salmon oriental poppies, orange California poppies — every sort. I missed her mountain laurel this year, and now I’ve missed the poppies. We figure we might be able to get together by sunflower time!

    1. I have a friend here who’s been trying to get winecups established for years, and they just won’t grow for her. I wouldn’t think they’re tempermental, but it’s a fact that there are good years and bad, and sometimes even the most hardy natives fade away for a while when things aren’t just right for them.

      The most amazing field of prickly poppies I ever have seen was on TX 71, somewhere around Nada or Garwood. I well remember that little photography session — it was the day I learned about bull nettles.

  5. Great shots of delightful blooms. If my memory serves me correctly I once birded in the Rockport City cemetery. Cemeteries and graveyards are generally fine places for birds, which are accustomed to humans and become a little less wary than is usual.

    1. I suspect you probably did visit the cemetery. For one thing, it’s not far from the Connie Hagar birding spots which are immensely popular, both during migration and otherwise. Between the hummingbird festival and the raptor migrations it’s a rich area for every sort of water bird sighting. With the vibrant arts community there as well, it’s quite a nice destination.

  6. Nature is funny that way, throwing us a curve when we expect a fastball. I don’t find anomalies very often but they are treats when met. These are both lovely flowers and the idea of carpets of them floors me.
    If you hadn’t mentioned that a pair flowering like that was unusual I’d have figured it was natural like our
    twinflower or partridgeberry.

    1. If you think I missed your pun, you’d be wrong: well done. People do love the fields filled with Indian paintbrush or bluebonnet, but there are other plants that can provide those ‘carpets,’ and these are two of them. I’ve found that the patches of winecups usually are much smaller, but the intense color makes them equally attractive.

      1. I’d be shocked it you missed a pun. It would matter much to me what the species was, I’d be happy with any huge patch of blooms. The closest hereabouts that comes to mind right now is goldenrod.

    1. See flower; share flower — that’s a pretty good motto. Whether it’s showing what I’ve found, or enjoying what others have seen, there’s nothing like a pretty flower to lift the spirits.

        1. We worry far too much these days about offending others, or making others uncomfortable. But in fact, those words don’t make me uncomfortable — they remind me of my Vacation Bible School Days, especially the year we studied nature and the old hymn in tandem: “This is my Father’s world, and to my listening ears, all nature sings and ’round me rings the music of the spheres.”

  7. We’re on the same botanical page it seems, my blogging friend. It’s so fun to find these quirks of nature. It’s like that odd brush stroke in a perfect painting, which makes it more beautiful and special. Great shots!!

    1. You’ve reminded me of a painting a friend gave me. It was a winter scene, with a pretty cardinal in a tree — or so I thought. When I mentioned it to her, she laughed and said, “That’s just a blob of red paint that accidentally fell on the canvas, and I didn’t want to make a mess by trying to clean it up.”

      Considering how much is going on in nature, all the time, it’s no wonder an occasional oddity shows up. It’s rather fun to think of Nature as an inattentive artist, dropping little dribs and drabs of beauty here and there.

  8. Oh, my. One always trying to upstage another…not just a human characteristic as previously thought. (Of course plants we have discovered to have thought…not day of the trifids yet, but if this stay at home order continues, we might need to worry? HaHa)
    Thanks for the double dose of beauty
    (Wine cups were always my favorite)

    1. What I find amazing about wine cups is how perfect every stage of their life can be. Buds, blooms, decline — all are lovely, and that color is fabulous. I don’t know about the trifids, but the Waterford lizards have learned how to board boats using the docks lines. They don’t seem to have pillage and plunder on their minds, but lizard-prints in fresh varnish certainly is a new quirk. Do you think Bob could get them in line, instead of on lines?

    1. When I’m among the flowers, it sometimes feels as though I’m greeting old friends, but just as often I’m thinking, “What the heck is that?” or, “Well, would you look at that!” It really is great fun. There’s always something interesting to see, and sometimes there are real oddities that pop up. In truth, most of them are genetically caused, but it seems even the scientists can’t explain everything.

    1. And isn’t it interesting that we respond both to the pleasure of patterns and symmetry and to the little “quirks” that break the patterns? Moon shells and snail shells bring one sort of pleasure, while unusual colors or forms bring quite another.

  9. I’m with Steve G on this. It’s great when we can recognize an anomaly like this as such and bring it to others’ attention. I remember, as a boy, searching and searching for 4-leaf clovers among the hundreds of “normal” 3-leaf ones and feeling like a successful paleontologist when I’d find one. Your double one is lovely. As far as I can remember, I’ve only seen the usual red varieties in my travels.

    1. I bought a second-hand book once that had its pages interleaved with pressed and dried four-leaf clovers. There were a lot of them — dozens, in fact. I was astonished. I’ve never found a single one, despite a whole lot of looking: lucky you to be able to find them.

      There are red and yellow prickly poppies native to Texas, too. I’ve yet to see them, but I surely would like to, just to see how they differ from this species (other than color, of course).

  10. The Callirhoe involucrata is such a pretty colour and the two blooms are a bonus – you’ve captured a beautiful image. This ‘over-achiever’ is stunning and in this instance I think ‘two is better than one.’

    1. After I took this photo, a bee came along and visited both flowers, one after the other. As usual, I tried and failed to get the bee’s image, but it certainly brought a smile. I suspect that bee considered two better than one, as well!

  11. The second photo is quite beautiful and such a lovely combination of colors. As a youngster I looked forward to see the wine cups in bloom along the road side ditches and often picked two of them to take home to my mother who would then place them in a pint jar and place them on the table in the kitchen.

    1. That’s a lovely memory, and one that I’m sure many, many people share. In Iowa, we didn’t have winecups, but there were violets, and I made many a bouquet from those. They often ended up in a pint canning jar, too. It seemed like the most elegant thing in the world.

      Did you make May baskets? It was a lovely custom. We’d fill tiny baskets with candies or flowers and leave them on porches without a hint of where they’d come from — such fun.

      1. No, I never made May baskets. Living in the country there were no near neighbors. I suppose I missed a lot but on the other hand I probably experienced things that city children never dreamed about. Each culture had its advantages it seems and in most cases, children were worlds apart.

        1. I was lucky enough to live in a smallish town, and to have friends who lived in the country. School was one place that town and country met, and we were lucky to be able to share experiences. There even was a town 4-H chapter that I belonged to — I didn’t raise any animals, but I sure did do a lot of cooking and sewing!

  12. Now that I have entered my silver hairage, I could get away with wearing that winecup fuchsia. What a glorious color. A for real jewel-tone for sure.

    1. Jewel tone is exactly it. I have a couple of photos of winecups in the process of opening, and the saturated color is nearly unbelievable: much richer and darker. I’m sure there must be other examples in nature, but I don’t remember seeing any. I’m glad to have seen these.

  13. I love the way that nature does its own, quirky thing! The white poppy is so delicate and beautiful – they must have been an amazing sight!

  14. Super sleuthing. I’m thinking of lady detectives , you’re not really a Miss Marple, but maybe a Miss Fisher?

    1. I’d never heard of Miss Fisher, and had to look her up. I found that the tv series finally made it here to the US, so at least she’s around for mystery fans (as well as in the books, of course). I certainly wouldn’t want to be Miss Marple, but if I had to choose a character to be, it would be Jessica Fletcher in Murder She Wrote. I did enjoy that series.

      1. Coming soon, Linda. I was going to include them in this Friday’s post but decided to do the weird white oaks that grow in our area since they relate so well to the post I am doing on gargoyles on Wednesday. –Curt

  15. Prickly poppy is a beauty. Always interesting to see the natural variation in plants that helps drive along the evolutionary train. Last year I planted a different species of poppy mallow: C. bushii. It’s supposed to be less sprawling.

    1. I didn’t know about C. bushii, and I see it’s native north of us. It’s a pretty one, for sure; I hope it does well for you. As for those variations — of whatever sort — they’re such fun to discover. There’s a lot going on out there, all the time.

  16. Both lovely, quirky flowers, Linda. We have prickly poppies in Colorado, too, likely a different subspecies. They are also among my favorites, but I will have to be patient a while longer before they unfurl their petals here.

    1. For years, I thought of poppies only as oriental poppies, or the California poppies. When I finally met these, I was impressed as could be. The color of the other poppies is beautiful, but I enjoy the intricacy of these — even though they’re clearly a look-but-don’t-touch flower.

    1. I was especially happy with the colors, because it was quite a gray day, and I just wasn’t sure how it would work out. In fact, I think that somewhat dim, diffused light helped a lot with the poppy photo. I often have trouble with white and yellow in bright sunlight.

  17. Loved the title! Enjoyed the information and the beautiful photos. I get to know a lot about the flora and fauna, not familiar to me, through your posts. Thank you Linda.

    1. It’s a big world, with so much variety to enjoy. I’m always happy when there’s something in my world that you enjoy, just as I enjoy your photos of your flowers and birds — and your skies! I’m glad you enjoyed this one, rethy!

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